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

I do not see any point in going through another exercise such as that without having remain on the ballot paper. Everybody seems to have their own view on exactly what ought to be on any such ballot paper—whether two or three options, a single stage or multiple stages—but the principle of engaging the public further in that decision is gaining support. I do not know if it has a majority yet—perhaps we will find out later today—but the specifics of what goes on a ballot paper would need to be quickly resolved. There would need to be a process in Parliament to help inform that, but yes, if remain is not on the ballot paper, it is difficult to see the benefit of the exercise.

We have spent two years making the case for a Brexit approach that we believe could have commanded support in the Commons, but I have to recognise that, at this late stage, if the Prime Minister forced through her deal, probably after multiple meaningful votes, that would need further confirmation from the public, as would any deal that came at the 11th hour from the indicative votes process. We have also said that we would include remain as the default option against a credible leave option, so we sympathise with the petition—especially the part that states:

“Whether you voted leave or remain, you didn’t vote for us to leave the EU in disarray, with no deal, putting many peoples livelihoods and living situations at risk.”

That brings me to the final petition, which calls for the UK to leave “deal or no deal”. I represent a seat that voted 56% to leave, and many of my friends and members of my close family voted to leave, so I know how strongly many people feel about that. However, I do not believe that leaving without a deal is what voters were promised in 2016, and I do not think it would be in the best interests of our country, or of my constituents or anyone else’s. It would cause huge damage to jobs, the economy and trade, and create enormous difficulties in Northern Ireland. That is why Labour has always said that we will not countenance no deal, and why we will be putting forward options to prevent it.

I thank everyone again for taking part in the debate, but these debates are always primarily about the people who signed the petitions. We could not have these events if it were not for so many people taking part and putting their names to petitions. It is great to see that people made time to attend the debate as well; I know some people may have travelled a long way to be here today. It is sometimes hard to find an upside of the last two years, but if there has been one, it is that people are more engaged than ever and keener to participate in what happens in this place. I am very pleased that their voices have been heard today.