I will be voting against this deal. Based on the substantial number of my constituents who have contacted me about this vote, it seems I will be doing so with their overwhelming support—nearly 95% of them have urged me to vote against. We are now a month on from when this vote should have taken place—a month that has achieved nothing, much like the last 932 days since the narrow outcome of the referendum. It was an advisory referendum, not a binding one. It was a referendum that disenfranchised more than 4 million people, one in which no 16 or 17-year-old was allowed to vote and no EU citizens living here and working here—they are part of the fabric of this country and society—were allowed to vote. The ballot asked just one question—whether to remain or leave. It did not ask how we should leave, nor what should happen afterwards.
And 932 days on, we now know, because we have facts, that the referendum was drenched in illegality by both the Vote Leave and the Leave.EU campaigns. We know that electoral law was broken, that campaign spending limits were breached and that impermissible foreign donations came through online platforms. We have those facts from the Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioner, and, following the work of those regulators, investigative journalists and our Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which has spent a year painstakingly investigating widespread evidence, the National Crime Agency is investigating Arron Banks, the largest political donor in UK history, and senior figures of the Leave.EU campaign, because there are reasonable grounds to suspect that Banks was not the true source of £8 million in funding to the Leave.EU campaign. That is important—it should not be dismissed as sour grapes—because it raises really serious concerns, which this Government have deliberately chosen to ignore, about the legality and the validity of the referendum outcome.
I voted against triggering article 50. In my speech in that debate, I said that the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, had behaved recklessly in his approach to the reform negotiations at the EU, and that he was
“a man who put himself and his party before the national interest, and who gambled our country’s safety, future prosperity and long-standing European and wider international relationships to save his party and his premiership from imploding”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 620, c. 895.]
He failed miserably.
Two years on, I regret to say that those words, and those actions, can equally be applied to the current Prime Minister. This whole period has been an exercise in how not to negotiate. Of all the ironies, yesterday’s desperate phone calls by the Prime Minister to some trade union leaders—who are professional, expert negotiators from whom she could have learned so much—were the first contact she has made with them.