Pat McFadden – 2017 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Pat McFadden, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East, in the House of Commons on 26 June 2017.

This Queen’s Speech shows the extent to which Brexit will dominate our legislative agenda. We have the repeal Bill, and Bills on trade, customs, fisheries, agriculture and more. No matter what outside events may say, we now have a single-purpose Government and a single-purpose legislative programme. The Prime Minister called the election because she said that she could not get Brexit through Parliament. How ruefully she must reflect on that statement now. Before she said that, the article 50 Bill had gone through this House with a majority of 372 votes. The other place had not tried to block it. Given that that legislation went through, the election was never called because Parliament was blocking Brexit. It was called because the Government wanted to cash in on big opinion poll leads.

The backfiring of that political gamble has left the Prime Minister leading a minority Government, dependent on the deal with the DUP that was announced today, at an immediate cost of £1.5 billion. When I was a child, we had a programme on television called “The Six Million Dollar Man”. I thought that that was a lot of money at the time, but the DUP has guaranteed far more than that for each of its representatives in this House. We enter the most important negotiations the country has conducted since the war weakened, not strengthened, with the authority of the Prime Minister shot to pieces, her Cabinet divided and her position sustained by nothing other than fear of another election.

As these negotiations begin, we are reminded of a salutary fact. We have discussed Brexit far too often in the past year as though it was something Tory Ministers could define—we have heard that it would mean this, it would mean that and it would mean the next thing—but this is actually a negotiation between the two parties around the table; it is not a Tory wish list.

When the Secretary of State was asked yesterday what he thought of Mr Barnier, he gave an insight into the level of preparation undertaken when he said, “He’s very French.” With that level of preparation, it is perhaps no wonder that the first demand, repeated four times in the article 50 letter—that the future trade negotiations take place alongside the article 50 negotiations—did not survive the first meeting on the first day. That reminds us that this is a negotiation between two parties, not a Tory wish list.

In substance, what does that really boil down to after the election? As other colleagues have said, the thing that should go is this mantra that no deal is better than a bad deal. No deal would be damaging for the European Union, but as the past and perhaps future Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee said, it would, relatively speaking, damage us more. We know the consequences: tariffs on cars and bigger tariffs on agricultural produce. It would make it impossible to have no hard border, at least in economic terms, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is, in relative terms, a gun held to our heads, not to the European Union’s head.

Ultimately, this negotiation will come down to a choice for the Prime Minister: will she do as the Chancellor wants and put economic interests first, or will she put the hard Brexiteers first? In other words, will it be the national interest first or nationalism first? That is ultimately the choice that faces us.