Most frustratingly, the Prime Minister had it all together in her Lancaster House speech in 2017 when she talked about negotiating a “bold and ambitious” free trade deal with Europe that would give us the ability to strike out around the world. She did not pretend it would have all the same benefits of membership, because we were going to leave, but we would have a different and positive relationship. She was going to take back control of our money, borders and laws. She was quite right when she said that those things were highly important to people’s decision to vote leave in the referendum. Importantly, one of the few messages that really struck a chord with people out there in the country—a message that they heard and believed—was that
“No deal is better than a bad deal.”
If the EU would not give us something that worked for the United Kingdom, we would walk away and succeed on our own merits. There is no point now in wishing that things were different, but it is heartbreaking that we have ended up here, when the Government had the right approach two and a half years ago—an approach that has long since been abandoned.
The referendum vote was a massive vote of confidence in the United Kingdom and in the Government. The people of Britain said, “We do not want people in Europe telling us what to do. We know and we believe that our Government in the United Kingdom has the strength and the power to deliver this difficult decision and to get it right for us as the population of the UK.” That huge trust is a burden that we should bear here in Parliament. We should have delivered. My hon. Friend Sir Robert Syms is absolutely right when he says that politicians have not shared that optimism and confidence, and have eroded that trust over the past three years.
The Brexit party seems likely to wipe the floor with us in the European elections tomorrow, because the promises have been broken. The deal was not good enough. We should have stuck to the words in the Lancaster House speech and left on
I will not go into great detail on the new deal—it seems almost irrelevant. I cannot for the life of me understand how anybody in Government can think that slight variations on a theme, and the increasingly muddled and contradictory plan that we are now presented with, are the answer.