Exiting the European Union: Meaningful Vote

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:21 pm on 11th December 2018.

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Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Conservative, Broxtowe 4:21 pm, 11th December 2018

As you will recall, Mr Speaker, there have been many debates and statements in this House—there is no debate about that—but Parliament has never been fully involved in trying to build a compromise and find a way of delivering on Brexit. That involvement should have come at the beginning of the process, but ironically is taking place now. Unfortunately, my right hon. Friend Mrs Miller and my hon. Friend James Heappey are no longer in their places, but for them to speak about compromise at this late stage—perhaps they do not know or have failed to understand all that has taken place in the last two and a half years—was at best unfortunate.

It gives me no pleasure to say this, but the fault lies fairly and squarely in the leadership—or lack of—at the highest levels of Government, in the Cabinet and in my party. In numerous conversations and meetings, Members of this place who supported remain went to the Prime Minister and spoke at length about how she could deliver the result of the referendum while keeping this place together, building a consensus and doing the right thing by seeing off those who were never going to be bought off or satisfied and who only wanted their hard Brexit.

Some of us begged the Prime Minister to her face to reach over the top of the Labour Front Bench, who have been pitiful in their supposed role as Her Majesty’s Opposition, and form that consensus, which undoubtedly existed not just among Labour’s Back Benchers but down there with the SNP, whose Members have always said they would vote for and support staying in the single market and customs union. We tried to establish that very early on, but instead, like the 48%, we were cast aside and the Prime Minister made the terrible mistake of always trying to appease the members of the ERG, who now act as a party within a party.

I will not repeat the wise words of my friend Mr McFadden, but to make matters worse, instead of candour and honesty, we got stupid, irresponsible slogans such as “Brexit means Brexit”, when nobody knew what on earth it meant. Worst of all, we were told that no deal was better than a bad deal, and now we are surprised that we are trying to persuade people that no deal would be the very worst outcome. It was only in the last moments, having exhausted all other alternatives, that we landed on a people’s vote. It is now the only way out of this mess.