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EU Exit: No deal

Volume 655: debated on Thursday 28 February 2019

As the Prime Minister said on Tuesday, the only ways to rule out no deal are to revoke article 50, which we will not do, or for Parliament to vote for a deal. We are working to achieve legally binding changes on the backstop, and we have set out commitments to protect workers’ rights and the environment and to an enhanced role for Parliament in the next phase of negotiations. We are determined to address the wider concerns of those who voted to leave. We all know that the House needs to support a withdrawal agreement, and we are working hard to deliver that.

It is not quite as simple as that. Surely the best way to take no deal off the table is for the Government just to say that they are taking no deal off the table, so why, when the SNP put an amendment to Parliament last night, did the Government whip their MPs, including Scottish Tory MPs, to walk through the No Lobby and not take no deal off the table?

There are a whole host of reasons. First, we want to get a deal over the line. May I just remind the hon. Gentleman what the House voted for, or against, yesterday? It voted against an SNP amendment by a majority of 36. Interestingly, were one to take that result literally, that now means that there is a majority of 36 in this House for keeping no deal on the table.

The Department’s own report shows that almost a third of the Government’s essential no-deal projects will not be ready for 29 March. The Minister will not say how the Government will vote on 12 March, but if the House votes against no deal, will that be respected?

I am fairly hopeful that the vote on 12 March will be carried by the House because it is the one for the deal.

Does the Minister agree that, although it is the Government’s policy to leave the European Union with a deal, the SNP’s position is to accept no deal whatsoever, and they are therefore trying to manoeuvre the debate to the point of no deal, which would suit their argument—chaos, leading to an independence referendum, leading to the break-up of the United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend makes a strong point, with which I mostly agree, although the Government have been preparing for two and a half years for our leaving without a negotiated deal so it would certainly not be chaotic.

I remind the Minister that the fact that a majority of Conservative MPs votes for something does not make it right. Certainly, the experience with the Scottish Tories is that they vote not for what they want to happen but for what they want their Whips to see them voting for.

Will the Minister comment on the statement made by his colleague the Secretary of State for Scotland last night? He said that the Government voted to leave no deal on the table to make sure that it did not happen, and the SNP voted to take no deal off the table to make sure that it did happen. Does the rest of the Cabinet share the Secretary of State for Scotland’s particular and idiosyncratic form of logic?

Personally, I think we are lucky to have such a brilliant Secretary of State for Scotland. I completely understand that the hon. Gentleman has taken a very principled position on not wanting to leave the European Union; I just wish that there were others, perhaps on the Opposition Front Bench, who would be honest with the British people—especially those in northern Labour leave seats around Barnsley and south Yorkshire, the east and west midlands, Manchester and so on—and say, “Actually, the new Labour position is to stay in the European Union” and that they disrespect the votes in the referendum.

Yet again we see that, when it suits the Government, they insist on looking at the voting pattern of individual constituencies in the north of England but ignore the voting patterns of entire nations that are supposedly partners in this Union. If the reason why we want to take no deal of the table is that, secretly, we want it to happen, does that give us an explanation of why the Government keep telling the Scottish Government to take independence referendums off the table? Are they secretly wanting that to happen as well?

I might have misheard the hon. Gentleman, but may I gently remind him that the Scottish people voted to stay within the United Kingdom?