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[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:20 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly Conservative, Braintree 3:20 pm, 1st February 2017

It is incredibly important that the Government lay out a pathway for moving forwards that explains to many people in Britain how a global economy can work for not just the greater good, but their individual good.

Ultimately, when Members of this House state that the British people need to have a say, they are absolutely right, but they should remember that Brexit is the start of an ongoing existence, not a discrete process, and that the deal that the Prime Minister and Ministers negotiate will be the deal that is put to the British people at the 2020 general election. Members from other parties might feel that they have a better version of a relationship with Europe. They might prefer a version that prioritises market access over border control. That is not necessarily a position that I would agree with, but it is none the less a legitimate position. If they wish to prioritise membership of the customs union over our ability to strike independent free trade deals, that, again, would not be a position that I would agree with, but it is none the less a legitimate position.

Parliamentary sovereignty means that those alternative versions of Brexit—a Scottish National party Brexit, a Liberal Democrat Brexit or a Labour Brexit—can be put before the British people in the lead-up to the 2020 general election, and those hypotheses can be tested in the ultimate crucible of the British democratic system. If their versions of Brexit are seen to be more palatable than the Government’s version, we will know, because Members will be returned here in proportion to how palatable or otherwise those various versions of Brexit are. That is how British democracy should work, and how it has been prevented from working up until now, which is why I will not just vote to trigger article 50 this evening and in future Divisions, but will do so passionately and happily—because it means that for the first time in 40 years, the way British parliamentary democracy is meant to work will be the way it is able to work. But I will not ask or force others to vote with me.