Anna Soubry – 2019 Speech on the UK’s Departure from the European Union

Below is the text of the speech made by Anna Soubry, the Independent MP for Broxtowe, in the House of Commons on 14 March 2019.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins). I rise to support amendment (h), tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) in support of a people’s vote.

The people’s vote is not about the four of us who attended the event just over a year ago when we launched the People’s Vote campaign, although I am proud that the hon. Members for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran), for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), for Streatham (Chuka Umunna) and I will all tonight be true to our word and vote for a people’s vote. At the launch we were members of four parties; we are now, of course, in different positions. But as I say, it is not about us. We are not the people’s vote.

The people’s vote is not even Susan and Linda, who go out every weekend as members of the Nottinghamshire People’s Vote campaign, not only in West Bridgford, where we were on Saturday, but in all weathers and all circumstances. They have been to Ashfield and to Mansfield. They have stood and made the case for a people’s vote, not only in bad weather but, frankly, in other adverse conditions, and they do it with a burning passion. They do it because they believe that our great nation has made a mistake, but they do not do it to thwart Brexit. They do not do it to stop Brexit; they do it as I do, and as I know many other Members do: because we believe with passion that this matter must now go back to the British people. It is the only way through the mess.

It may be when I am long gone, but there will undoubtedly be an inquiry into what happened and how this great country came to find itself in a position of leaving the European Union—and, notwithstanding last night’s vote, I still gravely fear that we could do so without a deal. The inquiry will record that there was a lack of honesty, courage and leadership, not only in this place but among journalists and businesses—among people who said things in private but simply failed to do the right thing in public when it was needed for our country.

The moment is now. I apologise if I caused offence by crying out “Shame” earlier, but I say gently to colleagues in the Labour party, many of whom I have huge respect for—they know that I work cross-party with them on all manner of campaigns and will always continue to do so—that they know in their hearts the courage of my friend the hon. Member for Redcar (Anna Turley). Her constituency voted leave in the number it did, but she has led in her constituency and persuaded the people of her constituency to back a people’s vote. She has shown courage, honesty and leadership. We cannot wait for the Labour Front-Bench team—they are Brexiteers. They do not want a people’s vote because they are frightened that the people will change their mind. If we do not do the right thing, that will be our legacy, knowing that people did not want it. We cannot let it happen.

James Frith – 2019 Speech on the UK’s Departure from the European Union

Below is the text of the speech made by James Frith, the Labour MP for Bury North, in the House of Commons on 14 March 2019.

The Prime Minister is not alone in failing us. The Government Back Benches are full of former Ministers who claimed, “I am the man who can!” The first Brexit Secretary said he could, but he could not. The former Foreign Secretary said he could, but he could not. The second Brexit Secretary said he could, but he could not. Now, they join the hardliners on their Benches who all say they can, but we know they cannot. It is not just the Prime Minister who has been let down by their mis-selling. The country has been misled, and now the plan has been mislaid. Ultimately though, this comes down to a failure of the Prime Minister—her leadership, her incapacity to build consensus or to hear what is said, and most alarming of all, her contempt for Parliament. This Parliament has been voted in more recently than the referendum. This Parliament is a more recently anointed authority than the referendum result. My town sent me here as someone who did not trigger article 50—many of my constituents did so because of that fact. We are a Parliament more representative of the changing picture we see.

On at least three occasions, in normal times the Prime Minister’s record would have cost her her job. Those three occasions were opportunities for her to change tack: to offer the UK a tonic, with a deal that united the country through unity in this House. We are told that Parliament needs to decide what it is for, but we have been given no chance to decide. We have pored over this, many of us spending time doing the heavy lifting to understand why the people felt so deprived of a say, so overlooked, that they pulled the leave cord in 2016 to stop the show.

We must extend article 50 and establish what we are for, through indicative votes and a process of gathering the way forward. Fill a deal with content that speaks to the support in this House for a deal—one with a customs union and a direction to deal with the world and the protection of our people and our planet. Then take this deal and seek further permission on it, not from the pomp in the Tory party but from the public. Go back and seek further instruction from the people. Let them hold it up to the light, for their final say. Let Britain have her last word—to stick or twist, to back it or keep what we have.

