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No-deal Legislation

Volume 650: debated on Thursday 6 December 2018

2. What estimate he has made of the volume of new legislation required in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. (908037)

9. What estimate he has made of the volume of new legislation required in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. (908044)

We continue to put the legislative building blocks in place to deliver our exit, and we have made good progress in passing the required primary legislation, including on nuclear safeguards and sanctions. As I said earlier, we are laying exit-related statutory instruments before Parliament.

Will the UK be ready for a no-deal Brexit by 30 March 2019 if the withdrawal agreement is voted down next week?

Given that in politics one is sometimes asked for short answers, I feel that I should stop my answer with the word “yes”. Yes, we will be ready. This is an opportunity to pay tribute to the work that the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), is doing on no-deal planning; a significant amount of work has been done. Let us not lose sight of the fact that the situation will also be very challenging: there is a huge amount to do as part of that no-deal planning. So yes, we will be ready, but significant work will be required.

I thank you for hosting the Patchwork Foundation MP of the year awards last night, Mr Speaker; I thank the organisation for the great work it does for people of non-traditional backgrounds.

The Prime Minister and her Ministers continue to prove Danny Dyer right, who talked of the “mad riddle” of Brexit. They pose their deal, no deal or no Brexit. What concrete assurances can they give the university representatives I met yesterday about what happens to their millions of euros of monthly research funding if we crash out with no deal on 1 April? The last they heard was a letter from the now long-departed hon. Member for Orpington (Joseph Johnson)—he, they, I and the majority of my constituents want no Brexit.

It might surprise you, Mr Speaker, but I was not able to join your social gathering last night.

We are both dealing with the complexity of the issues.

On the substance of the point raised by the hon. Lady, I should say that this is the very essence of why we need the certainty that the deal offers. The alternatives that she points to are the uncertainty of no deal or of a second referendum. I know she desires a second referendum, given a number of questions she has put to the Prime Minister, but that would bring uncertainty to our democracy and politics.

I gather that the hon. Lady was given the award of Labour MP of the year; I have a feeling that the relevant west London media organs will soon be aware of this important fact, if it has not been divulged to them thus far.

If, or when, the withdrawal agreement is voted down next week, no deal is not the only option. There is a third option—to revoke article 50. We know what the Advocate General said earlier this week. Is the Secretary of State aware that the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union will give its final opinion—the opinion of 26 judges—on this issue at 8 am on Monday? MPs will therefore have the answer to the question whether article 50 can be unilaterally revoked. Can the Secretary of State confirm that he will be coming to the Chamber, in the wake of that decision, on Monday afternoon, to make a statement about the implications of the judgment of the Grand Chamber?

The hon. and learned Lady has discussed these issues with the Attorney General on a number of occasions. Obviously, I cannot prejudge the court case, but the position of Her Majesty’s Government is very clear: we will not be revoking article 50, and there is a reason for that. The Commission has a very similar view: if someone could revoke, in essence they could go to the last day of a judgment and then revoke and retrigger the process. That would make a mockery of the two-year period for article 50 and that is why we do not think that is the right position.

The Office for Budget Responsibility’s analysis of the recent Budget suggested that there could be an underspend of up to £400 million in the £1.6 billion Brexit funding pot that the Chancellor allocated back in March to prepare for leaving the EU. Will the Secretary of State tell the House precisely how much of that Brexit funding pot has not yet been spent?

Such is the Labour party’s desire to spend that the idea of any underspend is anathema—there is always a desire to spend more and spend more again. As the Chancellor has made clear, the Budget money will be allocated to deliver on the no-deal plans. The significance of those plans is recognised in government and all the requests that have been made have been discussed in the usual way and gone through the usual Treasury clearing process.

Given that the Department’s role is now largely confined to domestic preparations for exit, many will find that answer deeply troubling. But it is not surprising that no-deal preparations are not being taken seriously, because they have been a bluff from the start. Yesterday, the Chancellor told the Treasury Committee that the infrastructure works needed to prepare the port of Dover for an exit on World Trade Organisation terms would take years, not months. With 113 days left, will the Secretary of State now take this opportunity to rule out a no-deal Brexit once and for all—before this House does it for him?

The hon. Gentleman has clearly not read the transcript of my session at the Select Committee. What he will see from that is that the role of the Department is not constrained to merely the domestic side, although that is of huge significance. We are also focused on moving forward on the political declaration and looking to the future. Yes, the withdrawal agreement deals with the winding-down of our relationship of over 40 years with the European Union, but we are also focused on taking forward the political declaration to deliver on the future trading relationship that we want with our closest trading neighbour.