EUROPEAN UNION (NOTIFICATION OF WITHDRAWAL) BILL – 13 March 2017

Dr Julian Lewis: Until the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) spoke, I was afraid I was the only person who was having a bit of a flashback to the endless nuclear arms control negotiations of the 1980s, and there are, indeed, a couple of parallels, to which I will allude very briefly.

The first, on Amendment 1, is that the question we are asking ourselves is whether we should make a one-sided gesture, regardless of the fact that it would leave our own citizens exposed. We made it clear from the outset that we would agree to guarantee the rights of EU citizens here, if other countries would do the same for our citizens in those countries. Why is it that that suggestion has not been seized with both hands? One has to say that that indicates that there are some problems with the way in which the EU intends to go about its negotiations with us.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr Lewis: No, I will not.

The way forward would have been for the EU to say straightaway:

“Yes, you’re making this offer. We accept it. No problem.”

However, the second point, on the second Amendment, is the more important one. We have heard it said repeatedly from the Opposition Front Bench, and from elsewhere in the Chamber, that no deal is the worst possible outcome for Britain. Put another way, that is like saying that any deal at all is better than no deal, and I would like to draw a parallel with those arms negotiations in the 1980s.

The most successful negotiations were those that led to the treaty in 1987, when we got rid of all the cruise missiles and Pershing missiles on our side, and the Russians got rid of all the SS-20s. It happened like this: we carried out our threat in the negotiations, and the other side walked away from the negotiating table; but, when they saw we meant it, they came back and they gave us a better deal. What we have to remember is this: no deal may lead to a better deal a year or two down the road. If you are determined to take any deal rather than no deal, you will end up with a much worse deal than you might otherwise have had.