[7th Allotted Day]

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 12:48 pm on 11th January 2019.

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Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick Jim Fitzpatrick Labour, Poplar and Limehouse 12:48 pm, 11th January 2019

I am pleased to follow James Duddridge. I recognise the sincerity of his remarks even though I disagree with his conclusions. To be clear, I campaigned for and voted remain, and the remain vote in my borough of Tower Hamlets was 67%. I have received many emails since the vote. Some call for no deal, and some support the Prime Minister’s deal, but the majority are for another referendum, which of course is code for reversing the original decision. Some colleagues on my side have said that nothing has changed since the Government pulled the vote in December. I disagree. If they had pressed the vote last month, I suspect I would have voted against, but now I am not so sure, for a number of reasons. First, time is running out. Yes, the Prime Minister has run down the clock; there is no denying that. Secondly, amendments have been tabled such as amendment (p) on workers’ rights, consumer protection and environmental standards, submitted by several of my right hon. and hon. Friends, which I have signed. Thirdly, I supported new clause 7 to the Finance Bill on Tuesday, and having demonstrated that I did not want a no-deal conclusion, I feel I should address what I do want, not just what I am against.

My party’s policy is to call for a general election, and if and when there is a vote of no confidence, I will support it, but our first problem will be drafting a united manifesto. We would also need to delay article 50 and restart negotiations. This could mean months or years in Brussels followed by what? Another referendum perhaps. The amount of time, energy and money we have already spent on Brexit could be duplicated. What has happened this week, outside on College Green and inside this Chamber on Wednesday during points of order, shows just how toxic this issue has become, and it has to end.

We need to make a decision, move the country on and move forward. The impact of the doldrums and uncertainty is undermining business and the economy. Many colleagues have quoted dire forecasts for one course or another, but doing nothing could be just as bad. I have had real disagreements on this at home with family, friends, members of my party and constituents. Labour’s six tests were useful as a challenge, but they, like Gordon Brown’s five tests for the euro, were never meant to be met, in my view. Those judgments are fully subjective.

On the Northern Ireland question, I listened carefully to the intervention from Lady Hermon on Wednesday, as I am sure did other colleagues, in support of the Good Friday agreement and the Prime Minister’s deal. It is very easy to use hindsight to point out that which might have been done better. After the referendum, and especially post the 2017 general election, the Government might have detoxified some of this issue if they had constructed a cross-party approach to the negotiations. Part of Wednesday’s debate focused on cross-party co-operation. There must be scope for a cross-party approach, as so powerfully argued for by Sir Nicholas Soames earlier this morning.

Our separation from the EU has been described as a divorce after nearly 50 years. Divorces are horrible. I have been through one. There is pain and there are costs. Then we have the playground politics of those who thought—and still think—this would be easy and pain-free. They are deluded, as the Father of the House described on Wednesday. Over 17 million people voted leave, and it was a national referendum, not a referendum in Poplar and Limehouse, not in Tower Hamlets, not even London. The Labour manifesto in 2017, which my constituents voted for, said we respected the outcome of the referendum. The Leader of the Opposition yesterday repeated that Labour would negotiate a better Brexit deal but that we would be leaving.

In conclusion, colleagues may have discerned from my comments that I am talking myself into supporting the Prime Minister’s deal next Tuesday, against no deal and against further delay. I am not quite there yet, but I am not far away. It seems the House is not yet there at all, but at some point we need to recognise that the danger of no deal is still there and that the only real alternative on the table is the Prime Minister’s deal.