I very much agree with colleagues who have made remarks about the tone of the national debate. I was stalked by a woman of mature years in the last general election and it got so bad that it was only through police intervention that my campaign, such as it was, was not totally derailed. She did not like my views, which the House is about to hear.
When the result of the referendum was announced, I was elated and surprised. I never wanted us to join the European Union in the first place; I felt that de Gaulle had done us a favour in originally refusing our membership. When we eventually joined, I thought we were always on the back foot. I voted accordingly in the first referendum, when my personal view was roundly defeated. The result of the 2016 referendum was a dream come true and a moment of liberation, shared by the majority of my constituents. Two years on, I am heartily sick of the word “Brexit”—who invented it? I am also less than pleased with the way we have gone about the process of leaving the EU. Like all of us in this Chamber, I love my country—the United Kingdom. There are a number of reasons why I cannot support this agreement, one of which being that it threatens the integrity of the UK.
I am not interested in what happens on the Opposition Benches, but I am very interested in what goes on in my party, so I shall address my remarks to those on my side of the House. I cannot express forcefully enough how disappointed and even angry I am at the whole process and the way it has been handled in the past two years. A former Prime Minister, David Cameron, gave us the opportunity to vote in the referendum in the first place and he should have seen it through to the end. We ended up with a new leader, and it has transpired that the three senior members of the Government were all on the remain side, which is not an ideal situation. We then called a general election. I have been a candidate 10 or 11 times, and this was the worst general election campaign I have ever been involved in. It resulted in 33 of our colleagues losing their seats and the Conservative party losing our majority—again, that is not an ideal situation to have halfway through the negotiation process.
I, in common with most Members of the House, have had no input into the terms of the negotiations. We were told at the outset that no running commentary would be given, but there certainly has been and I have been hugely excluded from this process. This agreement is not a political solution; it has been put together and agreed by unelected people, and the resignation of not one but two Brexit Secretaries says it all. I was particularly struck by the strictures of my right hon. Friend Dominic Raab on leaving office, when he said:
“I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto at the last election.”
We should never have agreed the terms of the negotiation in the first place; fancy giving away £39 billion before we have actually started the process.
The continent of Europe confronts a growing crisis which could yet cause the collapse of the EU. In this country, unemployment stands at 4.1%, its lowest level since 1975, which contrasts with the position in Spain and Italy. Italy’s national debt is €2.5 trillion and the country is heading towards bankruptcy. Greece’s membership of the eurozone has wiped out businesses, jobs and entire industries there. In Malta, someone was murdered because they were investigating corruption. In Romania and Bulgaria, corruption flourishes. If we look at France, we see that 10 people have been murdered there. In Germany, social democracy is on the wane. In Belgium, the Prime Minister resigned before Christmas because of chronic unemployment. If colleagues want to know more about this, they should read the excellent article by Peter Oborne.
A recent report by my former colleague Lord Lilley and his co-author, the general secretary of Labour Leave, made 30 points about leaving on WTO terms. I believe the points dealt more than adequately with Project Fear and I absolutely support what they said. As Sir Rocco Forte said in a recent article,
“inward investment into the UK in the first half of 2018 was the second highest in the world after China, but ahead of the US and Germany.”
For me, the vote to leave was fundamentally about opportunity: the opportunity to set our own laws; the opportunity to embrace global free trade; and the opportunity to forge our own path in the world once again. From the start, the Government have not fully embraced those opportunities or attempted to understand them, and this agreement reflects that failure. This so-called “deal” most certainly does not match up to the expectations of the millions who voted to leave the EU, and I cannot and will not support it. But regardless of what decision this House comes to in the vote at the end of the debate, I will be leaving the European Union at 11 pm on