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1st Allotted Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 9:01 pm on 4th December 2018.

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Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Conservative, Broxtowe 9:01 pm, 4th December 2018

It may be that I can shorten my comments, because I want wholeheartedly and thoroughly to adopt the outstanding and excellent analysis and conclusions of Margaret Beckett. She does indeed speak with great authority. She of course knows, as a proud representative of the city of Derby, the Rolls-Royce plant in her own constituency. She also knows the Toyota plant near Derby. When she speaks about the just-in-time supply chains and our manufacturing, I suggest that there are few who could speak with so much genuine authority and knowledge. In her analysis and conclusions, she is absolutely right. I am delighted that she and I also agree that we should now have a people’s vote on this, the most important decision that our country faces and will take for decades.

Mr Speaker, I also want to say this. You, I think, understand perhaps more than many how that consensus, that agreement, was here in this House shortly after the referendum result. The great failing—it gives me no pleasure to say this of my own Government—was from the outset, when instead of reaching out across this House and across our country to heal the divisions, to bring together the 48% and the 52%, I am afraid and sorry to say the exact opposite was done. The 48% were tossed aside. We were abused. We were sidelined. If we had even the temerity to question almost anything we were called remoaners. It is supremely ironic that it is because of brave colleagues, who normally sit here in what is called the naughty Chamber, who about a year ago stood up to the abuse from those calling us traitors and mutineers—and yes, the death threats—and voted, with some courage, that hon. Members will be able to debate in the way that we will and then to vote. The irony is not lost on me that some of those who were most ardent in their opposition to what we did 12 months ago are now the most keen to take advantage of it.

I will not vote for this deal on any other basis than it goes to the people for their approval. This is not a good deal. In fact, as many have already observed, it is not a deal. It is certainly not what we were promised, not even by our Prime Minister. Shortly after the triggering of article 50, she was interviewed by Andrew Marr. The tape exists. He questioned whether it would be possible in the next two years to begin to get anywhere near securing all the various deals that had to be secured or even get to the beginning stage. She was confident that it could all be done within two years. Well, here we are today and what do we know? We have a political declaration that can be ripped up by any Prime Minister or any Government that come in once we have left the European Union. The withdrawal agreement is the only legally binding part of the so-called deal. As we know, there is nothing to implement, and certainly nothing that we were promised. The so-called transition period is to an unknown destination, because after two and a half years, we still do not know what our eventual relationship with the European Union will be. That is simply not good enough.

The withdrawal agreement is indeed a blindfolded Brexit that fails to deliver on the promises made not just by the leave campaign but, I am sorry to say, by my own Government. As the right hon. Member for Derby South said so beautifully and eloquently, the right hon. and hon. Government Members who think that we should just get on with it, do it, and that we can all go home for Christmas and it will all be over, are—with great respect—completely and utterly fooling themselves. We have already heard speeches from those who prefer a no deal, hard Brexit, and people can be assured that if we leave next March with nothing more than this withdrawal agreement and a political declaration that can be torn up, they will carry on and on and on for years in their quest to sever all ties with the European Union. As I say, they will do that because of the non-binding nature of the political declaration.

How poor is that political declaration? As others have observed, it is so vague that the Government could not even apply their assessments to it to try to inform us of its financial consequences.