(1 year, 1 month ago)Commons Chamber
This debate should be one of two halves. First, it is right that the Opposition challenge the Government on their record, but the second part ought to be that the Opposition seek to become the Government themselves and present a vision for the country, but they have demonstrably failed to demonstrate one that they could deliver in a few weeks if they won an election. That part has been wholly absent from this debate so far.
On referendum day three years ago, I spent a lot of time talking to constituents and visiting polling stations around my constituency in Wigan and Bolton, and it was startling. The polling stations in the poorest neighbourhoods and communities had turnouts they had never seen before—far higher than for local and general elections. This vote, this referendum on the EU, reached out in a way that politicians here had not done before, or at least not for decades. That is one of the key reasons it is so important to respect the referendum decision. People who perhaps had never voted before, or at least not for decades, or who thought that previous elections were not important enough for them to engage with, chose in this referendum to engage with politics and the life of the country. It is vital for the Government to respect that decision now. We are leaving the European Union on 29 March this year. If that decision is delayed by the suspension or even the cancellation of article 50, it will be a sign to the electorate—to all voters, whether leave or remain—that their decision is being disrespected. Worse still, if there is a second referendum to dismiss the first, we will be telling them, “Your vote was wrong; get it right the second time.” That is repugnant, and it would be deeply damaging to our democracy.
I urge the Government to focus on delivering Brexit, to focus on delivering on 29 March, and to use the days that we have left as an opportunity to secure the best possible deal from the European Union; but on 29 March, we must leave.