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No Deal: Prevention

Volume 657: debated on Thursday 4 April 2019

On Tuesday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out a process through which we will seek to agree a plan to leave the EU with a deal. She has asked for a short extension in order to do that. The best way to avoid no deal, as the House well knows, is obviously to agree a deal. While no deal remains the legal default, the Government must go on preparing for this scenario as a contingency.

All of the leave campaigns promised that we should leave with a deal. Last week, no deal was rejected by over 71% of MPs, and the Prime Minister’s deal has also been overwhelmingly rejected. Will the Government finally admit that there are alternatives to leaving without a deal that can gain more support from Parliament than the Prime Minister’s deal?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. If she has followed events this week, she will know that that is exactly why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has extended the negotiations to and engaged in conversation with the Leader of the Opposition. It is precisely to find a solution to the impasse.

No deal did not appear on any ballot paper in 2016 and was ruled out by all the main leave campaign groups. Does the Minister therefore agree that it would be totally unacceptable to crash out without a deal, without first putting it back to the people?

The hon. Gentleman is quite right: the House has shown no inclination to leave the EU without a deal. That is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is looking for a way forward and engaging with the Leader of the Opposition on precisely that issue.

Leaving without a deal would affect everybody, not least our dentists. I hope you will find it in order, Mr Speaker, for me to raise the issue of dentistry in a no-deal situation at this point. A third of the 6,500 European qualified dental registrants intend to leave UK dentistry. The British Dental Association chair, Mick Armstrong, has said:

“Government has failed to even acknowledge the scale of the crisis”.

I know that Ministers have recruitment and retention issues of their own at the moment, but is not the chair of the British Dental Association right, and what are the Government going to do about it?

I would like to pay tribute to my former colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris). He was a wonderful Minister and it is a shame that he has left us.

On the issue of professional qualifications, it is in the withdrawal agreement and it has always been the stated aim of the Government that there will be mutual recognition of qualifications. This is not controversial, and I think that it will assure many EU citizens in our country that they can continue to pursue their professions without any interruption or uncertainty.

The Government have had any number of opportunities to take no deal off the table. Last night, Parliament had to start the almost unprecedented step of passing legislation that is fiercely opposed by the Government to put Parliament and these islands where the Government should have put us a while ago. Last week, we had the astonishing spectacle of the Chief Whip going on the record to say that the Prime Minister had got it all wrong. Does the Secretary of State agree with the Chief Whip?

What my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has got right is the fact that we need a solution to the impasse. That is why this week, she has very openly invited the Leader of the Opposition to talks to track a way forward.

It is very noticeable that the Prime Minister is still refusing to talk to anyone who might say anything she disagrees with, but we will see what comes out of the talks. Given that it is the clear will of this House that no deal must be avoided and that this Parliament is in the process of passing legislation to prevent no deal from happening, is it tenable for any Minister of the Crown to continue actively to promote a no-deal Brexit that has been rejected by Parliament and was never endorsed by the people in the first place?

In respect of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister listening to diverse views, my understanding is that she spoke to the First Minister of Scotland yesterday and has been engaged in conversations with her. The position of the Government has always been the same: we favour a deal. We want to leave the EU with a negotiated deal, but it would be irresponsible of the Government not to prepare for no deal, because that still might happen. Indeed, Michel Barnier said this week that it was likely. It is therefore exactly the right thing for the Government to prepare for the scenario of no deal.