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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:32 pm on 13th January 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Pidding Baroness Pidding Conservative 7:32 pm, 13th January 2020

My Lords, not too long ago, many Members in this House, myself included, spoke passionately on both sides of this very same debate. We, like the other place, were divided, and nothing got done—continuing the tradition of the past four years.

Before us today is a simple choice: fulfil the promise that Parliament made in 2016 to respect the democratic will of the British people, or once again frustrate the delivery of Brexit. We all know, from conversations we have had with colleagues and following the debates, that there is a broad range of views in this place on Brexit. However, I believe that we are all unified in our respect for British democracy and the shared desire to solve the many issues Britain faces as it moves into a new decade.

For this reason, I stand here today with genuine optimism for Britain’s future and the democracy we hold so dear. During the general election campaign, I travelled across the country campaigning, up to Bolton and Bury, down to St Ives in Cornwall and to many constituencies in between. The mood and message were the same—sheer exasperation and a desire to move the country forward.

The British people were tasked with sorting out the mess that Parliament had created over Brexit. So, on a cold December day, they came out and did just that. Today, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill is brought before us by the Commons and presented by a Government with a resounding mandate given to them by the British people to deliver Brexit. Many like myself were surprised by the result of the recent general election; the past few years had dampened our optimism. But, whatever your views on Brexit or how you voted in the referendum back in June 2016, the British people’s democratic will is crystal clear. We must listen, vote in favour of the Bill and deliver Brexit.

In past debates, I called for this place to support this deal. Today my message is the same. It is a good deal for the country and marks out a way for us to move forward with Brexit, begin healing the divisions in the country and fix our divided Parliament. However, we must not ignore those who still passionately believe that we should not leave the European Union. We must take them along with us in the common purpose to ensure Britain succeeds—but, to do that, we must first deliver on the result of the referendum and listen to the will of the British people, who are tired of the merry-go-round that is Brexit. It is only then that we can begin to heal as a nation and mend our broken Parliament.

This Bill is the start of a new and exciting chapter for this country. Of course there remain hugely important negotiations ahead about the shape of the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, but we must now embrace this opportunity for Parliament to tackle, with fresh enthusiasm, Brexit and the other real issues facing many of our communities that have taken a back seat for the last four years: the NHS, policing, crime and security, education, housing, welfare and adult social care services, transport and infrastructure and rebalancing our economy. We must find solutions to these issues of real importance to the day-to-day lives of people living across the country. The passing of this Bill will empower us to move forward on these issues and not be distracted, as we have been since the referendum.

There are opportunities for Britain to reaffirm old friendships and forge new partnerships across the globe. We have a unique opportunity to redefine our role on the world stage. We should not only reaffirm our bond with our European neighbours, working to forge a new UK-European relationship, but reconnect with our cousins in the Commonwealth. These historic ties need to be renewed, and Britain needs to stand again alongside our friends on the world stage against the challenges that the 21st century and this new decade hold.

This debate has corroded our democracy and damaged faith in our institutions. It is time for us to get off the Brexit merry-go-round. This deal does just that. Let us unleash Britain’s potential and—I make no apology for saying it—“Let’s get Brexit done.”