I inform the House that I have now considered advice on the certifiability of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill under Standing Order No. 83J, with which I am sure colleagues are all closely familiar—Certification of bills etc. as relating exclusively to England or England and Wales and being within devolved legislative competence—and I have concluded that the Bill does not meet the criteria for certification.
I inform the House that I have not selected either of the reasoned amendments.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
We come together now, in the very best traditions of this House, to scrutinise this Bill and then take the decision that this country expects: to make the verdict of the British people the law of the land so that we can leave the European Union with our new deal on 31 October.
I of course wish that this decision on our national future had been taken through a meaningful vote on Saturday, but I respect perfectly the motives of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), although I disagree with the effects of his amendment.
I regret, too, that after Saturday’s vote the Government have been forced to act on the advice of the Cabinet Secretary and to take the only responsible course, which is to accelerate our preparations for a no-deal outcome.
Today, we have the opportunity to put all that right, because if this House backs this Bill and if we ratify this new deal, which I believe is profoundly in the interests of our whole United Kingdom and of our European friends, we can get Brexit done and move our country on—and we can de-escalate those no-deal preparations immediately and turn them off next week, and instead concentrate on the great enterprise of building a new relationship of the closest co-operation and friendship, as I said on Saturday, with our European neighbours and on addressing our people’s priorities at home.
A number of people, before they vote today, will be very concerned about various rights that are enshrined in Europe but might be vulnerable if, and hopefully when, we leave. One of those sets of rights is rights for working people. Will the Prime Minister give an undertaking, so that we have it on the record—the Bill is quite clear—that if the Government agree with enhanced rights for working people that will become the law of the land here, but that if the Government disagree with a single one or a number of enhanced rights he will bring those proposals before the House and we will have the chance to vote to instruct the Government to accept them?
I can of course give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance that not only will this country maintain the highest standards both for environmental protection and of course for workers’ rights, but in the event that this House wishes to have higher standards than those proposed by the EU or if this House wishes to adopt standards proposed by the EU and the Government disagree, there will of course be an amendable motion to give this House the opportunity to have its say. We will ensure that that is the case.
If we pass this Bill tonight, we will have the opportunity to address not just the priorities of our relations with the EU but people’s priorities at home. I believe that if we do this deal—if we pass this deal and the legislation that enables it—we can turn the page and allow this Parliament and this country to begin to heal and unite.
For those, like me, who believe our interests are best served by leaving the European Union and taking back control, this deal delivers the biggest restoration of sovereignty in our parliamentary history and the biggest devolution of power to UK democratic institutions.
I absolutely recognise that people who voted for Brexit did not necessarily vote on economic lines. However, the Government are refusing to publish an impact assessment of this deal. The Prime Minister is expecting MPs to vote for something that we know will damage this country economically, without revealing the impact assessment. What do this Government have to hide?
If I may, I say to the hon. Lady that I understand the point she makes, but she has had an answer, I believe, from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor yesterday. I think it will be clear to everybody that the best way to avoid any disruption from a no-deal Brexit is to vote for this deal today—to vote for this deal to get it done. I think that will unleash a great tide of investment into this country and be a demonstration of confidence in the UK economy. By voting for this deal tonight, we will deliver a powerful, positive shot in the arm for the UK economy, and I hope very much that she will do so.
Once more, under this agreement, British people will be able to live under laws made by representatives whom they alone elect and can remove—laws enforced by British judges in British courts.
The Prime Minister must recognise that the arrangements that he has come to for Northern Ireland precisely do not deliver that for the people of Northern Ireland. Of course, opinion may be divided in Northern Ireland on whether they want that or not, but the reality is that the vassalage clauses—as they have been described by the Leader of the House in the past—will continue to apply to Northern Ireland after the transition has ended for the rest of Great Britain. How does the Prime Minister square that with the recovery of sovereignty promised to the entirety of the British people?
We can square that very simply by pointing out that, yes, of course, there are transitory arrangements for some aspects of the Northern Ireland economy, but they automatically dissolve and are terminated after four years unless it is the majority decision of the Assembly of Northern Ireland to remain in alignment with those arrangements either in whole or in part. The principle of consent is therefore at the heart of the arrangements.
Under the Bill, British farmers will escape the frequently perverse effects of the common agricultural policy; British fishermen, liberated from arcane quotas, will be free to fish in a way that is both more sensible and sustainable; and this House will be free to legislate for the highest possible standards.
The Prime Minister will be well aware that four pages in the Bill address and enlarge the responsibilities of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. That is all very well and good, but there is not a single sentence in the Bill that explains the new consent process contained in the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal. I say clearly to the Prime Minister: do not take the people of Northern Ireland for fools. We are not fools. He needs to explain in detail how his new consent process will operate—in detail, please.
The process for consent is of course set out in detail in the unilateral declaration made between us and the Republic of Ireland. The hon. Lady will understand that it is, as I have indicated to the House, a process by which there are a small minority of economic arrangements in which Northern Ireland remains in alignment, such as sanitary and phytosanitary and manufactured goods, for four years, unless and until by a majority vote of the Stormont Assembly Northern Ireland elects to remain in alignment. Otherwise, for the vast majority of the Northern Ireland economy, Northern Ireland exits with the rest of the UK whole and entire, able to do free trade deals from the outset and participate in all the other benefits of Brexit. I hope that that point commends itself to the hon. Lady.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on getting us to this critical point in the long Brexit journey. Clause 36 relates to parliamentary sovereignty, and I invite him to confirm that the UK will retain its own sovereign military capability as outlined in paragraphs 92 and 99 of the political declaration and not be committed to any EU mission, military initiative or procurement project unless we do so voluntarily.
My right hon. Friend alludes to an important change that we have been able to secure in the course of the negotiations, and he is right that full independence will be retained in the vital sphere of defence and security. I am grateful to him for drawing attention to it.
The House will be free not only from the common agricultural policy but from the common fisheries policy, and free to legislate for the highest standards. That is a crucial point for the House to grasp.
Will the Prime Minister give the House a categorical assurance that we will not make the mistake of the 1970s and use our marine resources and fish stocks as a bargaining chip to be traded during the upcoming negotiations? Will he guarantee that we will take total, 100% control of all our waters and resources within the exclusive economic zone and, like any other independent marine nation, will then annually engage in common- sense negotiations of a reciprocal nature with our marine neighbours?
I can happily give that assurance to my right hon. Friend, who has campaigned long and valiantly on those issues. I can confirm that we will take back 100% control of the spectacular marine wealth of this country, not least the marine wealth of Scotland, which the SNP would discard as senselessly as the superfluous catch dictated by the common fisheries policy.
The House will be free to legislate for the highest possible standards. Let me stress that nothing in the Bill undermines workers’ rights or the House’s natural desire to protect our environment. On the contrary—
I know that the Prime Minister has been doing a good job trying to reassure MPs such as me from towns that voted leave, but can he explain the loopholes on workers’ rights in the document that would not give us the security we would need on non-regression for manufacturing communities that need those workers’ rights?
