Leaving the Eu: Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:56 pm on 12th June 2019.

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Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles Independent, Grantham and Stamford 3:56 pm, 12th June 2019

Two groups of right hon. and hon. Members will be finding today’s vote especially difficult. Many friends on the Conservative Benches will feel torn between their loyalty to their party and their clear understanding of the national interest. I know as well as anyone the great strain that they may be feeling this afternoon. I, too, was an instinctive loyalist—someone who towed the party line, ambitious for high office. I did not see anything wrong in that and, on most questions, I still do not see anything wrong in it, and nor is there anything ignoble about the desire to stay on good terms with the members of one’s local party.

For each of us, however, there comes a moment and an issue that demands that we put such concerns to one side and do the uncomfortable thing, because we know that our constituents’ best interests demand it. I do not believe that any hon. Member with a concern for the welfare of sheep farmers or for people working in car factories will be able to look them in the eye after a no-deal Brexit has led to the decimation of Britain’s lamb exports and the destruction of thousands of highly skilled and well-paid manufacturing jobs. That is surely reason enough to support the motion today.

The other group for whom today’s vote is hard is Labour Members who represent constituencies that voted by a clear majority to leave the European Union. They feel that they are duty bound to ensure that the UK does leave the EU and are worried that a vote for today’s motion will be misrepresented as an attempt to block Brexit. My constituents voted the same way, and I feel the same obligation, but today’s motion does not block Brexit—not even close. Today’s motion would secure an opportunity to debate a Bill on 25 June, so that Parliament, as my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin said, can vote in September on the new Prime Minister’s plan for Brexit.