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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 22nd October 2019.

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Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Leader of the Liberal Democrats 4:00 pm, 22nd October 2019

I am pressed for time, so I will not give way further.

I caution any MPs—in particular, friends on the Labour Benches—against believing the promises of this Prime Minister when it comes to workers’ rights, and I speak as a former employment relations Minister in the coalition Government, so I know a little about what I am talking about when it comes to what the Conservatives want to do to workers’ rights. We cannot believe the promises that they make on this. Who would you trust on workers’ rights—Frances O’Grady and the TUC, who say that this deal would trash workers’ rights, or the Prime Minister, who has been giving out all these assurances today but is prepared to say anything and sell out anyone if it is in his own personal interest? He cannot be trusted and no one shall be fooled. He is sinking, and the question tonight is: will Labour Members throw him a lifeline by voting for his bad Brexit deal? People will remember what they choose. We are here because of the Conservative party’s bizarre obsession with Europe and because of the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, who seemed to make his renegotiation and the decision on benefit arrangements about Polish plumbers, rather than about the big picture of what is in our country’s interests. This is not a small decision; it is a big decision about our future.

We live in an uncertain world. In the east, we have the rise of Putin and China; in the west, we have the uncertain, unpredictable, duplicitous President Trump in the White House; and as President Trump says, in No. 10 Downing Street, we have Britain’s Trump. In these circumstances, should we go it alone? Or are we better and stronger working in close collaboration with our nearest neighbours across the EU in a community of 500 million people, where we share values, where we have much more clout on the international stage, where we have a single market for businesses without tariffs or regulations and with the ability to stand up to the tech companies to protect our consumers, where we are better able to address the climate emergency and take co-ordinated action to lead the world on something that threatens our very survival? Together the future is brighter.

This is not about institutions; this is about who we are. Wanting to stay in Europe is about choosing the kind of country we want to be: open or closed, generous or selfish, standing united with our friends or standing alone in the world, saying no to the bully boy populists in the Kremlin and the White House or following their example, fighting for our children’s futures or closing off their opportunities to live, work and study across the EU. On these Benches, we Liberal Democrats are clear: we will continue to stand up for what is best for our country, let the public have the final say on this bad Brexit deal and give them the chance to choose to remain in the EU. The most signed petition in parliamentary history was from 6 million saying they wanted to revoke article 50. Hundreds of thousands marched on the streets on Saturday for a people’s vote. People are joining the Liberal Democrats in record numbers. Together we can stop Brexit. Whatever the result tonight, this is not over. I will never give up on our children’s future.