Duties in connection with the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 4th September 2019.

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Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green 6:15 pm, 4th September 2019

I am going to be brief, as I know many others want to get in, Dame Eleanor. I wish to compare a couple of these amendments and say a few words as to why this Bill is a very bad one. First, let me say to Stephen Kinnock, who is, sadly, no longer in his seat, that his is a genuine attempt to find a way forward. I have just been reading it, having just looked at it, and it is intriguing. He is specific in one of his amendments, saying that the purpose of the letter to extend would be to

“include provisions reflecting the outcome of inter-party talks as announced by the Prime Minister on 21 May 2019”.

As I say, this is a genuine attempt being made by those who really do think that this House stands in serious danger of being perceived by the public more and more as having taken the position that nothing will satisfy it and that the only thing that it wants at the end of it all is to defy the decision taken at the time of the referendum. That is very much the opinion growing out there, and I was intrigued when the hon. Gentleman made the point that we in this place are now being perceived as a Parliament opposed to the people, not a Parliament to represent them. The people voted to leave, whether we liked it or not, and now this Parliament seems set on a course to obfuscate and delay that, with a view to overturning it eventually.

There is no question in my mind about the hon. Gentleman’s legitimate observations—we get on very well and play football together, so I am slightly in favour of him anyway—but although he said the talks were good, the problem was that at no stage did his Front-Bench colleagues conduct them in a genuine sense. The truth was that they probably never intended to agree anything with my right hon. and hon. Friends who were in government at the time. I had a whispered exchange with the Father of the House, and he made the point that one reason for that was probably that they were under attack by the second-referendum crowd, who were absolutely opposed to any idea that the Opposition could strike any kind of agreement with the Government that would do away with the idea of a second referendum and therefore the opportunity to vote down the original referendum result. That lies at the heart of it. There is a deceit in all this. As I said earlier, I genuinely believe that the hon. Gentleman was genuine in his view, as were many of those aligned alongside him in that regard, but I do not believe that to have been true of the Labour party Front-Bench team—in fact, throughout all this they have played fast and loose.

When I come to the proposition with which the Bill is concerned, I come back to why I think it is a bad Bill. For all the talk about not wanting to have no deal and wanting to have a deal, although some of those who propose this measure voted for the previous Prime Minister’s deal, if every one of them really wanted any deal rather than no deal, they would have voted for that deal. Strangely, they found themselves voting against it at the time.