It’s pretty frustrating that of the 99 speakers in the debate on the Second Reading of the European Union (Notice to Withdraw) Bill, which has dominated the proceedings this week in the House of Commons, none of them was me! By convention, as a Ministerial aide, you are barred from speaking on your department’s business. So I looked on in fascination and admiration on the goings on at the Mother of Parliaments.
This was particularly galling as I have campaigned for twenty five years to leave the European Union and this week’s events truly are of long term historical significance.
I genuinely never believed I would see a day when we would even have a referendum, let alone a Leave vote, such was the cosy cartel of the Government – of both parties – that the EU was a sacred cow, inviolable and was simply part of our national life. And let’s be honest, the Establishment only consented to a vote because they thought they’d win it handsomely. David Cameron bet the ranch on it and lost big time.
Indeed, my colleague John Redwood made the point that had Remain won, he would have retired from what he called a “puppet Parliament” and he was absolutely right. After all, if it lacked (as it has increasingly done) true power and is a supplicant to a foreign government, parliament and court then it is more like a theme park rather than a sovereign democratic chamber representing the people of the United Kingdom.
However, we’re in a different place now. Brexit will mean that the importance and authority of the House of Commons will increase and surely what many see as the anachronistic and indefensible nature of the bloated House of Lords will come under much greater scrutiny, not least if they try to thwart the will of not just the Commons but the popular mandate too?
This week we saw powerful heartfelt speeches on all sides and from all parties, Leave and Remain, from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – each Member of Parliament referencing the hopes, needs and opinions of their own voters, as it is right to do.
What struck me is that most MPs didn’t want to refight last year’s bitter referendum battles but chose to focus on how we’ll make it work, how we’ll unite the country and how we’ll properly scrutinise the deal the Government gets from the EU and trade deals across the globe.
The quiet revolution in Peterborough and across the UK on June 23rd won’t just take us out of the EU but will probably have changed British politics and government for ever.
And the British people did that!