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Customs Union

Volume 660: debated on Thursday 16 May 2019

Any assessment will depend on the counterfactuals that it is measured against, and those were considered in the economic analysis that was put out in November.

Many of my constituents in Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough contact me regularly with their wide-ranging views on Brexit. Will the Secretary of State reassure them that they would be no worse off if we left without a customs union and without the elusive trade deal that the Secretary of State for International Trade has failed to deliver despite stating that it would be the easiest thing in human history to negotiate?

There is nothing elusive about the text of the political declaration, which makes it clear that the Government can negotiate the benefits of a customs arrangement alongside an independent trade policy. The economic analysis shows that that is the best way forward of the options open to the Government.

On Monday, the Secretary of State’s two predecessors, 11 other former Cabinet Ministers and the Chair of the 1922 Committee wrote to the Prime Minister urging her

“to reject a customs union solution with Labour”.

Many Cabinet Ministers clearly agree with them. Does the Secretary of State?

I have been clear throughout that we have an approach that I think is the best way forward. There are conflicting views in all the parties including, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, on his own Front Bench. We are discussing these issues with the Labour party to seek a way forward on behalf of the House that will allow us to deliver on the referendum result. If he is asking about my personal position, I have always been clear that we made a clear manifesto commitment with regards to the single market and customs union, and we are trying to look at how to deliver on the referendum result. As the shadow Secretary of State would say, those discussions are ongoing.

I guess that might have come close to a suggestion that the Secretary of State does agree with those who are opposing the Prime Minister’s position. But this is, after all, a Secretary of State who voted with those two predecessors against his own Government’s proposal on extending article 50, even after he had recommended it to the House, so I think we deserve some clarity on these issues. The authors of Monday’s letter also said of any agreement that is reached:

“No leader can bind his or her successor…so the deal would likely be…at best temporary…at worse illusory.”

Does he agree with that?

It is not a revelation to this House that I supported leaving in the referendum, that I still support leaving, that I have voted consistently on every occasion to leave, that I have voted against extending article 50 and that I have stood by the manifesto on which I was elected. The question for Labour Members is why they repeatedly—at every opportunity—refuse to stand by their manifesto commitment. Why will they not honour their promises to the electorate? Yes, I do support leaving. I support leaving with a deal, and I have made it clear that if we do not leave with a deal, of the two alternative options I would leave with no deal. My position has been consistent. Why hasn’t theirs?