Article 50 of the treaty on European Union stipulates that the final withdrawal agreement should be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament. The European Parliament is entitled to a straight yes or no vote. It does not have the power to amend the withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU. As the Prime Minister has said, we are confident that we will be able to conclude the negotiations and agreement in time to honour the voting commitments made in our Parliament and in the European Parliament. We do not approach these negotiations expecting failure; we are expecting success.
Given that crazed Europhile MEPs such as Guy Verhofstadt are seeking to punish the United Kingdom for daring to vote to leave the European Union, and given that these same people are under the deluded impression that no deal would actually be worse for the UK than a bad deal, it seems likely that the European Parliament will seek to veto any such agreement. Should we not therefore redouble our efforts to prepare for a no-deal situation?
The last time I used the phrase “Get thee behind me, Satan” in answer to a question about Guy Verhofstadt, he thought that I was calling him Satan, so I will stay off that one. Of course the European Parliament is very enthused about the institutions of the European Union, but when it comes to this vote, the deal that we have agreed with the European Union will be clear, and MEPs will have to reflect on their responsibilities to their constituents in their own countries. What he and I have always agreed is that the best outcome for everybody is a free trade arrangement that will help not just us but Holland, France, Germany and all the other 27 member states.
The Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), told the Select Committee that the deal would cover permission to communicate personal data between the UK and the EU, so if there is no deal, there will no longer be a lawful basis for the large part of the British economy that depends on European data communications. Should we not therefore take steps now to secure a data adequacy declaration from the European Commission and, in the light of that, may I commend to the Secretary of State amendment 151 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which I tabled?
It is always nice to get another preview of our upcoming consideration of the Bill.
When I was talking to the relevant Commons and Lords Select Committees in the past week or so, I made it plain that a so-called no deal is not probable; a deal is by far and away the most probable thing for our country’s future. However, even no deal is not likely to mean a complete blank slate, and I have talked about what is called a basic deal. In any event, I would expect there to be a deal for data, aviation, nuclear trade and a whole series of other areas where there are massive amounts to lose on both sides. In our contingency planning exercises, we are looking at all options, including the one that the right hon. Gentleman outlines, and we will have plans for that, too.