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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:34 am on 20th December 2019.

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Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment and Climate Change), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport) 11:34 am, 20th December 2019

I have said no—[Interruption.] I have said no.

In a democracy, a ruling party needs a functioning Opposition. Indeed, without opposition, democracy is dead. My passionate belief that the UK is better off as a proud member inside the EU, rather than as an irrelevant outsider, has not melted away overnight. I will not cease to voice this opinion here and outside Parliament. That is my democratic right. Whoever is trying to deny me or anybody else that democratic right is the anti-democrat, not me.

I understand that now the battle to stop Brexit is over. For me, we do not only leave the EU; we leave an ideal that I had of this country. I was brought up in post-war Germany, a country that was recovering from the ravages of a brutal dictatorship. Britain was a beacon of democracy, liberal values and respect for every human life. British people then had the guts to fight inhumanity, brutality and illiberalism. The mission to bring functioning democracies, based on human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law, to the rest of the world has been a historic British mission. In its long history, Britain has always been global, internationalist, outward-looking and inclusive. Britain understood that its national interest was tightly woven into the interests of countries around them. By saying goodbye to the EU, we say goodbye to those uniquely British political instincts and values.

I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues will vote against the withdrawal agreement, because we believe that it is damaging to our economy, our security, our international reputation and our ability to tackle the global climate emergency, and that it will put a border in the Irish sea and threaten our family of nations. Most of all, we will lose something profoundly British: being international, and leading in the continuous fight for liberal values, human rights and a rules-based international order. We Liberal Democrats will always fight for that.