European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 6:32 pm on 12th March 2019.

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Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Conservative, St Austell and Newquay 6:32 pm, 12th March 2019

I think it is probably an understatement to say that we are not where we want to be today, and that we are not where we should be. I do not believe that the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU expected that, just 17 days before our scheduled leave date, the question of whether we are going to leave on 29 March would still be in the balance.

This House voted to trigger article 50, which gave a two-year notice period for us to leave, and it passed the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, which had the date when we leave in it. It is a failure of our politics and of leadership that we are in this position today where the choice before us tonight is, as far as I am concerned, an impossible choice: a choice between the deal, which is not a deal and does not deliver on our promises to the people of this country, and voting down a deal and risking all sorts of alternatives from those who want to thwart and delay Brexit and prevent it from ever happening.

It will only be when the history books of this period are written and the real truth comes out that we will fully appreciate what happened. All the people who have sought to undermine the Prime Minister in her negotiations, and the hindrance that that has caused, are directly responsible for why we are here today. There are also those who have maintained that no deal should be taken off the table, which has completely undermined our negotiating position, and those who have supported a second referendum, which has sent a message to the EU, saying, “If you give the UK a terrible deal, it will vote it down in another referendum and decide to stay in the EU.” The truth will come out one day, and then we will know exactly what has gone on to undermine these negotiations, but we are where we are tonight.

Here we are, 20 minutes before the vote, and I still do not know how to vote; I am still in a quandary. The choices before us tonight are between two wrongs—two things that I do not want to happen. It is an impossible choice. I will make a decision and vote tonight, but it is a choice that I do not want to make. One option—if you will excuse my language, Mr Speaker—is a turd of a deal, which has now been taken away and polished so that it is a polished turd, but it might be the best turd that we have before us. The alternative would be to stop Brexit all together, as some propose, and the risk of that happening is very real. That would be a complete denial of the people. When this House voted for a referendum, we put the decision in the hands of the people. We said, “You will make this decision and we will implement it.” The fact that we are where we are today is a failure of our politics, and every one of us needs to take responsibility for the British public’s view of this place today.

As I am faced with this impossible choice tonight, I just trust that we will deliver on the referendum and keep our word to the British people, and that—one way or another—we will leave at the end of this month.