[7th Allotted Day]

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 1:27 pm on 11th January 2019.

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Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour, East Lothian 1:27 pm, 11th January 2019

It is a great pleasure to follow Julia Lopez. I thank my hon. Friend Thangam Debbonaire for her comments about the state of migration and immigration. She made some very powerful points that should be listened to and addressed by all.

When is a deal not a deal? When is an agreement just a draft agreement? When is a vote not a vote? Two years on from triggering article 50, Parliament is presented with two documents: a 500-plus-page document setting out how we go about leaving the EU and a political declaration on the future. It is almost as if we have a technical drawing of an EU taxi that may or may not have four wheels and that all of us—well, some of us—may be able to get out of, or not. It is all right; we will enjoy it. But the big problem—and it is a very big problem—is that we have barely a napkin sketch of where we are going. There is the stirring of fears, with cries of “no Brexit” and “no deal”. However, this House will not allow no deal. Indeed, after the judgment of the European Court of Justice, we can unilaterally, and without loss of our current arrangements, withdraw the article 50 notice—the danger that is now described as “no Brexit”.

Once upon a time, no deal was better than a bad deal, and Brexit meant Brexit. Once upon a time we were told that we could have a free trade agreement concluded well before March 2019. Once upon a time we were told that we would hold all the cards—it would be quick and easy. Once upon a time, the free trade agreement with Europe was going to be the easiest in human history. Yet we are 77 days from leaving the European Union with a deal that cannot win the support of this House and leaves us facing being put in the perilous position of no deal. It turns out that the statements were mere assertions, possibly of hope and expectation, rather than any achievable goal based on fact.

Countries across the globe are looking at Britain in despair, and saying to the Prime Minister, “Rule out no Brexit.” The vote was not to leave in any way; the vote was based on promises by a leave campaign that have subsequently turned out to be fairy tales. There are now cries of “Respect the vote!” We cannot change our minds, no matter how the facts reveal themselves. There is no disrespect in re-evaluating a position or decision when better information is available. On evidence, we eventually decided that the world is not flat, and that the earth goes round the sun.

The other effect of the deal is to fuel the cry for a second independence referendum in Scotland, and the Tory party, with “Unionist” in its title, is doing more to fracture the Union of our four nations than anyone else. In December Ian Blackford gave a coherent defence of the value of EU membership in cultural, community and economic terms—a defence that simply by replacing “EU” with “UK” becomes even more valid.

Today we are faced with a disingenuous deal—“the best” is described as “it’s better than no deal”, but that is a betrayal of young people in our communities, and of farmers and manufacturers in East Lothian. The Prime Minister and others say “People are sick of Brexit. Let’s get it finished”, but with all due respect, that is rubbish. My constituents are deeply concerned about Brexit, and about this deal and what will follow. They are deeply concerned about the impact of Brexit on their jobs, about security and, most of all, about prospects for future generations.

With Parliament deadlocked, the promises of the leave campaign have proved to be just empty promises. It is time to take the decision back and give it to the people in a people’s vote. Perhaps we cannot depart from the EU on any terms that will not make us poorer, less secure, and put at risk peace in the island of Ireland—political declarations are more akin to the king’s new clothes, with people choosing to see what they want.

Having been elected to represent my constituents of East Lothian, I say no to this deal. I say no to no deal. I do not have this option, but I would say yes to staying in the European Union, or to a people’s vote, and to let my constituents choose on the basis of fact, rather than a once-upon-a-time fairy tale. That way we may all live happily ever after.