John Stevenson: For many months, we have had broadly the same debate on the same subject, with many of the same speakers saying exactly the same things, and what precisely have we achieved? It really is now time for Parliament to find a way forward so that we and the country can return to the daily issues that really matter to people. Let us be honest: our constituents up and down the country are fed up and frustrated, and arguably, so are many Members of Parliament. We as a Parliament really need to step up and make some positive decisions. I therefore welcome today’s debate. We should probably have done this couple of years ago and got it out of the way.
My starting point is very simple: this country voted to leave the EU. I therefore firmly believe that we must leave the EU institutions. What was unclear from the referendum, however, was the nature of our future relationship with the EU. As we have discovered, this means many different things to different people, which has to some extent created the difficulties that we are now in. There is no clear direction. In my view, sadly, this has also been down to a serious lack of leadership by the Government—an unwillingness to bring people together and to reach some sort of compromise. We cannot go on as we are. This country requires some clear direction and, hopefully, we may achieve that today. We will find out this evening what this House is willing to accept, and perhaps something will start to emerge. To some extent, Parliament has already indicated that it does not want a no-deal scenario nor a second referendum, and there has also been no sign that the PM’s deal will actually achieve a majority, but I have supported it twice and will do so again. Interestingly, and I say this to some fellow Conservative Members, we would be leaving the EU this Friday had the deal passed, so I do have to question their motives.
What should we do? My mother has always remarked that the general view back in the 1970s was that the UK wanted to be part of an economic bloc, not a political union. When I have similar discussions with my mother nearly 50 years on, her view is still exactly the same, and I suspect that that is the view, attitude or outlook of the vast majority of the people of the UK. It is certainly mine.
I am comfortable with the fact that our country will be leaving the EU’s institutions. However, it is in our economic and political interest to be part of a close economic arrangement. For today’s purposes, that would be EFTA and EEA membership under the common market 2.0 approach, which would take us out of the EU but keep us part of the economic market that is Europe. I would have liked to go into the detail of that approach, but that has been well argued by Stephen Kinnock and my hon. Friends the Members for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles) and for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake).
We have the opportunity today to indicate to the Government what would command the support of this House. That would apply only if the PM’s deal does not succeed, but I hope that we can find some sort of consensus and a way forward. Leaving the EU is central, and being part of a large economic market is vital, so the obvious solution is an EFTA-EEA arrangement. I will be supporting it later today, and I encourage others to do the same.