[1st Allotted Day]
I beg to move,
That this House approves for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’ and the framework for the future relationship laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom’.
At the start of five days of debate that will set the course our country takes for decades to come, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on how we got here. When the treaty of Rome was signed in 1957, the United Kingdom stood apart. It was 15 years later, at the third attempt, that we joined what was then the European Economic Community. Ever since, our membership has been a contested matter.
In the first referendum in 1975, the British people voted to stay in, but almost a third of those who voted wanted to leave. Indeed, there are those in this Chamber who campaigned to leave at that time. As the EEC evolved into a European Union of increasing political depth, the British people’s doubts about our membership grew. Ultimately, membership of any union that involves the pooling of sovereignty can only be sustained with the consent of the people. In the referendum of 2016—the biggest democratic exercise in our history—the British public withdrew that consent.
The right hon. Lady has lost in the Supreme Court and in the European Court, and today she has lost in this House. I hope that she will not compound that by opposing a section 30 order for Scotland when the Scottish Government want it. Her history of opposition is not a good one and she should respect the democracy that she is talking about; it applies to Scotland too, Prime Minister.
As I have just said, membership of any union that involves the pooling of sovereignty can only be sustained with the consent of the people. In 2016, that consent was withdrawn by the British public in relation to our membership of the European Union. In 2014, when the people of Scotland were asked whether to remain in the United Kingdom, they voted to stay in the United Kingdom.
As I just repeated, in the referendum in 2016, the British people withdrew that consent, and they confirmed that choice a year later by voting overwhelmingly for parties that committed to delivering Brexit. The referendum was a vote to bring our EU membership to an end and to create a new role for our country in the world. To deliver on that vote, we need to deliver a Brexit that respects the decision of the British people: a Brexit that takes back control of our borders, laws and money and a Brexit that sets us on course for a better future outside the EU as a globally trading nation in charge of our own destiny and seizing the opportunities of trade with some of the fastest growing and most dynamic economies across the world.
Having read this agreement, it seems to me that we will not be able to enter into trade agreements because we are going to be stuck with the same rule base that we had in the EU. Does my right hon. Friend agree?
I do not think my hon. Friend will be surprised if I say that I do not agree with the analysis that she has just given in relation to the agreement. It is clear that we will have an independent trade policy and that we will be able to negotiate trade deals around the rest of the world. This is a specific issue that we looked at when we were putting forward our own proposals in the summer in relation to our future economic partnership with the European Union. I heard somebody on the Labour Benches asking from a sedentary position when we will be able to negotiate our trade deals. During the implementation period, we will be able to negotiate, sign and ratify trade deals around the world.
This will only be a moment of opportunity if we in this House can find a way to deliver a Brexit that begins to bring our country back together. That means protecting the easy trading relationship that supports just-in-time supply chains and the jobs that depend on them, the security co-operation that keeps us safe, the progress we have made in Northern Ireland, and the rights of citizens here in the UK and across the European Union.
The Prime Minister spoke of security co-operation, yet when I asked the Home Secretary the other day whether we would be left more safe or less safe as a result of this deal, he could not answer the question, because he could not guarantee that we would have access to the crucial SIS II database that ensures that we have information on terrorists, paedophiles and other criminals trying to cross our border. That is the reality of the deal that she has put before us.
As the hon. Gentleman knows full well, I think, the political declaration and the security section of that political declaration go well beyond any security arrangement that the European Union has with any other country—[Interruption.] And it makes it clear that in the next stage of negotiations, we will be negotiating how we can have access to the very elements that are covered by both SIS II and ECRIS. [Interruption.] No—perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to look at the political declaration. The reference to those elements is indeed in the political declaration. [Interruption.] He says that they are not. I am sorry, but I have to say to him that he may not understand the elements that lie behind SIS II and ECRIS.
I am going to make some progress for a minute.
Achieving all the things that I have just set out in terms of protecting our trading relationship, the security co-operation, the progress in Northern Ireland and the rights of citizens requires some compromise. I know there are some in this House, and in the country, who would prefer a closer relationship with the European Union than the one I am proposing—indeed, who would prefer the relationship that we currently have and want another referendum which they hope would overturn the decision we took in 2016. Although I profoundly disagree, they are arguing for what they believe is right for our country, and I respect that. But the hard truth is that we will not settle this issue and bring our country together that way. I ask them to think what it would say to the 52% who came out to vote leave, in many cases for the first time in decades, if their decision were ignored. What would it do to our politics?
I will take a significant number of interventions, but I will make some progress at this stage.
These are important points. There are those who want a closer relationship with the EU, but they need to recognise the message that was given by the 52% who voted to leave the European Union.
There are others in this House who would prefer a more distant relationship than the one I am proposing. Although I do not agree, I know that they are also arguing for what they think is best for our future, and I respect that too. But the hard truth is also that we will not settle this issue and bring our country together if, in delivering Brexit, we do not protect the trade and security co-operation on which so many jobs and lives depend, completely ignoring the views of the 48%. We can shut our eyes to these hard truths and carry on debating between these extremes for months to come, or we can accept that the only solution that will endure is one that addresses the concerns of those who voted leave, while reassuring those who voted remain. This argument has gone on long enough. It is corrosive to our politics, and life depends on compromise.
My constituency was split pretty much down the middle during the referendum. May I explain the crux of the problem that the Prime Minister has next week? She set as the benchmark for security co-operation things being better than the relationship the EU has with other countries. My constituents who voted leave voted for a better future for our country, and my constituents who voted remain wanted to protect all the good that we have with the European Union. With the deal she has negotiated, she has brought those two groups together, but against her deal.
The deal that I have negotiated provides that good security co-operation while protecting the jobs that depend on the trade relationship with the European Union. That is why, as I say, it is not a deal that appeals to those who want—there are many who want a relationship that is closer and there are those who want a relationship that is further apart. I believe it is important that we respect the views of those who voted leave and deliver Brexit, but we also recognise that we need to protect the trading relationship with the European Union and the jobs that rely on it for the future.
If Parliament does not support the Prime Minister’s deal, what is the most likely outcome—no deal or no Brexit?
I will reference the problems if Parliament does not support this deal a little later in my speech, if my hon. Friend will wait for that.
I absolutely agree with the Prime Minister that we need to start coming together as a country once this process is over, but does she agree that if she is so convinced that her deal and political agreement are what the British people voted for, she should have the confidence to go back and ask them to verify whether it is something they support?
As I have said in this Chamber before, it is very important that all of us in this House recognise what this Parliament did. This Parliament overwhelmingly voted to give the choice of membership of the European Union to the British people. The people voted. They voted to leave. I believe it is incumbent on us to deliver that Brexit, and I believe it is a matter of trust in politicians and in this House that we do indeed deliver on that Brexit.
Will the deal that my right hon. Friend has agreed ensure that inward investment in this country, which has led to many hundreds of thousands of jobs—particularly in the automotive industry—will have the same access to markets that it presently has?
That is absolutely what underpinned the proposal that we put forward in the summer, and it is what underpins the ambitious trade relationship identified in the political declaration, ensuring that people can invest in this country with confidence. Reference was made earlier to people voting for a brighter future for this country. We can deliver that brighter future for this country with a deal that delivers a good relationship with Europe but also enables us to have those other trade deals around the rest of the world.
My right hon. Friend has courageously and consistently said that there will be no second referendum. Does she agree that a second referendum would reopen all the wounds within families and, above all, that it would put the Union itself in jeopardy?
I do, indeed, agree with my hon. Friend. I think a second referendum would exacerbate division in our country and would not bring our country back together again.
I will give way to the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson), and then I will make some progress.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly referenced the 52% who voted to leave, but I am still confused about why she is not willing to take any cognizance of the fact that electoral law has been broken, and therefore the result of the referendum cannot be trusted. Otherwise, we may as well abolish electoral law altogether. Will the Prime Minister not at least respond to the findings of the Electoral Commission?
The Electoral Commission stills says it believes that it was a fair poll, and I believe that we should abide by the result of that poll and deliver for the people of this country.
We can choose to settle this issue now—
I have said I will make some progress, and then I will be generous in my acceptance of interventions.
We can choose to settle this issue now by backing the deal in this motion—a deal that delivers Brexit and a new partnership with the European Union, a deal that delivers for the whole United Kingdom, a deal that begins to bring our country back together again.
The deal that my right hon. Friend has brought back has my full and unequivocal support, but may I ask her to confirm that, as we leave, our country will still be a rules-based, international, outward-looking, caring and compassionate country that stands as a beacon for good in the world?
