UK’s Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 3:06 pm on 14th March 2019.

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 3:06 pm, 14th March 2019

In following Ian Blackford, may I tell him that the people of the United Kingdom will not be kept in the European Union against their will? I hope that he will support and respect that.

In June 2016, the people of the United Kingdom demonstrated our collective common sense and self-confidence by voting to take back control of our national destiny and to reassert our parliamentary sovereignty. The people’s vision expressed in the referendum result was that of a strong United Kingdom, holding its head high, free from the shackles of the European Union, while promoting international free trade as the key to future national prosperity and the best antidote to global poverty.

We should be expecting to leave the EU in 15 days and there should be an air of excitement about all this, but I detect a certain gloom, because today Parliament is being asked to endorse what is no less than an act of national humiliation—to renege on the decision it took two years ago triggering article 50 and to repeal or amend the Act it passed last year to leave the European Union on 29 March. By dishonouring the decision on article 50 and the result of the referendum, the Government motion before us is a gross betrayal.

As a member of the Exiting the European Union Committee, I have witnessed at first hand on our visits to Brussels the extent to which the Government are now a laughing stock. The most serious criticism of the UK is focused on our Prime Minister for signing up to a deal that she has subsequently disowned. They see that in Brussels as an act of bad faith, which is one reason why they have refused to make changes to the withdrawal agreement.

My amendment (g) is on the Order Paper. It has not been selected for debate, but had it been, it would have allowed the Government to seek to agree with the European Union an extension of the period specified in article 50(3) until 22 May, for the specific purpose of replacing the United Kingdom negotiating team. We need to replace our current team because it has gone back on so many of its promises to Parliament and to the people. The only way to regain self-respect is to have a fresh team of negotiators. I include among that team its head—none other than the Prime Minister.

Two years ago the House endorsed the Prime Minister’s negotiating approach as set out in the Lancaster House speech. The Prime Minister contemplated a scenario of the European Union imposing a punishment deal on us. That is why at the time she waxed eloquent about the benefits of no deal over a bad deal, which included delivering our freedom to negotiate trade deals and, ultimately, enabling us to set out our own economic model to deliver prosperity and growth.

The Prime Minister promised that the divorce settlement and the future relationship would be negotiated alongside each other, that nothing was agreed until everything was agreed, and, on the substance, that we would leave the single market, the customs union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. None of that is guaranteed in her deal. For all her protestations, the Prime Minister’s deal does not meet her own criteria, and her negotiations have sadly resulted in the punishment deal that she feared. Her insistence that her deal is a good deal is not accepted by the House; indeed, the House has overwhelmingly rejected it on two occasions. But instead of accepting the verdict of the House, she is stubbornly continuing to assert that her deal is a good deal, and now she is holding a pistol to our heads by threatening that we will lose Brexit altogether. It is intolerable that the Prime Minister is asking those of us who oppose her deal to tear up our manifesto commitments, and to break our word to our constituents and electors.