Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

[2nd Allotted Day]

Part of Immigration (Time Limit on Detention) – in the House of Commons at 7:35 pm on 5th December 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Labour, Gedling 7:35 pm, 5th December 2018

It is a privilege to speak in the debate. I was reflecting, as I think the country is, on how we arrived at this point. It seems that a catastrophic failure of leadership has brought us to within a few weeks of when we are supposed to leave the European Union without us having any clear plan for what that should look like. There is no clear consensus in Parliament, or indeed our country. When the history books are written, they will see the way that the Government have run things since the referendum as absolutely catastrophic. History will also write that, at this time, particularly yesterday, Parliament recognised the importance of reasserting its authority to try to ensure some sort of reason was brought to the chaos all around us.

How can a Government be held in contempt by the Parliament that they are supposed to control? That has never happened in our history. It is simply astonishing that that just seems to have been swept away. So I say with sorrow that we are in a situation now where as a Parliament we are looking to say what sort of future we want for our country and how we try to resolve this. Parliament is about trying to say that we need to re-establish and rebuild consensus. There will be a variety of views on how that is done but let us be clear: Parliament—virtually everyone who has spoken—has said that there is not a binary choice between what the Prime Minister has put before us and no deal. That is not the choice that faces all parts of the United Kingdom; it is a false choice. It does the Prime Minister—and, moreover, the country—no good at all to have that presented as the choice.

Parliament’s decision yesterday that we will not allow no deal should reassure the country, but it is unclear what happens after Tuesday if the deal, as we all expect, is voted down, as it should be. I for one will join my colleagues in happily marching through the Lobby to vote against the deal, in the belief that Parliament will ensure a better deal for all people of the United Kingdom as a result of our standing up and saying, “We will not be bullied by the Executive.”

So what does that actually mean? It may be that we have to extend article 50. It may be that we have to go back to the European Union. It may be that there will be a general election. It may even be that there will be a second referendum. All those things are unknown, but step by step and bit by bit, this Parliament will look at the facts and govern in the interests of the country. That is what is important, and that is why what happened yesterday was significant.

Let us also say in this debate that we can, as a Parliament, start to reassert some of the values that perhaps should have been spoken about more loudly during the referendum campaign. Let me start with immigration. I think immigration has been good for this country. I think it has benefited this country. That should be said loudly and clearly, time and again, because it is something that virtually every Member—sorry, I shall correct myself and say every Member—in this Parliament would agree with. Why do we not shout it out? Why do we not take on the bigots and the racists much more assertively? I say this about migration, not just immigration. There have been problems with migration, but migration overall has been good for this country as well. That is not to say that there are not problems with it, and of course those need to be dealt with, but as soon as we give ground on these things, into that space flows populism and all the anti-establishment rhetoric that we hear. That was a failure in the referendum campaign.

It does no good for the Government—the Executive—to pretend that this deal sorts anything out. If we do leave at the end of March 2019, what will be important is the fact that nothing is decided. My constituents and many constituents around the country thought—to be honest, until a few weeks ago I thought this as well—that, on leaving the European Union, large numbers of things would have been sorted out, such as trade and security. However, when I read the political declaration, not much has been decided, other than that we are going to leave—if that happens. What does the political declaration say about what happens after that? It says, “We will consider”, “Our aspiration is”, “We look to”, “We hope that”. My goodness me, Mr Speaker—is that what we are asking the British people to accept as a result of our withdrawal from the European Union?

I do not quite know where we will go, but I do know this: the fact that this Parliament has reasserted its authority means that we will be able to stand up, in whatever way we feel is correct, in the interests of the British people and that we will put them first, whatever part of the United Kingdom we represent.