Exiting the European Union: Meaningful Vote

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:27 pm on 11th December 2018.

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Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Conservative, Bexhill and Battle 4:27 pm, 11th December 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Martin Docherty-Hughes. I am not sure that I can quite follow his passion, but I will do my best.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me five minutes outside the Chamber. I was very embarrassed to have to go very late to an Anglo-French meeting. A number of French people, including mayors from the north of France, were attending the event along with others from the south of England, and we were working together to try and re-energise our respective coasts. I tried to explain to those people why I was late; that we were having a debate about why we had not had a debate yesterday, and we were going to have a vote on why we had not had a vote last night. Luckily, a French translator was on hand, but I said, “Don’t worry about that”, because none of the English audience would really understand it either.

I was particularly keen to speak this afternoon. I have been blessed in a way, because I have heard from other Conservative Members who have very different views on how we should be leaving the European Union, or whether we should be leaving at all. I respect those views, but I am also reminded that we need to find a way through this. My great concern is that, as Parliament takes control, it is quite clear that Parliament cannot find its own consensual voice when it comes to what that control should be. It is all well and good for my hon. Friend Sir Bernard Jenkin to say that leave means leave—that was effectively in our manifesto, and that is where we should be going—and it is all well and good for my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve to say that we should look towards a second referendum. It is also all well and good for my right hon. Friend Anna Soubry—my great friend—to say that we should remain in the single market and the customs union. But I am also reminded that 83% of voters in the election voted for the Labour party or Conservative party manifestos that said that we would not be doing those things. So there is a mandate to leave on the terms I would advocate.

“Compromise” is not a sexy word, but we all need to embrace it as we proceed through this very difficult situation, because 52% of the country voted to leave, and of course they wanted to go, but 48% did not. What this agreement gives to those 48% is a relationship with the EU that will last: it will go deeper in some terms, but in other terms will recognise the referendum result. That is what I told the French delegation today. I said, “We want to continue to work with you, and work deeper.” But for those 52% who wanted to us to exit, the democratic right was exercised and that means leaving, but it does not mean leaving with no deal at all.

So I ask right hon. and hon. Members, if they are concerned about business uncertainty, about jobs, about security and about their constituents’ livelihoods, please embrace compromise and find a way through.