European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Leaving the EU – in the House of Commons at 11:25 pm on 14th January 2019.

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Photo of Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell 11:25 pm, 14th January 2019

There is a lot of opposition to the deal in the Chamber, and most people recognise that it is probably going to go down to defeat tomorrow night. This is the first time I have taken part in the debates on this issue; I have been involved in statements and urgent questions, but this is the first time I have spoken in the debate.

When I have looked around the Chamber and listened to the speeches, I have realised that a lot of the opposition is based on so many issues other than the actual deal on the table. It is based around whether people can get a general election, a second referendum or a reversal of the deal, or perhaps on whether it will help somebody’s leadership hopes. Only a few people in here are ideologically opposed to the idea of any deal, and I respect them because it is a position they have held for a long time. They have a view that I disagree with and will try to argue against, but at least it is an honest position. The trouble is that when I talk to my constituents, I find that about 90% of them just want to get on with this. They just want the deal done and for us to move forward. Some 5% definitely want no deal, as they want nothing to do with Europe whatsoever, and 5% definitely want to reverse the deal, as they think it was terrible that we had a referendum in the first place. So 90% just want us to get on with it, and I believe that is what this deal delivers.

Do I like the backstop? No, I do not, but it is a compromise. I am willing to make the political judgment that we can move this forward, get to 29 March and leave the EU. We would be delivering on what I believe are most of the reasons why people voted to leave and, crucially, be protecting the economy while seeking the new trade deal. We can thus move things forward. I think that is roughly where most of my constituents are, too; they want to move things forward. I take issue with my right hon. Friend Boris Johnson for writing in The Daily Telegraph that hard Brexit was what people voted for when they voted for Brexit. He said they voted for no deal, but that is not true, as people were told, from the Brexit side, “You will be able to get a trade deal.”

Three areas concern me, with the first being no deal. I do not believe no deal works for this country. I look at small manufacturing organisations in my constituency, which feed up the supply chain to the big organisations that export and that need the frictionless trade and the ability to move goods freely in just-in-time scenarios that have been built over many decades. They know that the knock-on effect will affect them directly. I honestly believe that if this decision was to be reversed, there would not be an international business in the world that would say, “Great, it is all over and done with. Let’s invest in Britain.” Surely the question would be, “When are they going to change their mind again?” I also do not support a second referendum, because I do not see what it would actually deliver. This evening, I have probed Members who are supporting a second referendum and they have said it will have only two options: remain or take the deal. As I pointed out, the genie is out of the bottle. I do not think we can reverse the decision and remain; we need to get a solid trade deal and move forward.

Let me build on the comments made at the end of the speech by Tracy Brabin, for whom I have great respect. She is right to say that there is a growing far right sentiment, which has been uncovered, given a platform and empowered by this. A second referendum would surely be one of the most divisive and evil campaigns we have seen. It would be far worse than the last one, because we are seeing that raise its head; we are seeing it out on College Green, and it is being exploited by tendencies with no respect for democracy. So I fear that not only would we have a very nasty campaign, but we would not solve anything. If the second referendum came back in favour the deal, we would still be having some similar arguments in here. By backing the deal, as I will do tomorrow night, I hope we will start to move the agenda forward and we can move on to the second stage of Brexit. I believe this deal delivers for about 90% of my constituents, and I wish this House would support it tomorrow night.