Liz Kendall – 2019 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Liz Kendall, the Labour MP for Leicester West, in the House of Commons on 29 March 2019.

I will vote against the withdrawal agreement today. It is not what people were promised and it will lead to a worse deal than we have now. Far from sorting Brexit, the uncertainty facing our country will continue for years to come.​
Many people, including those who aspire to be the next Prime Minister of this country, want to sweep the promises that they made during the referendum under the carpet. They say that those promises are somehow not relevant, and they hope that people will forget. However, Labour Members remember that our constituents were promised that when we leave the European Union we will hold all the cards, that agreeing our entire future relationship with the EU would be the easiest deal in human history, and that we would have the exact same benefits as now. Mr Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth.

Despite that, I am acutely aware that many people just want Brexit to be sorted; they want it to be over. They are fed up with the incomprehensible twists and turns, with the arguments and anger, and they want us to get on with it. They want us to deal with the issues that matter in their daily lives. Nevertheless, we must speak the truth: this withdrawal agreement and political declaration, which cannot be separated, solve none of the fundamental questions that we face about our future relationship with the EU, and the huge consequences that that will have for jobs, businesses and public services. If we do not get those choices right, dealing with issues such as housing and the future of our public services will be even harder, if not impossible.

The grim truth is that if this withdrawal agreement is passed today, we will be taking a huge leap into the unknown. Worse still, none of the fundamental questions and choices will be made by Opposition Members—they will be made by the winner of the next Tory leadership election. I have looked on with what I can describe only as growing disgust as certain members of the Tory party, who for months have opposed the withdrawal agreement, are now flipping to support it. They do so not out of any principle, but purely for their own personal and political gain. We cannot allow the future of this country to be held to ransom by the never-ending internal Tory psychodrama and by people who want to put their own jobs and ambitions before the jobs and ambitions of people in this country.

I close on something that may not be the main focus of today’s debate but, just as with the financial crash, I fear that Brexit and the subsequent political crisis will have long-term consequences for both main political parties, for faith in our parliamentary democracy and political process, for our sense of nationhood and national identity, and for Britain’s standing in the eyes of countries throughout the world.

We will not deal with any of those problems and challenges by voting for the withdrawal agreement and just hoping they go away, or by putting the future of this country in the hands of a hard-line Tory Brexiteer who will never be satisfied until their ideological purity has been achieved at the expense of everyone in this country except themselves. We will deal with these issues and challenges only by facing them head on.

We need a longer extension so that we can build a lasting consensus on the best way forward, not just within this House but, crucially, with the British people. For that reason, I hope all Opposition Members will join me in voting against the withdrawal agreement today.​