Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con)
I was unsuccessful, unfortunately, in being called on 30 December last year to speak on the UK-EU agreement legislation, so I am very grateful for the three minutes afforded to me on this occasion.
Decades ago, it was almost unthinkable that the United Kingdom should leave the European Union, but I always had a conviction that the best future prosperity for this country was as an independent nation using, and being a conduit between, our unique global links—through the Commonwealth and our strong alliance with the United States of America—and our proximity to the continent of Europe. In the UK-EU trade agreement, that is what we have achieved. We have continuing trade with our European friends and allies, and the ability, as we heard from the Secretary of State for International Trade in her opening remarks, to forge global trade deals with countries as far afield as Canada, Japan, Singapore, Turkey, Mexico and elsewhere. I know that in the coming months and years, more trade deals will be achieved.
Global Britain is not just about trade; it is about using our other strengths, which we have had historically as an island nation that is outward looking—whether they be in defence, intelligence, our soft and cultural power or our international aid commitments. I welcome the refocusing of those development commitments on tackling global crises such as climate change, pandemics—both the one we are facing and those we want to militate against in future—and that in education.
Just as we should not only be focused on trade, vital though it is, we must not be afraid to challenge those in the world who do us and the global community harm. With China, there is its abuse of liberties in Hong Kong, its abuse against the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and the fact that it was, at best, guilty of neglect in seeking to cover up the initial impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic, which grew into a global pandemic. As an international nation, we need to build a global alliance on such things to militate against them in future.