Nadhim Zahawi backs the Bill to trigger Article 50 which will give the Prime Minister the power to implement the will of the British people and start the process of leaving the EU.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy). He knows that I like him very much, but I disagree with what he has said. I commend the shadow Brexit Secretary for his powerful speech, in which he demonstrated that he believes in our democracy and in the national interest.
The simplicity of the Bill speaks volumes about what it will put into law. As has been said so eloquently by the Secretary of State and many right hon. and hon. Friends and Members, the Bill is about giving our Prime Minister the power to implement what a majority of the British people voted for on 23 June. Members from all parts of the House have made valid and interesting points about aspects of our negotiations and what they would like our final exiting deal to look like, but that is simply not what the Bill is about. Such points, however valid and well made, lead to confusion over the issue at stake: do we leave the EU or do we not? Luckily, that decision has already been made for us. It was made for us because we in this place voted for that most crucial of decisions to be taken out of our own hands and put into the hands of the British people.
I recognise fully that the referendum result was close. The result local to my constituency was even closer than the national result, with 48.4% of Stratford-on-Avon voting to remain and 51.6% voting to leave. That means that I am acutely aware of the need to balance the democratic result of the referendum with a great deal of respect for those who voted to remain. For that reason, along with the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) and Daniel Hannan MEP, I welcomed British Future’s “Brexit Together” manifesto. The aim of the manifesto is to voice support for an exit from the EU that is acceptable to both leave and remain voters. It presents key recommendations on issues that were fundamental in the referendum campaign, such as immigration, security and sovereignty. As I have said, however, now is not the time to discuss and debate those issues. Now is the time to vote to allow our Prime Minister to begin the process of leaving the EU, to allow her to undertake the complex negotiations on the important decisions and to deliver a Brexit that works for everyone.
It is important to bear in mind that the Bill is completely different from the series of votes held to ratify the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties. In those cases, Parliament knew exactly what the terms were and was therefore able to debate the substance fully. In the case of this Bill, we are voting on whether to allow our Prime Minister to undertake negotiations for an outcome that is not yet certain. In order to obtain the best deal possible for the United Kingdom, it is vital that she has as much room for manoeuvre as possible as she embarks on this complex process. Of course we want to see a White Paper, and her 12-point plan and priorities were very clear, but we do not want to micromanage the negotiations. In my view, any amendments to the Bill that tied her hands or forced her to hold only one negotiating position on any issue would damage her ability to obtain the best possible deal for this country and would harm the national interest. She must have the ability to engage with EU interlocutors freely, not have her position compromised by constraints placed on her by this House. I know there are those in this place who want to put such constraints on her. They want to amend or delay this very simple piece of legislation either to suit their own party’s interests, or because they do not like the decision made in the referendum.
If it was so blindingly obvious that leaving the European Union meant leaving the single market, as many of the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues have claimed, why did the Prime Minister take six months to say so, scolding many of her colleagues when they ventured such an opinion?
The right hon. Gentleman will recall that both the previous Prime Minister and the previous Chancellor made it very clear, as did many of the commentators in many of the debates that took place during the referendum campaign, that if we are to leave the European Union, we will leave the single market.
My fear is that if Members of this House are seen to be hindering so fundamental a piece of legislation, which simply puts in motion what has already been decided by a majority of the British people, it will only enhance negative perceptions of politicians as arrogant individuals who think they know what is best for the people of this country, even though we politicians voted to give the people their say.
Last night, this House unanimously condemned President Trump’s Executive order banning Syrian refugees and restricting travel to the USA from seven predominantly Muslim countries, labelling the order “discriminatory, divisive and counterproductive”. It was perhaps the proudest I have been of this House since I came here for the first time in 2010. I would be delighted if the House were to give the same backing to this Bill’s Second Reading. We would send a clear message to those who voted to put us here that we listen to them when we vote to give them a direct voice on an issue of critical importance, and that we act to implement such a measure. Let us be democrats, and vote in favour of the Bill.