Britons voted to leave or remain in their millions, then this changed Parliament was ushered in. Division is still palpable, and all the doorstepping and polling in the country tells us that there is no magic healing number. Compromise is a must. So the content of a deal with the permission of the public marry this changed Parliament to the changing picture we see—and of course everyone reserves the right to vote the same way again. At that point, I will support a deal before arguing we don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone.

Lucy Powell – 2019 Speech on the UK’s Departure from the European Union

Below is the text of the speech made by Lucy Powell, the Labour MP for Manchester Central, in the House of Commons on 14 March 2019.

I will try to keep my remarks brief. Thank you, Mr Speaker, for selecting my hurried, last-minute manuscript amendment to amendment (i), which stands in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn).

As other Members have said, what a mess we are in. We really are not covering ourselves in glory right now. My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), in what I thought was an amazing speech, referred to the muppets. He is right, but to me this also feels like the last scene in “Thelma & Louise”, with the Prime Minister pressing down ever harder on the accelerator pedal as we head towards the cliff, with banners coming off the back of her car saying, “It’s my way or the highway.” She just keeps putting up these false choices. This really has to stop, because it is now beyond a joke.

We need to find out once and for all—we have been asking for this for months now—whether there are other directions of travel that the House could agree on. Amendment (i) is now the only way—we can no longer trust the Government to bring forward the process—to allow Parliament to express its view.

Whether or not we want a second referendum, we still need to resolve what leaving the EU looks like and what Parliament says it should look like. For most people, that is about addressing the political declaration that sits alongside the withdrawal agreement and that could be done in good time. There is no reason why that should take very long at all. The Minister for the Cabinet Office seemed to contradict himself earlier. He suggested that indicative votes or votes next week would mean a delay of a year. Well, if the Government think that, and if the amendment is agreed to tonight, they need to bring forward an extension for that time. That is up to them to determine.

The reason for my hurried manuscript amendment is to try to maximise support in this House, because I know that many colleagues are concerned about the forthcoming European elections and about a long extension to article 50. But let us just remember that, if this amendment is passed tonight and we say that we want an extension to article 50, it is up to the Government to come forward with the necessary legislation, with the date therein, to decide how long it should be for. I hope that the House will agree to my amendment to my right hon. Friend’s amendment, so that we can maximise support for that process and allow us, at long last, to have a say on the way forward.

Chris Bryant – 2019 Speech on the UK’s Departure from the European Union

Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Bryant, the Labour MP for Rhondda, in the House of Commons on 14 March 2019.

If I am honest, all this just reminds me of the Muppets. It is that moment when Gonzo, I think it was, sings “The Windmills of Your Mind.” As he sings and runs faster and faster, with his legs wheeling like the Isle of Man’s coat of arms, he becomes wilder and wilder and goes out of control. We are

“like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel”.

It is just going on and on and on, and every two weeks we come around on the merry-go-round and we make the same speeches all over again, and we still ride our own hobby horses. Frankly, it is not doing us or the nation any good medically or emotionally.

My amendment is a simple one, and it tries to put a stop to all this gyratory nonsense, as the right hon. Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones) rightly mentioned. My amendment is the embodiment of a very old principle of this House. When James I became King in 1603—do not worry, I am not going to do every year—he summoned Parliament, and that Parliament became so fed up with MPs constantly bringing back issues on which it had already decided that the House expressly decided on 4 April 1604:

“That a question being once made, and carried in the affirmative or negative, cannot be questioned again, but must stand as a judgement of the House.”

That has been our rule.

James Heappey

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Bryant

No, I will not give way. I am terribly sorry, but there is not much time and I am sure we have already decided the matter anyway, so it stands as a judgment of the House.

