4th September 2019

Sir Nicholas’s speech in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. House of Commons, Wednesday, 4th September, 2019. 


I rise to support this Bill, but before I do so, I want to make it clear that I have always believed that the referendum result must be honoured. Indeed, I voted for the withdrawal agreement on every occasion it was presented to the House, which is more than can be said for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House and other members of the Cabinet whose serial disloyalty has been such an inspiration to so many of us. I think that history will in due course favour the view articulated so clearly last night by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) that a threat to commit an act of self-harm if your counterparts in negotiations do not do exactly as you wish is not likely to be an effective or successful negotiating strategy.

The Bill is modest in its ambitions but powerful in its mandate. It merely seeks to avert the immediate risk of the disaster of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October and thereby seeks to give the Government and the House a further opportunity to achieve a resolution of this profoundly difficult issue. Contrary to the Prime Minister’s assertion, the Bill does not deprive him of the ability or flexibility to achieve a negotiated settlement with the EU on 17 October, but it does ensure that if he should fail, as with his current demands I think he is likely to do, there will be time for him to rethink his remarks.

I will not be standing at the next election.

Will my right hon. Friend accept it from me—I think this view is shared not just on the Conservative Benches but across the House—that that would be a great loss to our Parliament?

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend, for whom I have such high regard.

I will not be standing at the next election, and I am thus approaching the end of 37 years’ service to this House, of which I have been proud and honoured beyond words to be a Member. I am truly very sad that it should end in this way. It is my fervent hope that this House will rediscover the spirit of compromise, humility and understanding that will enable us finally to push ahead with the vital work in the interests of the whole country that has inevitably had to be so sadly neglected while we have devoted so much time to wrestling with Brexit. I urge the House to support the Bill.

Vol. 664
No. 339
Col. 234-235


Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election on 12th December and there are now no MPs. This website is for reference of my work when I was a Member of Parliament.

I am not seeking re-election.