I will keep my remarks brief. I think I understand the reasons that this Bill has been brought to the House today and I agree with everything that my colleagues have said. I do not think that there is the need for it, and I think everybody in the House would live to regret the day that this Bill was passed. I know that emergency powers have been used in the past, long ago—1938 was the last time. At that point, there was a consensus on both sides of the House that a Bill needed to be passed and there was urgency to do so. A resolution was needed and a decision needed to be made, which is why emergency powers were used. However, I believe that we will rue this day.
I understand why my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin has done this. We have talked today about the fact that the Prime Minister has applied for her extension. Who knows what the news will be by the end of today, given how fast things are changing? However, I do not believe that my right hon. Friend cares much about what happens or what the Prime Minister is doing. I think that his mistrust lies with the EU itself. I think he believes that perhaps the EU will simply not grant that extension and will push the UK, by accident, into no deal, and we will be unable to prevent that from happening. My right hon. Friend is sitting behind me, and I have no idea whether or not he is nodding, but I understand his reasons, even though I do not agree with them.
Members have said here today that there is a division in the country—in families, in communities, in businesses—but I do not believe that that is the case any more. I believe that that strongly was the case post-referendum, but as time has passed, people have no longer said to me, “Just get this over the line with no deal,” or, “Just get this over the line with a customs union and a single market attached,” or, “Just get this over the line with ‘a’ customs union, not ‘the’ customs union.” What people say to me now is that they have utter disdain for Parliament and for us. It is a plague on all our houses that, following the referendum, we are here today passing bits of tacky legislation to prevent ourselves from delivering on what the British public—according to their sovereign right—asked us to do, which was to enact their democratic vote to leave the European Union.
I voted for the Prime Minister’s deal, once I had received legal assurances from the Attorney General on its second outing. Hilary Benn said in his speech that he did not vote for that deal—for the withdrawal agreement—because he did not like the political declaration and the ambiguity contained therein. Well, the Prime Minister separated the political declaration from the deal and brought it back, and he still voted against it. At no time have Opposition Members, apart from five of them, voted to deliver on the result of the referendum.
However, I do not exclude Conservative Members from my excoriation. There are Members on these Benches who want only, and nothing but, to pursue the holy grail of a no deal. There are Members who are trying to prevent Brexit from happening at all. We in this place owe it to the British people to reach a consensus and to deliver on the result of that referendum, because at the moment they are not divided in their utter disdain for this place and for Members on both sides of the House. None of us is free from that, and none of us is excused from it.
I will not support the Bill tonight. I think that what we should all have done was support the Prime Minister’s deal. If at the time of its second presentation everyone in the House had supported it, the country would have a different opinion of us today. We would have delivered what the country wanted, and, using the political declaration for the purpose of a future working partnership, and using those attached documents with the ambiguity contained therein, we could have negotiated what would have been the best deal for Britain. But we blew it—we did not do it—and I am afraid that that is shame on both sides of the House.
I am sorry that this Bill has come forward. There will come a day, whether it is five, 10 or 20 years from now—most likely 20 years, I think—when Members on the Opposition Benches will be over here and we will be over there, and we will use this against them. We will use it to our advantage. If they vote for the Bill tonight and it is passed, they should bear that in mind—they will rue this day.