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Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:57 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Conservative, Witham 5:57 pm, 27th February 2019

I begin by paying tribute to my hon. Friend Alberto Costa for his amendment (b). He spoke with great distinction and clarity, demonstrating that this House can be united on such an issue as Brexit. It is challenging, but he has demonstrated great principle and a considered approach in the way in which he has been able to unify us and bring so many of us together.

Those of us in this House who promised to honour the vote in the referendum back in 2016—in fact, that is most of us—and who went on to stand on our respective manifestos seeking to honour that result then voted to trigger article 50 and to leave the EU on 29 March this year. We must now ask ourselves how this situation—not just the debates in this House, but the way in which the negotiations have been taking place and have been handled—looks to the 17.4 million who voted to leave, and to those who voted to remain, when it comes to respecting the result of the referendum.

It is inevitable that I am going to say that the negotiations have not been handled in the most structured way. The Government have missed opportunities to change their approach, and it is fair to say that the warning signs have been there for a considerable amount of time—through the proposals that became the Chequers agreement and then the withdrawal agreement, which in my view were not right for this country. However, the point is that we know that the deal as it stands now is not acceptable to many, and there is more work to do. The right response would be for the Government to carry on listening and to pursue a better deal. At the same time, we are now hearing much more about the whole push for a second referendum that would seek to deny the British people the rights and freedoms that they voted for back in 2016. Voting for delay without even specifying what would be achieved by it is not the right approach at all, and it saddens me that we are now in that position.

The fact is, the Prime Minister undertook to go back to Brussels to reopen the withdrawal agreement, and on 29 January this House voted and showed what sort of deal can command a majority in the House of Commons. No deal is not the outcome that we are all aiming for. We want a deal that can actually speak to the challenges associated with the backstop. All the other choices could mean that we end up going back on the verdict of the British public, backtracking on our promises and undermining democracy. The various arguments have been made about letting down our country. We will end up with irretrievable ramifications, not just for our political parties but for our democracy and our country. None of us wants to see that.

In the coming weeks we have an opportunity, and the Government have an opportunity, to secure a better deal and bring back a withdrawal agreement that has legally binding changes so that the UK can leave the backstop and, importantly, deliver the Brexit that the British people were promised.