European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:46 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Leader of the Independent Group for Change 8:46 pm, 3rd September 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Dr Fox, but at a time when our country should be coming together to find a way through this terrible crisis—the biggest since the second world war—it is no longer acceptable to continue to seek to divide. We have to bring people back together, and we will not do that by imputing to people views and motives that are simply not true.

I do not think that my dear friend, Mr Clarke, and I disagree on anything, except Brexit. As he has rightly pointed out, and as my hon. Friend Nick Boles also pointed out—I do not mean this in a derogatory sense—they are of course Brexiteers. On three occasions, as they perfectly properly say, they have voted for us to leave the EU. The reason I did not join them in the Lobby—I take grave exception to this suggestion—is not that I wanted to stop Brexit. That will upset many millions of people in this country, some of whom have come on people’s vote marches and rallies because they want us to stop Brexit, but I have always taken the view that it is not my role, having voted for the referendum, for triggering article 50 and for the withdrawal agreement, to stop Brexit. I would have voted for the former Prime Minister’s deal had we agreed to send it back to the British people, who I believe are entitled to have the final say, now that we know what Brexit looks like.

I have to chide the right hon. Member for North Somerset. The reason that so many people of my view are so fed up is that right hon. and hon. Members such as him said that this would be the easiest deal this country had ever done—in fact the easiest in the history of all deals. That is what we were told. In fact the withdrawal agreement was anything but a deal. It was a blind Brexit. That is why so many of us did not vote for it—we did not get the deal we were promised. The second reason we did not vote for it—certainly in my case, but I suspect in the case of most who chose not to vote for the former Prime Minister’s deal—is that on the Government’s own assessments it would have made my constituents poorer. It would have reduced the economic prospects of my constituents, including, most importantly, young people, who will bear the brunt of Brexit. I did not come to this place positively to vote in the full knowledge that it would make my constituents’ jobs less valuable—that it would make them risky. I make no bones about this: I am quite happy and willing to lose my job, but I am damned if I am going to see the jobs of my constituents, and the life chances of their children and grandchildren, reduced.

The final thing that I would say is this. I do not want to repeat all the excellent words about why no deal is so bad for our country: bad for jobs, bad for peace and trade in Northern Ireland, bad for our economy. I just want to pay tribute to dear friends with whom I sat on those Benches as a member of the Conservative party.

Today marks a very bleak and, I believe, momentous day for the Conservative party. What you are seeing, Mr Speaker, is a group of fine parliamentarians, excellent Members of Parliament, who have been bullied and blackmailed, in contrast to some members of the Cabinet with long histories of defying three-line whips. Notwithstanding that, this bunch of honourable people, most of whom—most of the Conservatives who signed this motion; I have checked the list—have voted three times for Brexit, have found themselves today in the most disgraceful of situations. They have been bullied and blackmailed, and have put their political careers to an end to do the right thing by our country.

As I think was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford, this is about our country, but it is also about our self-respect. It is about whether we can look ourselves in the mirror in the morning and not be ashamed of what looks back at us. That moment when our children, and grandchildren, ask us, “How on earth did you stand by and let this disaster of a no deal happen?”, we, at least, will say that we did the right thing: we put our country, and not our careers, first.