The hon. Lady raises an important point. People will need reassurance about that. There can be no regression. The UK will maintain the highest possible standards. Let me make the point more clearly. If the EU decides that it wishes to introduce new legislation on social protection, it will be automatic that the House will consider that. As I say, there will be an amendable motion by which the Government will give parliamentary time for the implementation of that measure. That is the opportunity that the Bill gives us. In essence, it takes back to the House the powers to decide such matters. I do not believe that we should shy away from those responsibilities or lack confidence in our collective ability to use those powers for the public good.
It is thanks to the efforts of Labour and Conservative Members that the House is already ensuring that this country does more to tackle climate change than almost any other country in the EU. Our Environment Bill will enshrine the highest standards possible.
I am sorry to say that there is a difficulty and a fundamental issue of trust in the Prime Minister’s word. If he tells the House that he is committing to reviews of matters such as unfair dismissal protections, including reducing the qualifying period from two years to one year, and anomalies in employee terms and conditions in relation to TUPE regulations, will the Government write into the Bill the date by which BEIS will begin the consultations on those really important rights?
We have already said that we will set out how we propose to address the concerns of hon. Members on unfair dismissals and TUPE. I understand the hon. Lady’s desire to get cracking—my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary will write to Members with more details—but I can certainly commit to her now across the Floor of the House that we will indeed commit to a date for the implementation of those measures.
Our Environment Bill enshrines the highest standards in law: far-reaching and legally binding targets to reduce plastics, restore biodiversity, and clean up our air and water.
Does the Prime Minister agree with himself when he said:
“We should go into those renegotiations with a clear agenda: to root out the nonsense of the social chapter—the working time directive and the atypical work directive and other job-destroying regulations.”?
If that is what he said then, why should we believe a word he says on this now?
Because it is absolutely clear on the face of the Bill and from what I have said that this country will maintain the highest possible standards and will give this House the collective ability to keep pace with Brussels and, indeed, to do better.
As I say, we have the highest possible environmental standards. We will match the environmental standards that Brussels brings forward. Indeed, we now have the opportunity to do better. I have stressed for four years—[Interruption.] No, that is not true. It is said from a sedentary position that we have always had the opportunity to do better. I am afraid that that is mistaken. There are plenty of ways in which we are currently prohibited from going forward with higher standards. Under the Bill, we will have the power in this House to do something for which I think the people of this country have yearned for years, which is to strengthen controls on the live transport of animals. I hope we will do that now. That is currently forbidden under EU law.
On fiscal measures, we will now have the power to cut VAT on sanitary products. As for the protection of workers, we will now be able, under the Bill, to take action against employers and agencies who undercut our laws, including where agencies bring in overseas labour from the EU so that local people do not get a look in. That is currently impossible within the EU.
Clause 34 and the accompanying provisions in schedule 5 include a duty on any Minister—to get to the point that has been raised—who introduces relevant legislation to make it clear that workers’ rights will not be weakened in any way. Whether it is tackling air pollution or enhancing biodiversity, this country can do better than simply sticking with EU norms. We can achieve our vision of a dynamic, high-wage, low-tax market economy precisely because we champion high skills and high standards.
Like the Prime Minister, I would like to get out of the European Union as speedily as possible. What more can he do to reassure the people of Northern Ireland, who feel they are being cut off? They could perhaps have accepted some regulations on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland because that happens at the moment, but they have been absolutely astonished to find that trading between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is somehow now treated as if they are sending something to a foreign country. That is not acceptable.
I am very grateful to the hon. Lady. It is very, very important that we stress—I must make myself absolutely clear—that Northern Ireland is leaving the EU with the rest of the UK, whole and entire. We have achieved with this deal what I think few people thought was possible: Northern Ireland is leaving the EU as part of a single customs territory with the rest of the UK. On her specific point, there will be no checks between NI and GB, nor would she expect there to be. It is made absolutely clear in article 6 of the protocol. It is up to the UK Government to insist on unfettered access for trade NI-GB. I give way with pleasure and with respect to the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Nigel Dodds).
I am very grateful to the Prime Minister. It is quite clear that whatever he says about Northern Ireland in the UK customs union, de facto the European Union customs code applies in Northern Ireland, if the protocol comes into place, which requires exit declarations from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.
Yes, it does. The Brexit Secretary said yesterday they would have to be corrected by HMRC. Is the Prime Minister saying that at the end of December 2020 Northern Ireland will not go into the protocol if there is a free trade agreement, and that if we are in the protocol and a free trade agreement is agreed we will automatically come out of it, and that that will be written into law?
For the clarification of the right hon. Gentleman—I know he realises this already—there are no checks GB-NI. There will be some light—touch measures to ensure there is no illegal trade—[Laughter]—in endangered animal species and banned firearms, which I think he would agree was sensible. The most important point is that even these measures evaporate and are terminated automatically. They automatically dissolve unless a majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont votes to keep them.
Furthermore, to get to the right hon. Gentleman’s point, there is a further sense in which these measures are transitory. They all may be replaced in the great work of beginning the free trade agreement and the new partnership that we intend to build between the UK and the EU—a work in which I devoutly hope Northern Irish Members will be involved in building a whole UK-whole world free trade policy. That is the prize before us. The UK, and the UK alone, will control these vital standards as we leave.
For those who share my belief in the transformative power of free trade, perhaps the single greatest engine of global prosperity, a new deal, enabled by this Bill, will allow us to sign free trade agreements around the world.
Schedule 5A to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 lists workers’ retained European Union rights. The directive on work-life balance for parents and carers is omitted from the schedule, along with many others in the same vein. How can those omissions be consistent with the Prime Minister’s commitment to the highest possible standards for workers’ rights?
I think we agree across the House that there is a climate emergency and that the UK must be a leader, not a follower, when it comes to low-carbon living. I welcome the pledge that the Environment Bill will enhance and not reduce the UK’s standards, but will the Prime Minister commit today to reinforce that ambition with a clear non-regression clause, as we have on workers’ rights, and write it into the Bill. Would that not provide some of the reassurance the House needs about not only protecting but enhancing environmental standards?
I can indeed make that commitment, and I thank the right hon. Lady for the work she is doing to champion the environment. I remind her and the House that our Environment Bill will set up, for the first time, legally binding targets and an office for environmental protection to enforce those targets in this country. The crucial thing that will reassure her is that in the event of the EU bringing forward new legislation, we in this Government will bring forward an amendable motion so that the House may choose to match those standards.
I must make some progress. This new deal will allow us to sign free trade agreements around the world, encouraging innovation, lowering prices, maximising opportunities for world-beating British companies to find new markets and bringing good new jobs to communities who, for too long, have been left behind. Let me repeat: in any future trade negotiations with our country, our national health service will never be on the table.
I wish to say something not just to those who think that Brexit is a great opportunity, as I of course do, but to the 16 million who voted to remain.
My hon. Friend makes exactly the right point: this Government wish to have the highest possible standards for workers across the country because we believe that that is the right way forward for the British economy. I am glad he made that point.
I wish to address the 48%, whose concerns must always be in our minds. The revised political declaration sets out a vision of the closest possible co-operation between the UK and our European friends—a
“relationship…rooted in the values and interests that the”
“Union and the United Kingdom share…anchored in their common European heritage.”
To British citizens living in EU countries and to EU citizens who have made their homes here and who have contributed so much, I say that this Bill protects their rights, ensuring that they can carry on living their lives as before.
The Prime Minister and some of his Ministers say they are against live animal exports. Does that mean from Dover to Calais, or longer journeys from GB—for example, Stranraer—to Northern Ireland, or longer journeys still, such as to the Hebrides, the Orkneys and the Shetlands? When he says he is ending live animal exports, what does he mean? We need details. Are they short journeys to the continent only or longer journeys, including to Northern Ireland?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman—he rather makes my point for me, because what he may not realise is that animals are currently being shipped from this country to Spain and, indeed, to north Africa in conditions of extreme distress. I do not believe that it is the will of this House, or indeed, of the hon. Gentleman, that we should continue on that basis.
I say to those who care, like me, for the rights of EU nationals living in this country: I argued during the referendum that we should guarantee their rights in this country immediately and unilaterally, and I regret that this did not happen, but the Bill today completes that job.
My right hon. Friend is being characteristically generous in giving way. So that we are absolutely clear, going back to the Northern Ireland issue, I ask him again: is it his and the Government’s intention—as I understood and still understand it to be—that in the phase in which we negotiate a free trade agreement, we would negotiate it on the basis that Northern Ireland would form a whole and singular part of that agreement and therefore be treated exactly the same as Kent?
Prime Minister, my constituents voted to leave, by 55% to 45%, but they want to ensure and believe—and it is a question of trust—that there will be certainty and decent rights for all workers as we leave the EU, and in the future. I welcome the announcement of an employment reform Bill, but given that he had his pen out in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin), will he set the date and tell us when he is going to put it in this Bill so that we know when it will happen?
I can confirm that we will be doing that, but it is probably best done in the course of the Bill, and we should get on with the debate as fast as possible.
Let me come to our compatriots in Northern Ireland. This Bill upholds in full the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, as Lord Trimble has attested, and our unwavering commitment to Northern Ireland’s place in the Union.
Prime Minister, the central plank of the mechanisms for ensuring that both communities are protected in the Belfast agreement— I state this from the agreement—is
“to ensure that all sections of the community can participate and work together…and that all sections…are protected”
“arrangements to ensure key decisions are taken on a cross-community basis”.
How does that square with the terms of this agreement under which, as the Prime Minister has stated in this House, decisions will be made on a majority basis?
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I thank him and his party for the work they have done to help us to change this deal very, very much for the better, and he played an instrumental role in that.
On the point that the right hon. Gentleman raises, he knows that this is a reserved issue, and I simply return to my point: the salient feature of these arrangements is that they evaporate. They disintegrate. They vanish, unless a majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly elects to keep them. I think that it is up to Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to assemble that majority if they so choose. Further, there is an opportunity to vary those arrangements in the course of the free trade agreement and the new partnership that I hope he will join us in building together.
Order. I apologise for interrupting the Prime Minister, but a lot of Members are bellowing in a rather bellicose fashion at him, although he has already made it clear that at the moment, he is not giving way. He has taken a lot of interventions and he may take more, but he is proceeding with the development of his case.
I am very grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way. I have heard clearly not only what he has tried to do this afternoon to assure the House, but his answer to the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith). How can the Prime Minister square the pledge he has given—that Northern Ireland can fully benefit from free trade agreements—with the provisions in the agreement he reached at article 13(8) that require the EU to have a say in whether we secede from the protocol arrangements?
There is absolutely no provision for the EU to have a say. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are special provisions in the agreement that apply to Northern Ireland in respect of trade in goods, sanitary and phytosanitary measures and the single electricity market. The benefit of that temporary four-year alignment is that it allows us to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland—that is its great benefit—and to respect the Good Friday process, but those arrangements are automatically terminated after—
The Prime Minister has claimed to the House today that the agreement does not rule out the interpretation that he has given to the House, but paragraph 8 of article 13 states quite clearly that any
“subsequent agreement between the Union and the United Kingdom shall indicate the parts of this Protocol which it supersedes”
and that the EU will have a say in that. How then can he claim to the House that we have total freedom of decision making?
The right hon. Gentleman is an experienced denizen of the House. His point of order is a matter of consuming interest within the Chamber and beyond, but he is a cheeky chappie, because it is not a matter for adjudication by the Chair. He has made a point, in his own way and with considerable alacrity, to which the Prime Minister can respond if he wishes and not if he does not.
I will respond by just repeating the point that those arrangements are automatically terminated after four years unless a majority in the Northern Ireland Assembly expressly decides to retain any or all of them, so those arrangements naturally and legally dissolve into full alignment with the whole UK. The default position is alignment with the UK unless, as I say, there is a majority vote in the Assembly against that alignment. In any event, those arrangements can be replaced by the future relationship based on the free trade agreement that we will conclude with the EU.
At the same time, the agreement ensures that Northern Ireland is part of the UK customs territory and benefits immediately from any UK trade deals. Clause 21 gives effect to those measures in the protocol. Apart from those special provisions, there are no level playing field provisions covering only Northern Ireland. Nothing in the new deal requires different treatment of Northern Irish services, which account for over 70% of the economy, and nothing in the revised political declaration would oblige Northern Ireland to be treated differently in the future relationship with the EU, which we will soon begin to negotiate.
I cannot believe for a minute that the Prime Minister is seeking in any way to deceive the House, but he has said repeatedly today that there will be no differences between the way Northern Ireland is treated and the way Kent or anywhere else in the reset of the UK is treated. Why, then, does the impact assessment produced by his own Government, slipped out late last night, make it quite explicit, in paragraph 241, that goods
“moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be required to complete both import declarations and Entry Summary (ENS) Declarations”,
“will result in additional…costs”
in Northern Ireland? How can the Prime Minister square that fact with the bluster and rhetoric he is serving up today?
The House will know full well that these are transitory arrangements. If the people of Northern Ireland choose to dissent from them, they melt away, unless by a majority they choose to retain them. I repeat: there will be no checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Nothing in the revised political declaration obliges Northern Ireland to be treated any differently in the future relationship, and I would expect Northern Ireland Members to be involved intimately in devising a whole-UK whole-world trade policy—and, indeed, the whole House.
Is not the fundamental point that, to deliver the UK whole, secure and prosperous out of the EU, Members of this House need to vote for Second Reading and, yes, vote for the programme motion so that it can all be done on time, and then stand firm behind the Prime Minister and his negotiating team, so that he has the power to deliver just the relationship that is being urged upon him to put before the House in due course?
