1 February 2017
James Cleverly backs Article 50 Bill

James Cleverly backs the Bill to enable to Government to trigger Article 50 and formally start the process of leaving the EU.

James Cleverly (Braintree) (Con)

I am in an easy position: I have an easy decision to make—in fact I have no decision to make. I campaigned and voted for Brexit, as did my constituency and the United Kingdom, so I am not torn on what to do this evening. But I will also not demand that hon. Members vote a certain way, or even suggest how they should vote, because each one of us has a unique combination of local constituency pressures, and I cannot look into the heart of other Members of this House to see where those pressures sit, so I will not call on anyone to vote one way or another. Instead, I will reflect on what the implications of the Brexit vote should be for all of us, irrespective of our political position and how we choose to vote in the Divisions this evening and in Committee next week.

Brexit provides us with an opportunity, but it also exerts upon us an external discipline; discipline guides our actions and decisions, and also encourages us to do ​what is difficult but right. The discipline that Brexit imposes on us is to listen very carefully to people in Britain who clearly feel that they have not been listened to up until this point. It is very easy for us to project our own prejudices on to why people voted the way they did, and we all do it. We have seen those who voted for Brexit projecting base motivations on to those who will vote in alignment with their constituents, but we would be wrong to do that. However, we also have to understand why some communities in Britain are concerned about their standard of living, migration and globalisation, and we have to respond to those concerns. Also, we Government Members have to understand that at some point we will need to explain why we are, perhaps, prioritising certain markets and business sectors in our negotiations above others. We will need to explain the value that international migration brings to the British economy, and perhaps why immigration will not suddenly stop overnight, the day after we leave the EU.

David Rutley

I thank my hon. Friend for the speech he is making, and his important points on the next steps. Does he agree that the modern industrial strategy that is now being set out will be vital in paving the way for our economy in a post-Brexit world?

James Cleverly

It is incredibly important that the Government lay out a pathway for moving forwards that explains to many people in Britain how a global economy can work for not just the greater good, but their individual good.

Ultimately, when Members of this House state that the British people need to have a say, they are absolutely right, but they should remember that Brexit is the start of an ongoing existence, not a discrete process, and that the deal that the Prime Minister and Ministers negotiate will be the deal that is put to the British people at the 2020 general election. Members from other parties might feel that they have a better version of a relationship with Europe. They might prefer a version that prioritises market access over border control. That is not necessarily a position that I would agree with, but it is none the less a legitimate position. If they wish to prioritise membership of the customs union over our ability to strike independent free trade deals, that, again, would not be a position that I would agree with, but it is none the less a legitimate position.

Parliamentary sovereignty means that those alternative versions of Brexit—a Scottish National party Brexit, a Liberal Democrat Brexit or a Labour Brexit—can be put before the British people in the lead-up to the 2020 general election, and those hypotheses can be tested in the ultimate crucible of the British democratic system. If their versions of Brexit are seen to be more palatable than the Government’s version, we will know, because Members will be returned here in proportion to how palatable or otherwise those various versions of Brexit are. That is how British democracy should work, and how it has been prevented from working up until now, which is why I will not just vote to trigger article 50 this evening and in future Divisions, but will do so passionately and happily—because it means that for the first time in 40 years, the way British parliamentary democracy is meant to work will be the way it is able to work. But I will not ask or force others to vote with me.​

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