This ruling has been repeated many, many times. On 30 June 1864, Sir John Pakington wanted to give more money to nursery schools—hoorah! On 17 May 1870, Mr Torrens wanted to relieve poverty by enabling the poor to emigrate to the colonies. On 9 May 1882, Henry Labouchère wanted to allow MPs to declare, rather than swear, an oath so as to take their seats. On 27 January 1891, Mr Leng wanted to limit railway workers’ very long hours. On 21 May 1912—this one would probably have the support of every Member—George Lansbury wanted to allow women to vote.

On every single occasion, the Speaker—Speaker Brand, Speaker Peel, Speaker Denison and Speaker Lowther—said, “No, you can’t, because we’ve already decided that in this Session of Parliament”. That is why I believe the Government should not have the right to bring back exactly the same, or substantially the same, measure again and again as they are doing. It is not as if the Government do not have enough power. They decide every element of the timetable in the House. They decide what we can table and when. They decide when we sit. They can prorogue Parliament if they want. They have plenty of powers. The only limit is that they cannot bring back the same issue time and again in the same Session because it has already been decided.

What do the Government not understand about losing a vote by more than 200 and losing it a second time by 149? For me, the biggest irony of all is that the Government repeatedly say, “The people can’t have a second vote”, but the House of Commons? “Oh, we’ll keep them voting until they come up with the right answer”. We should stand by tradition—Conservatives should be a bit more conservative about the traditions of the House—and stop this ludicrous, gyratory motion.

Amanda Spielman – 2019 Speech on Knife Crime

Below is the text of the speech made by Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector of OFSTED, on 12 March 2019.

This is a timely report for Ofsted to be publishing. The related issues of knife crime, gang violence and child exploitation are rightly high on public and political agendas. The images of those recently killed with knives on the front pages of newspapers remind us all of the tragic cost of violence being paid by our children. Our first thought is of course with the victims’ families.

In a previous report, we highlighted the dangers of county lines drug operations, in which criminal and manipulative adults exploit children to travel from our major cities to all corners of the UK to distribute drugs, often leaving those children vulnerable to further physical and sexual abuse far from home. This is important context for this study.

This report looks specifically at school leaders’ experiences of knife crime in London, as well as the views of children and some parents of both victims and perpetrators. It makes recommendations for school and college leaders, local authorities, the police and other pan-London agencies about how to work better together to help keep children safe.

Use of exclusions

The most hotly contested issue when it comes to schools’ responses to knife crime is the use of exclusions. This study did not set out to prove or disprove whether exclusions lead to knife crime – a task that is beyond the realm of the possible. There is evidence that points to a correlation between the 2, but of course this does not prove causation. It seems just as likely that exclusions and knife crime are 2 symptoms of the same underlying problems, exacerbated by cuts to local authority children’s services.

There is a harmful narrative developing that exclusions must cause children to join gangs or carry knives because, when they are excluded, they are put in very poor-quality alternative provision (AP) or pupil referral units (PRUs), and eventually fall out of the school system altogether. In fact, over 80% of state-funded registered AP and PRUs are rated good or outstanding by my inspectors and, of those pupils not on a state school roll at age 16, few get there directly via exclusion from a mainstream school. See ‘The link between exclusions, alternative provision and off-rolling’.

What’s much more concerning is off-rolling or managed moves to unregistered or illegal AP or to no education, employment or training at all. We do not know whether children in these settings are safe, let alone being educated.

That isn’t to say permanent exclusions are never beyond criticism. What we found through our research is that exclusion decisions in cases of children bringing a bladed object into school do not always sufficiently take into account the best interests of the child, which have to be balanced against the wider needs of the school community. By law, headteachers should take contributory factors into account, consider intervention to address the underlying causes, and consider providing extra support to groups of pupils with high rates of exclusion, before they take the decision to exclude.

Similarly, we found that schools’ decisions about whether or not to involve the police in an incident can be based on a variety of factors, not always relevant. It seems sensible to reflect on whether the child has any known connection to adults with a criminal history, but it is much less relevant to consider, as some schools told us they did, the child’s academic record. Headteachers clearly need more in the way of information and guidance.

