UK’s Withdrawal from the EU

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 3:48 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield 3:48 pm, 14th February 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Jack Dromey; I agreed entirely with the sentiments that he expressed about the depth of this crisis.

We still need to reflect a little to understand how we got here. After the referendum, I spent at least the first 12 months trying to persuade myself that there was some silver lining to the cloud, and that some of the arguments about us eventually finding a better destiny outside the EU, without so much interference, so much anger, and so much debate about our participation, might somehow prove right. Whereas a small minority in this House are absolutely fixated, and are persuaded that we can part company with our nearest neighbours entirely, the truth, not always uttered in this Chamber, but certainly spoken in the Tea Room, is that an overwhelming majority of Members of Parliament believe that Brexit, whatever form it takes, will be damaging to this country. Norway, the palliative that Norway plus may be seen as representing, a Canada-style agreement, or indeed the agreement negotiated in good faith by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—all are inferior to participation.

The result is that we are tying ourselves up in knots, and that is why we are paralysed. We end up with people like my right hon. Friend Boris Johnson trying to have their cake and eat it; or—I say this gently—with those on the Labour Front Bench buying a plastic cake and pretending it is edible, rather than coming to the correct conclusion that we will have to go back to the public with the options and, pointing out the limitations of what happened in 2016, ask them whether some of the options can, in fact, be delivered—otherwise, we should not be doing it. That is where we will have to end up, but meanwhile, the crisis deepens.

We are in the extraordinary position of being told that we have to continue negotiating and threatening to leave, when frankly, threatening to leave is the behaviour of a three-year-old who says that they are going to hold their breath if they do not get the toy that they want. That is where we are, and we will have to do something about it ourselves if we are to get ourselves out of this mess. I agree so much with my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin that we cannot allow this to happen. That is why I have signed the Bill that he has presented, will work with him to get it through Parliament, and believe it is the only way out of the current crisis.

I will sit down in a moment, Mr Speaker, because I want to conclude quickly, but I will just say this. What troubles me is that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench should be doing this themselves, in their own motion. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister talks about her sacred duty over Brexit. I do not think Brexit is a sacred duty at all; I think it is a pretty profane matter, and if it is going to plunge us into a national crisis, we have a sacred duty to prevent it. I am really alarmed that she does not appear to understand that. I have to say to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that if that is the policy with which they will persist, we will obviously try to change it by implementing the necessary legislation, but that calls into question whether the Government—whom I do my best to support, despite the problems—are in fact acting in the national interest at all. I simply say to them that if they continue to behave in this absolutely crazy fashion, there will come a time when my ability to support this Government will run out completely. The national interest calls on us to face up to our responsibilities; that is what we have to do.