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European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:24 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion 9:24 pm, 3rd September 2019

I am pleased to speak in favour of the motion, which would enable us to pass a Bill tomorrow to prevent our crashing out of the EU with no deal at the end of October.

Let us remember why we are at this point. This discussion is happening now because the Prime Minister is running scared of democracy. The Prime Minister knows that his reckless no-deal Brexit will never get the support of this House, but instead of his having the courage to make his case here and put himself up to scrutiny, Parliament is going to be suspended—brushed aside as an inconvenience to an Executive who are, frankly, lurching out of control.

I am proud that so many brave colleagues inside this House and so many of the public outside it are saying so loudly and clearly that they will not stand for this Prime Minister’s blatant power grab, that they will not stand for a no-deal Brexit being rammed through this House and that they will stand up to make sure that this legislature does what it is meant to do, which is to hold this Executive—this feral, out-of-control Executive—to account.

There has been a lot of talk about democracy tonight. [Interruption.] I have to say that the body language of the Leader of the House this evening has been so contemptuous of this House and of the people. For the benefit of Hansard, he has been spread out across three seats. He is laid out as if this is something that is very boring for him to listen to. He has been lecturing us about democracy, but we will have none of it. This Government have no mandate for the vicious form of Brexit they are pursuing. It was never on the ballot paper. More than that, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said as recently as March:

“We did not vote to leave without a deal: that wasn’t the message of the campaign I helped to lead.”

Let us hear no more of this posturing that, somehow, those on the Government Benches are standing up for the people and that we are not. Those of us on the Opposition Benches, particularly those who have been arguing for a people’s vote from the very start, are precisely the ones who are standing up for the people and want their voices to be heard in this debate.

Time is short, and I want to make two more very quick points. The first is that, in all of this debate about process and procedure, we are in danger of forgetting what a no deal actually means for the people of this country. What it means, as we know from Operation Yellowhammer, is shortages of food and fuel. It means people unable to get their life-saving medicines. It also means a nightmare for people in Northern Ireland. I pay tribute to Lady Hermon, who has made that case so many times. How dare we, in this Chamber, think that we are going to rip up the Good Friday agreement and that it is nothing to be concerned about. There is everything to be concerned about in that.

I also want to say a word about the 3 million—the people who have made their lives here in this country expecting that their contribution would be valued, instead of which they are now in an intolerable limbo, not knowing whether their rights will be upheld.

Finally, I want to make a point that I think is important, but that some may feel is boring. One of the many reasons why we are in this crisis is that we do not have a codified written constitution. It is only the unwritten, uncodified understandings that protect the body politic from regressing to government with minimal checks, balances and accountability. Up to now we have had to depend on people playing by the rules. Well, now we have a Government who are not playing by the rules. We now need more than ever a written constitution drawn up by a democratic citizens’ convention that will put people at the heart of our politics for the first time in UK history.