I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his reassurance that workers’ rights—avoiding a race to the bottom, no regression, and so on—will be written into the Bill, because it is a huge issue for many Opposition Members and needs to be recognised by many Government Members. Can he give the same reassurance that consumer protection will also be written into the Bill?
I can indeed give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. [Interruption.] There will be no race to the bottom. For right hon. and hon. Members who wish to be involved in the building of our future partnership, there will be every opportunity at every stage for the House to be involved, and quite properly so. [Interruption.]
Order. There is so much noise in the Chamber that I fear that the hon. Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare), who enjoys the exalted status as Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, cannot draw attention to the fact that he wishes to intervene in the debate, which is regrettable for the hon. Gentleman.
Thank you for your good offices, Mr Speaker.
Trying to square the difficult circle of delivering Brexit under the umbrella of the Good Friday agreement and maintaining peace on the island of Ireland was always going to be a big ask. Not everybody will be happy with what the Prime Minister’s is bringing forward, but all communities should be happy that nobody is talking about a coach and horses being driven through the Good Friday agreement and that there are no communities, particularly on the border, that now fear a resurrection of violence, bloodshed and hatred. He is to be congratulated.
The Prime Minister has been giving so many reassurances to Labour Members that I wonder whether he could give one to me about the trapdoor at the heart of this Brexit deal. We know that if no arrangement is agreed by the end of December next year, we risk crashing out with no deal. Can he reassure me that he will extend that transition and guarantee now at the Dispatch Box that we will not crash out at the end of December next year?
I can indeed assure the hon. Lady that there will be no crashing out, because we will negotiate a great new friendship and partnership within the timescale. I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House have every confidence in the Government to do that. They said we could not change the withdrawal agreement in the 90 days we had, that we would never get rid of the backstop and that we would not get a new deal, but we did get a new deal—we got a great deal—for this House and this country, and we will get a great new free trade agreement and a new partnership for our country.
Before us lies the great project of building a new friendship with our closest neighbours across the channel. That is the common endeavour of our whole nation, and that will begin with clause 31, which will give Parliament a clear role, including the hon. Lady.
Is it not the case that to secure a deal with the EU, the Prime Minister had to make a choice over Northern Ireland? The choice that he made was to sign up to EU trading rules to secure frictionless trade with Ireland and the rest of the EU. Is not the truth that at the end of all the negotiations that the rest of the UK will face, we will be confronted with exactly the same dilemma? Either we remain close and sign up to the rules, in which case we give up our say—so what is the point of Brexit?—or we break totally free, in which case what is the price?
We have not made that choice. The Prime Minister has made it over Northern Ireland, and we face it over the rest of the UK. This is not getting Brexit done; it is continuing the agony for years to come.
Obviously I have a vision of this country having a very close friendship and partnership with the EU, but also being able to engage in free trade deals around the world. I think that those objectives are compatible, and I think that the way in which they can be made compatible is evident in this great new deal that we have done, but it is of course open to the hon. Lady to work with us to take it forward.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on securing a deal. I never doubted it for a minute. [Laughter.] Can he reassure me that the moment the Bill receives Royal Assent—hopefully sooner rather than later—he will work tirelessly, along with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to secure the closest possible relationship with European science and research funding programmes?
I thank my right hon. Friend and brother very much for what he has said. He has worked tirelessly in that sphere himself. I know how much he values such co-operation, as, indeed, I know how much Members throughout the House value it. We will protect, preserve and enhance it, and, as I have said, Members throughout the House will be involved in that process, but, as I have also said, under clause 31 Parliament is given a clear role.
I thank the Prime Minister for giving way; he is being incredibly generous. He will no doubt have heard, as I have, the dire warnings in certain quarters that if we leave the European Union, there will be problems at Dover and chaos on the roads of Kent. Can he assure the House, and me, and my constituents, that with this deal there will be no problems at the channel ports and no problems on Kent’s roads?
By your leave, Mr Speaker, I shall make some progress.
Let us pause for a second and reflect on the scale of the choices before us. If we rejected this new deal, what would the House be saying to the country and to the world? What alternative course of action is open to us? Is it to undo Brexit and cancel the greatest democratic exercise in the country’s history? Even now, I find it impossible to believe that any democrat would contemplate such a course. Time and again, the House has promised to honour the referendum, and the fact that the Leader of the Opposition is now proposing a rerun shows a regrettable contempt for the verdict of the British people. The House has repeatedly rejected a second referendum, and, in my view, must emphatically do so again.
Does the Prime Minister agree that a referendum took place and a decision was made by the British people? It is up to Parliament to accept that decision and work with it. Those are not my words, but the words of the Leader of the Opposition.
I worked closely with my right hon. Friend when he was Mayor of London, and I know how much he valued the contribution of EU citizens. I have the great good fortune to represent a constituency that contains one of the highest proportions of EU citizens. May I ask my right hon. Friend to look again at the arbitrary deadline for applications for settled status?
I am delighted to say that the settled status scheme is proceeding apace, and we have every hope that the entire 3.4 million will have registered by the time of the deadline. However, the best way to give all our citizens confidence and security, and to give all our friends confidence and security—particularly those 3.4 million—is to get this deal through tonight, because that is how we will protect their rights.
I know that some colleagues have been contemplating certain amendments that are not about delivering the new deal, but rather about trying to change its fundamentals. What would that say to our European friends about our good intentions? That we are proposing to come back to Brussels to ask for a third agreement? That we will put it to a fifth vote, perhaps after another six months or another year? Is there anyone who seriously believes that the EU would reopen the withdrawal agreement again? On the contrary, our European friends could not be clearer. The deal on the table is the one contained in the Bill. The decision for the House is whether to ratify this deal, rather than going round in circles in a futile effort to construct a new one.
Then there is the question of yet further delay. I know that some colleagues have been contemplating the timetable for the Bill and asking whether scrutiny should take longer. I do not think that we in this House should be daunted by the task that is before us. Let us work night and day, if that is what it takes to get this done. Our European friends are not showing any enthusiasm about agreeing to the delay for which Parliament has asked.
I congratulate our Prime Minister on achieving this deal. I had always thought that it would be enormously challenging to get all the other 27 leaders to agree to change the existing deal. However, this deal needs to be voted through not only by us but by the European Parliament, and it needs to be ratified across Europe. Does the Prime Minister agree that if we do not support the programme motion tonight, we will add great, great uncertainty and will push up the risk of no deal?
My hon. Friend is completely right. Those who have argued for three years that they are motivated primarily by a desire to avoid no deal have only one logical course of action tonight, and that is to vote for a programme motion that will ensure that we leave with a deal on 31 October. Doing anything else would, I am afraid, mean this House abdicating its responsibilities and handing over to the European Council the decision on what happens next: whether the EU will offer a short delay, a long delay, or no delay. The decision will be down to the EU.
The public do not want further delay. The House has discussed these issues for three and a half years. What on earth will the public think of us if the House votes again tonight not to get on with it—not to deliver Brexit on 31 October, but to hand over control of what happens next to the EU, closing the path to leaving with a deal on 31 October and opening the path to no deal in nine days’ time? Members claim that they want more weeks or months, or perhaps even years, in which to debate this matter, but the public will not be deceived about the real purpose of such delay. When we are so nearly at the end of this process, are Members really going to tell their constituents that at the last hurdle they chose to hand the decision to Brussels?
Even if the European Council were to agree with Parliament on a further delay, what would happen in the period after 31 October? As my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) rightly said, there would be yet more of the uncertainty that is holding our country back. I invite Members to picture the businesses in our constituencies freezing their investments, the jobs that will never be created, the contracts that British firms will neither bid for nor win and the exports that will never leave our shores.
My right hon. Friend will know that the Mayor of the West Midlands is in very close contact with manufacturers in the area, including Jaguar Land Rover. They are saying that the most damaging thing to manufacturing and industry as a whole is the uncertainty due to delay. They—not just me, not just the Mayor, but manufacturers—want the deal done and the deal done now.
May I start by thanking the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) and the hon. Members for Nottingham East (Mr Leslie) and for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) for helping getting me noticed? I must have been hard to spot.
May I bring the Prime Minister’s attention to clause 31, which is basically the amendment that my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) and I tabled to the last meaningful vote? However, whether by accident or by sneak, the Prime Minister has managed to add a small addendum, which means that any future vote would have to comply almost exclusively with the political declaration, meaning that this House would be constrained in what it could set as the future negotiating mandate. Can the Prime Minister explain why that has appeared? Also, on the purpose of scrutiny, this Bill specifically disapplies section 20 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 which requires a 21-day resting period for all international treaties; why has the Prime Minister decided to do that on this, and is that something he plans to do on any future trade arrangements?
On the hon. Gentleman’s point about clause 31, the intention is very clear: the intention is to allow the House to participate actively and fully in the building of the future partnership. If he reads the political declaration, he will see that there is plenty of scope within that political declaration for very active and full participation by all Members of the House in devising that partnership.
On the hon. Gentleman’s second point about the deadline in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act, there is in my view ample time for us to get this done. The House of Commons has been discussing this issue for three and a half years. We have chewed over this question again and again; our constituents will not be fooled by any further delay—they will not understand why that is necessary—and if we delay again, I am afraid that we will miss an opportunity to heal the divisions between us, and the paralysis will continue. Let me make it absolutely clear: there is no way—
It is indeed a genuine point of order concerning the programme motion. The BBC breaking news app is reporting that the Prime Minister has said that if he loses the programme motion he will withdraw the Bill. Given that the Prime Minister is talking about working with the House, has he given you any notice, Mr Speaker, that if the programme motion falls he will pull the Bill tonight?
Let me be very clear, to come to exactly the point the hon. Gentleman raises, that I will in no way allow months more of this. [Interruption.] No, I will not give way. If Parliament refuses to allow Brexit to happen and instead gets its way and decides to delay everything until January, or possibly longer, in no circumstances can the Government continue with this. And with great regret I must go directly to the point that the hon. Gentleman raises: with great regret I must say that the Bill will have to be pulled, and we will have to go forward, much as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition may not like it, to a general election. I will argue at that election—[Interruption.] No, I will not give way. At that election I will argue “Let’s get Brexit done,” and the Leader of the Opposition will make his case to spend 2020 having two referendums—one on Brexit and one on Scotland—and the people will decide.
There is another path. [Interruption.] No, I won’t give way. And that is to accept, as I have done, that this deal does not give us everything that we want, and all of us can find clauses and provisions to which we can object, as we can in any compromise, but it also gives us the opportunity to conclude that there is no dishonour in setting aside an entirely legitimate desire to deliver the perfect deal in the interests of seizing the great deal that is now within our grasp—of seizing the opportunity to begin healing the divisions, and to satisfy the aching desire of the British public that we would just get Brexit done and to move on to do what those who sent us here want us to do, which is to address their priorities.
Order. Notwithstanding the fact that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) must emphatically be the loudest Member of any Parliament anywhere in the European Union, he cannot insist that the Prime Minister gives way if the Prime Minister is disinclined to do so. I think the Prime Minister may be approaching his peroration, to which we should listen.
I think I have given way quite a lot during this speech and I wish to wind up because I know that hon. Members will wish to make their own contributions to the debate.
For three and a half years, this Parliament has been caught in a deadlock of its own making, and the truth is that all of us bear a measure of responsibility for that outcome, yet by the same token we all have the same opportunity now. The escape route is visible. The prize is visible before us: a new beginning with our friends and partners; a new beginning for a global, self-confident, outward-looking country that can do free trade deals around the world as one whole entire United Kingdom. The deal is here on the Table. The legislation to deliver it is here before us. A clear majority in the country is now imploring us to get Brexit done in this House of Commons. I say to the House: let us therefore do it and let us do it now and tonight. I commend this Bill to the House.
On Saturday, we warned that, if the House passes the Government’s deal, it would be a disaster for our country. Now, as we look through the details of the Bill, we see just how right we were: page after page of what amounts to nothing less than a charter for deregulation and a race to the bottom; a deal and a Bill that fail to protect our rights and our natural world, fail to protect jobs and the economy, and fail to protect every region and nation in the United Kingdom. The Bill confirms that Northern Ireland is really in the customs union of the EU and goods will be subjected to tariffs. On Saturday, the Prime Minister said there would be no checks, but yesterday the Brexit Secretary confirmed to the Lords European Union Committee that under the Government’s proposals Northern Irish businesses that send goods to Great Britain will have to complete export declaration forms, and today the Government estimate—this is the Government’s estimate—that exit declaration forms will be between £15 and £56 per customs declaration. So the Prime Minister was at best—I am being generous here—mistaken on Saturday. The more divergence, the harder that border will become and the greater danger and risk it will put on the historic Good Friday agreement.
We are challenging this Bill today and that is the whole point of this debate. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, my party’s policy is that we would negotiate an appropriate deal with the EU and allow the people to make the final decision. This deal leaves open the possibility of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal by the end of next year.
I do not disagree with what my right hon. Friend said, but does he understand why those of us in seats that voted heavily to leave, and who stood on a manifesto in 2017 that said that we would respect the result of the referendum, feel very strongly that this Bill must be allowed to proceed to Committee so that we can engage in the detail and see whether it is possible to get a Brexit deal that protects our constituents? For many people back home in towns such as Wigan, this is an article of faith in the Labour party and in democracy, and those of us who are seeking to engage in the detail do so not because we will support a Tory Brexit—our votes at Third Reading are by no means secure—but because we want to see if we can improve the deal and keep people’s trust in our democracy.
