Boris Johnson – 2019 Statement in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the statement made by Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 25 September 2019.

The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson)

Thank you, Mr Speaker. [Hon. Members: “Resign!” If they want a change of Government, let them have an election. [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker

Order. There will be ample opportunity for everybody who wants to question the Prime Minister, in conformity with usual practice, to do so, but the statement must and will be heard.

The Prime Minister

Thank you, Mr Speaker. With your permission, I shall make a statement on yesterday’s Supreme Court verdict and the way forward for this paralysed Parliament.

Three years ago, more people voted to leave the European Union than had ever voted for any party or proposition in our history. Politicians of all parties promised the public that they would honour the result. Sadly, many have since done all they can to abandon those promises and to overturn that democratic vote. After three years of dither and delay that have left this country at risk of being locked forever in the orbit of the EU, this Government that I lead have been trying truly to get us out. Most people, including most supporters of the Labour party, regardless of how they voted three years ago, think the referendum must be respected. They want Brexit done, I want Brexit done, and people want us out on 31 October, with a new deal if possible, but without one if necessary.

Some 64 days ago, I was told that Brussels would never reopen the withdrawal agreement; we are now discussing a reopened withdrawal agreement in the negotiations. I was told that Brussels would never consider alternatives to the backstop—the trap that keeps the UK effectively in the EU but with no say; we are now discussing those alternatives in the negotiations. I was told that Brussels would never consider arrangements that were not permanent; we are now discussing in the negotiations an arrangement that works on the principle of consent and is not permanent. I was told that there was no chance of a new deal, but we are discussing a new deal, in spite of the best efforts of the Labour party and this Parliament to wreck our negotiations by their attempts to take no deal off the table.

The truth is that a majority of Opposition Members are opposed not to the so-called no deal; this Parliament does not want Brexit to happen at all. Many of those who voted for the surrender Act a few weeks ago said then that their intention was to stop a no-deal Brexit. They have said every day since that Parliament must vote against any deal at all. The people of this country can see very clearly what is going on. People at home know—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker

Order. People are gesticulating wildly. I can scarcely hear the Prime Minister myself, and I wish to hear the statement, as other colleagues should also wish to do.​

The Prime Minister

The people of this country can see perfectly clearly what is going on. They know that Parliament does not want to honour its promises to respect the referendum. The people at home know that this Parliament will keep delaying, and it will keep sabotaging the negotiations, because Members do not want a deal.

The truth is that Opposition Members are living in a fantasy world. They really imagine that somehow they are going to cancel—[Interruption.] This is what they want to do. They are going to cancel the first referendum and legislate for a second referendum, and Parliament will promise—this is what the hon. Lady opposite said—that this time it really, really will respect that vote. They think that the public will therefore vote to remain, and everybody will forget the last few years.

I have to say, Mr Speaker, that that is an extraordinary delusion and a fantasy, a fantasy even greater than the communist fantasies peddled by the Leader of the Opposition. It will not happen. The public do not want another referendum. What they want, and what they demand, is that we honour the promise we made to the voters to respect the first referendum. They also want us to move on: to put Brexit behind us and to focus on the NHS, on violent crime, and on cutting the cost of living.

That is why I brought forward a Queen’s Speech. This Government intend to present a programme for life after Brexit, but some Members could not stand that either. Instead of facing the voters, the Opposition turned tail and fled from an election. Instead of deciding to let the voters decide, they ran to the courts. And despite the fact that I followed the exact same process as my predecessors in calling a Queen’s Speech, the Supreme Court was asked to intervene in that process for the first time ever. It is absolutely no disrespect to the judiciary to say that I think that the court was wrong to pronounce on what is essentially a political question, at a time—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker

Order. Whatever the strength and intensity of feeling and the passions to which these matters give rise, we must hear what is being said in the Chamber, and I wish to hear the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister

I think that the court was wrong to pronounce on what is essentially a political question, at a time of great national controversy.

So we have Opposition Members who block and delay everything, running to the courts to block and delay even more measures, including legislation to improve and invest in our NHS, and to keep violent criminals in jail. I think that the people outside this House understand what is happening. They know that nothing can disguise the truth.

