My statement on tonight’s House of Commons vote: MPs should consider the consequences of their actions.
Tonight the House of Commons has spoken, on a vote of 309 to 305, to require the future UK-EU deal to be approved by a statute passed by Parliament. Those who supported this motion are seeking to undermine Brexit whilst simultaneously trying to appropriate the language of Brexiteers.
In his famous dictionary, Dr. Johnson wrote that patriotism is ‘the last refuge of a scoundrel’. Ambrose Bierce disagreed, saying ‘I beg to submit that it is the first’. They refer to those who, whilst holding blatant disregard for their nation, falsely drape themselves in the flag to avoid scrutiny.
This evening, MPs have draped themselves in the language of Parliamentary sovereignty and democracy. They will achieve precisely the opposite. It appears that they have short memories. On June 23rd 2016, the British people voted for Brexit. More people did so than have voted for anything else in the entire history of our nation. On June 8 2017, both Conservative and Labour MPs were elected on Manifesto commitments to ensure Brexit and to leave the Single Market and Customs Union. Over 80% of people voted for them; UKIP suffered at that election precisely because both Conservatives and Labour went to the polls pledging to honour the referendum commitment.
There can be no shred of doubt that there is a democratic mandate in place for Britain to leave the European Union. To put it another way, I can think of no stronger mandate for anything in history: there can be nothing stronger than the unique combination of 17.4 million people voting for Brexit in a referendum, a General Election result where over 84% of voters backed parties pledging Brexit, and an Act of Parliament passed following a Supreme Court case. Legally, morally, democratically, and democratically again, Brexit must happen.
Those who drape themselves in the notion of Parliamentary sovereignty in a bid to overturn a referendum, a General Election, and an Act of Parliament, are utterly disingenuous. Whether it is the last refuge of a scoundrel or the first, they are betraying their voters.
To Labour and Conservative MPs whose constituencies voted Remain in the referendum, I ask this: When you stood at the General Election in 2017, did you support your Party’s Manifesto commitment to leave the European Union? Your constituents may, unlike many of you, actually respect democracy.
The mandate for leaving the European Union is unarguable. The mandate for leaving the Single Market and Customs Union is unarguable. And it is pure sophistry to argue against the existence a mandate for regaining control over our immigration system, or for British courts to once again become supreme.
When voting on Amendment 7, MPs should have been asking themselves the Golden Question and considering the consequences of their actions: has their decision made it easier or harder for the UK to negotiate a good deal with the European Union?
They have unquestionably made it harder. Stealing the language of Parliamentary sovereignty, they imperil the possibility of Parliament actually regaining genuine sovereignty over the country. Their vote has been welcomed by the European Union’s chief negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt. The European Union will see this vote as a green light to concede even less to the British side during negotiations.
We can now say, without a single shred of doubt, that any ‘deal’ agreed between the UK and the European Union for Brexit will be heavily skewed in favour of the European Union side. I have seen the workings of Mr. Verhofstadt, Mr. Weber, and others, at first hand over a number of years. I’ve sat in the European Parliament chamber and listened to Mr. Juncker speak. Their utter delight at this Parliamentary vote does not come from vague notions of sovereignty, but from a belief that it will allow the European Union the upper hand in negotiations.
Those MPs who voted for Amendment 7 should remember this day, because it is the day that the last remaining vestige of a chance of reaching an amicable and mutually beneficial trade deal between the UK and the European Union disappeared. If you voted for Amendment 7, you have removed all chance of obtaining a good deal. If the United Kingdom now ends up in a no-deal scenario with the European Union, you will have been the proximate cause. You now forfeit any moral right to criticise others for any fault with the final outcome.
The United Kingdom must leave the European Union. There exists no legal mechanism to overturn the triggering of Article 50; that was, after all, the whole basis for the Supreme Court case. The government must urgently prepare for the possibility of a no-deal exit from the European Union, which would also entail paying precisely nothing to the European Union in any ‘divorce bill’. Our Westminster politicians have mismanaged this entire process spectacularly badly. They must be called to account for their actions at the next General Election.