Exiting the European Union: Meaningful Vote

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:37 pm on 11th December 2018.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 4:37 pm, 11th December 2018

I agree with the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, on one thing, which is that this is an abject mess. A rather unattractive feature of the Brexiters in this debate is that they tend to blame everyone but themselves for the mess. They are seeking to blame the civil servants, the professional advisers and indeed the remainers for the mess that they themselves have created. We saw the Prime Minister’s spin operation over the weekend, when she said that she would press her deal to a vote. She marched all her second lieutenants up the hill but then left them stranded under fire while she slipped back down the hill under the cover of darkness.

I am pleased that the deputy Prime Minister is in his place. He has talked about the Prime Minister’s Stakhanovite work ethic, but people who know their history will know that the production figures did not quite represent the large figures that were put forward under that regime. I am sorry to say that her productivity has been rather less than her air miles would suggest.

I must point out to the Leader of the Opposition that I am rather perplexed. As Mhairi Black said, we are having a debate about not having a debate, but many Opposition Members—certainly those in the Scottish National party—were rather expecting the Leader of the Opposition to initiate a no-confidence debate today. He has been in the House even longer than I have, and I am sure that he would agree, after the past week in which the Government have been defeated three times, found to be in contempt of Parliament for the first time in history and pulled the vote at very short notice yesterday, that he has never seen a Government quite so rudderless, ill-disciplined and leaderless as this one. I say to the Leader of the Opposition that it is time to stop hiding behind process, to discover his inner lion, to throw down the gauntlet and to table a motion of no confidence. Many Opposition Members would back him.

I hope that the deputy Prime Minister will guarantee that we will vote on the Prime Minister’s deal next week, and that a legislative means of ruling out no deal will be provided because of the damage that it would cause business, and to prevent us from descending further into the vortex of disarray and disillusionment.