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European Union (Withdrawal) Acts

Part of Prime Minister’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 2:05 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Duchy of Lancaster) 2:05 pm, 19th October 2019

We have reached the fork in the road. We must now choose. Do we choose the route that leads us to an outward-looking, confident nation, punching above its weight in a European Union battling for liberal values in a world that is increasingly illiberal, isolationist and belligerent? That course guarantees that EU citizens, many of whom have lived here since the 1960s and ’70s, will not have to worry about proving they are entitled to healthcare and provides for their UK counterparts in the EU, who will not need to fret over what action to take should the time-limited six months of healthcare guaranteed by our Government expire. Or do we let ourselves be led by a colourful pied piper who chose his path and this deal not out of any conviction that his path was just, rational or economically beneficial for our nation, but because he believed it was the most secure way to achieve his own ambition.

Do we meekly follow a man whose “excellent” deal, according to such Government analysis as they have been willing to make available, will leave each household at least £2,000 worse off and hit British jobs and living standards with the ferocity of the austerity triggered by the 2008 crash? This deal, as the Prime Minister confirmed in his rather rambling and dissembling contribution, may not survive the transition period and could still lead to a no-deal crash-out.

Do we follow in the footsteps of a man who, just a month ago, claimed to a rapturous DUP gathering that the “precious Union” was “in good shape”, but a month later dealt the Union a hammer blow that could shatter it within just a couple of years? Are we so afraid of our own shadow and so lacking in confidence in our capacity to work the EU system to our advantage, as we have successfully done for decades, that we have to fall back on a nostalgic vision of empire and a buccaneering Britain?

That is the choice in front of us today. I hope that we choose the former path. It would require one further step—a people’s vote—to give the people the final say. That would be the democratic way—a way supported by the hundreds of thousands of people over there in Parliament Square as we speak. That is the only way to stop the Brexit rot in its tracks and put this issue to bed. I urge all Members to follow that path, vote for the amendment and reject this calamitous deal.