European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 6:36 pm on 12th March 2019.

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Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour, East Lothian 6:36 pm, 12th March 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Steve Double, but may I give him a little piece of advice and suggest that he votes against the deal?

We have listened to the debate over the past few months, and can extract many anomalies that go to the heart of the constitutional problem we find ourselves with today. There is a real risk that this Parliament is becoming a hollow Parliament—a Parliament that the Executive hold so low that they will not dare open negotiations with it, and whose votes the Executive choose to follow or choose not to follow. It is a Parliament that some right hon. and hon. Members have, in the very recent past, suggested be adjourned until after Brexit, and one to which the Executive will not grant Opposition days for fear of being forced to follow the will of the people’s elected representatives. It is a Parliament that the people look at and, like so many generations before, are starting to despair at. But I warn the Executive that this Parliament will bite back.

There is no majority for this identical deal, there is no majority for no deal and there is no majority to authorise this Executive to throw us over an economic cliff, to damage our culture, our communities and our future generations, and to lose respect for this country around the world and the respect that this country has for itself. If those who lead cannot act in the best interests of our country on the evidence that lies before us—not some historical prejudice—they should not be surprised if this Chamber bites back.

So here we are, finding ourselves with a meaningful vote in March. Nicky Morgan mentioned the people’s vote, and said that it would risk breaking democracy and our politics. But it is interesting that we do not hear about the fraud, the investment and the attempts to buy votes in the original referendum. Why is that not damaging our democracy and our politics? It begs the question: what intellectual humility is needed to say that what the Government are doing is wrong, and to look at the facts that influence current thinking? I hope that it is not history, because history will judge this folly severely.

My predecessor had the pleasure of sitting in the Chamber for six hours to speak and vote when we went into the forerunner of the European Union—the organisation that we watched being created after world war two not for trade, but to keep the peace. Today we have heard from hon. Members about the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, which is about not trade, but keeping the peace. It is about keeping communities living, working and enjoying each other’s pleasure.

I will vote against the deal tonight not because of the Good Friday agreement, and not because of what was said about the economics during the referendum—that we were all going to be so much better off—but because of the young people in East Lothian whose futures are being damaged by this decision. There are people who say that there are hard Brexiteers and hard remainers, and that the reality lies somewhere in the middle. Well, tonight I declare my interest as a hard remainer, because that is where I think the future of East Lothian, the future of Scotland and the future of the United Kingdom is best suited.