On 6th December, Mike Gapes MP made a speech outlining his voting intentions in the House of Commons debate on the European Union (Withdrawal) Act. The transcript of his speech is available below.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Clacton (Giles Watling).
In his introductory remarks the Chancellor made it clear that leaving the EU will have an economic cost, and that is right: any deal of any kind will be putting us economically as a country in a worse place than we currently have as members of the EU, its single market and its customs union, with its frictionless trade. For our financial services sector, which is so vital for our country, and especially for London’s economy, this deal does virtually nothing. We therefore have a dilemma.
It is fashionable to say that the British people did not vote to become poorer, but some of the opinion polls at the moment seem to suggest that about 35% of our people are quite happy for the country overall—if not for themselves personally—to be poorer if we get some sort of great independence and sovereignty. I must point out to those Members who referred to this issue earlier that the United Kingdom is already a free, independent state inside the European Union—just as it was inside the European Economic Community—alongside the 27 other free, independent states that voluntarily associate together to make the collective rules through a democratic internal process represented by a Council of Ministers and a Commission consisting of elected Members of our national Parliaments, and by the European Parliament. We remain an independent democracy, as we have done for many years. This false comparison between the EU and the Soviet Union that is being put out by the ultra-Brexiters really must be taken on and dismissed.
This is the worst time for our country to be leaving the European Union. If the deal is agreed, we will have a political declaration that states that we will not be in the European Defence Agency or the European Defence Fund and that we will not be in the permanent structured co-operation. Instead, rather than participating, we will be involved in some kind of indirect manner. We will not be in the room—we will not even be in the corridor outside the room—but perhaps we will occasionally be associated with things that the EU does. At this moment, the UK and France together are the most important contributors to European defence within the EU states, but we are going to move out of that. We are also going to cease to be one of the EU states involved in the co-operation in the United Nations. We will still be on the Security Council, but we will not be there along with France as a voice for the other 27 in Europe.
This is a very bad deal, and I will vote against it. I voted against triggering article 50, and I voted for all the measures to mitigate the damage. Ultimately, we have to have a choice; we have to put this matter back to the people to decide between this deal and remaining with the deal we have now within the European Union.