I shall be brief and to the point, as we are about to reach a critical stage in proceedings.
Like many hon. Members, particularly Opposition Members, I voted to remain in the European Union. Like many others, I was active in my constituency and throughout the west midlands in arguing that case, particularly to the manufacturers and traders for which the region is well known. I was disappointed, like many people, that the referendum turned out the other way. A result of 48:52 is pretty close, but in Coventry it was 40:60—60% of people voted to leave and 40% to remain.
When it came to the triggering of article 50 in the House, I had little doubt in my mind—indeed, I would never think of going against a clearly democratic vote—that we would have to do so, and we duly did. However, I also set out a couple of points that I thought would be essential if we were to avoid the worst aspects of what Brexit could mean: we needed a transitional period to the new arrangements, and those arrangements should be as soft as possible. I believe that both those points are as valid today as they were then. I agreed to sit back and watch how far the Government could get on achieving them. Unfortunately, they have not made much progress that anyone in this country or in Europe has noticed.
On the transitional arrangements, which would imply a period during which we would be in the single market and in the customs union, we have seen a remarkable performance. On the single market, half of the Cabinet is in and the other half is out; and another day the other half is in and the other half is out. The same goes for the customs union. What sort of negotiating activity that is I do not know. I cannot imagine what other kind of activity it is, but it is not skilful negotiation. We have not made any progress at all—if anything we have gone backwards on both those important considerations on which I was particularly looking for progress so that I could continue to give my unqualified support by recognising the vote in my Coventry constituency and happily supporting my constituents.
The simple fact is that the Government, having made a dog’s breakfast of the negotiations, have asked us to trust them to go ahead and change the laws of this land with a Bill that has been roundly criticised—I will not try to rise to the heights of hyperbole reached by colleagues on both sides of the House—as a travesty of good government and good legislation. The Bill is clearly full of faults, defects and inadequacies that have to be put right. The Government say, “Trust us, we will put them right.” They say that at the end of the process we will have a Bill that meets the needs and has the guaranteed support of the House. I say no to that; it will not do. Given their record in the negotiations, they are neither competent nor honest enough to deliver what is possible, and there is insufficient determination in the Executive or civil service to do so.
The debate stood adjourned (
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (
That, at this day’s sitting, proceedings on Second Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until midnight and
Question agreed to.
Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.