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[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of David Warburton David Warburton Conservative, Somerton and Frome 4:30 pm, 1st February 2017

It is a pleasure to follow Julie Cooper. Her words about healing division and working for the will of the people—a phrase we are not allowed to use any more—very much chime with me.

This is clearly an historic moment—the result of decades of campaigning in this House and outside it, and of course the result of a decision by the people of the UK. It is perfectly reasonable and perfectly rational for people to hold the view that we should not go ahead and free ourselves from Brussels, but to try to frustrate the decision by trying to show that the referendum result was in some way illegitimate or incomplete so that others can impose their view of what they think ought to have happened, is really not quite the ticket.

I reckon that no one voted thinking, “I’ll vote leave, because I’m pretty sure that we’ll still remain a member of the single market, so it will all be okay”. No one said, “I’ll vote leave because I’m pretty sure Parliament won’t vote to trigger article 50”. No one said, “I’ll vote leave, because I’m pretty sure that when the final deal is put to Parliament, they will reject it and we will go back”. People voted to leave because they wanted to leave.

The two district councils that make up most of my constituency voted to leave by 13,000 votes, and they voted to leave because they wanted to leave. That means triggering article 50. In its judgment on 24 January, the Supreme Court, in common with the divisional High Court, made it clear that once given, article 50 notice cannot be withdrawn. When this House makes the decision on that final deal and the choice is put, it is only to approve the deal. Our choices thereafter will be to approve the deal, seek a renegotiation or exit the EU with no deal. There will be no option of remaining in the EU. This is a simple choice, and we have a very short Bill before us, although we have an awful lot of long amendments. The Supreme Court agreed in its judgment that Parliament can perfectly well content itself with very brief legislation. As many Members know, length need not equate to quality.

The Prime Minister’s speech at Lancaster House was the exception that proves the rule, splendidly setting out the 12 areas of work that the Government will now seek to address. The next two years, I must say, impose an obligation on every Member not only to heal the divisions, as we heard from the hon. Member for Burnley, but to help shape the negotiations and ensure that our future relationship with the EU emerges in a way that reflects an open, tolerant spirit of exchange and accord—without political control. We should believe in the future, just as the country did on 23 June last year.