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European Union (Withdrawal) Acts

Part of Prime Minister’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 2:02 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Conservative, North Somerset 2:02 pm, 19th October 2019

Let me first say a word about the amendment. Those who are thinking of voting for it should not be under the illusion that it will take no deal off the table. No deal cannot be taken off the table. We can ask the EU for an extension, but the EU does not need to grant an extension. The only way to take no deal off the table is to accept the only deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union that is on offer.

There are three reasons why I think we should vote in favour of this deal today. The first is that it delivers on the referendum result. Let us go back to first principles. We made a contract with the people of the United Kingdom, using the two elements of our constitution: direct democracy, which meant saying to them, “We will not, or cannot, make a decision. Therefore, you must make the decision,” and representative democracy, which meant saying, “We, the House of Commons, will determine how to implement that decision.” That is what we are being asked to do today. It is our duty to deliver on what we have promised the British people if we want to maintain faith in our electoral and political system.

Some 80% of us—those of us who sit on the Conservative and Labour Benches—stood on a manifesto that specifically said that we would honour the result of the referendum. It is not good enough for us to say that we favour a deal, and then want to vote down every single detail of every single deal that is ever made. The public will regard that as at best disingenuous. There are those who say to us, “Let us have another referendum.” Why would any citizen of this country, looking at their Parliament, which had said, “We have been asked to hold a referendum,” vote in a second referendum if we failed to deliver on what we had promised in the first one? This is a question of faith in our electoral system itself.

The second reason why we should deliver on this deal is that it gets us on to the territory of our future relationship. We have spent three and a half years taking about the divorce, and almost no time talking about the future relationship. There will be a great debate to be had about the level of alignment that we have sector by sector with the European economy. That is why there is such a strong case for having a general election. Let us actually get out and make the case for what we believe in about the future relationship. This deal also gives us the chance to help shape global trade policy—an independent trade policy, at a time when global trade is slowing down.

The final reason is that the deal allows us to get on to other issues. So much of our political bandwidth has been taken up by Brexit that the public feel that we no longer talk about the issues that matter to them.

Of course there is no such thing as the perfect deal—I voted for the previous deal three times, with strong reservations, and I have strong reservations today—but it has come to the point where we have to deliver on the contract that we made with the people of Britain. It is time for us to put differences aside, put aside the sort of stupid party political games we have had and do what we promised.