I am very happy to give my hon. Friend that absolute reassurance, but more than that, we will be a country that promotes those values and that promotes that rules-based international order around the world. That is what we have always done as the UK, and it is what we will continue to do.
I will take two further interventions.
On 30 March, under the agreement, the UK will lose its place on the European Data Protection Board, even though Ministers have said they wanted to hang on to that place. It is a place where the UK has wielded considerable influence on the development of European policy. Is not the reality of the agreement that we will continue to have to obey these rules, but we will have lost the ability to influence what those rules are?
The position in terms of voting rights and various elements once we have left the European Union is of course going to change, but what has been clear from the agreements that we have negotiated is the capacity for the United Kingdom to continue to give technical support where that is appropriate in a whole range of matters. On a number of the issues that are dealt with by the European Union, in terms of the rules that it operates, of course these are not just European Union rules, but international standards on which the United Kingdom will continue, during the implementation period and beyond, to have its role. I said I would take a second intervention.
It is unfortunate for the Government to be in contempt of Parliament. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is worse for Parliament to be in contempt of the British people, which is what will happen if we do not deliver on Brexit?
I absolutely agree that it is the duty, I believe, of this Parliament and it is the duty of us as politicians to deliver on the result of the vote that the British people gave in 2016 in the referendum. We gave them the choice, they voted to leave the EU and it is up to us to deliver that leaving of the European Union in the interests of our country.
I will make some progress.
The decision we have before us has two elements to it: the withdrawal agreement that sets out the terms of our departure from the European Union and the political declaration that sets the terms of our future relationship with the EU.
Will the Prime Minister give way?
If I may, I will just make a little progress.
The withdrawal agreement ensures that we leave the European Union on 29 March next year in a smooth and orderly way. It protects the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and of UK citizens living in the EU, so that they can carry on living their lives as before. It delivers a time-limited implementation period to give business time to prepare for the new arrangements. During that period, trade will continue on current terms so that businesses have to face only one set of changes. It ensures a fair settlement of our financial obligations, less than half of what some originally expected and demanded.
I thank the Prime Minister for giving way and apologise for intervening. Two years ago, I said to my right hon. Friend that I could never imagine her requesting me to vote to take away the rights of my Italian parents, who are resident in Scotland. Will she confirm that her deal guarantees the rights of EU nationals in the UK—3.6 million of them—as well as those of 1 million UK citizens in the EU27, in a way that no deal would not?
The withdrawal agreement does indeed guarantee those citizens’ rights—the rights of UK citizens in the EU and of EU citizens here, in the UK. The withdrawal agreement delivers that guarantee.
No one can doubt the Prime Minister’s commitment to the deal and the passion with which she is selling it. In the early part of her statement, she twice referred to the status of Northern Ireland, saying that the deal is a good one for Northern Ireland. I come from Northern Ireland—I am a Catholic and a Unionist; I understand it pretty well. Can she explain why that passion for the deal as good for Northern Ireland is not shared by those who should understand Northern Ireland best?
My hon. Friend raises a point. I recognise that there are representatives of Northern Ireland in the Westminster Parliament who are concerned about aspects of the deal. It is this Parliament’s and this Government’s responsibility to provide some reassurance about those elements that have caused concern. I wish to continue to discuss the matter with representatives from Northern Ireland.
Although the Democratic Unionist party has 10 MPs in the House, it campaigned for leave and the majority of people in Northern Ireland, like me, campaigned for remain. The DUP does not speak for the majority of people in Northern Ireland. I can reassure the Prime Minister that her withdrawal agreement has considerable support in Northern Ireland, particularly among farmers, businesses and fishermen. [Interruption.] I am sorry that people feel that that is funny. It is not. It is really serious for the people of Northern Ireland.
Reassurance is needed from the Prime Minister on the constitutional guarantee of the Good Friday agreement, which the Labour party should be proud of. It is guaranteed in the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration, so why the Labour party chooses to vote against the withdrawal agreement beats me. Will the Prime Minister please give an assurance to the people of Northern Ireland that nothing in the deal threatens the consent principle or the constitutional status guaranteed in the Belfast agreement?
I am happy to give the hon. Lady that absolute assurance. The issue was referenced in the December joint report, it is in the withdrawal agreement and it is clear in the political declaration. Nothing in the relationship and the deal with the EU will affect that position. We will continue to uphold the Belfast agreement.
I give way to the leader of the DUP.
I am very grateful to the Prime Minister. Of course, the referendum was for the whole United Kingdom, and as a Unionist, I respect the result across the UK—Manchester, London, Scotland—[Hon. Members: “They voted remain.”] Whatever way they voted, the UK voted, and we should respect the result. In terms of the views in Northern Ireland, I am quite happy to put them to a test any time. We will happily go to the electorate and put our views to the people if needs be. I am quite certain that we would be returned in greater numbers than we are today, so I am quite happy to take on the challenge that has been put down.
In terms of guaranteeing Northern Ireland’s position, the Prime Minister will remember that in paragraph 50 of the joint report, which we spent four days negotiating, guarantees were given to Northern Ireland. Never mind the words that have been said in this House today, they were in the actual text. Why have they been deleted? Why has she not kept them in the withdrawal agreement? Why have they not been translated? That is what we have a problem with. Words are good. It is the legal text, what is in the agreement, that matters.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: there was that reference to the consent of the Northern Ireland institutions in relation to any potential new regulatory differences between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is a matter we will be looking at and can look at in this House with regards to the parliamentary arrangements between the institutions within the United Kingdom for the future. It is exactly on these issues, the question of potential new regulatory divergence, that I believe it will be possible to give reassurance to not just representatives in this Chamber, but the people of Northern Ireland for their future.
I will continue to take interventions, but I am going to make some more progress now.
The withdrawal agreement ensures a fair settlement of our financial obligations. I want to turn to the most contentious element of the withdrawal agreement. Perhaps this is a neat segue, as my last intervention was from the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Nigel Dodds), because I want to turn to the Northern Ireland protocol. It is important to remember what is at the heart of the protocol. It is our commitment to the people of Northern Ireland. It is about saying that whatever happens as we leave the European Union we will, as I have just said to the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon), honour the Belfast agreement. The hard-won peace that has inspired the world and the detailed arrangements that have delivered and sustained it will not be lost. The people of Northern Ireland and Ireland will be able to carry on living their lives as before. To deliver that, we need a solution in the future partnership that ensures there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Both the UK and the EU are fully committed to having our future relationship in place by 1 January 2021, but there is still the possibility that it is not ready before the end of the implementation period. The only way to absolutely guarantee no hard border on the island of Ireland at the end of the implementation period is to have a backstop in the withdrawal agreement as a last resort insurance policy. Let us be clear: this is true not just for the deal we have negotiated. Whether you want a model like Canada’s or whether you want to see the UK as a member of the European Economic Area, any future relationship will need to be negotiated and will need an insurance policy if that negotiation cannot be completed in time. Put simply, there is no possible withdrawal agreement without a legally operative backstop. No backstop means no deal.
The Prime Minister is well aware that many of us have wished her well in these negotiations, but does she understand and recognise that many of us also have concerns about the backstop and equate it to entering a contract of employment that gives the sole right of termination to the other party?
I recognise the concerns there are in the House and, if my hon. Friend will permit me, I want to go on to reference them a little later.
May I just very gently exhort the Prime Minister to face the House? In answering her hon. Friend, her hon. Friend can hear very well but Opposition Members cannot.
I understand that some colleagues are worried, as I have just said, that we could end up stuck in the backstop indefinitely. In the negotiations, we secured seven separate commitments in the withdrawal agreement and political declaration to ensure that that is not the case. First, there is an explicit legal duty to use best endeavours to reach an agreement by the end of December 2020 that avoids the backstop coming into force in the first place.
That is not just a political commitment. As the Attorney General has set out, this is a recognised approach in international law, and we have the right to seek independent arbitration if this duty is not upheld. Secondly, if despite this, the future relationship is not ready in time, the backstop can be replaced by alternative arrangements. The political declaration makes it clear that we will seek to draw upon all available facilitations and technologies that could be used to avoid a hard border, and preparatory work will be done before we leave so that we can make rapid progress after our withdrawal. Thirdly, if neither the future relationship nor the alternative arrangements were ready by the end of 2020, we would not have to go into the backstop at this point. Instead, we have negotiated that there would be a clear choice between the backstop or a short extension to the implementation period.
