LONDON — Pro-Remain Conservative MP Ken Clarke just delivered an impassioned defence of the European Union in a memorable speech to the House of Commons.
Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, the former chancellor spoke for nearly 20 minutes about why he would be voting against the government’s Brexit bill, citing his staunch, long-standing pro-EU views.
Clarke, who served in the government of Margaret Thatcher, pointed out that it was the former Tory prime minister who took Britain into the European Single Market and that remaining there has been party policy for half a century.
He also accused the modern day party of being “mildly anti-immigrant,” an astonishing claim for a serving MP to make about his own party in any setting, never mind during a parliamentary debate.
Clarke, the MP for Rushcliffe, went on to say that he was disappointed by his former lead David Cameron’s decision to put the question of Britain’s EU membership to a binary referendum, adding: “No sensible countries have referendums — the United States and Germany don’t.”
Clarke is one of many MPs who will speak to Parliament today and Wednesday. The House is debating whether it should leave the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal Bill) which, if approved, would give Theresa May the authority to trigger Article 50 and initiate Britain’s formal departure from the 28-nation bloc.
The seasoned Tory said that he was struggling to envisage a scenario whereby leaving the EU would improve Britain’s standing on the global stage, particularly in light of the increasingly protectionist regimes of the USA and Turkey, where May visited last week.
He said, sarcastically, that Britain could tumble down the rabbit hole “and emerge in a wonderland” where suddenly world leaders are “queuing up” for to strike trade deals with Britain including “nice men like President Trump and [Turkish] President Erdogan.”
He added: “I do want the best outcome for the UK from this process … No doubt somewhere there’s a hatter holding a tea party with a dormouse!”
Clarke received a round of applause from like-minded MPs as he sat down, including members of the SNP who have spent most of their political careers in confrontation with Clarke’s Conservative Party.
Here are more memorable moments from Clarke’s last stand against Brexit:
- “What I would point out to those who say that somehow I am being disloyal to my party by not voting in favour of this bill, I am merely propounding the official policy of the Conservative party for 50 years until 23 June 2016. I admire my colleagues who can suddenly become enthusiastic Brexiteers, having seen a light on the road to Damascus … I am afraid that light has been denied me.”
- “I am somehow not convinced my Eurosceptic colleagues would have abandoned their cause if they lost the referendum.”
- “Our membership of the European Union restored to us our national self-confidence, gave us politically a role in the world as a leading member of the union which made us more valuable to our allies like the US and made our rivals like the Russians take us more seriously because of our role of leadership in the EU and it helped to reinforce our own values as well. And our economy benefited enormously and continued to benefit even more as the market developed.”
- “I’m in a happy situation that my opposition to referendums as an instrument of government is quite well known and I made no commitment to accept the referendum.”
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