European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:34 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Conservative, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 9:34 pm, 3rd September 2019

It has been quite a long time since I have had the opportunity to speak in the Chamber. Well, I have spoken—as I am sure you will attest, Mr Speaker—but mainly from a sedentary position. The reason, of course, is that for the vast majority of the past year, I had the privilege of serving the former Prime Minister as her Parliamentary Private Secretary, meaning that for the majority of the past 259 days, I have lived and breathed Brexit: deal, no deal, indicative votes, Cooper-Letwin, Boles, the withdrawal agreement, the negotiations, the renegotiations and all the attempts by the former Prime Minister, along with a group of utterly brilliant and dedicated colleagues, Ministers, civil servants and special advisers to ensure that this country left the EU with a deal. I did so not just because it was my job, but because I genuinely, completely and utterly believed that for my constituents, for this country, for our Union, for its businesses and for our economy, it was the only rational and sensible thing to do, and I still do. But I do not support the motion in the name of my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin and I cannot vote for it this evening.

In my opinion, if we MPs—from all parts of this House—truly want to act in the national interest, as I know most of us do, we must support the Prime Minister and this Government in their efforts to renegotiate the deal and leave the European Union on 31 October. To be able to do that, the EU must know that we are serious about leaving, and that means keeping no deal on the table. If we support the motion before us tonight, we will know—the world will know—that we are not serious at all, and where then is the motivation and impetus to get this done?

To those on the Opposition Benches who claim that they would do anything to stop no deal, I ask this simple question: why didn’t you? When the question was brought before the House three times, why didn’t you? It is no good protesting that the deal was not good enough, that there were no guarantees or that, “If only we had known what was going to be in the withdrawal agreement Bill, we would have voted for it.” If those Members were genuinely serious about doing anything to stop no deal, they would have voted for a deal, so I ask them to stop pulling the wool over the eyes of the public and to be honest with voters.

To my friends and colleagues on the Government Benches, for whom I have so much respect and for whose support for the former Prime Minister over the last year I am personally very grateful, I say this: please do not undermine this Prime Minister as so often this House of Commons undermined the last; please give our negotiators the support they need to get the changes to the deal that we need; and please do not allow to be taken off the table the one thing that is pushing both sides towards achieving just that.