Fourthly, if we do go into the backstop, the legal text is explicit that it should be temporary and that the article 50 legal base cannot provide for a permanent relationship. Fifthly, if the backstop is no longer necessary to avoid a hard border, we have the right to trigger a review through the Joint Committee. Sixthly, as a result of the changes that we have negotiated, there is an explicit termination clause that allows the backstop to be turned off. Finally, the legal text is now clear that once the backstop has been superseded, it will cease to apply, so if a future Parliament decided to move from an initially deep trade relationship to a looser one, the backstop could not return.
I am grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way—indeed, she is being very generous in giving way to a lot of people. We are told that the EU does not wish to exercise the backstop, Ireland does not wish to exercise it and certainly, the UK does not wish to exercise it. Is it not the case, therefore, that this is a matter not of renegotiating the withdrawal agreement, but of the European Union showing good will and good faith towards the United Kingdom by allowing us one additional line in the withdrawal agreement? This could be words to the effect that in the event of the backstop being triggered, the United Kingdom can, say, at three months’ notice, leave the customs union. To allow that one line would show enormous good faith and good will on the part of the EU, and nothing else.
I recognise the degree of concern that there is about this issue, and I will go on to speak about it further in my speech. The withdrawal agreement has been negotiated. It is clear from the European Union that this is the deal, and I just ask those colleagues who wish to reopen the withdrawal agreement to recognise that were it to be reopened, it would not simply be a question of what the United Kingdom then wanted to change; it would also be a question of enabling others to change elements of that withdrawal agreement. Given the rigorous fight that we had in the negotiations to ensure that there were certain elements that were in the interests of the United Kingdom, notably around fisheries and other issues, I caution hon. Members that not only has the EU made it clear that the withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened—we have agreed the deal and the deal is there—but it is not the one-way street that hon. Members would perhaps wish it to be.
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
If I could finish this point, it might respond to some of the comments. Rather than focusing on the legal mechanisms that we now have to avoid the backstop and ensure that if it is used, it is only temporary, the real question that the House needs to ask itself is whether it is in the EU’s interest for the backstop to be used, and if it is used, for it to endure. The EU’s original proposal for the backstop would have split the UK into two customs territories and given only Northern Ireland tariff-free access to its market. It barely changed the EU’s orthodoxy. It was wholly unacceptable to us, but the backstop that we have succeeded in negotiating no longer splits the UK into two customs territories. It gives the whole UK tariff-free access to the EU’s market without free movement of people, without any financial contribution, without having to follow most of the level playing field rules, and without allowing the EU any access to our waters. The backstop is not a trick to trap us in the EU; it actually gives us some important benefits of access to the EU’s market without many of the obligations. That is something the EU will not want to let happen, let alone persist for a long time. I recognise that, as is clear from the contributions from my hon. Friends, some Members remain concerned. I have listened to those concerns, I want us to consider how we could go further, and I will continue to meet colleagues to find an acceptable solution.
I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman).
As the Prime Minister confronts the inevitable contradictions at the heart of this process on behalf of the nation, is it not worth remembering that the vast majority of Members, including on the Opposition Benches, voted to trigger article 50 and voted for the referendum in the first place? Could I also remind her that out in the country her commitment to pursuing this is hugely admired? Given that this issue divides all parties in this House—indeed, on the Government Benches it even divides the factions—would it not be sensible next week, as Parliament begins to take back control, to consider a free vote?
It is important that all hon. Members remember not only that the House voted overwhelmingly to give the decision on whether to leave the EU to the people in the referendum, but that the House voted by a significant majority to trigger article 50 and so to continue that process of leaving the EU and that, as I said earlier, at last year’s general election about 80% of the vote went to parties that had in their manifesto a solid commitment to deliver on the Brexit vote. We should all remember that when it comes to voting on the motion next week.
I will give way to my hon. Friend, who has been trying valiantly for some time to intervene, and then I will make some progress.
Yesterday, we tried to ask the Attorney General for his legal advice as to how much of the £39 billion we were legally and contractually obliged to hand over. He refused to give us a specific figure. Will the Prime Minister now give that specific figure, given that we are to hand over this £39 billion to the EU when we are facing shortages in our own constituencies?
There are different elements to the £39 billion in terms of the liabilities to which they refer. Of course, roughly £20 billion of that sum relates to the payments that will be made during the implementation period, which is about ensuring the smooth and orderly exit that is good for businesses. Obviously, there are other liabilities within that where it is determined that we have legal obligations, but, as I say—it is £34 billion to £39 billion; everybody quotes the higher figure, but it is £34 billion to £39 billion—it is from within that range that the final figure will come.
We have five days of debate, but I recognise that hon. Members will want to contribute in today’s debate, so I will make some progress. The second part of this deal is the political declaration. This is a detailed set of instructions to negotiators that will be used to deliver a legal agreement on an ambitious future relationship after we have left. I know that some Members worry that the political declaration is not already legally binding. It cannot be a legal agreement at this stage because the EU cannot legally agree a future relationship with us until we are a non-member state. Through the negotiations, however, we have ensured that we have the framework for an ambitious new economic and security partnership that is absolutely in our national interest.
At the outset, the EU said we would have a binary choice—Norway or Canada. The political declaration concedes that there is a spectrum, and we will have an unprecedented economic relationship that no other major economy has. The EU also said we could not share security capabilities as a non-member state outside of free movement and the Schengen area, but we have secured the broadest security partnership in the EU’s history. If this deal is passed, the task ahead of us will be to turn this ambitious political declaration into our new legal agreement with the EU.
I must intervene at this point. The Prime Minister claims that this political declaration is detailed and specific. If that is the case, why was the Treasury Select Committee told today that it was not even possible to produce an economic analysis of the document because it was not specific enough?
The economic analysis that was produced by the Government last week made it very clear that within the political declaration is a spectrum on which the balance of obligations in relation to the rights of access—the balance of obligations on checks at the border in relation to market access—must be addressed. It is clear that that will be ambitious, and we will continue to work for frictionless trade, which is indeed what was put forward in the White Paper in the summer. However, it was only right and proper that in our economic analysis we indicated a midpoint on that spectrum, which gave an indication to people of the impact of trade barriers should they be put up.
I thank the Prime Minister for giving way—she is being very generous—but does she not understand that by over-claiming what is in the political declaration, she is undermining trust? She is asking for our trust in her, and in the UK, to determine what will happen in future, because so little is resolved. Not only on the spectrum on the economics, but also on the security issues, she is over-claiming. She suggested to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) that she had effectively secured agreement to SIS II, but she knows that she has not, because she tried to do so. Paragraph 87 of the political declaration does not refer to SIS II; it simply says that “the Parties” will “consider” the arrangements, and if we are lucky we will get something that will “approximate”. That is not the same as SIS II, and the Prime Minister knows it. Will she be straight with the country and with Parliament about the political declaration?
I have said this to Members before, and I will say it again. There is a difference between ensuring that we have the security capabilities that we need in the future, and simply saying that we will be doing that in a particular way. What paragraph 87 makes clear is the intent to have
“exchange of information on wanted or missing persons and objects and of criminal records, with the view to delivering capabilities that, in so far as is technically and legally possible, and considered necessary and in both Parties’ interests, approximate those enabled by relevant Union mechanisms.”
Will the Prime Minister give way?
No; I am sorry.
This is a fundamental issue which has underpinned the approach to these negotiations. We could have approached the negotiations by saying, “We are going to take the models that already exist, and in all cases we are going to say that we have to be in those models in exactly the same way as we are today.” What we have said is that we look to ensure that we can have the capabilities that we have where we need those capabilities, and that is exactly what we are delivering—
Will the Prime Minister give way on that point?
No. I am sorry.
That is exactly what we have in the political declaration.
I will give way to the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) on that point, but then I will make further progress.
I am hugely grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way, but she tried to get exactly the same thing: she tried to get SIS II. She should be honest with the House, and say that she tried to get SIS II and failed. She got other things, but I ask her to tell us whether she tried to get SIS II.
I am sure the right hon. Lady will want to make it clear that she is not suggesting that the Prime Minister has been other than honest. She is presumably encouraging forthrightness, is she?
I certainly am encouraging forthrightness. I would not challenge the Prime Minister’s integrity, because I know that she has worked immensely hard on this, but I am asking her to give accurate information to the House. Will she tell us whether she tried to get SIS II, rather than pretending that she was trying to get parallel capabilities?
We are clear about the capabilities that are currently available to us as a member of SIS II and within ECRIS. It is still open to us to seek to have the same relationship in relation to SIS II and ECRIS as we currently have, but we want to ensure that we have the capabilities that underpin SIS II and ECRIS.
