The Trade and Cooperation Agreement reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union on Christmas Eve is not perfect, just as previous proposed deals have not been. It does not offer a comprehensive resolution of all aspects of the trade and cooperation we may aspire to with our European partners and we did not get everything we wanted. There are however 3 inescapable realities about this agreement and its setting which caused me to vote in favour of it. The first is that negotiation rarely leads to either party getting everything it wants and that is true here as it has been in previous negotiations. I have believed throughout that we should leave the EU because that is what the British electorate decided should happen, but that we should do so with a mutually beneficial deal if at all possible, and voted accordingly throughout the post-referendum period. Secondly, it is important to recognise what this agreement does contain. It ensures there can be trade in goods across the EU for our businesses without tariffs and quotas. It facilitates ongoing cooperation in law enforcement and criminal justice in key areas such as the exchange of fingerprint or DNA data, and on scientific programmes. It reinforces our determination not to slide backwards on environmental standards and compliance with the Paris Agreement. Again, it does not cover everything but it provides the basis for further cooperation. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, to reject this deal, imperfect as it is, would be to cause us to leave the EU without any ongoing arrangements to facilitate trade at all with what is currently our largest export market. That could not be a responsible choice when a positive alternative is available, consistent with the outcome of the 2016 referendum result.
This agreement must be seen as concluding the process of the UK’s departure from the European Union. I understand the ongoing distress of those who believe that departure is a mistake, but the referendum on our membership returned its result over 4 years ago. In the time since, we have allowed ourselves to be further divided and distracted by continuing a rancorous debate on whether we should have decided as we did. That must stop. We decided to leave and we have left. We need to focus now on our future outside the EU, but working with it (and with others) on all the challenges best addressed together.