Theresa May’s Brexit deal was likened to Frankenstein’s monster – “an ugly beast that no-one voted for” – as MPs concluded the first of five days of debate on the Prime Minister’s exit plan.
Labour former minister David Lammy roused MPs with a late-night Commons speech in which he quoted Churchill and Shakespeare and accused Brexiteers of wanting to establish “Empire 2.0”.
The comments came at the end of a torturous day for the Government in which it suffered three humiliating Commons defeats in little more than an hour.
Commons leader Andrea Leadsom was first forced to agree to publish the Government’s full legal advice on the deal after MPs found the Government in contempt of Parliament and then MPs succeeded in a bid to grant the Commons a greater say over what happens if Mrs May’s deal is rejected next Tuesday.
Mr Lammy, rising to criticise the deal, said: “Let us now be honest with the country, total independence is a fantasy, it’s the same idea that motivates an angry teenager to run away from their family, total independence means throwing a tantrum and ending up in the cold.”
The Tottenham MP said many Brexiteers were “still mourning Suez”, he said: “When those on the other side of this debate say that they want ‘Empire 2.0’, let us ask what does that mean? What was imperialism, what was colonialism?
“At its worst the British Empire was exploitation and subjugation, moral superiority that led to putting humans in shackles, the oppression of black and brown people because this country thought it knew best, those countries once coloured pink on the globe were not won in negotiations, they were taken by force. Today we need to build a new image of Britain, one that brings this country together after years of division.”
Mr Lammy concluded by saying Brexit was a “historic mistake”, adding: “This country is crying out for a second chance, 700,000 people marched on the streets of London, millions more campaigned online and wrote to their MPs. They are asking for one thing: an opportunity to right the wrong of 2016, another shot at the imperfect but audacious European dream or as Shakespeare put it in Richard II from John of Gaunt, ‘this England that was wont to conquer others has made a shameful conquest of itself’.”
DUP MP Paul Girvan also stirred the chamber when he suggested Mrs May’s Brexit deal would do what the IRA failed to do and lead to the reunification of Ireland.
He said: “Many families from this United Kingdom gave sons to fight for what we have in Northern Ireland, which is to remain part of the UK.
“What was not achieved by the IRA and Republicanism has been achieved by those bureaucrats within Europe and with a pen potentially leaving Northern Ireland on the route to a united Ireland.”
Stephen Barclay, in his first speech from the despatch box as Brexit Secretary, said Mrs May’s deal was “not perfect” but said: “It recognises our shared history and values and provides a framework for our future economic and security relationship.”
He added: “This deal is a choice between the certainty of continued cooperation or the potentially damaging fracture of no-deal.”
MPs are expected to resume the debate on Mrs May’s Brexit deal early afternoon on Wednesday.