I am tempted to say that the right hon. Lady might like to cast her mind back to the time when I was Home Secretary and she was shadow Home Secretary, and I stood at this Dispatch Box moving the motion that ensured that we could rejoin 35 measures on justice and home affairs matters, including SIS II and ECRIS, while she, I seem to recall, was working with my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) to prevent the Government from rejoining those measures.
If this deal is passed, the task ahead of us will be to turn this ambitious political declaration into our new legal agreement with the EU. [Interruption.] No, I am going to make more progress, and the next section of my speech might be of interest to Members of this House. In doing so, I want to build the broadest possible consensus both within this House and across the country. So for the next stage of negotiations we will ensure a greater and more formal role for Parliament. This will begin immediately as we develop our negotiating mandate, building on the political declaration ahead of 29 March 2019. The Government will consult more widely and engage more intensively with Parliament as we finalise the mandate for the next phase of the negotiations. Ministers will appear before Select Committees between now and March in each relevant area of the political declaration from fisheries to space to foreign policy. So Members across the House will be able to contribute their expertise to the detailed positions we take forward with the EU, and the whole House will be consulted on the final version of that full mandate. We will also provide the devolved Administrations with a similar degree of detailed engagement. We will undertake targeted engagement with business and civil society to help inform our detailed negotiating positions.
Will the Prime Minister give way on that point?
I give way to the Chairman of the Exiting the European Union Committee.
The Prime Minister is being extremely generous in giving way. She said a moment ago that the House of Commons would be consulted on the mandate; can she give a very simple assurance that the House of Commons will get to vote on whether to approve that mandate, or not?
The outline of that mandate will be set in the political declaration; that is the deal that has been agreed with the European Union. What we are looking for is to have the expertise of the House and the views of the House when we go into that negotiating position. I also say to the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of the Select Committee that I stated that Ministers will appear before the Select Committee, but of course Ministers will have to be invited by the Select Committee to appear before it. I hope, however, that Select Committees will indeed accept that it is important for Ministers to appear before them on these matters. Taken together, these arrangements will support a national mission to forge the strongest possible future relationship with our European partners, commensurate with our wider global goals and in the interests of the whole country.
Let me turn to the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. First, it argues for a permanent customs union. The benefit of a customs union is that it means no tariffs, fees, charges, quantitative restrictions or rules of origin checks. All of these are explicit in our deal, but, importantly, it goes further, because it also gives us the crucial ability to have an independent trade policy beyond our partnership with the EU, which membership of the customs union would not. So the Leader of the Opposition needs to explain why he does not share our ambition for a global Britain.
Secondly, the amendment argues for a strong single market deal. If that means being close to the single market but not part of it, then it is our deal which delivers the closest possible partnership. If it actually means being in the single market, the Leader of the Opposition is opposing taking back control of our borders and ending free movement. That not only contravenes the democratic instruction of the British people, but it contravenes his own manifesto.
Thirdly, the amendment claims our deal would
“lead to increased barriers to trade in goods and services”.
Unless the Leader of the Opposition’s policy is to stay in the single market as well as the customs union, some increase in barriers is inevitable. But our deal is the best deal outside the single market and it gives us the opportunities that come from an independent trade policy and increased regulatory freedom.
As the UK will have lost the ability to influence EU rule-making on financial services directly, it is vital that we can play a full part in defending our interests in international bodies that set standards globally such as the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and the International Organization of Securities Commissions. Does the Prime Minister therefore share my concern that article 129 of the draft treaty, which clearly states that the UK may not take a contrary position to the EU in such bodies, will prevent us from doing so?
Article 129 is about the joint committee responsible for the management, administration and supervision of dispute resolution in the future. [Interruption.] I say to my hon. Friend that we have been very clear in the area of financial services that it is important, because of the significance of financial services to the United Kingdom, that we are able to ensure that we have the ability to set the regulations that we need to set as a global financial centre, working with the other regulatory bodies and doing that in the interests not just of the United Kingdom, but of financial stability across the world.
We are now at the stage in this process where we must all engage with the hard choices we face. Simply pretending that everything can stay the same as we leave the EU, as Labour’s amendment does, does not face up to those hard choices and amounts to not being straight with the people of this country.
Fourthly, the amendment claims that our deal would not protect workers’ rights and environmental standards. This is simply wrong. Our deal does protect them. As part of the single customs territory in the Northern Ireland protocol, we have committed to ensuring that there will be no reduction in standards in this area, including on labour and social protection, fundamental rights at work, occupational health and safety and fair working conditions. We have said that we will improve on this in developing our future relationship with the EU.
Indeed, we already go further than EU minimum standards, including on annual leave, paid maternity leave, flexible leave, paternity leave and pay, and parental leave, because we know that the first responsibility for protecting those rights sits with this Parliament. As we take back control of our laws, we will not only honour that responsibility, but go further still, including, for example, by implementing the recommendations of the Taylor review. So we will not just protect workers’ rights: we will enhance them.
Fifthly, the amendment claims that our deal allows the diminution of our security. The Leader of the Opposition knows full well that, if we fulfil the democratic decision of the British people to leave the European Union, we cannot have exactly the same rights as a third country that we currently have as a member. The question is: which deal represents the broadest security partnership in the EU’s history? It is our deal. What is he doing? He is opposing it.
Sixthly, the Leader of the Opposition’s amendment appears to reject the backstop— even though businesses, farmers and people from across the community in Northern Ireland support this insurance policy. There is real anger in Northern Ireland at the approach Labour is taking.
Finally, the amendment opposes leaving without a deal. But the EU has been crystal clear that no backstop means no deal. So the amendment is simultaneously opposing no deal and proposing a policy that would lead to exactly that. At this critical moment in our history, the Leader of the Opposition is not making a serious proposition for the future of this country. He is simply trying to force a general election. The right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) admitted it when he said:
“Our view is we should have a general election.”
At a time when we should be delivering on the vote of the British people, the Leader of the Opposition wants to ignore that and have another vote. At a time when the Government are working in the national interest, the Leader of the Opposition is playing party politics. At a time when we should all be focused, at this historic moment, on what is best for our country, the Leader of the Opposition is thinking about what gives him the best chance of forcing a general election.
Let me turn to the amendment from the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn). This also seeks to reject our deal, as well as to reject no deal. But the House cannot unilaterally rule out no deal. The only way to avoid no deal is to agree a deal—and that requires the agreement of the House and the European Union.
I have been very generous with interventions, and I will take further interventions in a few minutes after I have made this point. If you reject what the other side have described as the only deal on offer, then, whatever you say to the contrary, you put this country on course for no deal. This is doubly so when the amendment is silent on what alternative deal we should strike.
The EU27 member states have made it clear that this is the best deal available, and that there is neither the time nor the inclination to reopen negotiations and ensure that we leave in good order on 29 March next year. The choice before Parliament is clear: this deal, no deal, or the risk of no Brexit. Investing parliamentary time in seeking to create an alternative to these choices will only endanger our ability to deliver Brexit at all.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on two years of the trickiest negotiations in our lifetime. Some of my colleagues in this House seem to think that, if they reject this deal on Tuesday, the other EU27 leaders will come back and give us something better, but why should they?
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. Exactly. They certainly do not intend to do that. They have made it very clear that this is the deal on the table.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to engage further with the Select Committees. When she came to the Liaison Committee last week, she will have heard one Committee Chair after another pointing out to her the catastrophic consequences of no deal and asking whether she would rule that out, if and when the House rejects this deal, because we cannot inflict that kind of catastrophe on our people.
If my hon. Friend is concerned about no deal, the way to ensure that there is a deal is to support the deal that is on the table.
This feels like the fall of the ancien régime this afternoon—[Interruption.] No, I think the right hon. Member for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin) was there. May I take the Prime Minister back to the bit that I think was supposed to be the Scotland part of this speech, on devolved Administrations? The Scottish Parliament will not be interested in Ministers making day trips to Scotland for a number of hours in order to come over with meaningless waffle. If we are to be convinced that our views will genuinely be taken into account, what will change? That has not happened up to this point.
The hon. Gentleman knows full well that we have had a high degree of engagement with the Scottish Government, and indeed with the Welsh Government, on all these matters as we have been going through. We will continue to have that high level of engagement. There are areas where there is a disagreement. The Scottish Government want, ideally, to remain in the European Union, but that would deny the vote of the British people—[Interruption.] That would deny the vote of the British people, so we do have a difference of opinion on that.
Let me now deal with another question that has been raised, which is the question of another referendum. I understand the argument that, if this House is deadlocked, we could give the decision back to the British people, but I ask the House to consider what that would say to those in our constituencies who put aside decades of doubt in the political process because they believed that their voice would finally be heard; what it would say about the state of our democracy if the biggest vote in our history were to be rerun because a majority in this House did not like the outcome; what it would do to that democracy; and what forces it would unleash.
