Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:35 pm, 3rd April 2019

I will not give way to the right hon. Lady because she persistently refuses to give way to me and I do not want to take up too much time, so it is tit for tat I am afraid on this occasion.

I support this business motion and I support amendment (a) because we must keep control of the House, not just for today but, as Wera Hobhouse said, very importantly for Monday. I am one of many people who think the Bill laid before the House is somewhat deficient. It certainly would not give the degree of protection that the amendment I moved on Monday would have, and which also had a Bill behind it, but we are not there and there is not much I can do about that. I may try to amend the Bill later, but it is the best we have for now, and I see it as an insurance policy against the talks between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition breaking down or coming up with an even more unsatisfactory situation than we are in at present, which I suspect is what is going to happen.

I also very much agree with the hon. Member for Bath and the right hon. Member for Leeds Central that we must secure the indicative votes slot for Monday and we should be doing that particularly to make sure that composite motions are debated and options for the future combined with the option of a second referendum are debated on that day. The majority of political parties in this House support a second referendum, and I include in that the official Opposition, having regard to their conference motion.

I was interested to hear from the evidence that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union gave to the Exiting the European Union Committee this morning that even the Prime Minister might now acknowledge that a second referendum or people’s vote has to be an option. It has been a cause for concern to some of us that Labour Front Benchers have seemed less than enthusiastic about that option on occasions, but I know that they have not written it off completely. I entreat them to ensure that it stays on the agenda, and Monday will provide a way of doing that.

I also say to Labour Members that if their leader cannot secure a second vote in his talks with Prime Minister, he will never be forgiven. He will be remembered as the Labour leader who helped to deliver a Conservative Brexit, and I am sure that no one in the Labour party would wish him to be remembered in that way. As things stand, I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, because we do not yet know the outcome of those negotiations. However, I also want a fall-back position, which is that the House of Commons should have control of the agenda on Monday so that we can hold the indicative votes.

I know that a lot of Conservative Members are really worried about the precedent that could be set by today, and I sort of understand their worry, but I would say to them that today we really are in extremis. The whole of the United Kingdom is at serious risk of crashing out of the European Union without a deal, and that would be a disaster for the economies of these islands and for our social fabric—[Interruption.] People are muttering at me that I should vote for the withdrawal agreement, but that is not my mandate. Please try to understand and respect the fact that there are Members of this House who were elected on a manifesto of stopping Brexit. They should please desist from trying to ram their opinions down our throats, because that is not acceptable.