[3rd Allotted Day]

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 4:53 pm on 6th December 2018.

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Photo of Phil Wilson Phil Wilson Labour, Sedgefield 4:53 pm, 6th December 2018

We all know, whatever our views on Brexit, that this is a moment of history critical to the future of our country. I think of my children and my grandchildren and their future in a world that is becoming more uncertain, from climate change, to globalisation, to international terrorism, to the threat of countries like Russia—and into this pot of international and global uncertainty, we throw Brexit. At a time of international political divergence when our global institutions and alliances that have been the foundation of the rules-based order are in question, we decide to break away from one of those economic unions because of nationalistic politics and fantasy economics pedalled by populists, many of whom cannot even be bothered to stay the journey and help sort out the mess they have created.

I am proud of my country. I am a patriot, not a nationalist. Nationalism, as we know, leads down bleak avenues and dark cul-de-sacs. As a patriot, I look around the world at the economic might of the USA and China, and I do not believe it is wise to leave a union of 27 other European countries that provides one of the biggest single markets with 500 million consumers. However, the British people voted to leave the EU.

The Prime Minister started her tenure with the red line of “Brexit means Brexit”—a solid, simple red line that has been washed away with a withdrawal agreement in which Brexit means fudge. If this deal gets through, on 29 March we will have nothing to guide us forward except a vague “all things to all people” political declaration. When I ask the Prime Minister in this Chamber whether her deal is better than the one we have now, she cannot answer yes, because she knows in her heart of hearts that the answer is no. With the Prime Minister unable to answer a direct question, the Government press on, sound in the knowledge that our constituents will be worse off and that nothing more can be done. That is the perverse logic of Brexit. We know that what we are doing will damage our country, but we are going to do it anyway.

I campaigned to remain in 2016, and I cannot say in good faith to my electorate that I have changed my mind on Brexit. First, my constituents would not believe me, and secondly, I did not enter politics to knowingly make my constituents poorer. That presents a moral dilemma for remain-supporting MPs, especially those whose constituencies voted to leave. Many of my Labour remain-supporting colleagues who represent leave-voting constituencies feel this acutely, and I feel it too. In my constituency, almost three out of five voters voted to leave. For me, however, the fundamentals have not changed. Brexit will be bad for Britain, the north-east and my constituents. Remain MPs know that if leaving the EU was not good for the country in 2016, after all the Brexit twists and turns since then, leaving is certainly not the right thing to do now.

The electorate is now faced with the reality of Brexit in 2018, unlike the myths of 2016. That is why the British people should have the right to think again, in a people’s vote. If, which seems likely, MPs are to have two votes on Brexit in the next two weeks, why can the British people not? They may agree to proceed with Brexit, or they may decide to stop what we have started. Either way, the final decision will have been made. This started with the people. It should end with the people.