United Kingdom’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:08 pm on 29th March 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Conservative, Sutton Coldfield 12:08 pm, 29th March 2019

I am so sorry; I do not have time to give way.

I hope very much that the Prime Minister will agree that members of the Cabinet—all Ministers—can vote freely on Monday. Otherwise, senior Members of Parliament will be disenfranchised from this process. There should not be a Whip. If we come to this on Monday, it will be a House of Commons occasion. The House of Commons must seek to sort it out.

I find myself in a minority in the House of Commons. I think the House overstates the dangers of no deal. I do not believe there is such a thing as no deal. I think that, were we to leave with what is called no deal, there will be a whole series of smaller deals, some temporary and some more permanent, and some stops, so I do not worry as much as many of my colleagues do about the dangers of no deal.

Equally, I think that the House massively underestimates the dangers of advancing towards a second referendum. The anger, irritation and annoyance of our constituents will be palpable, and in my judgment, it would be very likely to solve nothing at all. Imagine the nightmare of the country reversing the earlier vote and voting 48:52 to remain. What would that mean for our democracy? What would that mean for the votes of the people in both those referendums? For this House to advance down the route of another referendum would in my view be a very serious mistake indeed. However, if the Government cannot do a deal that the House of Commons will accept, and if the House of Commons cannot come to an agreement in the way that I have described, the ineluctable logic of that position is that it will have to be referred again to the British people, and in my view that would be an absolute disaster.

I end on this point. This is an important negotiation. I think that we have been out-manoeuvred as a country by the European Commission and the 27 standing absolutely firm, as they said they would, which many of us did not believe. However, this is an important negotiation, and they have interests and we have interests. In my judgment, unless the European Union and the Commission can show a little bit more of a sense of compromise on what the Government have been saying, it will leave a profound legacy of bitterness across the channel between the European Union and this country. They are our friends and partners. We will trade with them, do business with them and work with them over the coming years and generations. We also have huge security interests that bind us together. I obviously hope that the Government are successful today, but if they are not and we move into those further processes—the unknown—the Commission will also bear in mind its interest in trying to reach a deal that is good for both parties and is not imposed on one of those parties.