Tom Brake’s speech in the Article 50 debate

The final Liberal Democrat contribution in the Article 50 debate came from Tom Brake. We have published all the others as it is important for us all to be aware of what our MPs did and said on this most momentous of decisions.

I hope that I am wrong, but I believe that the decision that the country took on 23 June will result in the biggest self-inflicted wound since our disastrous intervention in Iraq. That wound is festering and it will leave the UK permanently economically weaker, even after it has healed. I believe that, when Members of Parliament believe that a course of action is going to be a catastrophe, they have a duty to harry, assail and oppose the Government, not to acquiesce.

I respect those who voted to leave. They had, and have, genuine grievances about a lack of jobs or education prospects, and concerns about the changes they see in our society, including concerns about immigration. The Brexiteers claimed that leaving the EU would address those concerns by stopping the cancellation of urgent hospital operations—paid for, presumably, by the tsunami of cash that was going to come to the NHS post-Brexit—improving teacher shortages in our schools and boosting housing supply. It will not do any of those things. In fact, it will make them worse. I doubt that even the leave campaign’s most prominent pledge, to reduce immigration substantially, will be achieved. Why would it be? After all, the Prime Minister has spent many years seeking to reduce the level of non-EU immigration, and nothing changed there.

What leaving the EU will do with certainty is diminish us as a nation and reduce our influence and international standing. That has already happened. Brexit has forced our Prime Minister, a born-again hard-line Brexiteer, to line up with Trump—indeed, to walk hand in hand with him. While European leaders and Canada condemned his Muslim ban, our Prime Minister’s initial response was to say, “Not my business.” Worse, she immediately offered him, with indecent haste, a state visit—far quicker than any other US President—which I am sure had absolutely nothing to do with her desperation to secure a trade deal, any deal, with the protectionist Trump.

In “The Art of the Deal”, Trump says:

“The worst of times often create the best opportunities to make good deals.”

To translate that for Conservative Members, the worst of times for the UK create the best opportunity for a good deal for the US.

Jobs are at risk. Six months after the vote, there is still no analysis of how many jobs will be lost after we come out of the single market.

The Liberal Democrat position is very clear: the people voted for departure, not the destination. Now the Government must give them a chance to vote on the destination. If that guarantee were forthcoming tonight, I would vote with the Government.

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  • john stevens 4th Feb '17 - 2:35pm

    Good, so far as it goes.

  • Robert Wootton 4th Feb '17 - 2:54pm

    I voted to remain. However, as we are to leave the EU, which to use an analogy, is to leave a job that you dislike to go self-employed without any business plan or what business to be in, was shortsighted in the extreme. What I strongly believe is that the government and the Liberal Democrat party must fight for is a Fair and Just Economic System and tax regime.

  • The ‘people’ voted by only a narrow majority to leave the EU. Any serious debate was lacking, the leave campaign produced no plan for how to leave and lied about the benefits. The government produced no analysis on the pros and cons of leaving. Broadcasters, such as the BBC failed to drill down into the various arguments. There is evidence that some people voted because they were swayed by the lies – e.g. the £350 million that was going to be saved on the side of the red bus – others voted to spite the government – not an unusual thing in referenda. This is a very shaky mandate for proceeding on what will probably be a very disruptive course of action.

  • Pat Bradford 4th Feb '17 - 10:24pm

    How can you vote against Brexit when your constituency voted for it. Surely you should be representing the people of Carshalton and Wallington – not doing what you want.

  • David Evershed 5th Feb '17 - 12:26am

    Mark Pack says “Lib Dems and Greens make electoral pact in Broxtowe.”

    The Green Party’s Kat Boettge has publicly posted this (confirmed by Liberal Democrats):

    “I am delighted to announce that in Broxtowe we, the Green Party having an electoral alliance with the Libdems for the upcoming county elections.

    We are not opposing and endorsing Steve Carr in Bramcote and Beeston North, Tim and Jacky in Stapleford and Broxtowe Central. Whilst they endorse me for Kimberley and Nuthall, and Beth Hewitts in Greasley and Brinsley.

    It’s time for different politics, of cooperation and opposing the two party system.

    The Labour Party has failed to fight in important local campaigns against Oxylane (fortunately which was scrapped anyway), saving the Chapel on the Hill (although my efforts were successful!), building on the green belt (as the vice chair on the neighbourhood planning committee we have also been avoiding) and to save the trees in Kimberley.

    I am looking forward to working with the Libdems on our joined aims against fracking, protecting the environment and public services, and affordable/ accessible public transport.

    Both Tom Brake and Brian Paddick will be part of the official launch of the pact today, so it is one that comes with senior Liberal Democrat support. It also comes with the agreement of local members via a special meeting of the local party. (I believe the Greens also did the same.)”


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