European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:44 pm on 4th September 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Independent, North East Bedfordshire 3:44 pm, 4th September 2019

I rise to speak as the proud but slightly bemused independent Member for North East Bedfordshire. I commend my friend, Hilary Benn, for his remarks and the way in which he went through the technicalities of the Bill. I have no wish to do the same and do not wish to detain the House on those matters. Let me make just three brief points in support of the Bill.

First, is the Bill a stumbling block to negotiations? No, it is not. The Bill does not prevent the Prime Minister or the Government from negotiating. The reason that we do not yet have a deal or might not get one is not this Bill. Ever since the referendum and the start of negotiations, a variety of reasons have been cited for not getting a deal. In no particular order, it has been: a remainer Parliament, a remainer Prime Minister, Olly Robbins, the EU, Michel Barnier, Martin Selmayr—always a different reason. We were told recently that all could be solved if only we elected a Prime Minister who was a Brexiteer with an absolute determination to leave, no questions asked, because the EU would then fold and we would have the deal that the UK always wanted. We have such a Prime Minister, whose determination is clear, and the EU has not folded, so this time we are being told that it is us—that it is me. That is nonsense.

There are two reasons why we have not had a deal. First, Members in this House have not voted for a deal. If they had looked at it hard two years ago, they would have bitten your hand off to accept all the provisions in the withdrawal agreement and the transition period, which a Brexiteer will now be in charge of. The second reason is that many in the UK have failed to grasp that it is we who are leaving the EU. That means that it is a negotiation between us. We have never really understood the EU or its arguments, believing that a negotiation was a series of demands from the United Kingdom, not a negotiation. That and the language that we have used—built on 20-odd years of the drip, drip of poison about the EU—has made sure that we did not get a deal.