European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:28 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 9:28 pm, 3rd September 2019

The crux of the debate tonight is whether we seek to bind and obstruct our Government in a critical period, as they seek options between the current withdrawal deal, which has been rejected three times by lots of people in this House, and no deal, which is actually a series of mini deals. I am sure that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin have been engaged in negotiations at a far more senior level than I, but I do find it a little bizarre that we could seek to bind the hands of our Government at this point if those right hon. Gentlemen trust the people in power, and I have to say that I do.

I was engaged a bit in some of the negotiations with tribal Afghan leaders. I also conducted village negotiations in the Basra marshes in 2008 and 2009. Showing the limits of our negotiating power and showing what we were willing or not willing to do would have fatally undermined some of the conversations that happened to try to protect British troops and to try to stop ourselves being attacked. Therefore, binding the hands of the Government as they seek to negotiate a better deal is counterproductive, although I understand the concerns. The reason why this debate is so bad tempered is that it has gone on for three years. We hear tedious clichés, such as “a blind Brexit”, “a Tory Brexit” and “I’m not here to stop Brexit, but…”. Kate Hoey said that many people on the Opposition Benches were using this no-deal Brexit motion simply as another means to stop Brexit.

My right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve quoted Thomas More. I have been in this House for two years, and I feel like quoting Macbeth:

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day”.

That is how I feel, because all we talk about is Brexit. I want us to get on and talk about lots of other things that are important to us. In fact—if Members do not mind me mixing my cultural references—it feels like groundhog day.

Pro-EU campaigners are concerned about protecting the rights of Parliament. I find that slightly ironic coming from people who want to stay in the European Union, which would do far more damage to the rights of Parliament than this Government ever would.

I want a deal, but I accept that the most important thing is to deliver, in order to have trust in politics. I am also aware that neither side is perfect, and that there are people now sitting on the Government Front Bench who could have voted for a deal but did not, just as there are people on the Opposition Benches who could have voted for a deal but did not. But we need to deliver on a deal. The reason I am against the motion is that it would provide another extension, and then we would simply continue in a debate that would become endless and tedious. We need to bring this to an end so that we can deliver on our manifesto commitments in other areas to the British people.