Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:10 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean 4:10 pm, 3rd April 2019

No, I fundamentally disagree, for this reason. I will give the hon. Lady a couple of examples. First, I suspect that there are many people—I do not know this, but it is my assumption—who supported the Cabinet’s withdrawal agreement and political declaration who, if we attached a referendum to it, would no longer support it, because those of us on the Conservative Benches made a commitment to implement the result of the referendum. Indeed, when the hon. Lady stood for election on these Benches, she made the same commitment, I believe. The public made a decision—it was a once-in-a-generation decision—to leave the European Union. That is what I want to deliver, and I promised not to have another referendum. If we added on a referendum, people who have currently supported the proposition would no longer support it. I for one will not vote for another referendum.

There is also something that I have spotted. It is no surprise to me that those who want to remain in the European Union want to have a binary choice between the Cabinet’s deal and remain, because they have spotted that the proposition put forward by the Government is very unpopular in opinion polls. They have also noticed that many people who campaigned for leave do not believe that it is really leaving, and they think that if that is the binary choice presented to the public, it will be the best opportunity to get remain. They do not want a referendum with a range of choices. For my part, the only referendum that would be even vaguely justifiable is one that accepted that the public had asked to leave and simply gave them the choices of how to leave. That might be defensible, but nothing else.