Section 1 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019

Part of Exiting the European Union (Sanctions) – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 9th April 2019.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham 4:26 pm, 9th April 2019

I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman —no.

Faced with that abuse, with the Prime Minister’s inability to control her Cabinet, her Government or indeed Parliament, and with the determination of some Conservative colleagues, who should know better, but seem hellbent on flouting the instruction of the people who voted them in, I see no obvious way out of the mess that the House will rally behind.

My biggest fear is the continued uncertainty that further delay will bring to business in particular, whether it is weeks or months—and we are now talking years. We have not just kicked the can down the road; we have kicked it into the cul-de-sac and are now kicking it round and round the cul-de-sac, getting nowhere.

I therefore want to make a plea directly to the EU. We hear that European leaders have increasingly bypassed the Government and Ministers and appealed to individual Members to gain some idea of what is going on. So I now make a plea to President Macron and Chancellor Merkel and her colleagues in particular: “Please put us out of our misery now, as this House and the Government appear incapable of doing. At tomorrow’s EU Council, please vote against further extensions to article 50 and oblige the UK to leave the EU on Friday on World Trade Organisation terms, given that you previously said you would honour any application for an extension only if there was a credible reason to do so. That credible reason does not exist. It is, after all, the default position that the Prime Minister always promised when set against a bad deal, and which all of us who voted to trigger article 50 and to pass the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 wanted to achieve, as the vast majority did. If you agree to extend yet again, be in no doubt that you will unleash a further tsunami of chaos and uncertainty from which none of us will benefit. If the EU elections go ahead, it is highly likely that the UK will elect an army of Nigel Farage “mini-mes”, who, I am afraid, will wreak havoc with the European Parliament and wreck your calculations about the balance of power within the EU.

Let us be realistic: there is no prospect of any agreement between the Government and the Leader of the Opposition in the current talks, and there is certainly no prospect of an agreement that will carry the majority of Conservative Members with it. Moreover, it is likely that in a matter of months you will be dealing with another Prime Minister, with whom you may find it less easy to negotiate. If an extension runs for another year, you will have to resign yourselves to a further year of disagreement and obfuscation in the House of Commons, with the knock-on effects of chaos and the undermining of regular EU processes such as budgets and other measures to be negotiated.”

This is my appeal to the EU: “If you value your future, you do not want us to remain an integral part of it in the current circumstances. Do yourselves a favour, do this House a favour, do this country a favour, and say that the UK is out.” Then, armed with that certainty, let us all sit down constructively and pragmatically to decide what our future relationship will actually look like. Let it be one that works to our mutual benefit and sets a course on which we can remain friends, allies and trading partners in years to come, working together for a common purpose, but not as part of the same prescriptive organisation that this country, like it or not, voted to leave—and leave we must.