Permanent exclusions have risen in the last few years, and there is a shortage of registered provision for excluded children. Schools and local authorities need to work together to improve education and other preventative work, to reduce the need for exclusions. Exclusions are a necessary and important sanction, but it is not acceptable, or legal, to exclude without due regard for the impact on and risks to the child being excluded.

Working together to keep children safe

Schools have 2 very basic roles: to educate children with the powerful knowledge they need to thrive in and be connected to society; and to keep them safe. Doing the first well can be the best possible preventative experience when it comes to the second. Feeling a failure at school can lead to behavioural problems that may ultimately escalate into criminality. We know that nearly half of those who end up in prison have literacy skills no better than an average 11-year-old, so it is vital that primary schools prioritise teaching children to read at an early age. Children who cannot read well cannot access further learning, cannot discover their own unique interests and talents, and eventually will struggle to pass exams and get good jobs.

However, our report focuses on activities specifically designed to achieve the second basic role – to keep children safe. Some school leaders feel that they are having to act alone to develop a response to rising rates of knife crime. We know that the best response is a multi-agency approach and good, timely information-sharing, but too often this is not happening.

Spending per head on early help and preventative services has fallen by over 60% in real terms between financial years 2009 to 2010 and 2016 to 2017. Some of the funding that is available is only short term. Schools simply do not have the ability to counter the deep-seated societal problems behind the rise in knife crime. Some schools are valiantly trying to fund school-based early help services or other services that were once provided for free. But we cannot allow responsibility for this to be landed on schools in the absence of properly-funded local services.

There are other ways in which schools and local agencies can help each other. Too often, concerns about data protection get in the way of vital information sharing. GDPR allows agencies to store and share information for safeguarding purposes, including that which is sensitive and personal. If schools have information about children, or adults, relevant to the safety of them or of the children around them, they need to pass that on, including at transition points such as primary to secondary school, or school to college. And they need to share it with local authorities and the police. The arrangement needs to be reciprocated.

Educating about knife crime and gangs

Many school and college leaders we spoke to were trying to educate children about the dangers of knife crime and the risks of grooming and exploitation by gangs. However some are concerned that if they do this they will be seen as a ‘problem school’, and subsequently avoided by parents. Others were rightly prepared to be open with pupils and parents about the issues and how to deal with them.

As well as educating children, schools and others can play a vital role in educating parents. The parents of both victims and perpetrators that we spoke to were unanimous in their call for policy makers and local leaders to talk more to parents about grooming, criminal exploitation and knife crime. These parents could sense that something was wrong with their children, but did not have the knowledge to link that to criminal exploitation and therefore do something about it. Instead, and tragically, they thought their children’s increasingly challenging behaviour was due to their own divorce or even, in one case, suspecting their child was being sexually abused.


I hope this report is a valuable input into the current discussions about how to tackle knife crime in London and other UK cities. This is too serious and complex an issue to reduce to binary debates about exclusions, or over-simplified views about the quality of AP or PRUs. Schools can and should play their part, and many are. But this has to be as part of a broader coalition, with the support of local partners and the police.

Emma Reynolds – 2019 Speech on the Withdrawal Agreement

Below is the text of the speech made by Emma Reynolds, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton North East, on 12 March 2019.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson). We might go through different Division Lobbies tonight, but I share her priority for safeguarding our constituents’ jobs and livelihoods. That is what is driving my decision to vote against the motion tonight, and I want to set out three reasons why I will be doing that. First, for many of us on the Opposition Benches, the package that the Prime Minister has brought back from Strasbourg at the eleventh hour totally misses the point. Our concerns about her deal have nothing to do with the Northern Irish backstop. In these debates about exiting the European Union, right hon. and hon. Members have expressed concerns about the economy and trade three times more often than concerns about the backstop.

