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Border Facilities

Volume 629: debated on Monday 16 October 2017

10. What contingency (a) funding and (b) planning her Department has for new customs check-points and other border facilities in the event that negotiations with the EU do not result in a deal. (901145)

We are confident that a positive deal can be reached, but we are of course preparing for every outcome. Although we cannot comment on the detailed planning, Departments are working together across a range of complex issues to develop our future approach to the border, including for a possible no-deal scenario. Those options will be subject to the outcome of our negotiations with our partners in the EU.

The Minister’s former immigration director, David Wood, said last week that, with current resources, the challenge of Brexit “can’t be met”, and that is with a minimum two-year transition, let alone the chaos of a no-deal scenario. Given all the other demands on his budget that we have heard about today, is it not grossly irresponsible for some of his Cabinet colleagues to be running around talking up the prospects of a no deal, instead of being level with the public about any trade-offs that will inevitably result in a Brexit deal?

I am optimistic that we will get a good deal both for the UK and for our partners in Europe, so that we can work together as forward-looking partners, but we are also actively monitoring work flows at the border to ensure that we have sufficient resources in place to meet demand. As my colleagues across the Government and in the Cabinet have said, it is absolutely right that we do plan for all eventualities.

The Minister is, as always, a happy and optimistic chap, but, obviously, we must plan for a no-deal situation. The only thing that disturbed me was that the Government seem to want it kept in secret. Would it not be nice if it was shared with the whole House, so that British business and other people would know what a no-deal situation looked like?

I appreciate my hon. Friend’s comments about my demeanour, and I will always try to remain optimistic and happy about the fact that we are focused on ensuring that we keep our borders secure and that we are ready for any outcome at the end of the negotiations.

Can the Minister confirm that, lying outside the Schengen area as we do, we already practically and financially support the borders of the Irish Republic and that there are no plans for that to change?

I can confirm that. As the Prime Minister has outlined, we are very determined to ensure that we continue with the common travel area as is in place across the country and with Ireland.

Watching the faces on the Front Bench, we see the sensible wing of the Conservative party too frightened, rightly, to say what a no-deal Brexit would look like. May I urge the Minister to talk to the “fun boy three”—the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and the Secretary of State for International Trade—and leave them in no doubt about the strength of feeling among Opposition Members of the need properly to prepare for all eventualities and to plan for a deal with our European colleagues?

I am absolutely astonished that the hon. Lady has asked that question, bearing in mind that, over the weekend, it became clear that the Labour party is prepared to take a bad deal, or any deal, as opposed to a good deal. As the Prime Minister has outlined, it is absolutely right that we are optimistic and trying to achieve a deal that works for both the United Kingdom and our partners in Europe, but, at the same time, we must also do the job that we have been brought here to do, which is to prepare for all eventualities.

I am rather surprised that the hon. Lady remembers Fun Boy Three, as they came into great prominence long before her time.