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Periodically, a nation has to stand tall and say what ideas it is driven by, and what values lead its sense of direction and its destiny. I am proud of all we have achieved as members of the European Union in terms of not only our economy and our security, but the peace between our nations, which, twice in the last century, were at war.
I campaigned hard for remain, but I accept the result. I will not vote against Second Reading, but I will not criticise others for making a different choice. I am sad that tonight this House will take the first step in what I believe is the wrong direction for this country—a country in which I was proud to be born, which has shaped me through its openness and generosity of spirit, and which has shaped my very firm sense of partnership with other nations and of the need for an internationalist politics. The Government’s responsibility has never been greater.
This must not be, or feel like, the end of the debate. It is right that tomorrow the Government will be publishing a White Paper; it is wrong that we did not have it before. It is right that we have a vote; it is wrong that it took the Supreme Court to make it happen. A vote for article 50 today is not a blank cheque. It must be for this House to be consulted and to meaningfully vote on the final deal. This Bill has been tightly written to limit the ability of MPs to amend it, but it is clear that the views of Members of this House will not be silenced.
I want to make three broad points in my contribution to this debate. First, we should not rule out membership of the single market, but instead make the case for EU-wide reforms of the freedom of movement that can give member states greater control if they wish it.
Secondly, we must engage the public. That is why the Prime Minister should bring forward a national convention that includes MEPs, elected Mayors, nations, devolved Administrations, local government, universities and higher education, civil society, business and others. The public were asked their view about our membership of the European Union, and they should also be properly involved in the debate about our future.
Thirdly, there are the needs of our young people. They are our future, and we have a stake in their success, too. The way we conduct this debate and make decisions, the language we use and the way we design in relationship-building between young people across borders will be a gift we give to the next generation. That is why I am tabling amendments that call on the Government to set priorities for young people in their negotiations, retaining the rights and opportunities for young people to work, study and travel visa-free if they are under 25, so that they do not become worse off than their European counterparts.
The referendum was not a proud moment in our nation’s history, but there is more than one way to Brexit. There are risks, and we must be open about that, but we must also have an evidence-based debate: our prosperity, our security, and our respect and our place in the world depend on it.