[9th Allotted Day]

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 5:06 pm on 15th January 2019.

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Photo of Richard Bacon Richard Bacon Conservative, South Norfolk 5:06 pm, 15th January 2019

A constituent of mine who voted leave recently said:

“I am sick and tired of being told I didn’t know what I was voting for. I knew exactly what I was voting for.”

Recently on Bloomberg, the former Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, wrote:

“Britain is not facing an economic crisis. It is confronting a deep political crisis. Parliament has brought this on the country. It voted overwhelmingly to hold a referendum. The public were told they would decide.”

Indeed they were. On 10 November 2015, David Cameron said at Chatham House that

“ultimately it will be the judgment of the British people in the referendum…You will have to judge what is best…Your decision. Nobody else’s. Not politicians’. Not Parliament’s. Not lobby groups’. Not mine. Just you. You, the British people, will decide…It will be your decision whether to remain in the EU on the basis of the reforms we secure”—

I emphasise those words—

“or whether we leave.”

In February 2016, David Cameron secured his reforms at the EU Council. There was the so-called red card, whereby enough national Parliaments combining together might be able to block a Commission proposal. There were temporary limits on access to in-work benefits for newly arriving EU workers. There were some limits on child benefit and a vague commitment to reducing regulation. It was not very impressive, but that was the deal. People voted on whether to stay in the EU on that basis or to leave, and they voted to leave.

The question in the Scottish referendum was, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” If the vote had gone the other way and Unionists had then said: “Well, it depends what one means by ‘an independent country’”, or, “Did people really know what they were voting for? This will make Scotland poorer, I cannot possibly support it”, there would justifiably have been outrage, yet that is exactly what is happening here, where the question was straightforward. The question was, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”, and the people voted to leave.

The problem is that some people have no interest in respecting the result of the referendum and they think they know better. The present situation recalls Bertolt Brecht’s poem, “The Solution”:

“After the uprising of the 17th June

The Secretary of the Writers’

Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee

Stating that the people

Had forfeited the confidence of the government

And could win it back only

By redoubled efforts.”

As Brecht put it so devastatingly in the final stanza:

“Would it not be easier

In that case for the government

To dissolve the people

And elect another?”

I will be voting against the withdrawal agreement because it will not deliver Brexit. It gives the EU the right to impose laws on us indefinitely and a veto over whether that would ever change, while breaking up the country by requiring Northern Ireland to treat Great Britain as a third country and making us pay £39 billion, even though without a withdrawal agreement we are not legally obliged to pay a penny. The former Chief of the Defence Staff and the former chief of the Secret Intelligence Service both say that the withdrawal agreement will fundamentally affect our national security. People voted for change. What we want is a self-governing country where we rule ourselves. We do not need this deal; we just need to leave.