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, and I also thank her and other colleagues, some of whom represent seats that voted heavily to leave, for their engagement, for the discussions and for the constructive way in which all that has been approached. I do understand the concerns in those constituencies and communities. I know that she supports the principle of a customs union, which the Labour party placed in its manifesto and has restated since. My view is that we should vote against this Bill this evening for the reasons that I have set out. I understand her view that it is possible to amend it in Committee—that is always the process in Parliament—but my recommendation would be to vote against this Bill. However, I understand and respect the way in which she has approached this and the way in which she represents her community and her constituency. She will join me in being pretty alarmed at the stress that the manufacturing industry is under at the moment. If we do not have a customs union, manufacturing in this country will be seriously under threat.
For many areas that rely heavily on manufacturing, the deal as it has been set out, which includes leaving the customs union and single market, inevitably means tariffs, which inevitably means less manufacturing and fewer jobs in those areas.
My right hon. Friend’s constituency, which I know very well, was once a centre of manufacturing in Britain, but the Government of Margaret Thatcher put paid to that. He is right that, in the event of tariffs being introduced on manufactured goods and in the event of WTO conditions, the opportunities for sales in the European market, which are obviously huge at present, would be severely damaged. I ask colleagues to think carefully about what I see as the dangers behind the Prime Minister’s approach, because he does not offer a safety net—[Interruption.] There are so many people trying to intervene. Can I deal with one at a time, please? That would be kind. The Prime Minister does not offer a safety net—[Interruption.]
Order. If I may gently say to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Seely), it is at the very least a tad tactless, when he has just been advised that the Leader of the Opposition is dealing with one intervention first, immediately to spring to his feet. I enjoin him to remember his emotional intelligence.
I am minded to vote in favour on Second Reading not because I support the deal but because I do not; I want to improve the deal so that it reflects the manifesto that I stood on and respects the referendum result, and so that we leave with a deal that protects jobs and trade. Does my right hon. Friend understand my motivation?
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Having on several occasions spent time with her in her constituency, talking to people in her community and visiting factories and enterprises in the area, I fully understand both her concerns and their concerns. I commend her for her work in representing that area and the obvious friendship that exists between her and all the people she represents—she is a great MP. She wants to represent her constituency and her constituents’ concerns. I hope that she will understand why I believe this Bill should not be given a Second Reading, but I am sure she will agree with me that to bring this Bill for debate less than 17 hours after it was published is a totally unreasonable way of treating Parliament, and I hope she will join me in the Lobby this evening in opposing the programme motion.
It is no wonder that some Conservative Members are suddenly so keen to jump on board with this deal, because it opens the door to the no-deal exit that this House has voted against on numerous occasions.
Does the right hon. Gentleman understand that the reason so many Opposition and Government Members want to get the Bill through is that we want to avoid no deal? The best way of doing that is to support this deal, so why will he not support it?
I do not know what has happened to the hon. Gentleman’s maths, but so far three Members have intervened who have expressed disagreement with the Bill and want to get a better deal to get a customs union, which is hardly the position he adopts, so he should be careful of assuming that all my colleagues over here, who are desperate to represent hard-up communities that have been so disgracefully treated by this Government, are suddenly jumping on board with him. I have news for him: they are not.
It is plain and simple: this Bill is a charter for a Brexit that would be good for the hedge fund managers and speculators, but bad for the communities that we represent, our industries and people’s jobs and living standards. Industries from chemical processing to car manufacturing are all deeply worried about how the Bill will operate.
One of the reasons so many of us are concerned about the programme motion is how little time we have to bottom this out. The Prime Minister tells us that things will be better if we leave the European Union. He just said that he would look at the European work-life balance directive, but on 2 September the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy already ruled out to me implementing it. It is a directive that would give people carers’ rights and care leave that our constituents do not currently have. Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the problems with rushing this through is not just what we will lose, but what we will miss out on because this Prime Minister will not give any commitments on them?
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Of course, she is absolutely right that, while the Prime Minister claims that there is no intention in his mind to undermine workers’ rights—I cannot see into his mind, so I do not know, but that is what he says—there is no legal protection within this Bill for dynamic alignment with the European Union on consumer rights, environmental protections, workers’ rights and much else besides. I therefore urge colleagues to think very carefully about how they vote on the Bill tonight.
I treasure the interview that the right hon. Gentleman and I gave to Sky News before he became Leader of the Opposition, when the only thing that we agreed on is that we should leave the European Union on democratic grounds. What has changed since he became leader of the Labour party? Can he not see that, if he votes against the programme motion, he and his whole party will be seen as voting against delivering Brexit?
Parliament needs to do its job and that is what we should be given the chance to do; we should not be rushed into this 17 hours after the Bill’s publication. I would also say—I was a trade union organiser and official before I came into this House—you do not give up what you have won and gained; you protect what you have and try to get better in the future. The Bill undermines workers’ rights in our country and in our society, and those who vote this thing through in its present form will find that many of our current rights will be severely damaged.
This place can be quite intimidating at times. I came here believing that people who sounded a bit posh and walked around with an air of entitlement somehow knew what they were doing. If nothing else, I thank the Prime Minister for disproving that at least.
I was catching a breath—the Prime Minister wore me out; I was getting up and down so much earlier.
Opposition Members are genuinely agonising over the best way forward in reconciling constituencies that have very different views on Brexit, and I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the work he is doing to try to retain that coalition. Regardless of where people come from, surely it is important that we have the right information and the right risk assessment. Is it not wrong that the risk assessments are incomplete and that the Government’s own advisers have not even been able to rate their risk assessments because of the lack of time?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As a distinguished former leader of his local authority, he knows the importance of going through documents in detail and having a chance to take advice on the implications. Even with the greatest brains in the world—I am sure this House does contain the greatest brains in the world, there is no doubt about that—17 hours is not very long to deal with 40 clauses and 110 pages of legislation.
The Prime Minister is trying to blindside Parliament to force through this deal, and this Parliament must challenge him.
Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that, should it be passed, this Bill will open us up to a free trade agreement with the US that will have huge ramifications for our valued national health service and for the food we eat?
Yes, it will. The only way forward for the Prime Minister would be to go on to WTO rules and then to seek a special trade deal with the United States. I do not know whether the Prime Minister has noticed, but Donald Trump adopts an “America first” policy. Donald Trump’s attitude towards trade is, to put it most generously, one-sided towards the USA. There will be no equitable deal with the USA, and those companies in the USA that want to get control of our health service will come knocking on the door to take over our national health service.
This is a Bill of huge significance and complexity, and it will decide the future of our country, of our economy and of the economic model we follow. Accepting the programme motion will mean that all 40 clauses have to be considered and voted on within 48 hours, starting this evening. That would be an abuse of Parliament and a disgraceful attempt to dodge accountability, scrutiny and any kind of proper debate.
Has my right hon. Friend noticed that clause 36(1) says
“It is recognised that the Parliament of the United Kingdom is sovereign”?
