Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:10 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Independent, Broxtowe 6:10 pm, 27th February 2019

It is an absolute pleasure to follow Jeremy Lefroy. How much I agreed with everything that he said.

The situation is really quite disgraceful. It is a disgrace, and when history records what has happened over the last two and a half years, it will not falter to put the blame where I am afraid it has to be put. It will not fail to observe that one of the most striking features of the last two and a half years, among too many right hon. and hon. Members in this place, has been a breath-taking lack of courage and honesty. When I say that I mean honesty about the situation we found ourselves in after the EU referendum, honesty about the choices we face and honesty with the electorate about the consequences of the choices we face.

As I think everybody in this place knows, I was one of the people who, with members of then other political parties—I am not actually in a political party at the moment; that does not really matter—we founded, and I am proud of the fact that we worked cross-party, something called the People’s Vote. It came after a great deal of thought and consideration. As far as I am concerned, it is not designed to thwart or frustrate Brexit; I get tired of some of the words that are used in such a disparaging and very silly way. It was a genuine desire to find a solution to the unholy mess that we had our got ourselves into, and I still believe that the only way through this mess and through this crisis is by taking it back to the British people.

I take very grave exception to hon. Members on the Conservative Benches, who really should know better, saying that in saying we want a people’s vote we are saying that people were stupid, did not know better and did not understand back in 2016. Let us be very clear about why so many of us who believe in a people’s vote, and it is a growing number, take that view in the face of the death threats, the threats to our safety, the threat of deselection—not now in my happy case—and so on. The reason we say it is that it is right that people are entitled to change their minds. It is right that young people—denied a vote by virtue of their age in 2016, but now obviously of the age when they can vote—should have a say about their future, given that they more than anyone will bear the burden of Brexit. But there is this: now we know what Brexit looks like, and we did not—any of us—know what we meant when we put to the Great British people the option of leave.

I do take grave exception to something else: the fact that this Government—a Conservative Government—have still refused to take no deal off the table. I take grave exception to that not only because there is no mandate for it and it was not promised at all—in fact, the opposite was promised by leave campaigners, who promised us a deal before we even left the European Union—but because this Government know the facts about the huge danger that it poses to the economy and the future prosperity of all the people of this country, and faced with those facts in black and white, as I saw yesterday, they still refuse to take it off the table. That is my priority—making sure that no deal is not an option—and that is why I will be supporting amendment (a).