It is not just that this Parliament is gridlocked, paralysed, and refusing to deliver on the priorities of the people. It is not just unable to move forward. It is worse than that, Mr Speaker. Out of sheer political selfishness and political cowardice, Opposition Members are unwilling to move aside and give the people a say. They see MPs demanding that the people be given a say one week, and then running away from the election that would provide the people with a say. Worst of all, they see ever more elaborate legal and political manoeuvres from the Labour party, which is determined, absolutely determined, to ​say “We know best”, and to thumb their noses at the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the European Union.

The Leader of the Opposition and his party do not trust the people. The Leader of the Opposition and his party are determined to throw out the referendum result, whatever the cost. They do not care about the bill for hundreds of millions of pounds that will come with every week of delay. They do not care if another year or more is wasted in arguing about a referendum that happened three years ago. All that matters to them now is an obsessive desire to overrule the referendum result. While we want to take our country up a gear—to go forward with a fantastic programme, an accelerated programme of investment in infrastructure, health, education and technology, they are throwing on the hand brake.

We will not betray the people who sent us here; we will not. That is what the Opposition want to do. We will not abandon the priorities that matter to the public, and we will continue to challenge those Opposition parties to uphold democracy. If Opposition Members so disagreed with this Government’s commitment to leaving on 31 October, they had a very simple remedy at their disposal, did they not? They could have voted for a general election. I confess that I was a little shocked to discover that the party whose members stood up in Brighton this week and repeatedly, and in the most strident terms, demanded an election—I heard them—is the very same party whose members already this month, not once but twice, refused to allow the people to decide on their next Government. For two years they have demanded an election, but twice they have voted against it.

The Leader of the Opposition changes his mind so often, I wonder whether he supports an election today, or whether the shadow Chancellor, or the shadow Attorney General, have overruled him again because they know that the voters will judge their manifesto for what it is—more pointless delay. Perhaps he is going to demand an election and then vote against it—just as he says that he wants to negotiate a new Brexit deal and then vote against that, too. Is he actually going to vote no confidence in this Government? Is he going to dodge a vote of no confidence in me as Prime Minister, in order to escape the verdict of the voters? I wonder, does he in his heart even want to be Prime Minister any more? He says that I should go to Brussels on 17 October and negotiate another pointless delay, but he does not want to go himself. And even if he did, his colleagues would not let him, because quite frankly they recoil at the idea of him negotiating on the people’s behalf, representing this country with the likes of Vladimir Putin, let alone the EU or the mullahs of Tehran.

Or is it perhaps that he wants a Conservative Government? It would be a curious state of affairs indeed if Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition had every faith in the Government of the day. So if in fact the party opposite does not have confidence in the Government, it will have a chance to prove it. It has until the House rises—[Interruption.] I think they should listen. It has until the House rises today to table a motion of no confidence in the Government—[Interruption.] Come on! Come on, then. And we can have that vote tomorrow. Or if any of the smaller parties fancy a go, they can table that motion and we will give them the time for a vote. Will they have the courage to act, or will they ​refuse to take responsibility and do nothing but dither and delay? Why wouldn’t they act? What are they scared of? If that is what you are scared of, then have the—

Mr Speaker

Order. I appeal to the House to have some regard to how our proceedings are viewed by people watching them in the country at large. [Interruption.] Order. Let the remainder of the statement be heard. I am grateful for the Prime Minister’s exhortation but I do not require it; I am perfectly content. What I want to hear is the rest of the statement and then questioning on it.

The Prime Minister

Mr Speaker, thank you. As I commend this statement to the House, I say it is time to get Brexit done. Get Brexit done, so we respect the referendum. Get Brexit done, so we can move on to deal with the people’s priorities—the NHS, the cost of living. Let’s get Brexit done so we can start to reunite this country after the divisions of the referendum, rather than having another one. It is time for this Parliament finally to take responsibility for its decisions. We decided to call that referendum. We promised time and again to respect it. I think the people of this country have had enough of it. This Parliament must either stand aside and let this Government get Brexit done, or bring a vote of confidence and finally face the day of reckoning with the voters.

I commend this statement to the House.