The Government’s Plan for Brexit: 7th December 2017

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth). I endorse in particular his opening remarks. Like him, I am getting somewhat tired of the constant abuse and constant criticism that somehow we are remoaners who want to thwart the will of the people, that we do not accept the result and want to go back on it. We absolutely do accept the result. I do not like the result—yes, I believe the people made a terrible mistake—but I said publicly, as did the right hon. Gentleman, that we would accept and honour the result. We said to people, “If you vote leave, you will get leave”. Would everyone please finally understand and accept that so that we can move on to the most important thing, which is how we get the very best deal for our country?

I gently say to the Secretary of State, who is no longer in his seat, that he should not be almost deriding me for working with people who sit over there on the Labour Benches, or further down the Benches opposite, or even with the Lib Dems—if any of them are going to take part, which I hope they might. [Interruption.] I am looking forward to their one contribution, from the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake). The point is that the Secretary of State should not be criticising me for working with others on this most important of all matters—the most important for a generation and more I would say. When he sat on the Back Benches, of course, he was very happy and willing to work with right hon. and hon. Members opposite on the things that were important to him, and rightly so. This transcends party politics and tribalism.

Most importantly, now is the time for our country to come together. Make no mistake: families and friends are still divided. In my county, as I have said before, levels of hate crime remain 18% higher than this time last year. The way we begin to heal, build bridges and restore our communities, friendships and families is to include that 48% who voted to remain. To be honest, many of them—I include myself—have understandably felt sidelined and ignored and experienced the weight of abuse, be it online or in other places, and we are sick and tired of it. We are entitled to our opinion and we are entitled to express it.

We reach out and say, “We now want to work together with anybody—frankly—in order to get the best deal”. This is not just about my generation. As I enter my seventh decade—[Hon. Members: “No!”] Today’s the day. Moving swiftly on. I nearly said, “Everybody’s invited to the party”, but that’s another matter. In all ​seriousness, it is not about my generation. The decisions we make now will resonate for decades to come and for generations now and in the future, so it is important we get it right, and it is important that we remember those youngsters. The majority of them voted to remain, and the honest truth is that many feel that an older generation has stolen their future. We have got to wake up and recognise that. I remind all hon. Members that the 16 and 17-year-olds of today will be their voters in 2020.

As ever, I am running out of time. I just want to say, in response to the excellent and wise words of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), that I struggle with the concept that we cannot debate these really important matters. With great respect to him, he says that we are leaving the customs union, but are we? Businesses and trade organisations in my constituency want certainty, they want to have a say and they want the right to shape what is best for business and our future.

Stephen Doughty
rose—

Anna Soubry
Ooh, I will give way. I will get an extra minute.

Stephen Doughty
It is true that the right hon. Lady has been willing to work across the House on crucial issues, as on the steel industry, on which matter I was pleased to work with her. She is making the right point about what is best for jobs, businesses, organisations, individuals and universities in our constituencies. That is what many of us are arguing for and what we want answers on, because those are the questions our constituents are asking.

Anna Soubry
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Businesses and trade organisations in my constituency want certainty and transitional arrangements. Universities and others who employ migrant workers are saying, “What is your new immigration policy going to be, and how do we make sure we have the workers we need?” It is not politically correct to say this, but it is in the interests of British business and workers that we have migrant workers. It is they who make British business so good and who make us the fifth-strongest economy.

Claire Perry (Devizes) (Con)
rose—
 
Anna Soubry
I will not get another minute, but I will give way very quickly.

Claire Perry
I just wanted to say this to my right hon. Friend: would it not be the best possible birthday present for her if the House genuinely came together tonight, went through the Lobby in support of the Labour motion and our Government amendment, and showed the country that we can come together for something so important? We are not remoaners; we are bring-it-on Brexiteers.
 
Anna Soubry
I am grateful for that comment and all that my hon. Friend says.

I want to say this gently to the Government. I will vote for this, but I am nervous and concerned. On 12 October, this place agreed, without Division, that we would have a series of debates and we would scrutinise ​the Government’s plans. Thus far, we have had two debates. The first was on workers’ rights. I know they are important, but frankly that is a red herring—no pun intended—because the Government have made it absolutely clear, and I take the Secretary of State and our Prime Minister absolutely at their word, that workers’ rights will remain entrenched in British law. Truly it is not a great issue.

The second debate was on that grave and weighty matter, “Transport and Brexit”. I am sorry, but this is not good enough. The debates we now need to have are about the value of the single market—let us thrash it out and hear why some say we should not be in it. Let us talk about the customs union and the peril of tariffs. Let us talk about immigration—the positive benefits of it, and some of the downsides, but let us have these debates and, most importantly, let us take part in that—Parliament. We speak for our constituents. We speak for the people.

Let no one use tonight’s motion and any vote when it comes to the proceedings in the Supreme Court. I want a White Paper. I want legislation. I want to go through the Lobby and make a difference on our relationship with the EU in order to secure a strong future for everybody for generations to come.