European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:41 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley 3:41 pm, 7th September 2017

I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend Rosie Duffield on a speech that was fluent, forceful and, at the same time, generous to her predecessor. Her speech has also made me determined me to visit Canterbury, which sounds such a delightful place.

I have a few points: on why people voted to leave in the referendum; on where the Bill stands in relation to why people voted to leave; and on how all the other aspects of Brexit are going, and how they relate back to why people voted as they did. There may be other areas, but there are three that I think are most relevant. First, people voted to restore the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. However they define that sovereignty, the issue was certainly debated forcefully, and it was occasionally raised on the doorstep—I use the word “occasionally” advisedly.

Secondly, people voted to restore some kind of economic independence. People felt that we were spending too much money in Europe and that we would be better off outside, where we could negotiate better trade arrangements with the rest of the world—everything in the garden would be rosy. Thirdly, the issue most commonly raised with me on the doorstep was immigration.

I will briefly address those three points. On the first issue of sovereignty, Sir William Cash and John Redwood can dance on the head of a pin all they want about what the Bill actually does but, as my right hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer so forensically demonstrated, the Bill is a transfer of power from Parliament and towards the Executive. That certainly is not what the people in my constituency voted for.

Secondly, on economic independence, apart from the fact that it will potentially cost us £70 billion just to walk away, people did not vote for a worse trade deal and for worse economic relationships within the European community. Okay, I accept that the Prime Minister says, “You can’t leave and, at the same time, be a member of the single market. You cannot leave and, at the same time, be a member of the customs union.” I am sure she is right, but let us be honest about what we know the Government are seeking to do.