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My Lords, I rise to speak today to give my fulsome support to our Prime Minister and the deal that he has secured for the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.
Back in January 2018, I said in this Chamber that, regardless of which side we supported in the referendum,
“we all recognise that our departure from the European Union will be one of the biggest challenges faced by any British Government in modern times”,—[
I believe that the health of our democracy depends on implementing the referendum result, and the health of our economy depends on us proving that we can make a success of the opportunities that Brexit offers us. I am also mindful of the fact that 48% of the country voted to remain. The referendum exposed a country divided, and the deliberations of the past three years have exacerbated this running sore. I hope that today is the day that we can begin to mend the wounds by moving forward.
Our Prime Minister has, against the odds and despite a backdrop of much negative political commentary, successfully brought forward a deal that I believe Parliament must support. It is a deal that fulfils the democratic result of the 2016 referendum and will allow us to take advantage of a new relationship both with our friends in the EU and throughout the wider world. It is a deal that contains much of what over the past weeks and months and, dare I say, even the last three years, many of our politicians have been asking for. It is a deal that I believe can fulfil the ambitions of people on both sides of the Brexit debate.
So today is the day when we see whether our colleagues in the other place, who have spoken of the hopes for a deal, will be true to their word and will back this deal. I urge them to do so. I recall the fewer than a dozen words, with unambiguous meaning, that were written on the Government’s leaflet and delivered to all homes prior to the referendum in 2016:
“We will honour the result of the referendum, whatever the outcome”.
To not do so would be seriously damaging to the relationship between Parliament and the electorate.
Today, I was meant to be at the races, celebrating the imminent retirement of my partner Tim. On the rare occasions when I go to the races, I have little luck in backing the winner. Today, I hope that I am backing the winner—this deal. I hope, too, that our colleagues in the other place will back the new deal that has been secured. Now is the time to move on and bring to an end the uncertainty and division. It is time to unite the country and to get back to the domestic issues that matter to people up and down the land. This debate is corroding the electorate’s faith in us as politicians. We have a deal, and it is a good deal. Let us get Brexit done.