Lib Dems vs Brexit: Christine Jardine We all deserve better than this deal

It was almost midnight when Christine Jardine finally got to her feet to make her speech. She talked about how her constituents are even firmer in their view that we should remain in the EU and, crucially, she highlighted how the deal fails Leave as well as Remain voters. She called on MPs to rise to the enormity of the occasion and do what’s best for the country.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami). I rise to oppose the Government’s motion and to give largely the speech that I was due to make a month ago, when the vote was pulled. My stance has developed over the past two and a half years, during which my party has campaigned consistently in Parliament and in communities across the country for the people, not the politicians, to have the final say.

As we approach the denouement of this Brexit drama—or perhaps it is a tragedy—my thoughts drift back to 24 June 2016. What prompted the country to vote for Brexit? I agree with the hon. Member for Bournemouth West (Conor Burns). An entire generation faced the prospect that their children and grandchildren would not be as well off as they were, having been left behind and failed by globalisation. More than two years ​later, I do not believe that this Government have provided either any solutions to those issues or a coherent way ahead.

We have heard a lot this evening, mostly from Conservative Members, about delivering on Brexit. May I plead with them that actually we have something more important in this House to deliver, and that is the wellbeing of the country? When the electors go to the ballot box and send us here, it is not simply to follow an instruction; it is to have the courage to do what we believe is right for us, for them and for the entire country. That is where we are just now.

While I remain implacably opposed to any EU departure, I believe that on this decision—possibly the most important decision any of us will face politically—it was important to take the time to seek the advice and listen to the views of my constituents in Edinburgh West. My constituents voted remain, and their minds have not changed. If anything, they are firmer in their resolve that this chaotic, uncertain shambles of a Brexit is not what they wanted or deserved.

This deal, the best deal the Government could negotiate, will, even according to the Government, leave us less well off than staying in the European Union. Our constituents deserve better. All of those people who voted leave deserve better. They voted leave believing what they were told—that it would benefit the NHS—and now they discover that the NHS will lose vital staff. In Edinburgh, we have Scotland’s highest concentration of non-UK EU citizens: 39,000 people who are vital to staffing our universities and our tourist industry. Some 50% of those who work in hospitality in Edinburgh come from elsewhere in the European Union.

We have talked before about stockpiling medicines and food and about lorry jams. When I ask this Government for reassurances, I am worried not just about my health or the health of all my friends who are worried about the medicines they need, but about the health of the country. That is why, when the Prime Minister called on us earlier this evening not to block Brexit because that would be a “subversion of democracy” and not say to the people whom we were elected to serve that we were unwilling to do what they had instructed and would go against it, I say to the Prime Minister that that is not why they sent us here. They sent us here to have the courage and the wisdom to stand up for what we believe is best for the country—and that is not this deal.

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