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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:11 pm on 20th December 2019.

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Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 1:11 pm, 20th December 2019

We cannot have that.

I would like to thank my constituents on the Isle of Wight for re-electing me. It remains a huge privilege to work on their behalf, and I look forward to continuing to do so. It is a privilege to follow Anna McMorrin, although I found her arguments about our democracy straight after a very clear general election result to be somewhat tortuous. As someone who is half English and half German, I love Europe, but I am not sure that I want to be part of the European Union—in fact, I know that I do not. They are different things.

Groundhog day is ending, thank God. Democracy has reasserted itself. To quote the guitar piece that I am trying to learn for Christmas—Jeff Buckley’s cover—“Hallelujah”. The delay has been a disgrace, frankly. MPs in a functioning democracy cannot choose which votes to respect, and they cannot call for new referendums because they did not like the previous results.

The Labour party has been defenestrated because it refused to honour the pledge it made in 2017. We hear two different versions of the future: the one from the hon. Member for Cardiff North, which is effectively denial; and the one from Mrs Lewell-Buck, which is to accept the result and try to rebuild. One offers a route out for the Labour party, and the other offers a route to an existential crisis and a chance never to hold power again. It is up to the Labour party which way it goes. Throughout the summer we saw the Labour leadership, led by several of the new leadership candidates, tying itself in tortuous knots, like some sort of incompetent Houdini, and then being forever unable to untie itself.

Helen Hayes was absolutely right to say that her folks did not vote for Brexit, and she is right to champion remain. However, of over 100 Labour seats in the previous Parliament, 52 had leave majorities of over 60%, and eight had leave majorities of more than 70%. Many of those former hon. Members are now looking for jobs because they did not listen to their people. There is a lesson there for all of us.

Seventeen million people voted to leave because they felt that the political system no longer represented them. The European Union was not always part of the problem but, as my right hon. Friend Sir John Hayes said, it was not part of the solution either.

I am delighted that we are leaving the European Union, because there has always been a relentless federalising agenda with which Britons have felt uncomfortable. This is now our chance to chart a different course for a new great project. This great project is partly about leaving the European Union but, as the Prime Minister has said, it is also partly about restoring folks’ faith in democracy and trust.

I therefore look forward to voting for this great and important Bill—it is a good Christmas present for many of our constituents. We respect remainers who voted to stay, but we have a withdrawal deal and we can get it through, and we can respect both sides while recognising that we are a leave nation and we need to deliver for those people who voted in the 2016 referendum.