Speech prepared for European Union (Withdrawal) Act 14 January 2019
This is my full Brexit speech which I would have delivered to the House, had a 4 minute time limit not been imposed.
If you would like to watch the 4 minute speech please use the following link:
In Chesham and Amersham more people voted to remain than leave the EU and - since the referendum - on both sides of the debate, some have developed a more entrenched view of their position whilst others have changed their minds. However, much to many peoples’ disappointment, two years later we still have no resolution.
Over the last few weeks the variety of views expressed by my constituents have not crystallised opinion or delivered a cohesive picture but rather indisputably confirm, that the constituency like the country remains divided and unsurprisingly this House reflects that division. However I have listened carefully to all those representations and sadly that correspondence has revealed people's view of the unedifying spectacle that has been seen in the Commons.
This democratically elected House far from covering itself in glory seems to have members who are trying by hook or by crook to reverse the decision of the electorate or pursuing some perfect exit outcome and in the course of so doing are dragging down people's opinion of us and our Parliament and trying to frustrate the Government’s ability to govern.
As we approach the leaving date - the debate has intensified but two important themes have emerged. Firstly almost everyone I talk to wants MPs to stop setting procedural tricks and traps for their perceived opponents and just “get on with leaving the EU” as was promised in the manifestos of the two main parties in the last General Election.
Secondly, although recognising the Herculean feat of the Prime Minister in bringing back any sort of deal from the EU, on which we could vote - it has proved not to be a deal that a majority of colleagues can unequivocally back. In common with other colleagues and as a devout Unionist - the backstop still provides a great barrier for me and many colleagues.
I originally voted leave because it appears to me that the EU is clearly pursuing an agenda that would hogtie and subjugate this country with its increasing ambition. It intends to create a European Army, force ever closer political union and aims eventually to drag all its members into a common currency all spearheaded by unelected leaders – the European Commission. I could not continue to advocate membership of a grouping that, in the light of geo political dangers, would potentially undermine NATO, would further diminish this Parliament and our democracy, could result in the loss of our own currency and consign this nation to being militarily ordered from abroad rather than being led by Queen and country.
Quite frankly I would have liked to have walked out the moment the referendum vote had been declared and that’s what many people think their vote should have or indeed had delivered.
We further learnt last week that the Commission wishes to remove the veto over EU tax policy from the soon to be 27 countries – further proof that it voraciously wants to continue to consume the independence of the governments that make up its members.
However, at this point in time I have to make a decision based on a risk assessment of the options on offer –not on some idealistic view of what Brexit means to me.
Honouring the referendum result is paramount and we are duty bound to deliver and we must indeed leave the EU. That for me rules out changes to the Article 50 position and also the second referendum which is being advocated by those who in reality want us to remain in the EU. And, let’s face it, a second referendum may deliver the same result or in any case is a brutal and divisive way of moving forward. So should Brexit be delivered through this deal that is on offer or a modified version or through the so called no deal.
Most businesses I have spoken to advocate supporting the deal. Local businesses such as the Entertainer headquartered in my constituency with 120 shops across the country and in Europe and GE Healthcare with a recent £12 million investment in Little Chalfont and employing 16,000 people across the UK have supported this view. GE summarised what many businesses advocate “Ratification of a withdrawal agreement would provide business with the certainty it needs. Crucially, the proposed transition period would allow companies time to prepare and adjust. In contrast, a disorderly ‘no deal’ exit in March would present considerable challenges for our operations, supply chains and, most importantly, our customers.”
Tomorrow we will see the final amendments that are on the order paper and the Speaker will select those upon which we vote. I hope the controversy of last week's selection will not be repeated in any way. I had wanted to see a withdrawal agreement that could gain majority backing in this House, particularly without the backstop, and then I had hoped, buoyed by a Commons’ majority, the PM could take the proposal back to the Commission and put pressure on them for change by telling them that this is what parliament had passed and it was this deal or a clean break at the end of March.
I am hoping at this stage that this still may happen but in truth the negotiating position has already been undermined by others through procedural machinations creating doubt over the outcome of the process.
I cannot gamble with our future or our countries’ future in a reckless fashion but I recognise that this deal is a big compromise. In reality Mr Speaker’s decision on the amendment last week and now other colleagues who have indicated they will attempt to frustrate a no deal position presents an increased risk that Brexit may not be delivered.
I therefore reluctantly will support the Prime Minister in the lobbies tomorrow. But again I repeat, I firmly believe that the backstop should be removed. We all know it will never be a UK Government that erects a border between the North and South of Ireland and that is as it should be.
However if we do pass this withdrawal agreement we protect our jobs and our businesses, have the chance of delivering an orderly Brexit, and provide the basis for the next stage of the negotiations.
This is not the end of the process of leaving the European Union. But I have confidence that our negotiators will now secure our detailed trading arrangements and realise the great future opportunities truly offered by the UK becoming an independent country whilst remaining a friend to Europe but a trusted global partner open for business on our own negotiated terms with the rest of the world.