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UK’s Withdrawal from the EU

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of James Morris James Morris Vice-Chair, Conservative Party 4:19 pm, 14th February 2019

One thing that has struck me during this debate is the almost complete absence of taking into consideration how we got here today. In Dudley and Sandwell, part of which I represent, people voted in very, very large numbers for us to leave the European Union. It is incumbent on us, whatever the situation we now find ourselves in, to find a way through to delivering on Brexit for the British people, and doing it in a way that delivers on their aspirations.

There are two things that will not help in our endeavour to deliver on Brexit for the British people. The first is to countenance a second referendum. A second referendum would be highly divisive. It would not resolve the issues that we currently face; it may in fact make the situation a lot, lot worse. The second thing that would not help in delivering for the British people and for the people I represent is any idea that we are going to extend or revoke article 50. That just kicks things further along the road. It does not, in any way, get to the point of resolving the issues we face today.

I recognise some of the words, although they are often expressed in very strong language, about some of the threats of no deal. I have spoken to Jaguar Land Rover in the west midlands. But the reality is that the way to avoid no deal is for us to establish a deal with the European Union. I supported the deal because I thought it was the most practical way for us to get to exit day with an arrangement that would deliver on the aspirations of the British people as well as finding continuity for business, but I recognised that there were issues with the backstop. I believed that we should give the Prime Minister the room to respond to the vote that was held in this House two weeks ago and get changes to the backstop so that we could get a deal that everybody in this House can support and thereby get to 29 March in a condition where we can move forward.

You may think, Mr Speaker, that I am a very reasonable and calm individual, but in my previous life as a businessman I have been involved in some very robust business negotiations. I would appeal to the European Union, and to some Members of this House, to reduce the temperature of the rhetoric that is being used about these negotiations, and to leave robust exchanges in the negotiating room. When I was negotiating in business, we had a lot of passionate debate, and there were often strong disagreements with the people I was negotiating with, but we never went out of the room to brief the press and put things on Twitter and Facebook to undermine the other side, because it is in the interests of both parties to get a deal.

I would urge us to get back to the discipline of negotiating a resolution to this issue so that we do not face in this country something that I fear, which is a major democratic crisis because we have been proven unable to deliver a good negotiated exit deal and unable to deliver on the aspirations of the British people that were clearly articulated in the referendum. We must redouble our efforts to do that.