Devstatingly powerful Commons speech from Margaret Beckett

Last year in the “Article 50 debate” we featured the text of Kenneth Clarke’s Commons speech, because it was so good.

Today, we again highlight a speech from someone in another party. Labour’s Margaret Beckett made a calm but devastatingly powerful speech in the Brexit Commons debate. She lays into Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating strategy, saying:

Then, not satisfied with the grave “red lines” misjudgment, tying her own hands, restricting her room for manoeuvre, the Prime Minister added the crass folly of selecting a date, and not just a date, a time, for our leaving and, to please and reassure her Brexiteers, put it on the face of the bill. It was as that self-inflicted deadline approached that some began to say it would be best to leave the European Union at the end of March, giving up our prime negotiating cards and our strength and work out afterwards what would be in our interests in the future. I don’t think I have ever heard anything so criminally irresponsible from any government or the supporters of any government. The Prime Minister says “People just want it to be over”. Of course, they do. Heaven knows, I think we probably all share that sentiment. But it’s a con – it’s perhaps the biggest con of all. If we pass this deal in this house, it won’t be over. The really serious stuff hasn’t even started and it’s going to go on for years.

To guide us there of course we have the political declaration. And we’ve already heard from the foreign ministers of France and Spain how binding they believe its warm words to be. But the point is, it settles nothing. All is to be explored or continued, considered or discussed – nothing is settled. From the outset the Prime Minister resisted the idea that this sovereign parliament should have the chance to have a vote and express its opinion on any deal she might secure. She forcefully resisted the notion of a meaningful vote, and now we have one, she’s doing her utmost to make it meaningless by insisting there is only way for MPs to vote, which is for her deal. The outcome of this series of votes is unpredictable and could well be indecisive – I have seen such a thing happen in this house before. So should there now be a further people’s vote? – I hear “no” from most of the benches opposite. But I am in no doubt – I know infinitely more now about the potential consequences of leaving the European Union than I did in 2016 – and I think being in the cabinet for 11 years I knew a little bit about it before. And I know too that what leave campaigners promised is not on offer – mostly because it was undeliverable.

The honourable members for Totnes and Bracknell have reminded us that a major medical intervention must be preceded by an assurance that informed consent has been given. Consumer protection law gives a 14 day cooling off period to make sure people know what they are doing. And this time the very future of our country is at stake. There’s been a determined effort to keep people in the dark. Economic assessments of Brexit’s impact, prepared for ministers, were withheld, like the government’s legal advice. The real life full consequences of leaving with no deal – which clearly still attracts some on the benches opposite, are not being fully spelt out. The Chancellor, like the governor of the Bank of England, publicly accepts that we would be economically better off to stay in the European Union, but he points out – and this is fair – that many who voted leave thought that a price worth paying to recover our sovereignty.

But the deal on offer – as the Prime Minister says, the only deal on offer – does not recover our sovereignty. It leaves us rule takers from the European Union without any voice in shaping those rules. It represents what may well be the biggest transfer of sovereignty ever proposed by any British government because this time sovereignty is not being shared, it’s being surrendered.

(I have bolded some phrases which Dame Margaret particularly emphasised).

It is worth watching the speech here in full:

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • John Marriott 5th Dec '18 - 7:01am

    Those of us in Lincoln remember her as Margaret Jackson, who finally overcome Lord Dick Taverne in the second 1974 General Election. She later married the Labour Constituency Chairman, Leo Beckett, lost her seat to Tory Kenneth Carlisle in 1979 and then moved to Derbyshire. A formidable lady, quite left wing, I would think, and, as far as I know, not a friend of the EEC/EU. She is still delivering, although I’m not sure from which point on the political spectrum.

  • Yeovil Yokel 5th Dec '18 - 7:22am

    I agree with you, Paul. I had half an eye on a few of the speeches last night whilst doing some paperwork but this one by Margaret Beckett had me transfixed, superb stuff.

  • Yeovil Yokel 5th Dec '18 - 7:25am

    …’s worth adding that I saw Boris Johnson’s speech as well and that was frankly embarrassing, a rambling semi-coherent jaw-wobbling waffle.

  • Margaret Beckett is respected within different sections within the Parliamentary Labour Party, made up of the people in whose hands our future lies. If her words make any difference to her pro-Brexit colleagues she will deserve a statue in Parliament.

  • David Blake 5th Dec '18 - 10:28pm

    Yes, I think Boris Johnson may be finished. Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Farage – now free of UKIP – go off to form a new party.

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