United Kingdom’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:46 pm on 29th March 2019.

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Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Labour, Gedling 1:46 pm, 29th March 2019

On reflection, having sat here listening to the debate this morning and this afternoon, let me say what a catastrophic strategic failure of leadership we have seen from the Government that has led us to reach this position—a position where we remain divided as a Parliament and where we remain divided as a country.

I was extremely disappointed by the reaction to the indicative votes that took place the other day. The Government could have looked at them and responded, “Does that offer us a way forward, and is there a way of bringing some together in a way that would actually command a majority of this House and command a majority of the country?” Instead, we got the Government crowing from their Front Bench that no particular option had got a majority. That is no way to bring the country together or to bring the Parliament of this country together.

I say to the Government that, even at this late stage, they should be seeking to look at what would command a majority in this House and what would actually command a majority in the country. Instead of that, what do we get? We get a motion that this House is asked to pass today—I will be voting against it, with many of my colleagues—which sets aside section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act. It sets aside the British law: it sets aside the law of this country that says the withdrawal agreement will be passed with the political declaration and will be passed with the consent of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Let me say this to the Minister and to the Government: I think the British public will be astonished—astonished—that in order to push through their withdrawal agreement, even though it has been defeated twice, they have come up with a ruse that allows them to say, “We will separate out the political declaration and, for our purposes, we will set aside the British law”. They will not understand it and, frankly, neither do I.

Let me say this about the political declaration. If the withdrawal Act motion is passed today, the people of this country should know that there is no certainty about what that means for the political declaration. There is no certainty about the single market, a customs union or many of the other things that matter to the people of this country. As I said at the beginning, this is a catastrophic failure of leadership by the Government and a continuing failure by the Government to seek to bring Parliament together and this country together.