This House voted to give the decision to the British people and this House promised that we would honour their decision. If we betray that promise, how can we expect them to trust us again? Even if we held a referendum, what would it achieve? It would not bring the country together; it would divide us all over again. It would not end the debate, because if it were close like last time, whichever side lost out would soon start to call for a third referendum. It would not take us forwards; rather, it would take us back to square one. This country cannot afford to spend the next decade going round in circles on the question of our relationship with the European Union. We have already spent too many years with divisions on Europe simmering in the body politic. We must deliver on the referendum that we have already had, focus on the day-to-day concerns of the people and take this country forward.
I thank the Prime Minister for her generosity in giving way. My youngest child has just gone to university. Can she give an assurance that, when he leaves, he will be able to walk out and make his way in this world and in this country? Will she give an assurance that this Government will have the ship back on track, will have respected the democratic view of this country, will have trusted the people, as we expect them to trust us, and will respect the European Union and have a close relationship with that great trading bloc? Will she also assure us that we will be able to hold our head up on the global stage and that we will not be diminished, but even greater?
I thank my hon. Friend, who may have anticipated what I am about to say. I can absolutely give her that assurance, because I want to be clear about what this deal delivers for the country. There will be an end to free movement once and for all, an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK, an end to those vast sums we send to Brussels every year, a fair settlement of our financial obligations—less than half what some predicted—
I am conscious that I have now been speaking and taking interventions for an hour. Many Members want to contribute to the debate, and I will make some progress.
We will have a new free trade area with no tariffs, fees, quantitative restrictions or rules of origin checks—an unprecedented economic relationship that no other major economy has. At the same time, we will be free to have an independent trade policy and to strike new trade deals all around the world. This deal means being out of EU programmes that do not work for us. We will be out of the common agricultural policy and out of the common fisheries policy as an independent coastal state once again, with full control over our waters. It means jobs protected, citizens’ rights protected, the integrity of our United Kingdom protected, the sovereignty of Gibraltar protected, and our security protected, with the broadest security partnership in the EU’s history, working together with our friends and neighbours to keep all our people safe. The British people want us to get on with a deal that honours the referendum and allows us to come together again as a country, whichever way we voted. This is the deal that delivers for the British people.
No, I am not going to take any more interventions.
Mr Speaker, I have spent nearly two years negotiating this deal. I have lost valued colleagues along the way. I have faced—
No, I am concluding. I have faced fierce criticism from all sides. If I had banged the table, walked out of the room and delivered the same deal that is before us today at the end of the process, some might say I had done a better job, but I did not play to the gallery. I focused on getting a deal that honours the referendum and sets us on course for a bright future, and I did so through painstaking hard work. I have never thought that politics was simply about broadcasting your own opinions on the matter at hand—[Interruption.]
Order. Mr MacNeil, I am concerned—[Interruption.] No, you were chuntering noisily from a sedentary position. I saw you, and I heard you. Your apprenticeship to become a statesman has still a substantial distance to travel.
Politics is as much about listening to people from all sides of the debate and then doing what you believe is in our national interest. That is what I have done, and sticking to the task has delivered results for the British people. When the EU gave us a choice between off-the-shelf models, I won us a bespoke deal. When in Salzburg the EU tried to insist on a backstop that carved out Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, I faced them down and they backed down. Right at the end, when Spain tried to make a move on Gibraltar, I stood firm and protected Gibraltar’s sovereignty. That is why the Chief Minister of Gibraltar has said that no friend of Gibraltar should vote this deal down.
Do not let anyone here think there is a better deal to be won by shouting louder. Do not imagine that, if we vote this down, a different deal is going to miraculously appear. The alternative is uncertainty and risk—the risk that Brexit could be stopped; the risk we could crash out with no deal. And the only certainty would be uncertainty—bad for our economy and bad for our standing in the world. That is not in the national interest.
The alternative is for this House to lead our country forward into a brighter future. I do not say this deal is perfect. It was never going to be, and that is the nature of a negotiation. Yes, it is a compromise. It speaks to the hopes and desires of our fellow citizens who voted to leave and of those who voted to stay in. We will not bring our country together if we seek a relationship that gives everything to one side of the argument and nothing to the other.
We should not let the search for the perfect Brexit prevent a good Brexit that delivers for the British people. And we should not contemplate a course that fails to respect the result of the referendum, because that would decimate the trust of millions of people in our politics for a generation.
I am concluding.
To all sides of the debate, to every Member in every party, I say that this deal deserves your support for what it achieves for all of our people and our whole United Kingdom—one Union of four nations, now and in the future. And this is a debate about our future. It is not about whether we could have taken a different road in the past, but about which road we should take from here.
If we put aside our differences and remember what unites us, if we broker an honourable compromise in the interests not of ourselves but of those we were sent here to serve and if we come together to do our duty to our constituents, we will pass the test that history has set for us today. It is not easy when the passions run so deep, but looking around this Chamber, I know we can meet this moment. So I promise you today that this is the very best deal for the British people. I ask you to back it in the best interests of our constituents and our country and, with my whole heart, I commend this motion to the House.
This is a seminal debate in the history of this House and for the future of our country. I have been in the House since 1983, and this debate and the decision we will take next week is one of the most important we will ever take as Members of this House.
The deal before us would make our country worse off. Taken together with the withdrawal agreement and the future partnership, it represents a huge and damaging failure for Britain. The Prime Minister says this is a good deal, and is so confident of that that she attempted to refuse to publish the Government’s legal advice—she was forced to publish it by votes in this House today.
However, the economic assessments and other assessments that we will see indicate that this is actually a bad deal. These documents are the product of two years of botched negotiations, in which the Government spent more time arguing with itself than it did in negotiating with the European Union. It is not only on Brexit where they have failed. The economy is weak, investment is poor, wage growth is weak, our public services are in crisis and local councils are collapsing because of this Government’s refusal to fund them properly. More people in this country are living in poverty, including half a million more children, since 2010. The Government should be ashamed of themselves for that. Poverty is rising, homelessness is rising and household debt is rising, too.
It is against that backdrop that the Government have produced this botched deal, which even breaches the Prime Minister’s own red lines. Across the House the deal has achieved something—it has united Conservative remainers, Conservative leavers and Members of every Opposition party in an extraordinary coalition against the deal.
Mr Speaker—[Hon. Members: “Give way.”] Mr Speaker, it could have all been so different. Following the 2017 election, the Prime Minister—[Interruption.]
Order. Calm yourselves. Some of these antics are rather undesirable and to be deprecated. They may have a role on the playing fields at some public school—I do not know—but they have no role in this Chamber. [Interruption.] No, they are just unseemly and inappropriate.
It could have all been so different. Following the 2017 general election—[Interruption.]
Order. I am going to say it once, but I will say it as many times as necessary, and colleagues who want to speak will be prevented from doing so by that sort of pathetic self-indulgence. The right hon. Gentleman will give way when he wants to give way. If you don’t like it, frankly, you can lump it.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. It could have all been so different. Following the 2017 general election, the Prime Minister could have attempted to build a consensus, recognising the new arithmetic of Parliament, and sought a deal that brought people together. Instead, just like her predecessor, who called a referendum without preparing for the eventuality of a leave vote, the Prime Minister has seen these negotiations only as an exercise in the internal management of the Conservative party, and that did not work out very well at all. When the two previous Brexit Secretaries, who, theoretically at least, led the negotiations—well, they did theoretically—say that they cannot support the deal, how can she expect anyone else in this House or in this country to have faith in a deal that has been rejected by two of the people who were involved in the negotiation of it?
Will my right hon. Friend allow me, on that point?
Mr Speaker, no deal is not a real option, and the Government know that, because they are not seriously prepared for it. Eleven out of the 12 critical infrastructure projects that would need to be in place by the end of March 2019 to manage a no-deal Brexit are at risk of not being completed on time, according to the National Audit Office.
I give way to the hon. Gentleman.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having the courage to give way to someone on this side of the House, when he refused to give way to the former shadow Chancellor three times running. Will he explain to the House why he has not got the courage to debate with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Sunday?
I am quite happy to debate with the Prime Minister. I notice she was not very keen to debate with anybody during the general election, but we understand that.
The Government have been forced to publish their full legal advice, as voted for by this House. I hope and assume that that advice will be published tomorrow, because Members ought to be in possession of all the facts. In 2007, the Prime Minister then argued, and I absolutely agreed with her, that the full legal advice should have been made available before the Iraq war. Why did she push it right to wire here and lose two votes in the House in order to try and prevent the publication of the legal advice, which is so necessary to inform us in our debates?
