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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 6:53 pm on 1st April 2019.

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Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 6:53 pm, 1st April 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe.

I thank all the Members who have contributed and made such excellent speeches with great passion and insight. It is great to be in a debate in which MPs are so at one with their constituents over an issue—but I must correct myself: I called it a “debate”, but clearly we have not had a debate. Our sharing of perspectives has been among people who broadly agree with one another, and the counter-arguments have not been heard because those who came initially to put them decided to leave. I am sad about that.

I am particularly sad for the 175,000 people, I think, who signed another of the petitions that we are also meant to be discussing—the one on leaving with or without a deal—because their champions walked away today. They need to reach their own conclusions about that, but I certainly regret that this has not been the opportunity that it might have been for the kind of discussion that is possible in this space but sometimes not possible in the main Chamber. That can often be the beauty of these events in Westminster Hall, as opposed to those in the main Chamber of the House of Commons. I regret that.

Nevertheless, we have had outstanding speeches. I particularly thank my hon. Friend Catherine McKinnell on introducing the debate so well and comprehensively. Her constituents will be very proud of her for the job that she did today. Many people present have heard her speak on this issue in the past, and she maintained her high standard of contribution this afternoon.

We heard excellent speeches, too, from my hon. Friends the Members for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes), for York Central (Rachael Maskell), for Swansea West (Geraint Davies), for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West), for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield) and for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle), and from the hon. Members for Bath (Wera Hobhouse), for Streatham (Chuka Umunna), for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day), for Stockport (Ann Coffey), for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) and for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock).

Without doubt, the three petitions that we are here to discuss represent a range of views from across the country: from those who want to revoke article 50 immediately and to stay in the EU, to those who want to have left already, last week, with or without a deal. There are also those who want to hold another referendum between the Prime Minister’s deal and remain. I also recognise, of course, that one of those petitions has received astronomical and unprecedented support. We cannot deal with each of the petitions equally in the debate, because of the overwhelming support received by one of them—something that we have never seen before.

I hope that that is a trend that continues. It is great to see so many people take part in a process that, until Brexit came about, was not gaining much traction with the public. But my goodness people seem to know about it now. The strength of feeling shown by so many people about this cannot be dismissed—6 million signatures is an enormous amount. Even if we accepted that not everyone who signed it did so with exactly the same motive as one another, a clear message comes from such a large number of people taking time to sign a petition.