2nd Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:33 pm on 11th September 2017.

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Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Conservative, Bexhill and Battle 8:33 pm, 11th September 2017

It is a great pleasure to follow Geraint Davies.

I believe that this is the first speech I have made on Britain leaving the European Union. The reason for my remaining unusually silent in this place is that back when the referendum was announced, I took a decision to not go to my constituents and tell them which way they should vote, but to try to remain impartial and provide them with information on both sides of the argument. I did so as a point of principle. I took the view that, having asked people to vote for me in 2015 so they could have a referendum, I wanted it to be their decision as to how their vote should be determined. I wanted to bring them information. I did so by holding 10 debates across the constituency and by going to 25 schools in the final week. I was, of course, very willing to give my own view as to which way I was going to vote, so at 9.59 pm on referendum day I announced that I had voted to remain. I then found out that 60% of my constituents disagreed with me, because they had voted to leave.

Having tried to provide information on what article 50 would mean in the event that we left and what the Prime Minister’s reformed EU would look like if we remained, I took the view that I was duty bound to follow the mandate given to me by the people. That is why I voted, along with 498 Members, to trigger article 50. Having said that I would follow that instruction, I am now duty bound to become greatly and passionately interested in the shape of our EU departure. I very much intend to do that.

I am still drawn to the Norwegian argument that those on the remain side used as a reason why we should stay. We do not want to be a member of the single market, but be unable to influence its shape and have to pay into its obligations. I still find that an attractive argument and that is why I now advocate leaving the single market and the customs union. I firmly believe that the way we can shape the new future is not by trying to look back at the past, but by forging a brand new future.