This last-minute deal, which really has not changed much, is just the latest chapter in the Tory party’s Brexit divisions and melodrama. When the Prime Minister says that she is listening to Parliament, she is actually listening to hard-line Tory Brexiteers and her confidence and supply partners, the DUP. When she says that she is acting in the national interest, she is actually putting her party’s interests above the prosperity of our constituents. She encourages us to come together, but she has done little to reach out across the House to appeal to Labour Members and other Opposition MPs. When it comes to the deal tonight, this is the first time that I can remember in British history that a PM and Chancellor have recommended a course of action that, according to their own economic analysis, will make people worse off and our economy smaller. The people did not vote in the 2016 referendum to be poorer, and I cannot in all conscience vote for a deal that makes my constituents poorer and the country less safe.

Secondly, as the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) said in his eloquent contribution, the Government have not levelled with people about the trade-offs and hard choices that should be made on Brexit. For example, Brexiteers claimed that trade deals with the US, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand will boost our prosperity, but there is not a shred of evidence that those trade deals—even if agreed quickly and in our favour, on which the International Trade Secretary is not exactly doing a great job—would result in more jobs and investment than we would lose if we loosen our ties with the EU, which is our most important market and the destination of most of our exports. That is why it was so foolish of the Prime Minister to make leaving the customs union and the ​single market her red lines from the word go. If only she had dropped those red lines, she may have managed to build true cross-party consensus for an alternative deal.

The irony of today’s debate is that it is all about reassuring hard-line Brexiteers that the UK will be able to pull out of the backstop, which is in essence about the UK leaving the customs union. However, just-in-time manufacturers in the food, automotive and aerospace industries, which employ tens of thousands of people across the country and thousands in my constituency, have stressed time and again the importance of frictionless trade and the customs union with the EU and of avoiding no deal. Supermarkets have warned that a no-deal scenario and any delays at the border would put food prices up, and the car and aerospace industries have warned that delays at the border will destroy just-in time manufacturing. Indeed, because of the threat of no deal we have seen companies big and small already taking decisions to put investments on hold. We have had bad news from Nissan in Sunderland and terrible news about Honda, and BMW has said that no deal would lead it to shift production elsewhere. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) said, the car industry should be the jewel in the crown of our economy, but the Government’s irresponsible actions are putting that at risk.

Thirdly, I am not prepared to vote for a blindfold Brexit. The political declaration is vague and non-binding. We were told by Tory Brexiteers a couple of years ago that the trade agreement with the EU would be the “easiest in human history” but as Ivan Rogers, the UK’s former permanent representative to the EU, so eloquently put it only the other day:

“We cannot live in glorious isolation. Talk to the Swiss and to the Norwegians—they live in a permanent state of negotiation with the EU.”

To those who say that we should vote for the deal tonight so that we can get things over and done with and move on because people are fed up, I say that boredom is not a good reason for taking an important decision about the future of our country. The negotiations will go for years and years and years.

I hope that the deal is defeated tonight, and I hope that we then vote against no deal tomorrow. It would be the height of irresponsibility. We have heard the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) and the hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Andrea Jenkyns) actually recommending a no-deal Brexit, which would be catastrophic for jobs, livelihoods and the wider economy, but do not take that from me; take it from Jaguar Land Rover and from businesses up and down the country.

Mary Robinson – 2019 Speech on the Withdrawal Agreement

Below is the text of the speech made by Mary Robinson, the Conservative MP for Cheadle, in the House of Commons on 12 March 2019.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bury South (Mr Lewis).

Throughout the negotiation process I have always believed that the result of the referendum must be delivered. It is simply not enough to say that we respect the result of the people’s vote on 23 June 2016 and then ignore it. In that referendum the British people instructed the Government to leave the European Union, and the agreement that the Prime Minister has negotiated implements that vote effectively, ending the free movement of people, stopping the vast annual payments from the UK to the EU, and freeing the UK from the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy.​
I personally voted to remain, and have always been conscious of the fact that a majority of my constituents—57.3%—voted to remain, while recognising and remembering that over 40%, a significant minority, voted to leave. One of the problems with the entire withdrawal process is that without compromising no side—whether leave or remain, for no deal or for a second referendum—would have been entirely and perfectly happy with terms of the deal whatever agreement the Prime Minister had brought back from Brussels. However, the referendum presented voters with an unambiguous choice to remain in the EU or to leave, and the consequences of either decision were conveyed to the electorate extensively.

