Without using vocabulary that I think you would find unacceptable, Mr Speaker, I cannot adequately convey the extent of my disgust at how the Prime Minister is treating Parliament. Together, we are the elected representatives of the people of the United Kingdom, yet the Prime Minister has treated us with serial contempt, as have her Executive.
Today’s discussion about the extension of article 50 is the latest in a long line. There can be no doubt that when last Thursday we voted by a big majority to approve the Government’s motion, we were voting to sanction a short extension in circumstances where the withdrawal agreement was approved, and a long extension in circumstances where it was not. There is no ambiguity whatsoever about that point, so for the Prime Minister then to seek a short extension without any approval of the withdrawal agreement is to turn the truth on its head and wilfully misrepresent the opinions of this Parliament. To people who are watching, and in particular to the leaders of the other European countries who will assemble in Brussels tomorrow, I say that when this British Prime Minister speaks tomorrow, she does not do so in our name and she does not represent our views.
We have had a long two and a half years of this Prime Minister refusing to countenance or accept any political view that is not found in the ranks of her own narrow governing party. She has ignored other points of view and tried to appease the unappeasable, and she stands accused of consistently putting her party before her country. By now, any reasonable and rational Prime Minister, having faced the scale of defeat over the length of time that she has, would have concluded either that she should leave the terrain altogether, or that it was time to go back to the drawing board, remove the arbitrary and erroneous red lines that she set at the beginning and reach out and try to build a new political consensus in this Parliament and in this country. The fact that she is unable and unwilling to do so is a matter of considerable regret and the people will judge her for it. It is not too late.
We now need a lengthy extension to this process—for as long as it does indeed take—in order to begin to create that new political consensus. My party stands willing to be part of that discussion, although what we will agree to will be determined by an ability to put whatever finds a route to a majority in this Parliament again before the people of the United Kingdom to allow them the final say. To those who are hiding behind a distant and narrow mandate, I ask: what are they afraid of? If they really believe that this withdrawal deal is what 17 million people voted for, why not put it to them and let them decide?