Martin was one of around 20 MPs who were still wanting to speak in Friday’s debate on the EU Withdrawal Agreement when time ran out; here’s what he would have said:
There have been many learned and legalistic arguments put today and in previous debates and of course it is right we take them seriously but, as the Attorney-General said on one of his previous appearances at the Despatch Box this is a political decision.
It was a political decision to call the referendum, clearly the referendum itself was a massive political event and the subsequent decision to trigger Article 50 was a political decision and now we are faced with approving the Withdrawal Agreement. I don’t like some aspects of the Agreement which is why in the first instance I voted against it but thanks to a determined rearguard action by Remain supporting MPs and the gradual movement by the Labour Opposition to a position that, at best, will deliver the softest of Brexits or, more likely, lead to a long extension of Article 50 and the potential loss of Brexit the Withdrawal Agreement is now the only route to delivering on the Leave decision of the British people. For those of my colleagues who are holding out for a purer form of Brexit I say, forget it, the risk of losing Brexit is now too great.
Given half a chance it was always likely that the British people would vote to leave the EU. Remember ‘Project Fear’ its aim was to convince us that we would be poorer, that within hours of a Brexit outcome there would be an emergency budget. Taxes would be increased, the economy would go into freefall. The opposite has happened.
The referendum was about much more than economics it was an opportunity for voters to reassert their British identity. Our culture and history have evolved differently to mainland Europe, our political structures are very different as is our judicial system.
For years successive prime ministers returned from EU summits having to reassure us by saying ‘don't worry, I’ve secured an opt-out’ leaving voters somewhat reassured, but also confused. If we are always opting-out what’s the point of being a member?
In reality, the UK has been a semi-detached member and so the British voters took the decision to leave. I was pleased to campaign and vote to leave, just as I had done in 1975.
So now we are just a few steps from the door marked ‘Exit’ and if we don’t step through it there will be an enormous backlash, and I say to the Labour Party don’t think that just because you are in opposition you will escape the blame. Voters in those vast industrial areas of the north and midlands, many of them traditional Labour towns will blame politicians of whatever party. They are not going forgive their elected representatives for not delivering on the referendum, for not ending free movement, for preventing our country from negotiating our own trade deals with the growing economies across the globe.
That door marked Exit is still open, but only just. Perhaps there is still a chance. We must deliver Brexit.