We rightly place our focus on a strong economy, but the vote was not just about economics. The referendum result brought to the surface of political debate people’s sense of identity as well as their concerns about immigration, free trade and the EU’s democratic deficit. However, events over the past few months have shown that the political discourse is frozen, and that is what we need to deal with. Many of us have been waiting for that decisive moment when we can have clarity on the future direction of travel. In my view, this withdrawal agreement provides the clarity that we need to move to the next stage of the negotiations—the implementation period—and to lay the foundations for a comprehensive free trade agreement with our European partners. The implementation period will provide Governments, businesses and people on both sides of the channel with the time to put in place the new infrastructure that will be integral to the arrangements that the Prime Minister has recently secured.

I am one of the 27. No, not the EU27, but the 27 Members of Parliament representing Greater Manchester constituencies. I am therefore particularly interested in gaining the certainty that we need and in continuing the growth of our northern economy. There is nothing that businesses fear more than uncertainty. They need to know the direction of economic travel so that they can plan for future investments. That is hugely important for my constituency, for Greater Manchester and for the economy of the north of England.

The Government’s commitment to the northern powerhouse is translating into record levels of investment across the region and, most importantly, into jobs. Greater Manchester’s local industrial strategy reinforces the region’s ambition to establish the country’s first Tech Nation hub, and a report from Ernst & Young reveals that Manchester has been ranked as the best performing city outside London for attracting foreign direct investment projects, with a 17% increase in projects since 2017. The digital sector is the leading sector influencing those figures. Many companies are now comparing Manchester to California’s silicon valley, because of the huge expansion of Manchester’s tech hub. Further evidence of the city’s confidence in this sector is Amazon’s decision to open a new office in the centre of Manchester, creating 600 digital jobs.

However, we can continue this success only by laying the foundations for an orderly, smooth Brexit. This agreement provides the basis on which we can leave while giving people and businesses the certainty that they need. I understand that some people in Cheadle and elsewhere in the north, as well as some colleagues here in the House, want to reject this deal in the hope that that will force either a no-deal Brexit or a second referendum leading to the UK remaining in the EU. ​Both cannot be winners, however; both cannot be right at the same time. For any hon. Member who genuinely does not wish to stop Brexit, this is the best and only deal. The EU has made it clear that it will not change the terms of the agreement. Whatever our views on the nature of the future relationship, that relationship can be negotiated only when a withdrawal agreement has been passed. This is the only withdrawal agreement. If we do not agree to this motion today, we risk having no Brexit at all. I am backing this agreement to take us out of the European Union into a more global future, and I am anticipating a positive, optimistic future for our country.

Ivan Lewis – 2019 Speech on the Withdrawal Agreement

Below is the text of the speech made  by Ivan Lewis, the Independent MP for Bury South, in the House of Commons on 12 March 2019.

Public dissatisfaction with this place has never been greater. It is true that, when the country is so divided on Brexit, it was always going to be the toughest of challenges to earn public confidence and respect, but the failure of leadership in both the major political parties, coupled with the rigid ideological dogma of some Members, has made the situation far worse than it needed to be. Party and dogma have sadly been put ahead of country.

I have been consistent throughout. I believe that the result of the referendum has to be respected. A belief in the central importance of democracy and the dire consequences for progressive politics if we were to ignore or attempt to subvert the result mean that we must leave. Holding a second referendum would, irrespective of its result, fuel a dangerous right-wing populism in our politics that would be likely to lead to long-term ​right-wing Governments in this country. However, the basis on which we leave and engage with the EU in future is all-important. It will shape our destiny for a generation. It must protect our economy, the standard of living of our constituents and our security. We also have a solemn duty to preserve the United Kingdom, which should only ever change through explicit public consent, and to protect the peace in Northern Ireland, which remains fragile—we should never forget that.

