European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Father of the House of Commons 8:15 pm, 3rd September 2019

Mr Speaker, you are very generous to me. I will try to be extremely brief. Ian Blackford has just enabled me to be briefer, because he made the key point in the last few moments of his speech when he talked about what really lies behind this Bill, from the point of view of Parliament and parliamentary democracy.

We all know that we are in the middle of an historic crisis, and we all know that our duty is to take the decision that will be best for future generations and will do least damage to our political standing in the world and to our economy. This horrendous debate which is tearing the country apart is doing great harm to our political institutions, and particularly Parliament. A large number of the population on either side of the European debate are beginning to hold Parliament almost in contempt. Fanatic leavers are convinced that it is wicked MPs who are undermining the people’s will and that we are solely responsible for the appalling deadlock we are in.

I am very glad that, with your help, Mr Speaker, my right hon. Friends and others have found this way of enabling Parliament to assert itself, give its view and face the fundamental challenge from a constitutional point of view which will determine the political relationship between Governments of all colours and Parliaments for quite a long time to come.