Leaving the European Union — [James Gray in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 1st April 2019.

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Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne North 4:30 pm, 1st April 2019

My hon. Friend raises an important point. That is why this debate is so important: to get these issues aired and make sure that we get answers from the Minister. I will make sure that he is clear on the questions and issues that we need answers for.

As I said, we are discussing three petitions. Despite being overtaken by events, e-petition 243319, calling for the UK to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 come what may, secured 175,121 signatures as of 3.30 pm today. I make that point because the petitions are all still open. That figure undoubtedly reflects the great unhappiness and frustration felt by many people across the UK that we did not leave the European Union on Friday, as the Prime Minister repeatedly pledged that we would. Indeed, I know that many thousands signing these petitions, alongside a small minority of hon. Members, strongly advocate that the UK should have left the EU on Friday without a deal, and that we should now do so on 12 April, leaving us to trade on the much-heralded World Trade Organisation terms.

It clear that, for some, leaving the EU as quickly as possible has become of paramount importance in order to deliver on the narrow outcome of a referendum held almost three years ago, regardless of whether there remains any coherent, cogent arguments for pursuing that course of irrevocable action and regardless of the circumstances in which that might take place or the potential consequences for our country. There are some who suggest that every one of the 17.4 million people who voted in good faith back in June 2016 to leave the European Union did so safe in the knowledge that it could well mean exiting the world’s largest trading bloc after 46 years without a deal. Indeed, the wording of the e-petition suggests that both main parties pledged that in the 2017 general election.

However, I only need point them in the direction the Vote Leave campaign, which quite clearly stated:

“Taking back control is a careful change, not a sudden stop—we will negotiate the terms of a new deal before we start any legal process to leave.”

Or the pledge made in the 2017 Labour party manifesto:

“Labour recognises that leaving the EU with ‘no deal’
is the worst possible deal for Britain and that it would do damage to our economy and trade. We will reject ‘no deal’
as a viable option”.

Or, indeed, the 2017 Conservative party manifesto, which said that the Prime Minister would deliver:

“The best possible deal for Britain as we leave the European Union delivered by a smooth, orderly Brexit.”

There were many other occasions when those playing leading roles in the campaign for our departure from the EU suggested what doing so would or would not involve. Perhaps the most notable example is Daniel Hannan MEP, who declared:

“Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market.”

Regardless of what each person voted for at that time—I have spoken to many leave voters who voted for a variety of legitimate reasons and have completely different visions of what Brexit means—I know with absolutely certainty that nobody was discussing the need to set aside £4.2 billion to prepare for the ramifications of no deal, whether that means awarding a £108 million ferry contract to a firm that has no ships or our becoming the largest buyer of fridges in the world, in order to stockpile medicines, vaccines and blood products.