European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:32 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 8:32 pm, 3rd September 2019

I have heard an enormous amount over the last few weeks about the way in which the Government are undermining democracy and our sovereignty. We have just heard my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke rubbishing a lot of the arguments that the Government have put forward over the last few weeks.

I will simply say this: there are those in this House, however much they like to dress it up—I think I said this on Second Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018—who have never accepted the idea that we should leave the European Union, with or without a deal. They just do not want to leave. I understand that, and I actually pay tribute to some of those who have been entirely consistent about these arguments, in particular my right hon. and learned Friend. He knows that I genuinely feel that.

Having said that, I am afraid that I simply cannot accept, under any circumstances, the burden of the argument made by, for example, my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin. This House, as I said in an intervention on the Leader of the House, made a decision in the European Union Referendum Act 2015—a sovereign Act of Parliament—that deliberately gave the British people the right to make the decision, not this House. Under the Lisbon treaty, which was enacted in 2008, we also agreed the article 50 process in our domestic law, which provided that, once it had commenced, if there was no decision within two years, we would leave on exit day. That was expressed, ultimately, in the withdrawal Act, section 1 of which said that the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 would take place on exit day.

It is impossible, in my judgment, to argue that this debate, all the ripping up of conventions and all the things my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House of Commons said, which I entirely agree with, about this improper procedure for the purposes of achieving an objective, can just be washed away on the grounds that, somehow or other, there is an argument about our not having any possibility of leaving without a deal. I simply say this, Mr Speaker, if I may: this is certainly, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe said, a matter of unbelievably important historical significance.

We came into the European Union in 1972 on the basis of a White Paper. I got out that White Paper only today and it clearly states that we will never give up the veto. Furthermore, not only would we never give up the veto—that was the basis on which we entered into the European Communities Act 1972, which is still the governing enactment—but to do so would endanger the very fabric of the Community. That is why so many people across the whole of Europe are voting with their feet against this system. Look at what is going on in Italy, in Greece and in many other countries. So why would anyone want to remain in this European Union? It is autocratic. It is dominated by one country in particular and by the French as well. The bottom line is that it is not a system that allows us to govern ourselves.

I simply say this, Mr Speaker. It is clear that the government that takes place under the Council of Ministers is a system that enables us to be governed by 27 other member states. The withdrawal agreement, which was never signed, would allow us to be kept in that system of vassalage, governed by another 27 member states. It is an unacceptable system. Yet if we were to leave with no deal—albeit, I prefer to have a deal—we would be able to trade globally on our own terms. We would no longer be constrained by the deficit that we run with the European Union. We would be able to govern ourselves and we would also ensure that we retain Northern Ireland as part of our constitutional status.

These are matters that transcend the arguments being pushed around in the House today. These are simple questions of principle. These are the questions that we need to address. We must be allowed, as we did for centuries before we entered the European Community, to govern ourselves. The competences have been so grossly extended that we do not govern ourselves. If we stay in this European Union, we will never be able to do so. I am against this motion. I hope that the House will vote against it.