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[2nd Allotted Day]

Part of Immigration (Time Limit on Detention) – in the House of Commons at 5:12 pm on 5th December 2018.

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Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley 5:12 pm, 5th December 2018

Well, it is apples and apples. It is simply because there are people here who are now using any excuse to try to ignore the result—to try to turn it over because they did not like the campaign. They think that people lied on one side or the other. In fact, those accusations were levelled at both campaigns. We should not forget that, on top of that, the Government spent £9.3 million on a brochure that they sent to every household in this country, using taxpayers’ money. It was propaganda to try to convince them to vote remain. I objected to the pamphlet at the beginning. On the back of it, David Cameron put one paragraph that said, “We will accept the verdict of the British people.” I urge Members in this Chamber to be careful about what they wish for. The electorate will be incredibly angry if we try to ignore the result. In Lancashire, whether in Labour seats or Conservative seats, every constituency voted to leave the European Union, and we want our voices to be heard.

Let me move on to the problem that we have with the Attorney General’s advice. I have specific problems with the backstop. The more that I read this advice the more I dislike it. I did not like it before, but now I like it even less. I love the mentions of “good faith” and “best endeavours”. The last time I heard “best endeavours”, I was a boy cub. Really, is that the best we can try for? I did hear the Prime Minister say that we will not have any borders down the Irish sea when, explicitly, that is what will now happen. I am very, very unhappy with that, although I listened to the Prime Minister at Question Time today and I got some sort of hope from her response to a question about what would happen on Tuesday if the deal was voted down. Now, we all know that I have more chance of winning “The Great British Bake Off” than the Prime Minister has of getting this through—[Interruption.] “Strictly”? No—I cannot cook and I cannot dance. That does not stop the Prime Minister—[Hon. Members: “Ooh!”]—but it would certainly stop me. That was a joke. [Interruption.] My career stopped a long time ago, I can assure hon. Members.

The Prime Minister did say that she was going to look at the backstop, which is clearly a problem that needs to be looked at for a number of reasons. We need to be able unilaterally to leave the European Union, because that is what the vote said in 2016. At the moment, we can do so. If we were to sign the withdrawal agreement, funnily enough we would be handing over that power. All of a sudden we would be unable unilaterally to leave the European Union, and that is not what the people voted for. They voted to take back control, not to give it away. This is a real issue.

The agreement is dripping with problems, as has been intimated by our friends from the DUP. If a miracle happens on 34th Street and we get this deal through, it will be the last thing we get through for a long while because we have lost the support of the people who are keeping us in power. Let us think long and hard about that. Right at the end of the legal advice, the conclusion states:

“In the absence of a right of termination, there is a legal risk that the United Kingdom might become subject to protracted and repeating rounds of negotiations.”

Think about that. Not only are we treating Northern Ireland differently; we simply do not know how long the backstop is going to last. Is that where we want to be? Is that what the British people voted for in 2016? I do not think so.

I have heard a rumour that the Prime Minister is thinking about a change, by saying that Parliament should be able to vote on putting us into the backstop, and giving Parliament that power. I do not want that power. Getting into the backstop is not the problem; it is getting out that is the problem. That is where this Parliament needs to be able to make a decision—the decision to say, “Thank you. We’re leaving.”

Harold Wilson said that politics is the art of the possible—[Interruption]. And Rab Butler as well. Well, he probably paraphrased him. All I can say is: over to you, Prime Minister. Let us see where the art of the possible takes us on Tuesday but, for goodness’ sake, don’t take this to defeat.