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[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:58 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport) 3:58 pm, 1st February 2017

I am fortunate; my personal long and strongly held views align with those of the three quarters of my constituents who voted to remain. I will therefore be voting against triggering of article 50, by whatever route someone is empowered to do it—royal prerogative, referendum result, prime ministerial diktat or whatever. I am against it and my constituents are against it, and I will not be moved from that.

Let me explain why I feel so strongly. I ask your forgiveness, Mr Speaker, if my contribution is a touch personal. Both sides of my family suffered from the wars of the last century. It was my grandfather on my mother’s side who formed my early views. Joe Mead, an agriculture worker from Shepreth, a village outside Cambridge, was a keen and competitive race-walker. I grew up surrounded by his trophies. When he moved to Chingford in north London, he used to walk home at weekends—50 miles each way—but that was before the first world war. Like many other brave young men, he stood knee deep in water in the trenches for months at Passchendaele. He at least came home, but the gangrene meant that he lost one leg—a race-walker no more.

A few decades later, there was another war. My father, who was born in Austria, was forced to flee Vienna when the Nazis marched in because, as I have recently learned, of his family’s left-wing views. He came to Britain and was made welcome, for which he and our family are eternally grateful.

I recount the story because the reason I am passionate about the European Union and the part it has played in keeping a fractious continent from falling out. Some people say that it was not the EU but NATO, but the EU was born out of a desire to stop war in Europe, and there is no doubt in my mind that having a political framework to resolve conflicts and differences, to negotiate and to compromise, has made a huge contribution to keeping the peace. My generation is a privileged one—we have not, most of us, had to go to war.