European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 4:48 pm on 12th March 2019.

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Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire 4:48 pm, 12th March 2019

It is always a great pleasure to follow Anna Soubry. We do not agree.

The element that has not been mentioned at any time so far in this debate is the 17.4 million people who followed a very clear direction. The right hon. Lady and I were part of a party that made this promise in 2015: “If you vote for a Conservative Government, we will give you an in/out referendum. It will be a one-off, with no holds barred. You will decide.” The subsequent European Union Referendum Bill was passed by a very large majority in this House, making it absolutely clear that we the MPs were going to give the people the right to decide. We said, “You will decide, and we will implement whatever you decide.” The 17.4 million people ignored the ludicrous “Project Fear” and the £9 million leaflet dumped in every household that bombarded them with propaganda. They ignored all that. They wanted to “take back control”.

I was in Whitchurch, the town where I was born, and clearly remember people coming off a building site late in the evening saying, “It’s about them. It’s about them, isn’t it?” I said, “What are you talking about?” and they said, “We can get rid of you, Mr Paterson. We can vote you out, but we cannot get rid of them.” They knew exactly what they were voting for. They were voting for the right to remove their rulers. Those who pass bad laws, levy taxes and spend their money badly here can be removed at a general election. That is what this is about.

We hear it time and again that we are up against a constitutional conundrum. We have had referendums on the European Community, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the alternative vote and, conveniently, the people obediently and politely delivered the result that the establishment wanted each time. This time, however, to the horror of the political establishment represented across all the Benches here, the commercial establishment, including the Confederation of British Industry, and the media establishment, the people have gone against their will. We have a real constitutional conundrum. Everyone in this House must recognise that they have to deliver what the people voted for. I look at the shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. If he wants to get into power, he must recognise that, of the first 100 marginal seats that Labour has to win, 78 of them are for leave—73 of them strongly for leave. Labour Members had better recognise that they are in this as much as those on the Government Benches.

I am in the ERG. We are called extremists. I have been called a member of Momentum by the Father of the House, who is sadly not in his seat. We were called ultras, I think, on the “Today” programme. However, we are actually loyal Conservatives, because our Prime Minister interpreted the leave vote to mean that we should leave the single market, the customs union and the remit of the European Court of Justice. Sadly, this evening’s proposal does not deliver that.