In his first – and potentially last – speech as an independent member for North East Bedfordshire, Alistair Burt MP stated a no-deal Brexit would be ‘catastrophic’ for Ireland and described as ‘disgraceful’ the calls to ‘purge’ the Conservative party.
Mr Burt took part in Wednesday’s European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill debate, supporting the Bill and telling the House of Commons that a no-deal Brexit was a threat to the Union, to Ireland and to the UK’s on-going relationship with Europe.
The former Conservative was one of 21 MPs sacked from the party whip for defying Boris Johnson in the Commons vote on Monday.
His impassioned speech during Wednesday’s debate drew responses on social media from the Jewish community and the deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, praising his diplomatic work in both the Middle East and Ireland.
“Alistair has been a thoughtful and highly respected MP who was always a brilliant champion of peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians,” said Yachad, a group dedicated to the support of a political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“He will be missed by all those who work to promote a political resolution to the conflict.”
Tánaiste Simon Coveney tweeted, thanking Mr Burt for his contribution, saying, “I can assure you Ireland will work with [the] UK and EU to find a deal that works for everyone; but it must be on [the] basis of recognising and solving the complex and very real problems that Brexit causes for island of Ireland, as the WA [Withdrawal Agreement] does.
Mr Burt began his speech by describing himself as the ‘proud but slightly bemused independent Member for North East Bedfordshire’ and concluded by saying:
“This may be the last substantive speech I make here as I am not standing again—and who knows when the election will come?
“I will leave with the best of memories of this place, friends and colleagues on all sides. The obsession that my party has developed may have sought to devalue my past as a friend of the EU, of our sister centre-right parties, and of many friends, and it may have curtailed my future, but it will not rob me of what I believe.
“I will walk out of here looking up at the sky, not down at my shoes.”
Mr Burt has robustly refuted reports in today’s Express newspaper, claiming that he will stand as an independent MP in the forthcoming general election.
In a comment to the Bedford Independent, Mr Burt’s office said, “All this proves is that the Express and the [Conservative] Party apparently cannot read as he explicitly says in his letter that he will not stand against the Conservatives.”
You can read a full transcript of the speech at the following links on the Hansard website: