EU Withdrawal Agreement

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 4:27 pm on 18th December 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of James Heappey James Heappey Conservative, Wells 4:27 pm, 18th December 2018

I think that my constituents in Burnham-on-Sea, Cheddar, Shepton Mallet, Glastonbury, Street and Wells can see unequivocally from what the hon. Lady has just said that the Liberal Democrats are indeed seeking an exit from Brexit and would happily put the Leader of the Opposition into No. 10 to achieve that. That is somewhat at odds with what the Liberal Democrat candidate in my constituency has been telling people. I am grateful to her for clarifying that in the short time that I have available to speak today.

I find that we are having these debates again and again and again. I did not come to Parliament to talk endlessly about Brexit, yet that is what we seem to be doing. I am not going to argue that a second referendum is undemocratic. I absolutely take the point made by Tommy Sheppard—how can it be undemocratic to keep exercising democracy? However, I see a process that would take at least a year to deliver. If it took us 348 days to take the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill through this House, there is no way that a referendum Bill would take any less time. That means a year of huge uncertainty during which time Brexit would continue to dominate the national conversation, not in any way of trying to find compromise and a solution, but with people reverting back to the binary positions that dominated the original referendum debate.

A second referendum would be a step backwards, not a step forwards. It is not an end in itself. It is not a solution to the problems that we face in this place. It is simply us saying that we are not willing to make the decision ourselves and are putting in place a process whereby others can decide because we have not got the bottle to do so. We know what are the options in front of us, and we have to make the decision. A second referendum is a soft way out that solves nothing and does nothing other than create more parliamentary process and more dominance of the Brexit debate.

We have three choices: either no Brexit, which, in fairness, many Members in this House want; no deal, which many Members in this House also want; or the Prime Minister’s deal, which at least means that we find a compromise and do not end up having to choose between two extremes.