This withdrawal agreement is a leap in the dark. It takes us no closer to understanding what the future of our country post Brexit would look like, and neither does the future partnership, which I will come on to. The Prime Minister states that the transition period ends in December 2020. Article 132 actually says it can be extended for up to two years, to 31 December 2022.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. He makes a very good point: Brexit is painted as dividing our nation, but it has actually united our party in opposition to the Prime Minister’s proposals. It has also united many Conservative Members against her proposals, including two former Brexit Secretaries, the former Foreign Secretary and two former science and higher education Ministers. I wanted to ask the Prime Minister who the new science and higher education Minister is, but she did not take my intervention. Perhaps batting for that sector is incompatible with her Brexit, and indeed any form of Brexit.
Before we proceed, may I say very gently to the House that interventions should be brief, not mini speeches?
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. The Labour party discussed this issue at great length at party conference and agreed that we would oppose this deal. We said that if the Government cannot govern and cannot command a majority of the House, then the great British tradition is that those Governments resign and we have a general election.
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. Does he agree that this Santa Claus letter of a deal offers no protection for workers’ rights, jobs, the environment or frictionless trade? Vote it down.
My hon. Friend is right, because the deal does not ensure that if there are changes across the EU that improve workers’ rights and conditions, they are necessarily mirrored in this country. When the Prime Minister talks so grandly about workers’ rights in this country, what comes to my mind is a million people on zero-hours contracts; what comes to my mind is people trying to make ends meet by doing two or three jobs just to feed their children.
As I said, the Prime Minister states that the transition period ends in 2020. Article 132 actually says that it can be extended for up to two years, to December 2022. The Business Secretary is already clear that it is likely to be extended to that period, and under this bad deal we would have to pay whatever the EU demands to extend it for those two years.
Will my right hon. Friend give way on that bad-deal point?
Under this deal, in December 2020 we will be faced with a choice: either pay more and extend the transition period, or fall into the backstop. At that point, Britain would be over a barrel. We would have left the EU, have no UK rebate and be forced to pay whatever was demanded. Alternatively, article 185, on the Northern Ireland protocol—the backstop—would apply. Not only would that mean that Northern Ireland would be subject to significantly different regulations from the rest of the UK, but the EU would have a right of veto—a right of veto—over the UK’s exit from the backstop arrangement. Far from taking back control, that is actually handing control to somebody else. That is what the Prime Minister is asking us to support. Whether in a backstop or an extended transition, the UK would have no say over the rules. By that time, we could have already given up our seat on the Council of Ministers, our commissioner and our MEPs, without having negotiated any alternative say in our future. This Government are not taking back control; they are losing control.
The one item that is in the control of all of us is which way we vote on Tuesday. The right hon. Leader of the Opposition has said that he does not want no deal. The EU leaders have made it clear that it is this deal or no deal. Does he realise that it will be his vote that pushes us into no deal? That is what he is asking us to vote for.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I distinctly heard Donald Tusk say at the weekend that the options are no Brexit, no deal or this deal, so to say that it is a binary choice is not right.
We are extraordinarily grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his elucidation, but that intervention suffers from one notable disadvantage: it was not even tangential to a point of order. His intervention and points of order are not even nodding acquaintances, in my experience.
It really is not credible for the Government to come to this House with this deal, that does damage a great deal of our economic interests, that does reduce our powers to decide our relationships in the future, and that does damage our trade, and then say there is no alternative. This House will make its decision next Tuesday. I hope and expect this House will reject that deal. At that point, the Government have lost the confidence of the House. They should reflect on that. They have either got to get a better deal from the EU or give way to those who will. No wonder the former Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah), resigned, saying that this deal will cost us
“our voice, our vote and our veto.”
If the right hon. Gentleman is so emphatic that we will not have a no-deal exit if we reject the Prime Minister’s deal, what deal does he suggest that we will put in place between now and March next year that will avoid it?
Well, if the House rejects this deal, as I hope it will, it is then up to the Government to go back and negotiate something, like a new comprehensive customs union, which would be backed by both the TUC and the CBI, and which is necessary to defend jobs and also have access to a strong single market. We cannot be told that this is the only thing we can do. The process of negotiation is to be accountable. The Government will be held to account. I hope this deal is rejected, in which case we will force the Government to go back and negotiate.
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
Oh, all right. Yes, okay.
Order. I want to hear the intervention. There is a lot of noise.
Actually, I wanted to agree with my right hon. Friend that this is a bad deal. Does he not agree that our country would be better off remaining in the European Union than exiting on the basis of this deal?
The referendum took place. We fought the election respecting the result of the referendum. We are opposed to this deal. We think there is the possibility of getting an agreement that would be better for this country and give us the control that this Government’s proposals do not give us.
The past two years gives us no confidence that the Government can do a deal in under two years, taking us up to the transition period. So, at some point before December 2020, the focus would then inevitably shift from negotiations on the future relationship to negotiations on an extension of the transition period, including negotiating what further payments we would have to make to the EU. So, we are over a barrel—either paying whatever is demanded, or negotiating away fishing rights and who-knows-what else. This is a terrible failure of negotiation by this Government.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Prime Minister will not take her political declaration for this deal to the people because she is afraid that her Brexit ship would sink?
We will know the outcome of that next Tuesday, when the vote takes place in this House, but any analysis of this deal would show that it is unacceptable and should be defeated in this House.
Should the backstop come into force, there is no time limit or end point. It locks Britain into a deal from which it cannot leave. Remember that: it cannot leave without the agreement of the EU.
Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify his answer to the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Mr Leslie)? He says that the Labour party stood on a manifesto that accepted the result of the referendum; he was clear on that. Yet since then, the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) has suggested that the Labour party’s position would now be to support a second referendum. Will the Leader of the Opposition now clarify, for the sake of the House: is the Labour party’s position to support a second referendum, or is it that it accepts the result of the first referendum and will not support a second referendum?
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman read the Labour manifesto with great caution and detail. [Interruption.] Oh, he did. We were quite clear that we respected the result of the referendum. In our conference motion we discussed the whole issue at great length, and at the largest Labour party conference in our history, our party agreed unanimously to back the composite motion that we put forward. That motion opposed the process that the Government are bringing forward, and suggests that if the Government cannot govern—and it looks increasingly like they cannot—they should make way and have an election. That is our priority.
Should the backstop come into force, there is no time limit or end point. It locks Britain into a deal from which it cannot leave. As was said during proceedings on the Attorney General’s statement yesterday, this is the first time ever in the history of this country that we have signed up to a treaty that we could not leave of our own volition. That is quite a serious indictment of this Government. In the backstop, restrictions on state aid are hard-wired with an arbitration mechanism, but no such guarantee exists for workers’ rights, and new state aid rules could be brought in, whether they were in Britain’s interests or not. The Attorney General made that very clear yesterday.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
I give way.
Order. Members of the same party do not need to bicker as to whom the Leader of the Opposition is giving way to. I think it is the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil) who has been invited to intervene. Just before he does, I remind colleagues that it is legitimate to use mobile devices without impairing decorum, but it has just been brought to my attention that there is a very widespread use of them, and I gently remind colleagues that they most certainly should not be taking photographs in the Chamber. [Interruption.] Yes, I know exactly what I am doing and saying, and upon what advice. It requires no comment or contradiction, simply a recognition of the validity of the point.
The Leader of the Opposition talks about respecting the referendum. Fair enough—that is his point of view. I have a different perspective in Scotland. Will he respect the mandate of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament’s will to have a second independence referendum? How far does his respect go?
That is not actually relevant to today’s debate. We are talking about the deal that the Government have brought back, and that is what the debate is about. In the backstop, regulatory frameworks dealt with by non-regression clauses are non-enforceable by EU institutions or by arbitration arrangements, and would give the Government the power to tear up workers’ rights and damage environmental protections and consumer safeguards.
Is not one of the most extraordinary things about the debate so far that we have not had a single mention of the word immigration, and yet it was meant to be one of the most important aspects of the referendum? The Government have not even published an immigration Bill. We do not know what our immigration policy will be next year. Do we not really want to stand up for the rights of young British people to be able to study, work and live elsewhere in the European Union? It is British people who have used that right more than any other country in Europe.
I was coming to that in my speech, but my hon. Friend is absolutely right: young people need that right to travel and study. The Erasmus scheme has worked very well, giving a lot of people opportunities to study. I will come back to that issue. I just think we should reflect on the massive work done by European Union nationals who have come to make their homes in this country and helped us to develop our health service and many other services.
