[7th Allotted Day]

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 12:43 pm on 11th January 2019.

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Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Chair, High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill Select Committee (Commons) 12:43 pm, 11th January 2019

I agree with my comrade Matt Western that this deal must be voted down, although I am slightly surprised that he described the 2017 general election as disastrous, given that he came into the House as a result of it.

Despite this debate, I am positive about Brexit. The process of delivering it has been an unmitigated disaster, but as a consequence of the vote, I think it will ultimately be a very positive thing. I might be opening myself up to ridicule by comparing Brexit with the year 2000 debate and all the furore surrounding the possibility of aeroplanes crashing out of the skies and the world stopping rotating. There are echoes of that—we will remember the complexity of the process, but I do not believe that we will look back and see Brexit and what occurs thereafter as a disaster.

The Prime Minister repeatedly says, “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” It therefore follows that if everything has not been agreed, nothing has been agreed. The past two years have, at best, been frittered away and, at worst, a monumental waste of time—a distraction from a clean Brexit. I feel let down by Parliament, by the Government and by the Prime Minister. The roots of the problem predate the Parliaments of 2015 and 2017, dating back to the ’70s and the 1975 referendum. Parliament chose to go down the referendum route again because we collectively abdicated responsibility for making the decision. However, now that the public have made a decision, we say that we want to dabble with it. There are two conflicting mandates: that of the referendum and that of the majority of Members in this House. Parliament cannot have its cake and eat it. It cannot ask the public for a view and then ignore it. It cannot abdicate responsibility for providing leadership on a question and then question the result. It cannot fail to provide the arguments behind a referendum and then say that the referendum failed to provide the arguments and a plan.

There appears to be a settled view in this House that the Prime Minister’s plan is fundamentally flawed, but there is no single plan that this House would approve. The agreement is so fundamentally flawed that it is unamendable. The backstop must go, European Court of Justice involvement must go, we must be able to agree new trade deals, and we certainly do not want to hand over £39 billion. To be frank, I have lost trust in the Prime Minister’s ability to negotiate a good deal—one that respects the vote of the people. The default position on leaving has always been to move to WTO rules. While not my preferred option, it is a better option than what the Prime Minister has negotiated.

Colleagues will have taken soundings on Brexit, and I have been surprised at how supportive my constituents have been. Indeed, that has led me to question what other colleagues say, because few people support the plan. I carried out an online poll—indicative, not representative—and only 14% of my constituents support the Prime Minister’s plan. When I spoke to my local Conservative members, one or two supported the deal, but the clear majority did not. However, we may underestimate the situation, because some people go quiet. People with supportive views may come forward, but those with unsupportive views do not.

However, in blocking the deal by voting against it I feel that I am representing my constituents. I was heckled earlier by my right hon. Friend Sir Mike Penning, who said, in a menacing tone, “Your predecessor is looking down on you.” The late Sir Teddy Taylor would have wanted the result to be respected on 29 March, and we should look with great admiration at his career and those of others who have followed him. We should stand firm on what they knew they were campaigning for and on what the British public knew they were voting for. We can be an independent nation state again. Let us not get too bogged down in the short-term detail and process. The outcome can be a great one: the United Kingdom as an independent nation state.