European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 4:41 pm on 12th March 2019.

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Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Independent, Broxtowe 4:41 pm, 12th March 2019

Well, that was a really helpful and relevant intervention, wasn’t it? Of course, it is absolute tosh. The most important—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman’s heckling is very tedious and could end up with me thwacking him with my Order Paper.

Let us address the real issues that face this House tonight. Let us look at the failings of the withdrawal agreement, and let us look now at a way out of it, as it seems likely that yet again this agreement will fail to pass in this House.

The Independent Group tabled an amendment; I am sorry it was not selected, Mr Speaker, but of course I understand why. However, at least it set out a timetable and provided a coherent alternative, and I believe that is what the people of this country are now crying out for. They want clarity, they want certainty, and they want a way forward.

I also believe that the only way out of this mess is to take the matter back to the British people, as my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve as ever beautifully and eloquently explained in the arguments he advanced. Now we know what Brexit is like, it is perfectly right and acceptable that it should be able to go back to the British people. People are entitled to change their mind, and of course the young people who would bear the heaviest burden of Brexit are entitled, I would argue, to have a say.

What I say to former colleagues on the Government Benches is this: they will be voting—those of them who are doing so—for a withdrawal agreement in absolute knowledge and certainty of the following. As outlined by this Brexit Government—because that is what they are, a Brexit Government—who have done the assessments into all the various ways of delivering Brexit, whatever way we do it will leave this country less prosperous and our constituents less well off. Being a Brexit Government, and the party of Brexit, will not be a badge of honour to be worn next to the blue rosette; it will end up being a badge of shame.

At some stage, people are going to have to make good the huge deficit that will exist. I shall give the House an example. Almost every Saturday, I am proud to go out with the Nottingham people’s vote campaigners, mainly in Nottingham but also in other parts of the county. I recently met a woman who explained why she had voted for Brexit. I understood her complaint about a system that she thought was not working for her when it came to housing. She thought it was the fault of immigrants. I explained that her complaint was nothing to do with immigration, and that immigrants had benefited our country in many ways over many centuries. Nevertheless, in her mind she somehow thought that Brexit was going to make good the problems in her life. If we do leave the European Union—God forbid that we should leave without a deal, the most irresponsible of all the options; the Business Secretary was right to say that it would be “ruinous”—how is that woman going to see her life transformed? She will not be better off economically. How is she going to benefit from the sovereignty that is suddenly going to be recaptured by our country? How is her life going to be improved? And who is going to make good the deficit and disappointment that she will undoubtedly face?

I think that is why so many right hon. and hon. Members on the Labour Benches, especially on the Back Benches, have come round to the view that the only way through this mess is to take it back with honesty and conviction to the people. I pay tribute to Labour Members such as those in Sunderland and Anna Turley who represent leave constituencies but who have had the courage go out and speak to the people they represent, in all weathers, to make their case and to lead them, and to convince them that the best way through this mess is now to go back to the people.

People understand that they were lied to. They were tricked and conned by the leaders of leave, some of whom sit in this place. Those leaders will not lose their jobs. They will not find themselves worse off. They will not bear the burden. The people who will bear the burden are the people in this country who voted leave, and especially those who work in the manufacturing sector. They will see their jobs put at risk. They will see the future of their children and grandchildren blighted. It is the leaders of leave who should take responsibility, yet almost every one of them has walked away from their ministerial position while still scooping up all the benefits that they get outside this House through the articles they write, through their inherited wealth and through their gold-plated pensions. They will never be held responsible, but it should be to their eternal shame that they have caused such damage and deep divisions in this country. They should speak to people, just as I speak to my own constituents whose skin is brown and who find themselves being told to go home and being spat at and abused. That did not happen before this appalling referendum.

When we talk about Brexit, the one thing we now need to do is find a way to heal these terrible divisions. Somebody needs to address that, but it will not be done through more dishonesty. We will do it with honesty and with courage. We must say to the British people, “We have made a mistake. Let us bring this back to you so that you can make good the harm that we have done.”