The deal we are being asked to support tonight was overwhelmingly rejected back in January largely, but not exclusively, because of the Northern Ireland backstop. The Brady amendment passed by this House gave the Government a clear instruction that the backstop must be replaced in the withdrawal agreement by alternative arrangements; this has not happened. Some propose a time limit; this has not happened. Others wanted us to be able to unilaterally leave the backstop if negotiations fail; again, this has not happened. So none of the conditions laid down by the vast majority of the original deal’s opponents has been met, and this has been starkly underlined by the Attorney General’s legal advice of this morning.

As I have said, I believe we do have a duty to implement the referendum result and leave the EU, and I will only support a minimum extension to article 50 which would ensure that we were not obliged to participate in European elections. Therefore, I will be willing to consider supporting this agreement, for all its perfections, if only the Government were willing to be clear about their aspirations for our future relationship. For the sake of trade, jobs and living standards, that has to include a customs arrangement of some kind with the EU. That could, but need not, be membership of the customs union itself. Not only is that the best way of securing economic stability, but it would guarantee that the backstop is consigned to the dustbin of history. The best means of achieving this is Common Market 2.0, with the UK moving into the EFTA pillar of the EEA and joining a comprehensive arrangement with the EU, maintaining a common external tariff with frictionless trade and no hard border in Ireland. We would seek to maintain the closest possible economic relationship with the EU without the political integration which the majority in this country opposed very clearly in the referendum.

The time has come to put this, along with other potential solutions, to the House so we can indicate where a majority can be secured. We know what the majority are against; the time has come for the majority in this place, free from the constraints of party Whips, to make it clear what they are for. That would truly be acting in the national interest.

Imran Hussain – 2019 Speech on the Withdrawal Agreement

Below is the text of the speech made by Imran Hussain, the Labour MP for Bradford East, in the House of Commons on 12 March 2019.

I declare straight away that I have never climbed mountains—there is time for me yet to get into it—but it is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb). Time is short, so I will try to be brief and will not take any interventions, because many hon. Members are yet to speak and it would be unfair, in such an important debate, for Members to be reduced to a time limit of two to three minutes—so, my apologies.

I echo many of the serious concerns that Opposition Members have raised about the Prime Minister’s deal or no deal, and the hugely negative impact that those scenarios will have on our communities, where a Tory Brexit will be devastating. The Prime Minister’s legal guarantee changes nothing. While we have heard lots of debate and emphasis on that today, quite rightly, I wish to concentrate my contribution on the human impact that is at play.

I will start by looking at my home town and constituency of Bradford, and the destruction that ideological Tory policies and the Government’s austerity cuts have brought upon our communities in Bradford in the last decade. We see rampant poverty gripping the city, with more than half the children living in my constituency in poverty according to the End Child Poverty campaign, ​and with not a week going by that I do not have a worried parent in my constituency advice surgery telling me how they are struggling even to clothe or feed their children because of the desperate poverty that they live in. We see poor educational attainment, with far too many children leaving school without enough GCSEs and far too many unable to go university. We see abysmally low wages, with people in Bradford paid less than the national average, or even the regional average.

We see insecure jobs and more and more people forced to take on zero-hours contract roles that do not pay the bills and do not offer the protection that they need. We see cuts to local government funding that have crushed advice centres, libraries, community halls and other services that people rely on and that are vital to the fabric of community life. We see an underfunded NHS, with our hospitals creaking as they are forced to do more with less, and staff underappreciated and underpaid. We see uncertain futures, with no hope of tomorrow being better than today and no bright future for our children.

Do I think that the Prime Minister’s deal or no deal is the right choice and that it will offer people in Bradford a better future? Not at all, because let me be clear: it is the Prime Minister and this Tory Government who have left us in such a state, because it is their austerity that is driving Bradford into the ground, not the EU. We were promised by the leave campaign that everything would be fantastic—that there would be millions more for the NHS, that the economy would be fine and that wages would be higher—but the stark reality is that those promises have failed to materialise and that a Tory Brexit will only devastate our communities further.

