United Kingdom’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:40 pm on 29th March 2019.

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Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Labour, Wolverhampton South East 1:40 pm, 29th March 2019

This is the third time that we have considered this issue. The Government say that this is not meaningful vote 3 and they will not count it as meaningful vote 3 if they lose today, but they would certainly count it as meaningful vote 3 if they won today.

A number of right hon. and hon. Members have said that they have changed their minds between vote one, vote two and vote three. There will be many people in the country asking themselves why is it that MPs can vote three and maybe four times, and are entitled to change their minds, but it would be the greatest democratic calamity of all, according to the Prime Minister, to give the public one vote on this deal and give them the right to change their minds.

Two things are different about how we are doing this today. The first is the separation of the political declaration from the withdrawal agreement. The second is the starting gun being fired on a Tory leadership contest. The political declaration was already vague, but separating it out from the withdrawal agreement makes this the most blindfold Brexit. We are being asked to vote to leave with no idea at all of what the future relationship between the UK and the EU will be and no attempt to answer the fundamental question that Brexit poses: do we want a more distant economic relationship where, in all likelihood, Northern Ireland will have to be treated differently from the rest of the UK; or do we want a close economic relationship where we continue to obey the EU’s rules, yet give ourselves no say over them? That question must be answered.

Now, we are being asked to mortgage all this to the outcome of a Tory leadership contest, where the battle will be between candidates trying to prove that they are the truest believer of all. The question will be “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the most right-wing nationalist of them all?” That is what the candidates will be asking.

If the Prime Minister wins tonight, I contend that the battering ram approach to parliamentary democracy will still not bring the country together. This has not been good enough as a process. If she loses, she will have a decision to make. This House has made clear its opposition to no deal, so the Prime Minister will have to decide on the future, a longer extension and a recasting of the process, if this goes down tonight.