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[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:11 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell 3:11 pm, 1st February 2017

I cast my personal vote for remain in the referendum. I had, and have, concerns about the security implications of leaving the EU. I have always been opposed to an EU army, and I wonder whether one may come about without us there to veto it. Many of the concerns I had about security issues across Europe have still not even been addressed or answered. I also had concerns about the inflationary effects of leaving, and some of those are kicking in, but I note that inflation has not reached the 2% level that the Bank of England aims for.

I surprised many of my colleagues, and especially those I sat with on the European Scrutiny Committee, by voting to remain, because they recognised that I never had any truck with the federalisation of Europe—the political side of Europe. I felt that that was wrong and that it impinged too far on the work of this Parliament. Indeed, many people in my constituency said to me, “We joined a common market. We didn’t join an EU.”

Even though my personal vote was for remain, there was one thing I always passionately felt and fully supported. I do not class myself particularly as one of the hard right wingers of the Conservative party—one of those whom Opposition Members and those who are against this policy have painted as the only reason why the former Prime Minister was forced into a referendum. I passionately believed that there had to be a referendum, because people were never given their say on the European Union. They were given their say on the common market, and they said they wanted to be in it, but they were never given their say on the European Union.

What has been clear since the result of the referendum is that the EU has not taken seriously any of the lessons, in terms of why people in this country moved against it. I have to say that I would tomorrow vote to leave. We had an opportunity to negotiate with the European Union and work on some of the issues that were a problem for people in this country, but the European Union ignored our former Prime Minister, David Cameron; it did not think our country would vote to leave. I see the same issues now in the comments of the Maltese Prime Minister and of Donald Tusk, and there are real warnings on the horizon for such people in some of the elections taking place across Europe. This is an organisation that needs to reform; if it does not, I fear for where it will go.

Above all, the referendum was an exercise in democracy. It would be folly in the extreme for the other place, where politicians may be dominated by parties that have been diminished in the elected House, to try to go against the will of this House. It would be a suicide bid by the other place if it tried to amend or disrupt the will of this House. That is a warning that I give. I am on the record as wanting Lords reform. We cannot get Lords reform if the public are not behind us, but believe me, they will be right behind us if the Lords try to stop the will of this House over the next few weeks. I send that as a friendly warning that the Lords must take note of what this House says, because what this referendum has been about, above all else, is democracy: people saying they did not want to be controlled by unelected bodies in Europe.

People had their choice, and they expect us to action that choice. The result may not have been the one I voted for, but I am a democrat. Above all, I respect the ballot box and the outcome of the ballot box, and this House must respect the outcome of the ballot box, too.