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[2nd day]

Part of European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:08 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 6:08 pm, 1st February 2017

One of the more bizarre aspects of the discussion that has taken place since the referendum is the way in which the people who won the referendum have tried to explain what it means by reference to the arguments of those who lost the referendum. Thus we are told that, even though it was not on the ballot paper, the vote is a vote to leave the single European market because David Cameron suggested that it might be. I did hear David Cameron suggest that, but I also heard the leave campaign accuse him of hyperbole and mendacity every time he did so, and say that it was not true.

There is a real possibility in this country that the political right might hijack that mandate from 23 June last year and use it to reconfigure our society and economy in a way that most right-minded people in this country would find abhorrent. What stands between them and that outcome is this Parliament. That is why it is so important that we should not give this Government a blank cheque—carte blanche to do as they will, as they try to interpret what happens next. That is why we should vote for the reasoned amendment tonight and say that we will not fire the starting pistol until the Government have explained to us the consequences of making that decision.

I very much welcome the support of other parties and of many Labour Members, but I want, in the dying moments of this debate, to implore those on the Labour Front Bench to reconsider their attitude and not to give the Tory Government a blank cheque on this matter. That is not the historical responsibility of the Opposition. It is not the democratic requirement of the Opposition. Please do not do it.