The House of Commons voted yesterday against leaving the European Union without a deal by a tiny majority. During the debate Sir William Cash made the following intervention:
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Michael Gove): I beg to move,
That this House declines to approve leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship on 29 March 2019; and notes that leaving without a deal remains the default in UK and EU law unless this House and the EU ratify an agreement.
Let me begin by paying tribute to our Prime Minister. She may have temporarily lost her voice, but what she has never lost, and will never lose, is a focus on the national interest and a full-hearted desire to do what is right for our country.
Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): My right hon. and learned Friend talks about smashing up the law; does he not accept that section 1 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 makes it abundantly and expressly clear that we will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 on exit day?
Mr Grieve: It may do, but it lies within our capacity to change it, and we will have to change it; indeed, it is inherent that it will be changed in the next fortnight, and I will move on to that in a moment.
I do not want to dwell on the risks of no deal in practice because I do not wish to repeat what others have said perfectly eloquently. So then we turn to this process, and I simply point out that it is very unfortunate that instead of what I understood yesterday would be a clear opportunity for this House to express itself against the principle of no deal and make clear that we do not want it before moving on tomorrow to discuss what we might do to prevent it, which is a real issue, the Government have tabled a motion that gives the distinct impression that, like children, we will be offered the same pudding, if not eaten at lunchtime, at tea time, supper time and now for breakfast, when it is perfectly clear that this House has rejected this pudding in its totality.
As a consequence, something that might bring us together in reasoned debate has started to be undermined by a suspicion that the Government are interested only in forcing a binary choice between no deal and accepting their agreement. Listening to the Secretary of State at the Dispatch Box earlier, I began to realise that perhaps that was not the case, but then why was the motion ever tabled in this fashion? I cannot understand that. In fact, the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Dame Caroline Spelman) was correct in trying to identify and deal with that mischief.
The Government have a point, however. I agreed with a lot of what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) said, and there is an issue here. This House has lived under the protection of our party system for a long time. I am now beginning to see a distinction on my Benches, and actually on the other Benches, between those of us who have in a sense exposed ourselves and as a consequence get a huge amount of threats, flak and invective, and those of my colleagues—I do not include the Prime Minister in this, because she has many a burden—who are hiding behind the party system to avoid making the difficult choices. We cannot go on doing this. The party system might restore itself—I rather hope that it does—but as things stand at the moment, it is blown to pieces.
We have to make the decisions. Are we going to find a motion to accept the Prime Minister’s deal being offered up again? I do not want that, because I think that it is a poor deal, despite her best efforts. Are we going to find some other deal? Or are we going to revoke? Revocation is not something that I would wish to do without going back to the public, because in the light of the referendum, that would be a rather draconian and dangerous step. However, we will have to address that question because, otherwise, we will go round in circles and the Minister is right to say that we will eventually run out of time. We will simply have pushed back the cliff edge. We will have to resolve this, but at the moment, the Government are not helping by tabling motions of this tendentious character. I really urge my colleagues on the Front Bench to face up to their responsibility and to ensure, first, that we get some clarity from them tonight, and secondly, that we can take this debate forward.