A Tory Brexit will help the Government to strip away workers’ rights—rights we have fought hard for and depend upon—and allow them to continue their relentless pursuit of deregulation to make it easier for people to lose their jobs, their holidays and their representation. It will grind down our economy in Bradford and Yorkshire, which exported £9.7 billion of goods—goods that create thousands of jobs but depend on free and unhindered access to the continent—to the EU in 2017. It will hit wages and the pockets of working people as the economy shrinks, jobs are lost and even food prices rise. It will allow the Government to continue their ideological austerity drive, with money set aside for the regions by the EU not coming back to the north but being spent in the south and the Tory shires. Ultimately, it will worsen poverty, as rights are watered down, jobs are lost, wages shrink and austerity continues.

People in Bradford have suffered for years under this Tory Government, who have enacted ideologically driven policies and forced poverty on our communities, so why should they trust a Tory Brexit? A Tory Brexit is not the answer for people in Bradford, and nor is a Tory Government, full stop. I cannot support an outcome that would leave people in Bradford worse off. I cannot allow our communities to be dragged further into the spiral of deprivation, social injustice and poverty.

George Howarth – 2019 Speech on the Withdrawal Agreement

Below is the text of the speech made by George Howarth, the Labour MP for Knowsley, to the House of Commons on 12 March 2019.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah). He made a thoughtful, fluent and principled speech and I commend him for doing so.

Back in January when we were debating this matter, I said that the Government had no majority, no authority, and no longer served any useful purpose. If that was debatable in January, it is now an absolute certainty. I am afraid that the debate we are having only reflects the mess that the Government have got themselves into on this issue.

I want to be brief so I will not repeat a lot of the things that have already been said. I just want to make a couple of remarks about where the public are at and where they were at the beginning of this process, which leads on to the debate about whether a consensus is possible. I do not mean this in any critical way, but the right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) called for consensus, the hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Andrea Jenkyns) called for consensus, and—in a slightly different way—the hon. Member for East Surrey ​just made a plea for a kind of consensus. The difficulty is that they all mean something entirely different. The right hon. Member for Loughborough means a consensus around the Prime Minister’s deal, the hon. Member for East Surrey wants a pause so that we can think about whether other options could be considered, and the hon. Member for Morley and Outwood basically wants us to come out without a deal. In each case, there is no possible basis for consensus.

When we started this process, I noticed that there were three different strands of opinion in my constituency, and Knowsley is not unique in that. The first strand was made up of people who voted to leave and wanted to leave on any basis it was possible to achieve, including without any kind of a deal. Secondly, there were those who agreed more with me than with anybody else, who felt that we had made a historic mistake in voting to leave in the referendum and were looking for a way to reverse that process. Finally, there was a group of people in the middle who simply wanted to get on with it, although they were not specific about what it was they wanted to get on with, other than the fact that they wanted to leave the European Union—and the Prime Minister has built her entire negotiating strategy around that one group.

The difficulty is that that one group, which is also reflected in this House, cannot definitely be said to be on one side or the other when it comes to any specific deal. Yes, these people want to leave, but they do not necessarily want to leave on any terms put in front of them, and they certainly do not want to be part of a deal that makes them, their families and their communities worse off. The problem is that any solution has to involve a strategy that brings at least two of those three groups along with it, but I am afraid to say that what the Prime Minister is offering at the moment does not bring any one of those groups along fully, as we will see reflected in the Division Lobby tonight.

It would be reasonable to challenge me on what I think should happen. All I can say is that at the beginning of this process, after we triggered article 50, I would have voted for a deal that I thought would not do too much damage to my constituents; that is where I started from. Frankly, I am now at the point where I will vote, if I get the opportunity over the coming days, for no deal because I think that it would be disastrous for my constituency and our country. [Hon. Members: “Against no deal.”] Sorry, I will vote against no deal; that was a Freudian slip. I will also vote for a second referendum if the opportunity arises, and I will certainly vote for the extension of article 50. We have to get somewhere with this. If we do not, the only option left will be to say to the people, “Is this what you really want?” And we are rapidly reaching a point where that is probably the only option left.