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UK’s Withdrawal from the EU

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 3:07 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley 3:07 pm, 14th February 2019

It is a pleasure to be called to speak in this important EU withdrawal debate, particularly after so many impassioned speeches from those on the Front and Back Benches.

Almost exactly three years ago, it was confirmed that the EU membership referendum would take place in June 2016, and it is now more than two and a half years since the referendum took place. In my constituency, the vote to leave the European Union was 58%, and across the country it was 52%. Since then, as Ms Eagle said, there has been a general election in 2017, when 589 now elected Members of this House stood on a manifesto commitment to deliver the result of the referendum.

The message I get is as follows. Just the other day, I was walking down Tilgate shopping parade in my constituency, and as is typically the case, someone came up to me and wanted to know about the current Brexit debate in Parliament. They said, “Why aren’t we getting on with the decision we made two and a half years ago?” That is a compelling argument.

We have heard this afternoon calls for a so-called people’s vote. I would argue that we had a people’s vote in 2016. We have also heard calls for an extension of article 50, to delay our departure from the European Union. We have heard from those Members concern about the uncertainty of Brexit. The one thing that will maintain uncertainty is questioning the democratic decision that was taken by holding a second referendum. That would certainly do a lot to damage our democracy and prolong uncertainty, as would a delay to article 50, and that is before we even get into the issues of whether the remaining 27 members of the EU would allow article 50 to be extended and, if article 50 were to be extended beyond July, of EU elections.

Mention has been made of how we should be taking no deal off the table. I have never known a negotiation where one party goes in and says that they are not willing to walk away from that negotiation. [Interruption.] I hear some jeering from Opposition Members, many of whom are sponsored by trade unions. I cannot imagine a trade union going into a negotiation with an employer and saying in those negotiations that it would not be willing to strike.