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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:20 pm on 20th December 2019.

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Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Conservative, Rayleigh and Wickford 12:20 pm, 20th December 2019

I have given way once.

We spent some 40 years in this House arguing over Europe. In the end, the only thing we could agree on was that we could not agree, so we voted overwhelmingly to give the decision to the people in a referendum, and then some in this House spent three years deliberately ignoring the result. They pulled every trick in the book—the Grieve amendment, the Letwin amendment—time after time, to try to overturn a result with which they and the British establishment patently did not agree. We played a ridiculous game whereby some on the Opposition Benches—and, indeed, some on our Benches—stuck to a mantra of: “I will never vote to allow us to crash out with no deal.” What they meant was: “I’ll never, ever vote for us to leave the EU under any circumstances, but because of the referendum, I can’t say so.”

Finally, we had to have this general election to break the logjam. I am afraid that those on our Benches who took that view, and who assured us time and again that they were doing what their constituents wanted, were proved incorrect. Their constituents had the opportunity to renew their contracts of employment and patently, in every single case, declined to do so. Also, Mr Steve Bray, the man in the hat, stood as a Liberal Democrat candidate in a Welsh constituency. He had the courage to put his name on the ballot paper, but he came sixth and lost his deposit. We wish him a happy—and silent—retirement.

The war in this place over Europe—and it has been a war—is finally coming to a close, not because there was a truce, but because the British people imposed their will on us and told us unequivocally in the general election that they wanted to leave. Many here had argued for two years for a people’s vote. We have just had one: it is called a general election, and the outcome was unmistakeably clear. The people of this country peacefully and democratically voted to get Brexit done.

We will leave the European Union at 11 pm GMT on 31 January. I hope that, in line with early-day motion 2, the House authorities will allow Big Ben to chime at that time to mark the historic occasion, because by God, after all this, we are not doing it again. When we vote on the Bill—when the bells ring this afternoon—we will be doing so to obey the instructions of the British people, who have given us an unmistakable order to leave the European Union. We will vote for the Bill to comply with what our employers have told us they want us to do. It could not be clearer. As my right hon. Friend Mr Paterson, with whom I have fought this battle for many years, said so clearly, that is called democracy.

The people have spoken, and we will listen. We will do what they want. When the sun rises on 1 February, it will do so over a free country. All I want for Christmas is not EU.