Theresa May – 2019 Speech on the European Union Withdrawal Act

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Conservative MP for Maidenhead, in the House of Commons on 19 October 2019.

When I arrived at the House of Commons this morning, I saw the message, “Good day for May”. I thought that perhaps consensus had come across the whole House and that it had already been decided that this deal would be supported by the House tonight. Unfortunately, my view on that was premature—although I think only premature—because, happily for England, it was a reference to Jonny May having scored the first two tries in our victory against Australia.

I hope the whole House will forgive me if I say that, standing here, I have a distinct sense of déjà vu. But today’s vote is an important one—

Simon Hoare


Mrs May

I intend to rebel against all those who do not want to vote to deliver Brexit.

Today’s vote is important. The eyes of the country—no, the eyes of the wider world—are upon us today. Every Member in this House has a responsibility in the decision that they will take to determine whether or not they are going to put the national interest first—not just an ideological, single-issue or party political interest, but the full, wider interests of our constituents.

As we look at this issue, the decision we take tonight will determine not just the future of our country and the future lives of our constituents, but I believe the very future of our politics, because we have today to take a key decision, and it is simple. Do we want to deliver Brexit? Do we want to deliver on the result of the referendum in 2016? [Interruption.] We know the views of Scottish National party Members: they reject results of referendums, including the referendum to stay in the UK.

When this House voted overwhelmingly to give the choice of our membership of the EU to the British people, did we really mean it? When we voted to trigger article 50, did we really mean it? When the two main parties represented in this House stood on manifestos in the 2017 general election to deliver Brexit, did we really mean it? I think there can be only one answer to that: yes, we did mean it; yes, we keep faith with the British people; yes, we want to deliver Brexit.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab)

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Mrs May

If the hon. Lady will just wait for a minute.

If this Parliament did not mean it, it is guilty of the most egregious con trick on the British people.

There have been many views across this House. I want simply to say something to some of the groups involved. To those who believe that there should be a second referendum—some believe passionately and have for some time; others have come to this more lately—I say simply this: you cannot have a second referendum simply because some people do not agree with the result of the first. I do not like—

Ms Eagle rose—

Mrs May

There are many people who want to speak, so I am going to carry on. I have taken many interventions and questions from across the House on this issue over time.​

I do not like referendums, but I think that if we have one, we should abide by the result that people have given us.

Then there is the Labour Front Bench. I have heard much from those on the Labour Front Bench over the last three years about the importance of protecting jobs, manufacturing and people’s livelihoods. If they really meant that, they would have voted for the deal earlier this year. Now is their chance to show whether they really care about people by voting for this deal tonight—this afternoon, I hope, Mr Speaker—in the House.

Then let me say something to all those across the House who say they do not want no deal. I have said it before; I have said it many times; I hope this is the last time I have to say it: if you do not want no deal, you have to vote for a deal. Businesses are crying out for certainty, people want certainty in their lives, and our investors want to be able to invest and want the uncertainty to be got rid of. They want to know that this country is moving forward. If you want to deliver Brexit, if you want to keep faith with the British people, if you want this country to move forward, then vote for the deal today.