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[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:02 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of Owen Smith Owen Smith Labour, Pontypridd 6:02 pm, 1st February 2017

I will vote against triggering article 50 tonight as a patriot who believes in Britain, and as a democrat who believes profoundly in parliamentary democracy. I will do it in the interests of my children, my constituents and my country, and in support of my convictions, because I do not believe that the Brexit course we are set on will make Britain a more prosperous, fairer, more equal and more tolerant country. To the contrary, it will make our politics meaner and our country poorer.

Despite all the optimism and jingoism we have heard from those on the Government Benches in the last two days of debate—there have been many terrific and many difficult speeches—I cannot credit the notion that the best way to make Britain a successful global trading nation is to withdraw from the most sophisticated global market the world has ever created. I cannot believe, standing here in London, in the heart of the most global, cosmopolitan trading city the world has ever seen, that we will enhance our chances of improving our economy by cutting off this city from the other great cities around Europe.

I cannot believe that our economy will improve, and I cannot believe that the constituents I represent will be well served. In fact, if the hard Brexit—the rock-hard Brexit—proposed by the Prime Minister comes to pass, I am convinced that it will be constituents such as mine, in working-class communities in this country, who will be hit hardest. And if the alternative version that she is threatening Europe with comes about, they will be hit harder still.

However, the biggest reason why I will vote against article 50 tonight is not the economy—we have made too much of that—but the values that are in jeopardy in our country and across the world. We are a liberal, plural, tolerant, European enlightenment economy and society, and the great British values that Labour has spoken for for so long are at risk today. This Brexit vote began with immigration. The man in charge of leave said it was their baseball bat, which they simply needed to pick up to win the vote. It has ended with Mr Clarke saying that the Tory party is now an anti-immigrant party, and with the Prime Minister hand in hand with a racist President of the United States. Are those my values, or are my values those of Angela Merkel, who had to ring up the President to tell him he was wrong? I know where I think this country stands on that issue, and I know that, unless we think again, we are going down a very, very dangerous path.