My speech in the House of Commons on Article 50

Please see below my speech during the Second Reading of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal Bill). In my speech I:

  • Explain why I voted for the Bill – I voted for the referendum to be held as I believe this was a decision that the British people should make. It would have been inconsistent for me to reject the result of that referendum.
  • Make the case for the fullest possible involvement of Parliament in the Brexit negotiations.
  • Argue that there must be a meaningful vote at the end of the Article 50 process. The European Parliament has a vote before the final deal is agreed, and so must our Parliament.
  • Recognise the uncertainty of this process for UK citizens in the EU, and EU citizens in the EU. I call on the Government to find an early resolution to guarantee the rights of these people.
  • Call for more clarity on the transition period after the deal so everybody can adjust to the new rules.
  • Recognise the importance of the financial services sector to the UK and London economy.

I also previously called for the Government to publish a White Paper on their Brexit plans, so there can be more certainty and more scrutiny. I am pleased the Prime Minister has agreed to do this before the Committee Stage of the Bill, and I will be carefully analysing its contents.

I campaigned and voted to remain, but the reality is that from the moment the result was announced the United Kingdom was on a course to leave the European Union. Since then, I have been fighting to make the inevitable Brexit work as well as possible for the country, Wimbledon and London. This is what I will continue to do on behalf of my constituents.

As ever, I am always happy to respond to constituents on this or any other matter. Please feel free to write to me at the House of Commons, or email me on Stephen.hammond.mp@parliament.uk

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Stephen Hammond MP

Parliament, since its beginning, has been the place where elected Britons debate and make the decisions that affect our country’s future, so it is only right that tonight this House will vote to trigger article 50. I was one of the 544 who voted for the referendum to give our people a choice on our future, so it would be entirely inconsistent to reject the verdict of that referendum, even if it is at odds with my own view. I voted and campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU, and I was disappointed by the result. Some 71% of my constituents voted to remain. In the past week, I have received literally hundreds of letters telling me that I should represent them tonight and vote against the Government. As much as my hon. Friend Sir Gerald Howarth is, I too am a defender of democracy. I voted knowing full well that if leave won the debate then that is what would happen. Tonight, therefore, I will be in the Lobby voting to trigger article 50.

 

Andrea Jenkyns MP

Since September, the Exiting the European Union Committee has been established, there have been 26 debates and seven statements relating to the EU and our exit from it. Does my hon. Friend agree that those statistics highlight the many hours of debate available to all Members, contrary to what some might suggest, and that it is time we respect the majority of the public and support the British people tonight?

 

Stephen Hammond MP

I do not know if my hon. Friend heard me, but I said that I would certainly be respecting the result of the referendum. We have had those debates in Parliament, but what is crucial is where we go from here. What the people did not say to us in the referendum was how, or on what terms, we would leave. I believe that the best way to decide those issues, and to mitigate the impact of uncertainty, is for the Government to keep Parliament updated as much as possible throughout the negotiations and allow this House to have a meaningful input on those negotiations. Like my right hon. Friend Nicky Morgan, I absolutely welcome the publication of the White Paper tomorrow. I hope the Bill will build on the Prime Minister’s speech and create some certainty.

I believe it is also in the Government’s best interests to have the fullest possible involvement of Parliament. I believe that that will help our negotiating position. Our negotiations will carry much greater weight with the EU 27 if it is clear that our negotiating stance has the backing of this House. Among all the talk of sovereignty and the hope of trade deals, we must not forget the effect of this process on individuals—our constituents. Many of the people who live in Wimbledon are EU citizens. I hope that the Government will find a very early resolution to guarantee the rights of those people who may not be British citizens. Many of them are my constituents.

I have said several times, in the debates to which Andrea Jenkyns referred, that uncertainty is a key concern for industry and financial services. The financial services sector is vital for London’s success. It employs 2 million people and is our biggest tax generating sector—I do not need to go on. We should therefore strive for a deal that has financial services at its heart, including equivalence and mutual recognition. Equally, as my hon. Friend Mr Streeter said, the negotiations will be complex, so we need to guarantee certainty through a proper transitional process where everybody can adjust to the new rules without sudden shock. That can be achieved, and I hope the Front-Bench team will clarify that it is at the heart of their ambitions.

The Bill gives the UK the ability to trigger article 50, and almost everybody in the Chamber will vote for it tonight. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has promised Parliament a vote on the final deal, but it needs to be clarified at what stage in the process that will take place and that all information will be given Parliament. It also needs to be clear that Parliament will be able to vote if the Government seek to withdraw from the EU without a deal. I hope that the Secretary of State will commit, if the Government believe that no deal is achievable, to coming back to Parliament with all the options placed before us. If the vote is after the agreement of the treaty but prior to ratification, as is the current legal position, it will probably be too late and therefore meaningless.

In my view, therefore, the vote must occur before the Government conclude the agreement. If anyone has read article 50, they will know that that is what will happen in the European Parliament. Are we suggesting that the European Parliament should be more sovereign than this Parliament? I think not. If the deal needs the consent of the European Parliament, it should need the consent of this Parliament as well. As Churchill said of the Battle of Britain, the Bill is the end of the beginning, but it also gives the House the chance to show our constituents that we can come together, heal divisions and find the best deal for this country.