The backstop would apply separate regulatory rules to Northern Ireland, despite the fact that the Prime Minister said that this is something that
“no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to”.—[Official Report, 28 February 2018; Vol. 636, c. 823.]
That is another of her red lines breached. In fact, the list of the EU measures that continue to apply to Northern Ireland runs to 75 pages of the agreement.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is bad deal, and that one of the reasons for that is that the Prime Minister has spent much of the past two and a half years discussing the deal with her colleagues in the Conservative party rather than negotiating with the European Union?
My hon. Friend is so right. This has been a negotiation with the Cabinet, with Conservative MPs and within the Conservative party. That is where all the concentration has been. Indeed, one of the Brexit Secretaries hardly ever went to Brussels anyway, presumably being more interested in arguments within the Conservative party.
It is also clear that the Prime Minister’s red line regarding the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice has been torn up. Under the Prime Minister’s plan, by 2022 we will either be in a backstop or still in transition, where we will continue to contribute to the European Union budget and follow the rules overseen by the European Court of Justice. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary said on 25 November that the deal only “largely” ends the jurisdiction of the ECJ. It is crystal clear that the Prime Minister’s claim that this plan means that we take control over our laws, money and borders is utterly far-fetched.
On the future partnership, let us be clear: there is not a deal; there is a framework for a future partnership. Our trading relationship with Europe is still to be negotiated, and it will take years to do that. We still do not know what our long-term relationship with Europe would look like. That is why so many MPs across Parliament are not willing to vote for this blindfold Brexit and take a leap in the dark about Britain’s future. There is no mention of the Prime Minister’s favoured term, “implementation period”, anywhere in the 600 pages of the withdrawal agreement—and no wonder, as there is precious little new to implement spelled out either in the agreement or in the future partnership. The agreement does call for a transition period, but there is nothing to transition to. It is a bridge to nowhere. As the 26-page document says, it
“can lead to a spectrum of different outcomes…as well as checks and controls”—
and we are expected to endorse that as a basis of our future relationship with the European Union. After two years of negotiations, all the Government have really agreed to is a very vague wish list. Only three of its 26 pages deal with trade. It is not a trade deal; it is not even close to a trade deal. The trade deal recently signed between the EU and Canada took seven years to negotiate and ran to 1,600 pages. In two and a half years, this Government have agreed to three pages of text on trade. It is hardly an encouraging start to our future trade relationships.
The former Brexit Secretary committed to a “detailed”, “precise” and “substantive” document. We had the right to expect one. What we got contains no mention of frictionless trade, promised at Chequers, or even trade “as frictionless as possible”, promised before that. There is no ambition to negotiate a new comprehensive customs union with a British say that would protect jobs, trade and industry—and so uncertainty continues for business.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this deal does not deliver frictionless trade and that this will have a negative impact on the economy and risk jobs as well?
It certainly does not deliver frictionless trade, and those working in industry are extremely worried about what will happen, because they do not see this deal as protecting their jobs or their futures.
The demand for a new comprehensive customs union has united both the Confederation of British Industry and the TUC, because it protects manufacturing supply chains. The decision to rule out a customs union and the lack of clarity in the deal risks deferring business investment on an even greater scale than at the moment, costing jobs and living standards. Many companies may decide that the lack of certainty means they will explore their contingency plans to relocate elsewhere.
The First Ministers of both Wales and Scotland have made clear to the Prime Minister that they would support participation in a customs union to protect the economy and jobs. A commitment to a new and comprehensive customs union could, I believe, have found support in this House, but the Government did not seek it.
The Leader of the Opposition talks about uncertainty, but I put to him just one example of why I encourage him to support the Prime Minister’s deal. If the deal does not go through, we could face a situation at 11.1 pm on 29 March where 1 million UK citizens living in the EU27 will no longer have their rights guaranteed. What would he do in that position?
I imagine that the hon. Gentleman supports the Prime Minister’s deal because he is incredibly loyal to his party, with a blindness about the dangers of this deal for the rest of the country and the jobs that go with it.
The lack of clarity around these proposals also means that there is no guarantee of a strong deal with the single market, to ensure continued access to European markets in services. There is merely a vague commitment to go beyond the baseline of the World Trade Organisation.
As both the Attorney General and the Environment Secretary made clear in recent days, the commitments to workers’ rights, environmental protections and consumer safeguards are very far from secure. The social Europe that many people supported and continue to support was not part of why people voted to leave. All of that is at risk from this deal. This deal fails to give so many economic sectors and public services clarity about our future relationship with several European Union agencies and programmes.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Prime Minister’s deal seriously undermines environmental protection in this country, because it does not replace the European Court of Justice with anything like the strength of an enforcement body? Instead of the promised watchdog, we have little more than just a lapdog.
The hon. Lady is absolutely correct. The environmental protections that we have are essential. We cannot protect the environment inside national borders; it has to be done across national borders. We have to have the toughest possible environmental protection regulations, and the suspicion many of us have is that there is an appetite on the Government Benches to remove many of those protections as time goes on.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government’s obsession with clamping down on state aid is the wrong focus, and they should be focusing on all the important protections that we are discussing?
The state aid rules of the European Union are something that this Government have been very happy to sign up to and, indeed, use as a means of not defending the steelworks at Redcar, when they could have done something about it and defended those jobs. This Government should be condemned for their failure to do anything to protect those steelworks and those jobs. I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention and the work he did to try to protect those jobs.
Let us take, for example, the Galileo programme, to which the UK has so far contributed £1.2 billion, but from which we now seem set to walk away. Then there is the lack of clarity about whether we will continue to participate in the European arrest warrant, Europol or Eurojust. The Chequers proposal argued for the UK maintaining membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency and the European Medicines Agency, but the future partnership merely allows for co-operation.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while the Prime Minister seems proud to claim that freedom of movement has ended, she cannot tell us what it will be replaced with? Is it not right that we see the Government’s immigration White Paper before the meaningful vote?
I am coming on to that in just one second.
We lack similar clarity about many other areas, including Horizon 2020 and Erasmus—it was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant)—which have been so brilliant in providing students with opportunities to study in other countries. That is why so many young people are so concerned at this present time about what is happening.
There is no clarity about any future immigration system between the UK and the European Union, and it now seems that the immigration White Paper we were promised in December 2017 will not even appear in December 2018. Following the disgraceful Windrush scandal, many prospective migrants will have no confidence in the ability of this Government to deliver a fair and efficient system.
I thank my right hon. Friend for mentioning immigration. Immigration is a serious concern for our young people, especially to do with Brexit. As he has mentioned the Windrush scandal, does he agree that learning the lessons is not good enough? We need a public inquiry if we are really to understand the Windrush scandal and the “hostile environment”. When we get that, we will understand more about how far the Government are committed to immigration and getting things right, especially at times like this.
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention, and as the daughter of a Windrush generation migrant to this country, she fully understands how horrible it felt in her community when this Prime Minister, as Home Secretary, deliberately created the “hostile environment”, which was so damaging to community relations all across our country.
Many EU nationals already here have no faith in this Government to manage the process of settled status fairly or efficiently. These are people who have contributed to our country, our economy, our public services and especially our NHS. We all meet them in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. It is these people who are now so anxious about their future.
To our negotiating partners in the European Union, I say: “We understand why, after two years of negotiations, you want this resolved, but this Parliament represents the people of this country and the deal negotiated by this Government is not good enough for the people of this country, so if Parliament votes down the deal, then reopening the negotiations cannot and should not be ruled out.” There is a deal that I believe can win the support of this House and bring the country together, based on a new comprehensive and permanent customs union with a UK say and real protection of workers’ rights and environmental and consumer safeguards.
I have been very generous in giving way, particularly to Conservative Members.
As I conclude, I want to pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), the shadow Brexit Secretary, and his team of shadow Ministers. He is now facing his third Brexit Secretary, but he has stayed the course in holding this Government to account. I thank him and his wonderful team, and their supporters, for what they have done, and for the success today in forcing the Government to release the legal advice they were trying to withhold from us.
This is not the deal the country was promised and Parliament cannot—and, I believe, will not—accept it. The false choice between this bad deal and no deal will also be rejected. [Interruption.]
Order. The Leader of the Opposition is not currently giving way; he is developing his point. [Interruption.] No, he is developing his point. Hon. Members do not need to set themselves up as though they are conducting an orchestra. It is not necessary. Mr Hoare, for example, you are an incorrigible individual. Your assistance in this matter is not required. I am afraid that you are a veteran of Oxford Union badinage and you have never really overcome it.
