2nd Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 11th September 2017.

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Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 6:30 pm, 11th September 2017

Will the hon. Gentleman hear me out?

The supremacy of Parliament is a proud tradition that all of us should defend. I find it perplexing that, for example, the hon. Members for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) and for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer), both of whom I know to be thinking people, are so eager to see us leave the EU that they forget everything else in its path. Democracy matters, and whoever tries to suspend democracy to enact the will of the people should think again.

The will of the people is of course a pretty mixed bag and is not fixed for ever. On 23 June last year, almost 70% of my constituents voted to remain in the EU. In June this year, I was elected on the basis of my opposition to the Government’s Brexit line. That was the will of the people in my constituency at that point. True to form, Bath had one of the highest voter turnouts, and active engagement in Bath is not limited to election time; it is evident every day. Protest groups, demonstrations and lively debates are testament to how much people in Bath care about how our country is run. Another principle of democracy that they want to see practised is that I can speak on their behalf about their concerns about when and how we leave the EU without being labelled as a remoaner, a reverser, unpatriotic or undemocratic. Democracy is about the right to debate freely and voice an opinion without being labelled or bullied. If we truly want to achieve the best for our country, we need to be able to discuss all outcomes freely, including that people—leavers or remainers—can change their mind.

The Bill adds another level of madness to the Brexit process, betraying not only those who voted remain, but those who chose to leave. One of the leave campaign’s strongest arguments was about taking back control here in Westminster, but instead of giving control back to this Parliament, which the leave campaign championed, the Bill is a power grab by Ministers. One of my constituents said to me:

“When people voted to leave the European Union, they didn’t vote to swap backroom deals in Brussels for more of the same in Whitehall. They voted for Parliament and the British people to have more of a say.”

As the MP for Bath, I will fight this attack on our democracy. I will not sit idly by as this Government try to erode our rights and change our laws behind closed doors. How can anybody support this Bill? My only conclusion is that those who support it want their version of Brexit at any cost, including democracy. Come on, let us stand up for democracy and stop this flawed Bill in its tracks. I dare say that the will of the people will be right behind us.