UPDATE 29 MARCH:
I rise to support the motion. I have not spoken in many of these debates, but I have been driven to speak. We have heard time and again from all the same people, but not much from what I call the voices of reason. I am speaking because I am exasperated and fed up with the bickering that has gone on in this House. It cannot be beyond the wit of the men and women of this great place to come to a decision that puts the good of the nation first.
Every single day, obfuscation—I cannot say the word very well because I am so exasperated—causes more difficulties for the businesses of this country. We rely on those businesses to fuel our economy and give us jobs so that people can work and pay taxes and we have the public services that we need. A recent straw poll that I undertook of businesses clearly highlights that they want a decision, they want it now and they do not want it in a year’s time.
Many individuals confess that they do not understand half of what we are debating in this place and many wish they had never heard of it all. I do not profess to be legal, but I do know that we have to make a decision. Some 52% of people in Taunton Deane voted out, while 48% voted to remain. I said that I would respect that decision. I have moved from supporting remain and I am putting the country first.
17.4 million people voted to leave and yes there was a roar for change, but more than 16 million people gave a yell to be noticed as well. That indicates that we need compromise. We have had nearly three years of debate in this place. I ask colleagues this: how many people have really changed their position? The polarisation is frankly disturbing.
Today, let us demonstrate that we can take one small step for Parliament and one giant step for the UK and the men and women of this nation by passing the withdrawal agreement—the legally binding agreement that sets out the UK’s departure from the EU bloc, that fits with EU rules and that involves the longer extension to 22 May. That is a legal right, as the Attorney General clearly outlined, and it takes us straight to the Bill, which was also touched on by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith).
Let us not forget that both Labour and the Conservatives committed to honouring the results of the referendum. I ask right hon. and hon. Members on both sides: can we really countenance voting against Brexit on the day when Brexit was meant to happen? I find that extraordinary. By separating the agreement from the declaration, which sets out the framework for the future relationship, we can go on and continue to discuss what type of Brexit we really want, and it has to be something that we can all live with. I still firmly believe the PM’s deal was a good one. She has fought doggedly and determinedly—I do not think anyone can disagree with that—and I believe that she has come up with a very comprehensive deal, which fundamentally is good.
I voted in the indicative votes and did what people may think is a strange thing: I voted aye to two completely contrasting things—a closer relationship with the customs union and a relationship with the European economic area and the European Free Trade Association—because I felt that I had to indicate that we needed to reach consensus in the House. Neither was my favourite, and neither was as good as the Prime Minister’s deal. Today, at least let us get this over the line. Let us discuss all the other permutations later. Let us demonstrate to the nation that we can all work together, at least today. Let us make it, step by step. I say this to my children and to my husband, who is not very well and who is watching this at home: step by step, all things are possible. As the sun shines on a glorious spring day in Taunton Deane, let us bring some of that sunshine to the rest of the nation and vote for this today.
I was in the House until approximately 2am this morning. I made my Brexit speech and discussed my support for the deal for the good of the country and business.
UPDATE 16 JAN:
It was disappointing that the deal did not get through. It was comprehensive and did enable us to respect the outcome of the referendum enabling us to leave the EU in an orderly way giving business a clear signal of when and how.
However, now it is beholden on us to move on, because individuals and businesses in Taunton Deane and particularly EU citizens who have made their home here and UK citizens living in the EU, deserve clarity about what the House does support.
I am hopeful that the debate and subsequent vote on Wednesday will demonstrate this Government still enjoys the confidence of the House. If it does, quite rightly the PM will meet with Conservative colleagues, our Confidence and Supply partner the DUP, and senior Parliamentarians from across the House to identify what would be required to secure the backing of the House.
There are already many discussions on options underway and I am involved in a number of these to understand the best approach. Once genuinely negotiable ideas are agreed on and have sufficient support in the House, the Government will then explore them with the EU.
This is an unprecedented time and a way forward, putting the country first must be found and quickly.