As I said, this is not the deal the country promised and Parliament cannot, and I believe will not, accept it, and the false choice between a bad deal and no deal will also be rejected.
People around the country are very anxious. Businesses and workers are anxious about the industries they work in, the jobs they hold and this country’s stability.
I have given way a great many times, and I will draw my remarks to a close soon.
The responsibility for the state of anxiety lies solely with the Government. Two years of botched negotiations have led us here. Members of this House have a very important decision to make one week today. To vote for the deal would be to damage our economy, to make our constituents poorer and to take a leap in the dark with the future of this country. Do not take my word for it—the Government published their own economic assessment, which found that the Chequers proposals would make our economy nearly 4% smaller than it would otherwise be, thus knocking £100 billion out of our economy within 15 years. For those who like to break down those sorts of figures into weekly amounts, that is nearly £2 billion a week less. That definitely was not seen on the side of a bus.
Labour will vote against this deal. It is a bad deal for Britain, a bad deal for our economy and a bad deal for our democracy. Our country deserves better.
It is perfectly clear from listening to the leader of the Labour party that he is joining the shadow Chancellor and the shadow Brexit Secretary and is now determined to frustrate Brexit and the result of the referendum in 2016. That is absolutely clear from what he just said.
I must regretfully say to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that I cannot believe that a single Member sincerely believes that the deal before us is good for the UK.
There is one. I said “sincerely”. [Interruption.]
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I sincerely believe it. I have no stake in this Government any more, but I still think it is the right thing to do.
In which case, I am happy to acknowledge my right hon. Friend’s sincerity. However, I have to say that the Government’s heart does not appear to be in this deal. From listening to those who are sent out to defend and explain it, they know that it is a democratic disaster.
As has been said, after two years of negotiation, the deal has achieved an extraordinary thing: it has finally brought us together. Remainers and leavers, myself and Tony Blair, we are united—indeed, the whole Johnson family is united—in the belief that the deal is a national humiliation that makes a mockery of Brexit. I am sorry to say this—these are hard truths—but there will be no proper free trade deals and we will not take back control of our laws. For the Government to continue to suggest otherwise is to do violence to the natural meaning of words. We will give up £39 billion for nothing. We will not be taking back control of our borders. Not only have we yet to settle the terms on which EU migrants will in future come to this country, but we will be levying EU tariffs at UK ports and sending 80% of the cash to Brussels. In short, we are going to be rule-takers. We are going to be a de facto colony. Out of sheer funk—I am sorry to have to say this to the House—we are ensuring that we will never, ever be able to take advantage of the freedoms we should have won by Brexit.
Under the terms of the backstop, we have to stay in the customs union, while Northern Ireland, and therefore the rest of the UK if we want to keep the Union together, will stay in regulatory alignment unless and until the EU decides to let us go. And why should they let us go? By handing over £39 billion, we lose all our leverage in the talks. With the £95 billion surplus they have with us in goods alone, the EU has absolutely no interest or incentive to allow us—
The Prime Minister gave us seven reasons why the EU will not be using the backstop. Yesterday, the Attorney General made it completely clear that the backstop, if it ever came into place, would be challengeable under EU law itself. I say to my greatly respected colleague that I think he is promoting “Project Fear”. What is his option—
Order. Resume your seat. I am sorry to have to bark at the hon. Lady, but the intervention is just too long—end of. Enough.
A very good point none the less, Mr Speaker. It is exactly on the point. As I have been saying, the EU has no incentive whatever to let us out of this backstop precisely because they have a massive trade surplus with us. Furthermore, when they look at UK manufacturing and UK business, they realise that they will have, in that backstop and through the whole of the implementation period and beyond, unchecked and unmediated power effectively to legislate for the UK with no UK representation.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that that is an ideal situation for this country to end up in, then let him speak now.
The right hon. Member talks about an ideal situation. He was a senior member of Vote Leave. He was Foreign Secretary for two years. We are in this mess because of him. Does he take no responsibility?
I am grateful to the hon. Member, but the fact is that I was not able to continue to support this process for precisely that reason.
If the House will allow me, I will make some progress.
The EU knows that having that regulatory control over us, they would have no incentive, as it were, to take the foot off our neck. They will have us in permanent captivity as a memento mori, as a reminder to the world of what happens to all those who try to leave the EU. This is a recipe for blackmail and it is open to any member of the EU to name its price for Britain’s right to leave the backstop. The Spanish will make a play for Gibraltar. They French will go for our fish and our bankers. The Germans may well want some concessions on the free movement of EU nationals—and so it goes on.
I will give way in just a second.
The worst of it is that we have not even tried properly to leave or show any real interest in having a different future.
I will give way to my hon. Friend.
The Prime Minister, at the Dispatch Box today, was generous. She made very clear that for us to unify the country we have to bring the 48% who voted to stay, as well as the 52%. Can I ask my right hon. Friend, someone who was regarded in London as a unifying political figure, what he would do to bring the 48% and the 52% together?
As I say, remain and leave have been, to a very large extent, united in their dismay at what I think is a wholly undemocratic deal. The thing that really pains me—the hon. Member for North East Fife (Stephen Gethins) asked about the role of Ministers in this—is that we on the UK side of the negotiation have been responsible for forging our own manacles, in the sense that it is almost as though we decided that we needed to stay in the customs union and in the single market in defiance of the wishes of the people.
Will my right hon. Friend allow me to intervene?
I will give way in a minute to my hon. Friend, who has been chuntering away from a sedentary position behind me. We should be careful about claiming any kind of subterfuge—we have lost two Brexit Secretaries in the course of these negotiations, and it is very hard to understand how the former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union could have been kept in the dark about the crucial addition to paragraph 23 of the political declaration. This country agreed in paragraph 23, apparently without the knowledge of the elected politician concerned, that our future relationship would be based on the backstop. No one campaigned for that outcome. No one voted for this type of Brexit. This is not Brexit, but a feeble simulacrum of national independence.
I will give way in a second to my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale). It is a paint and plaster pseudo-Brexit, and beneath the camouflage, we find the same old EU institutions—the customs union and the single market—all of it adjudicated, by the way, by the European Court of Justice. If we vote for this deal, we will not be taking back control, but losing it.
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. He appears to be one of those who prefers the grievance to the solution. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has come up with a solution. What is his big idea? [Interruption.]
I was coming to that. [Interruption.]
Order. Members must not shout across the Chamber at the right hon. Gentleman. It is extremely unseemly—[Interruption.] Order. I have no doubt that he is well able to look after himself. I am not really concerned about him; I am concerned about the reputation of the House.
I have been told, by your leave, Mr Speaker, that I have an unlimited time to speak, so I will come to the solution that my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet craves in just a minute.
I must make some progress. If we vote for this deal, we are not taking back control. Indeed, I say to colleagues and friends across the House of Commons that we are part of a representative democracy, and voting for this deal would be not just like, as it were, turkeys voting for Christmas; it is actually worse than that. There is a sense in which we would be voting for Turkey, or Turkish—[Interruption.] That is exactly true. We would be voting for Turkish-style membership of the customs union, obliged to watch as access to the UK market is traded by Brussels, but with no say in the negotiations. Of course, the kicker is that with its veto, the EU ensures that the backstop that they impose on us is more subservient even than the arrangements that the Turks have—[Interruption.] That is absolutely true. It is a wonder, frankly, that any democratic politician could conceivably vote for this deal, and yet I know that many good colleagues are indeed determined to do so in the belief that we have no alternative or that we have run out of road, and as we heard earlier, that Brussels will offer us nothing else.
And I want respectfully to deal with those anxieties, which I am sure my hon. Friend shares.
Given that my right hon. Friend appears to be unwilling to enter into an understanding of what a negotiation is, can we take it that he has only ever meant that no deal is a good deal because he does not believe in having a deal with an institution—this windmill at which he tilts at every turn—to which he is philosophically opposed?
I have great respect and admiration for my hon. Friend, but I do not philosophically oppose the EU; I simply think that membership is no longer right for the UK. That was what I campaigned on, and I think the British people were completely right. I do not believe that no deal is the option we should be going for automatically, but I will come to that in just a minute. I want to deal with the anxieties that I know that he shares, because I think that he is profoundly mistaken, as indeed are other colleagues, in thinking that we have absolutely no option but to go ahead on this basis. We have plenty of other options. In order to see the way ahead, we need to understand what happens if next Tuesday this great House of Commons votes down this deal, as I very much hope it does. I will tell hon. Members what will happen, but they have to put themselves in the mind of our counterparts across the table in Brussels. In Brussels, they think they’ve got us beat— they do.<