UK’s Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 3:46 pm on 14th March 2019.

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Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening Conservative, Putney 3:46 pm, 14th March 2019

I agree that we need collectively to find a way forward. Party politics and both Front Benches have got in the way of our doing that. In the context of the steps we now need to take, I agree that we need to have votes on the alternative proposals—common market 2.0, Malthouse or whatever—so that we can test whether there is consensus behind any of them, but those votes should be free votes. Brexit is not about party politics. The party machine constantly whipping votes does not serve our country or this vitally important issue well, and it is getting in the way of the House genuinely finding out whether we can agree on anything apart from the fact that we do not like the Prime Minister’s deal.

I personally think that the way to achieve this is to recognise that there is a spectrum of opinion in this House. People hold their views in totally good faith. They represent very different communities and they themselves have different views on Brexit. This is perhaps one of those naturally binary and quite divisive topics, and we have to confront that fact. That is why I do not think we will reach a conclusion on this gridlock. We have to stop circling around the issue. Ministers now need to show some leadership and unblock a route forward with parliamentarians in this place.

Frankly, I would be happy for people to pick from a spectrum of very different outcomes for this country’s path forward. The reality is that we had a referendum about leaving the European Union, not about where we were going to go. We cannot agree on what people think the destination should be, and we therefore need almost to finish off the referendum. We need to go back to the people with a further one to find out where they actually want to go. That is the choice. We will end up with a public vote on Brexit. It is a question of whether it will be a general election, which I do not think will resolve the issues that this House continues to grapple with, or a public vote on Brexit—the actual issue at hand, on which we desperately need to find a direction for our country.

If an extension allows us the space to finally come up with a strategy for a route forward, it will have been worth it purely for that. From my perspective, it should be the shortest possible extension that will give the House the space to do that. It should not be an open-ended extension that would simply give us the chance to go round in circles, achieving nothing and destroying investment in this country.