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[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:02 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot 2:02 pm, 1st February 2017

This is indeed an historic moment in our nation’s history. This is the moment that we begin to take back control of our laws, our borders and our money. Once again we become a sovereign nation state in command of our own destiny, and I am absolutely delighted about that.

I was brought up in post-war Germany. I campaigned to leave in the 1975 referendum and, along with 43 others, I voted against the Single European Act in 1986, so I have form. Mr Skinner, Jeremy Corbyn and I are the last remaining members of that band. Although Margaret Thatcher pushed for that Act, I have no doubt that, if she were with us today, her response to this Bill would be, “Rejoice!”

I pay tribute to all those, on both sides of the House, who have campaigned over the years for this outcome. I also salute David Cameron for honouring his commitment to give the British people a referendum on membership of the EU. Many said that he would renege on that, but he kept his word.

The referendum was not advisory. It was an instruction to withdraw from the European Union. The Bill simply authorises the giving of notice to leave, without which negotiations cannot begin. It is touching to hear the new-found respect for parliamentary democracy from the Bill’s opponents—the same people who for four decades have been complicit in the relentless campaign to transfer power from this Parliament to Brussels.