United Kingdom’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:43 pm on 29th March 2019.

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Photo of Gareth Johnson Gareth Johnson Conservative, Dartford 1:43 pm, 29th March 2019

I was rather hoping tonight to be able to crack open some champagne and celebrate the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. Sadly, I am more likely to be reaching for the anti-depressants. We are not leaving the European Union because Brexit has been treated as a problem and choreographed by people who do not have their heart in it, rather than as an opportunity to be grasped. My vote on this issue has always been to implement Brexit and it will continue to be so.

We need to restore the sovereignty that we have lost to the European Union over last 40 years. That is why I voted against extending article 50, to keep no deal on the table and twice against this deal, which has so many fundamental flaws. We have all witnessed how this House has voted to take over control of the Order Paper. We have seen how it has wanted to extend article 50 and to rule out no deal, as well as to consider a customs union and even no Brexit. I believe that we will witness it implement the softest of soft Brexits, if it implements Brexit at all, if this deal falls today.

There are some who still believe that, if this deal falls, no deal can somehow happen—that instead of accepting £1 billion a month off us, the EU will refuse to accept an extension of article 50—but I simply cannot see that happening at all. On the contrary, I believe that if we vote against the Government today, the European Union will extend article 50 for a lengthy period of time. We therefore have a choice today: to accept this deal and all its faults, or to risk losing Brexit completely. There is no certainty in either direction; it is a balance of risks, as has often been said on both sides of the House. However, my fear—my greatest fear—is that we will lose Brexit entirely if we vote this down today, and that is exactly what could happen.

I agree with many of the criticisms levelled against this deal, such as the impact it will have on Northern Ireland and the UK’s lack of ability to leave the backstop unilaterally. My decision to vote for this is in some ways harder than the decision I took to resign from the Whips Office. However, the circumstances have changed; I have not. We are now between a rock and a hard place. It is an unenviable situation in which we find ourselves, and we should not have been put in this position. It is this deal today, or we submit ourselves to a customs union and the potential of losing Brexit forever. I believe passionately that Britain’s best place is outside the European Union, and that is what I will be voting with the Government for.