On Monday 11 December, I asked Theresa May if she had a different ballot paper for the EU referendum than the rest of us.
My ballot paper, and everyone else’s in Bristol West, asked if we want to remain in or leave the European Union. It didn’t ask if we wanted to leave the EU Single Market. It didn’t ask if we wanted to leave the Customs Union.
It didn’t ask if we wanted to leave the Horizon 2020 research funding programme. Or the European Medicines Agency. Or the Erasmus scheme which allows students to study at other European universities. And it certainly didn’t ask if we wanted to leave Euratom, the European agency which secures the security of atomic and nuclear industries.
I am clear that the best possible relationship between the UK and Europe is full membership of the European Union. But if we are to leave, it is vital that we retain our membership of important security and trading structures if they are in the best interests of our country.
It is irresponsible of the Prime Minister to sweep membership of the Single Market, the Customs Union and other key European regulatory bodies off the negotiating table at the very start of the process. And doing so misrepresents the mandate delivered by the referendum result.
The Prime Minister must have had a different ballot paper from the one we had in Bristol West last year. There was no mention on mine of the single market or the customs union, nor was there any mention of Euratom, to which item 89 of the report refers. Will the Prime Minister please tell us which other organisations she believes she has a mandate to sweep off the table as we go through the negotiating period?
What was in the decision that people took in the referendum—what they were asked to decide—was whether to stay in the European Union. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady shakes her head and says that it did not mention the single market or the customs union. It was made very clear during the debate what leaving the European Union meant, and the British people voted for it.
You can watch the exchange here: