United Kingdom’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:11 am on 29th March 2019.

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Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green 11:11 am, 29th March 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Ian Blackford, but he will forgive me if I do not follow him completely, as we would never finish this debate.

I wish to apprise the House of my view of this motion. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General said, it is not the motion we have already voted on; it is a different motion. [Interruption.] I will make no excuses about that—it is a different motion. Opposition Members agreed that, so I do not know how they can laugh.

Today, I will support the Government for the very simple reason that I think nothing huge has changed in the nature of the Bill that is likely to be presented, or even in the withdrawal agreement. What I do think has changed, however, is the balance of risks, and as politicians—not lawyers—we must apprise ourselves of what that balance amounts to and to what degree we owe it to ourselves to make those decisions.

Since we had the two-week extension we now face a choice about what is likely to happen. Some of my colleagues genuinely believe that if we vote down this agreement we will go to 12 April, and we will not get an extension from the EU. I find that difficult to believe. If we consider what the EU has already said—Mrs Merkel and various others—we see that they really want to keep the UK inside the EU. One way or the other, they would rather have us in, even if it is troublesome at this stage. I genuinely believe that by 12 April we will be offered—or it could even be demanded of us—an extension of at least two years that will require us to fight the European elections. I do not know how I can go on to doorsteps, having campaigned to leave the European Union and support 17.4 million people, and tell them not to worry because even if we are not leaving right now, we might leave a little bit later. That is simply inexplicable, and I genuinely do not believe that that is what I campaigned on or for.

Some people have said that an extension does not really matter because we will be able to stay in the EU, make those negotiations and get those changes, and we will be in control because we will have votes and an ability to take that control. All I say is that I voted against the Maastricht treaty 26 years ago, and I have always maintained that we have never had real control. If we have had so much control for 40 years, why are we now trying to get out of a European Union that has extended its power and competence year in, year out?