[5th Allotted Day]

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 6:29 pm on 9th January 2019.

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Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Labour, Wolverhampton South East 6:29 pm, 9th January 2019

It is more than a potential—it is a racing certainty. It is an illusion to think that this argument is finished on 30 March if we agree this withdrawal agreement—that is simply not the case. That is precisely because, as my hon. Friend indicated, the political declaration leaves the fundamental questions unanswered. The only thing it makes clear is that our market access will depend on the extent to which we agree to common rules. The issues of economics and the border that create the dilemma between a “what’s the point Brexit?” and a “what’s the price Brexit?” go on and on into the future. They are unresolved, and that will continue. That is not the fault of the civil service or because of some establishment plot—it is the fault of Brexit itself and the failure to level with the country about the choices it would involve. What we have learned, in the end, is that we could not have our cake and eat it—not because someone was mean to us or conspired to steal our prize, but because this was always a false promise.

I am clear that the sense of loss that drove the Brexit vote is real. The need for a new plan to offer a better chance in life to working-class communities is urgent, but endorsing a plan that makes our country poorer and weaker makes it more difficult, not less, to answer the genuine grievances felt in parts of our country. The first step to forming a new plan that offers real answers is to cast off the absurd victim complex that tries to portray our country as some kind of colony of the European Union. That is not true, it never was true, and we have wielded far more influence, with far more success, than that nationalist myth would ever allow for.

It is within our power to address many of the causes of Brexit without endorsing the self-harm contained in the proposals before us—or, indeed, participating in the dishonesty that tells working-class communities that their problems would all be resolved if only we could reduce immigration. Far too much of the debate about immigration has treated it as a danger to be feared rather than a fact of the modern world. Of course we should have a system with rules, but there is no rewind button to a country and a world that is not coming back. Every developed economy, including ours, will be more diverse in the future than in the past.

If the Government win the vote next week, we proceed on that basis, but if not, what then? In recent days, Parliament has exerted its will to take more control over this process. I simply say to Ministers that it is unacceptable to say that if we do not endorse this proposal, the only proposal is to drive the country towards no deal. Parliament must be allowed to express its view on the alternatives that are there, including extending article 50, the legal judgment that has shown that we can revoke article 50 if we wish, and the option of going back to the people themselves. These options must be allowed to be put before Parliament, they must be allowed to be voted on, and the Government must stop trying to drive Parliament into a choice between the proposals before us and the disaster that leaving without a deal would represent.