I greeted Rory Stewart’s failure in the third ballot with a sigh of relief. Perhaps I was the only person on the Twittersphere to not subscribe to Rorymania but part of my delight at his demise was that he was the only candidate who considered the deal negotiated by Theresa May as still on the table. It got me thinking about how happy I was when her withdrawal agreement was defeated on three separate occasions.
The first time the deal was defeated was undoubtedly the best. When the 432 MPs defeated the 202 in favour of the deal I was sitting in a room at university midway through a debate about that very deal. I was sat on the opposition and hadn’t yet delivered my speech. I was nervous, I had debated at this level before, but I was ready. I had prepared for the debate a couple of days in advance and my friends at university could tell I was a tad apprehensive on the day. Sadly, they couldn’t attend as they weren’t Conservative Society members. As a long-standing Brexiteer I addressed the motion from quite an emotive perspective and I am about to try and recollect my argument from that evening:
‘Take back control. Three simple words, but a clear call to return sovereignty to the British people. But, under this deal, our government has failed to take back control of our money, of our laws and of our borders. Instead we have gift wrapped them destined for Brussels. Those sitting on the bench’s opposite may believe that this deal delivers on the pillars of Brexit, but they are mistaken. No true Brexiteer can accept ‘Brexit In Name Only’.
This disastrous deal wastes £39 billion, leaves Britain as a rule taker under the shackles of the EU in the Customs Union (Annex 2). This would prohibit us from making our own Free Trade Deals. Legally we would still be under the jurisdiction of the European Courts of Justice (Article 174). It also splits up the United Kingdom by handing the keys to Northern Ireland to the Taoiseach in Dublin. We would even be forced to commit to pan-European military agreements that would relegate our prestigious armed forces.
The sell-out supporters of the Withdrawal Agreement argue that ‘concessions are needed’. But why? We, the 17.4 million won! The losers shouldn’t be able to thwart our vision with spineless career politicians facilitating this downfall. But let’s look at the political history of our country. No referenda lead to concessions as a result. Did we care about the views of the third of Britons who opposed the Common Market in 1975? No. Did we care about the 49.7% who opposed Welsh Devolution in 1997? No. And would we have had concessions if the result had gone the other way? No. To concede the Brexit argument would mean we miss out on the benefits of being an independent nation, like being able to make our own laws, strike our own trade deals and not subject businesses to EU regulation.
The truth is Mrs May never wanted to deliver Brexit and she doesn’t believe in Britain. I am not entirely sure May knows what she is doing. By ignoring the 17.4 million the Tories are leading themselves to the electoral cliff-edge and irretrievably dividing the United Kingdom. By crushing this calamitous deal, we have a mandate for re-negotiation. Donald Tusk has made it clear from the beginning that a Free Trade Agreement remains on the table.
But if this fails then Britain must leave the EU on WTO terms by the 29th of March. We have nothing to fear by a WTO-exit. Barclays, JCB, Aviva, Deutsche Bank have all agreed they are ready and will remain under a No Deal circumstance. In Calais they say there will be no delays and Portugal remain clear that citizens’ rights will not be damaged. The British people have heard these apocalyptic claims before. The forecasts that if we didn’t join the Euro then all business would leave, or in 2016 that 800,000 jobs would be lost and that we would enter a recession. These were all the opposite from the truth with the Eurozone being a disaster and Britain currently experiencing record levels of employment. No deal saves the taxpayer £39 billion. No deal delivers certainty for businesses by trading on WTO terms. No deal removes tariffs on food, clothing and footwear that will benefit the poorest in our society. No deal makes Britain a global nation by properly exiting a protectionist bloc. But most importantly of all no deal ensures that democracy is returned to Westminster.’
It was over. We had won. Eleven members rejected May’s Deal, with only seven in favour and four abstaining in support of a Second Referendum. But it was over. We were heading for the SU bar but by the time I arrived it was packed. Instead I decided to call it a night. When I got on the train at Liverpool Street to head back to Essex, I was still full of adrenaline. I must admit I thought it was over. May couldn’t possibly bring her deal back. I was very wrong indeed.
*the speech is based on the flash cards I used during the speech and also my memory of the events.
By J Walters