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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:48 pm on 9th January 2020.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone 2:48 pm, 9th January 2020

I so much agree with what my hon. Friend has said, because he has been with us right the way through the passage of this over the past decade and more. People on this side of the House have fought, sometimes against the establishment, in order to achieve this objective. I can only thank the British people with all my heart for the decision they have taken. We have been the catalysts. We have tried to present the arguments. If the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire is right at all, it is about the fact that there has been a victory in the general election: the British people have spoken and they have supported the idea of leaving the EU, and we will do so accordingly on 31 January.

I wish to make a further point. The decision to leave was taken by the British people, but not on a party political basis. The argument in this House always gravitates around party politics, but the decision in the referendum was taken by the British people in their individual homes; at breakfast or on the night before they sat around and talked to one another, asking, “What are we going to do tomorrow?” They made that decision but then found that remainer MPs, whether on the Opposition Benches or even on our Benches, were repudiating the decision that the individual voters had made, whether they came from Labour, Liberal Democrat or, more likely, Conservative constituencies. They deeply resented the fact that they had decided, with their families, to go to the ballot box to vote to leave the EU in that referendum and then found, to their intense annoyance, fury and disappointment, that their Member of Parliament had used the position they had in this House to frustrate the decision that the people had taken. That is why so many Labour Members lost their seats. People in this House did not appreciate the fact that in Labour leave marginals—in particular, in places north of Coventry in coal and steel communities—the European Coal and Steel Community and the massive subsidies given to the other countries had deprived people of their livelihoods, with much of the collapse of the steel and coal industry being driven by the anti-competitive nature of the European Coal and Steel Community framework. If we were to take a map of the UK and superimpose upon it the coal and steel communities, we would see a direct correlation with the decisions taken in the general election, when people drove out Labour Members of Parliament because they were not doing what voters wanted them to do. They wanted to leave the EU, and the Labour Members who were driven out had refused to allow them to determine their own constituency and national interest. That is where the problem lies. The Labour party simply cannot bring itself, even now, to understand the feelings of the people north of Coventry and in other parts of the country who found that their own Member of Parliament had let them down.

There was a simple reason for the referendum: it was clear that the collusion between the two Front-Bench teams in 1992-93 would lead to our having to stay in the European Union and accept the Maastricht treaty. That was what the referendum was all about. We now have a huge opportunity, in a completely new environment where we take control of our own laws in this House in accordance with proper democratic principles, to create a new global trading relationship to ensure that we are able not only to govern ourselves but to work in co-operation with other countries on our own terms, not on the terms that were laid down by the European Union. I look to the Secretary of State in the full knowledge that he and the Prime Minister, and any other Ministers involved in developing policies on the European Union over the next year or two, will do so on our terms and conditions and not those imposed upon us by the European Union.

This is a great moment in our democratic history; furthermore, it is a great tribute to the British people, who listened to the arguments that were presented to preserve their democracy. I have said this before and I will never apologise for saying it: the decisions were taken for democratic reasons. That is why we have ended up getting back our sovereignty, which we abdicated in 1971, after which we gradually gave up the veto. We will now be able to govern ourselves. It is a great tribute to the British people, and to the Members of Parliament who were returned in the election, that they will, through the majority we now have and with our Prime Minister, guarantee that this country will have a bright and effective future.