Yet the Prime Minister will not give this Parliament of the United Kingdom the chance to fully scrutinise his proposals.
My right hon. Friend makes a strong case that Parliament should have the opportunity to properly scrutinise what the Executive want to do. I do not think the Prime Minister has really taken that into account in his botched and speedy procedure and in his obsession with getting all this stuff through in a few days.
What the officials once said would take four weeks to properly scrutinise is now being done in one day. Colleagues on both sides of the House should simply ask themselves why. So much for Parliament taking back control. Parliament is being treated as an inconvenience that can be bypassed by this Government.
There is a crucial element to this. When we in this House deal with major issues for the country, we need the information and we need—
If hon. Members hang on a second, I will deal with this. No economic impact assessment whatsoever has been made or presented to this House. At the very least, this House should have that assessment and that expert advice in order to scrutinise the Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer does not seem to think it is relevant that this Bill and their deal need that kind of scrutiny—even more so in the light of today’s dire public finance figures.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that there has been no economic impact assessment of the Bill, so many of us have to rely on the impact assessment of the previous Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement, which showed a detrimental impact on the north-east to the degree of 7% of our GDP. How can that be justified to our industry and manufacturing in the north-east, which are already so far behind the rest of the country?
Indeed. My hon. Friend represents a constituency that has suffered grievously from the Tory Government’s industrial non-strategy. SSI Redcar was closed down, and there are huge issues for manufacturing investment across her region and across her constituency. This House knows full well—and if Conservative Members cared to listen, they would know full well—that this proposal will damage manufacturing industry and therefore jobs, particularly in the north-east, which is the only part of the country with a manufacturing surplus on trade with Europe and the rest of the world.
The Prime Minister shakes his head, but every single Member represents people who voted leave and people who voted remain. Nobody voted for a wing-and-a-prayer, cake-and-eat-it, blindfold Brexit with no economic impact assessment of the biggest transformation of our economy in peacetime history.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is a completely unacceptable way to bring forward this legislation? It is not fair on this House, and it is not fair on the people who will lose their jobs as a result.
I commend my hon. Friend for what she says and the way she says it. We all represent people who voted in different directions in the referendum, or who did not vote at all. We all have to represent them, but in making these decisions, we have to ask ourselves this question: if this deal is good for our country, why have the Government not produced a single scrap of evidence showing that?
I am enormously grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Let me pay tribute to a former Labour leader, Tony Blair, who was the architect of the Good Friday agreement, which delivered much needed peace and stability to Northern Ireland after 30 years of atrocious violence that affected all communities right across the island of Ireland.
I am extremely concerned that the Labour party, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have anxiety that the Prime Minister’s new Brexit deal, in some way, undermines the Good Friday agreement and its achievements. Will he please take a few moments to explain his concerns? I think that is really important.
I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention, and I am sure she and the whole House would agree that the Good Friday agreement was an historic step forward that has brought relative peace to Northern Ireland. My concern is that this Bill creates a customs frontier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK—the Prime Minister told the DUP conference that that is something he would not do—and requires the certification of goods before they can be sent from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK, and it therefore creates a different trading relationship.
Although there might not be an aspiration at the moment to put any physical customs points on the road borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic, I gently say that the direction of travel is not a good one. The hon. Lady knows as well as I do that, as soon as we start doing that, we will end up seriously undermining the historic achievements of the Good Friday agreement.
I return the right hon. Gentleman to a simple fact, about which I am concerned. Does he recall that he once sponsored a Bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972? Can he explain what has changed and why, in voting against this Bill, he will be voting against repealing the 1972 Act?
I also recall that I strongly supported the social chapter to try to bring social justice across Europe, and I just remind the right hon. Gentleman of his historic achievement of bringing in universal credit and all the damage that has done to so many people in this country.
The only economic evidence we can go on is the economic assessment carried out under the previous Prime Minister, and that was clear.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should not vote for anything that could make our country poorer, and this Brexit deal would do exactly that? Does he also agree that the previous referendum should have been regarded as illegal due to the overspend by the Prime Minister? The only way forward is a people’s vote.
People voted in different ways in the referendum in 2016—that is obvious—but nobody voted to lose their jobs, or to find that their regulations and living conditions had been damaged. The function of Parliament is to hold the Government to account and scrutinise this agreement. A bare bones free trade agreement, which is what the Prime Minister is promising, would dramatically hit our country’s GDP, and would disproportionately hit the poorest regions and make everybody in this country worse off. It would also lock in the existing privatisation of our national health service, and nothing in this Bill protects our health service or public services from future trade deals.
Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that many EU nationals in this country are really afraid, because they do not know what their future is going to be? An Italian flower seller in a market in my constituency has lived here 15 years and has been constantly asked, “When are you going home?” Today, I have received an email from a doctor in the constituency, who said of a colleague:
“There are significant concerns about the tardy response by the ‘Brexit department’, for want of a better name for that organization, in that there has been no confirmation of—
this German doctor’s residency and—
“status going forward.
He is obviously very anxious and distracted by this situation.
We need to keep primary care morale up in the current difficult times and our valued European doctors—
need to feel confident about their future within the UK.
This doctor has been a cornerstone of the NHS in Wales for over 20 years.”
My right hon. Friend knows very well that we are losing doctors and nurses, and we cannot afford to do it.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. She says it with heartfelt passion and she is right: there are many people who have come to this country from all over the world, made their homes here and made a massive contribution to our lives and our society, and every one of us owes our health to those people who work in our NHS, whether they come from Commonwealth countries, other countries or the European Union. They should not be put through the strain either of the Windrush hostile environment or the sword of Damocles hanging over many at the moment because they know they have only five years’ definite stay in this country. I will just remind the House that in July 2016, my party, through Andy Burnham, then our shadow Home Secretary, moved a motion guaranteeing permanent rights and residence of EU nationals. The Prime Minister was the only Tory to support it at that time. I do not know what has happened to him since then.
On trade and investment, will the Chancellor do his job and provide the House with a comprehensive economic impact assessment on this deal? At the very least, will he do so before Report stage? This Bill falls hugely short in all areas.
I have given way a great deal, as I am sure all Members would agree. I am going to make some progress and then give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) and the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas).
On jobs and manufacturing, this deal will reduce access to the market of our biggest trade partner and leave our manufacturers without a customs union. As we have heard in many interventions, Members have heard desperate pleas from businesses in their constituencies all saying that they need frictionless supply chains. So I ask all Members to do the right thing: let us work together to make sure that a comprehensive customs union is hard-wired into our future relationship with the EU.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. He knows that we disagree on elements of this Bill and this issue. As his former Whip, with my Whips tie on, may I ask him for an assurance that Labour Members who exercise their conscience this evening and do not follow the whip will not have that whip removed, any more than he had it removed when he exercised his conscience?
I believe in the powers of persuasion and tonight I would like to persuade my hon. Friend: come with us, vote against this Bill and vote against the programme motion, because I believe, and I think he may agree with me, that that is in the interests of his constituents.
