It is an honour and a privilege to participate in such an historic debate. Given the time limit, I shall dive straight in. What an utter disgrace it is that the Government tried to hold back from Parliament their legal advice on a decision of such magnitude. We now know why. On the backstop, the advice clearly shows that Northern Ireland has been sold out. The Government have lost the trust of not only the DUP, but the wider British public. They have reneged on their solemn promise. The House had to force Ministers to change their minds and release the legal opinion. What an utterly ridiculous situation.
This whole Brexit process has been blurred, botched and bungled from the very start. Has ever so much diplomatic and political capital been expended for so little result? With every passing day, with each resigning Minister and with each international snub and rebuff, it has become ever clearer that the Prime Minister and her team—I use the term lightly—are not up to the task. Her negotiation tactics, as has been illustrated by many Members today, have been to appease the hardliners within her own party. I need hardly remind the House that the craven acquiescence on the part of her predecessor is the reason why we were landed in this entire mess in the first place. Instead of patiently assembling a cross-party coalition of support for her plan, the Prime Minister has created division and discord, the social and economic consequences of which will echo long after the votes have been counted. This issue has been exercising many in my constituency who are very, very anxious indeed. Since the publication of the agreement—up to yesterday evening—I have received scores of emails from Slough constituents. More than 94% implore me to vote against the Prime Minister’s deal, which is fairly emphatic.
I am a supporter of the EU and I wanted to remain in the EU. Now, I want us to have a very close and collaborative relationship with our neighbours. The world’s economy has never been more interconnected and more dynamic, which is why, as nation states, we must form alliances to ensure that we have a very strong and stable relationship going forward—hopefully a lot more strong and stable than this crumbling Government. Now, after two years, we face a much more dangerous situation and, of course, it is a matter not just of macroeconomics and geopolitics, but for real families, real businesses and real working people.
When I meet business leaders in my Slough constituency they tell me that businesses need a stable economic environment, a backdrop, but that this withdrawal agreement leaves businesses facing years of uncertainty. When I talk to trade unions in my Slough constituency, they tell me the same thing: the Government’s deal tears up decades of negotiated deals around workplace safety and conditions. Many Government Members opposed the European social charter in the first place and would happily see it scrapped. The Government’s own analysis shows that the economy will be 3.9% smaller. Many of us cannot afford a hard Brexit. I fully support the amendments that have been tabled. I cannot support the Government’s withdrawal agreement. The Government have failed spectacularly to deliver Brexit, which is why they must stand aside and hold a general election.