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European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:00 pm on 25th March 2019.

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Photo of Anna Turley Anna Turley Labour/Co-operative, Redcar 9:00 pm, 25th March 2019

I concur completely. I was building up to a crescendo, but I agree that being honest and having a conversation with the people about the reality of Brexit is the way forward. This place owes the public an apology for the referendum—not just David Cameron, but all of us—but instead of an apology the betrayal has continued. Rather than being honest with the public, confronting the mistakes and admitting that the referendum was flawed, we have sought to continue it rather than face up to our historic error. The public are wiser than many in this place give them credit for. They can see that the process over the past two and a half years has been an absolute shambles. They can see that Brexit is nothing like what was promised to them. We should all have the humility to say we know much more now than we did then.

Why is the Prime Minister continuing to drive people to a destination that is not where they were told they were going? We do not even know whether many of them still want to go. She continues to talk about the will of the people, but she ignores not just the 48% but those who did not vote because they did not feel strongly enough to want to change the situation. Some 29 million people either voted to remain or did not feel they wanted to change things. None of them asked to get where we are.

No wonder the public call it betrayal when they are not getting the things they were promised, or when responsible politicians step up to try to stop this carnage. This is the ultimate Brexit paradox. The further we are from Europe and the more abrupt our break, the worse it is for our economy, particularly for areas like mine that voted most strongly to leave. Yet the closer we remain to the EU, with Norway-plus or a soft Brexit option, the more we concede British sovereignty and dilute the so-called will of the people, which is now hardening among many leavers for a no deal.

No one will be getting what they were promised and I believe it is a deceit to vote for Brexit in name only in the hope that people will not notice or to try to get them off our backs. All we would be doing is continuing to reinforce the lie to the public and failing to be honest with them about the reality of our situation. Worse, I hear the Prime Minister patronising them and telling them there is nothing that can be done to prevent it because this is what they wanted two and a half years ago. Denying them the right to change their mind or to have their say on the outcome now that the evidence is clearer is a real betrayal, both of them and of future generations.

Record numbers have marched and signed petitions in the past few days. They, too, are the people, and they, too, deserve to have their voice heard. A new referendum or a vote to ratify a deal that comes through our range of options must be put to the people in the cold light of day. We must be brave enough to ignore the calls of betrayal and do the right thing, and not continue the deceit that we will be able to please everyone with our Brexit outcome. We must do what is in the best interest of our constituents’ jobs and livelihoods and in the national interest of our country. Parliament needs to come clean that we have made a catastrophic mess. We must give the public the chance to help us clean it up.