Pat McFadden – 2019 Speech on the UK’s Departure from the European Union

Below is the text of the speech made by Pat McFadden, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East, in the House of Commons on 14 March 2019.

When the Prime Minister set out the timetable for this week a couple of weeks ago, she did not say that the vote on an extension was to be linked to acceptance of the deal. When she set out those arrangements, the premise was that we would come to this point after the defeat of her deal, which is what has happened. Now we find, from her reaction to the vote last night, that the Government’s proposal to extend article 50 is linked to their strategy of one more heave, two more heaves, however many more heaves it takes.

The amendments that I will support tonight are the amendment tabled by my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench or the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn). They seek to remove that conditionality and to extend instead for the purpose of clarifying our future direction. That is the reason why we should extend. For four months we have been having the wrong conversation with Europe. Instead of disappearing into five different levels of legality over the backstop, which looks to the rest of Europe as if we are trying to wriggle out of our commitment to no hard border in Northern Ireland and to supporting the Good Friday agreement, we should have been having the conversation that we need to have about what Brexit really means, what the choices are and what the trade-offs are. Let us not pretend that the reason that has not happened is that somehow it is impossible until we leave. The reason it has not happened is that to do so would expose the deep divisions within the Conservative party, but the public deserve better than that. That is why extension should be for the purpose of clarification.

As for timing and other conditions, far too often in our discussions we forget that there are two sides at the table. An extension has to be applied for and agreed ​unanimously. It will not just be up to us how long it is for. Whatever happens in the votes tonight, it is important that we understand that.

I understand the public impatience with politics right now. It is our job to get stuff done, but the leadership response to parliamentary votes matters. We heard a great speech yesterday from my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips), who defended parliamentary democracy. It is just a pity that our Prime Minister, the leader of our country, never defends parliamentary democracy. Continually setting Parliament against the people is at best disappointing. It is thoroughly irresponsible and it is not the leadership that we need through these troubled waters.