Does the Leader of the Opposition share my concern that this Brexit deal could lead to a loss of freedom of movement within the island of Ireland for international family members of Irish or UK citizens? In other words, it imposes the equivalent of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, denying families their reunification rights. Will he acknowledge that this is a barely mentioned but worrying aspect of yet another way in which this deal breaches the Good Friday agreement?
Yes, I understand and accept the hon. Lady’s concerns on that. She is eloquently making the case for far more scrutiny of this Bill, so I am sure she will be joining me in opposing the programme motion this evening, because it will prevent just that kind of scrutiny. I note that the programme motion allows just one hour for consideration of all Lords amendments, however many there may or may not be.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for eventually giving way. I was incredibly concerned when I was reminded by my wife earlier today that we spent longer choosing a sofa than this House has to debate this incredibly important Bill. The important point is this: the Prime Minister’s own legislative adviser, Nikki da Costa, has said and advised him that she thinks this House needs at least four weeks to debate this important legislation in order for it to go through both Houses. We have just not got enough time to debate this—does my right hon. Friend agree?
My hon. Friend makes a strong point. We got the Bill at 8.15 last night and this afternoon at 1 pm we start debating it—that is utterly ludicrous. We are then going into Committee stage. The Bill then goes to the Lords and comes back, as I said in response to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion, for a one- hour debate on Lords amendments. These are serious issues that have huge implications for communities, factories, jobs and people. This should not be dealt with in this way.
Over the past couple of years, Members from across the House have asked many, many questions about the customs relationship between the EU and the UK post Brexit, but nobody thought to ask whether customs arrangements within their own country would be affected. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Prime Minister should have, at that Dispatch Box, apologised to the businesses in Britain that trade within Britain and are now going to have start filling out forms that they would never have had to fill out before?
One reason why we need greater scrutiny is that as a result of the Bill, the relationships in Northern Ireland fundamentally change the decision-making processes. The stakes are so high and the risk is evident for us all to see. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need proper scrutiny and more time to consider the Bill, for the sake of peace?
Indeed, the Northern Ireland peace process—the Good Friday agreement—is one of the most significant things that this House has ever done. We should understand the threat that the Bill brings.
I was speaking about workers’ rights, on which the Government want us to trust them. The provisions in the Bill will mean that the Government merely have to inform the House if they propose to diverge from EU standards. Am I correct in understanding that no notification, let alone a vote, would be required if the measure is currently contained in secondary legislation? The provisions fall way, way short of those in the Workers’ Rights (Maintenance of EU Standards) Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn), and the TUC concluded:
“The deal itself does not meet the TUC’s tests that any brexit outcome must protect jobs, rights, and peace in Northern Ireland. By moving away from a close economic relationship with the EU, the deal would be a disaster for working people’s jobs and livelihoods. The deal would not require”—[Interruption.]
I am surprised that Government Members do not want to hear what the TUC says about the deal. The TUC continued:
“The deal would not require government to maintain existing rights, would not require rights to keep pace with those across the EU, and would leave workers with a significantly reduced ability to enforce the rights they do have.”
The TUC concluded by saying:
“It would do nothing to improve employment rights in the UK, now or in future.”
The Government talk about maintaining world-class environmental standards, but actions speak louder than words, so can I ask the Prime Minister—
I am not giving way for a while.
Why has the Prime Minister, instead of entrenching non-regression environmental standards into the Bill and the deal, taken out the level playing field commitments? I always say, Mr Speaker, that on all these issues you do not have to take my word for it; manufacturers and industry are deeply concerned about this deal. Environmental campaigning groups and green groups are deeply concerned. I challenge the Prime Minister to name a single trade union in this country that backs this deal. He knows that he cannot, and they have made their views very clear through the TUC.
Order. The Leader of the Opposition has made it clear that he is not giving way at the moment. There is a fine line between beseeching someone and hectoring, and Members are in danger of falling on the wrong side of that dividing line. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to continue with his speech, and he will do so until he is ready to give way.
The Prime Minister and I agree on very little, but we both give way a great deal. I am not going to give way for the moment.
Clause 30 makes it worryingly clear that if no trade deal with the EU is agreed by the very ambitious date of December next year, Ministers can just decide to crash the UK out on World Trade Organisation terms. That is not getting Brexit done; it is merely pushing back the serious threat of no deal to a later date. Let us be clear: as things stand the Bill spells out the deeply damaging deal that the Prime Minister has negotiated—and he knows it, which is why he is trying to push it through without scrutiny. Labour will seek more time to scrutinise. We will seek a clear commitment on a customs union, a strong single market relationship, a hard-wired commitment on workers’ rights, non-regression on environmental standards and the closure of loopholes to avoid the threat of a no-deal Brexit once and for all.
Lastly, the Prime Minister’s deal should go back to the people; we should give them, not just Members of this House, the final say. They always say that the devil is in the detail; I have seen some of the detail and it confirms everything we thought about this rotten deal. It is a charter for deregulation across the board, paving the way for a Trump-style trade deal that will—[Hon. Members: “Oh!”] Government Members do not like hearing this bit, so I will say it again: it will pave the way for a Trump-style trade deal that will attack jobs, rights and protections and open up our precious national health service and all the history and principles behind it, and other public services, to even more privatisation. That is exactly what the Prime Minister set out in his letter to the President of the EU Commission, when he said that alignment with EU standards
“is not the goal of the current UK Government.”
There we have it in his own words. That is a vision for the future of our country that my party, the Labour party, cannot sign up to and does not support. That is why we will be voting against Second Reading tonight and, if that vote is carried, we will vote against the programme motion, to ensure that this elected House of Commons has the opportunity to properly scrutinise this piece of legislation.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Home Affairs Committee was due to take evidence from the Home Secretary tomorrow afternoon. I have been trying to speak to the Home Secretary today, because she has now informed the Committee that she does not want to give evidence tomorrow. We have offered to change the timing of the sitting to tomorrow morning—
This is a matter of diary management between the right hon. Lady and the Home Secretary, but I think the general principle is that if a Minister has for some reason to duck out of appearing before a Select Committee, which sometimes has to happen, an alternative arrangement is made.
Although I am not on a time limit, I know that time is short, so I will be as brief as I possibly can to ensure that everybody else can get in.
Some 25 years ago, the Maastricht treaty finally passed into UK law. I remember with some fondness going on many occasions through the Lobby to vote against the Government—heaven forfend—and I was always joined by the jolly figure of the current Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn). We shared many a conversation about how terrible it was and how, given the opportunity, we would one day join together to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. I am sorry to say to the Leader of the Opposition, in genuine friendship, that I would love to know what happened in the intervening 25 years that changed his mind about the European Union such that he now no longer wishes to repeal that Act. I miss our friendship and would like that to be put on record. [Interruption.] As my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) said, it was literally the only thing we ever agreed about.
Today, I am going to—
I will not give way just yet, because I am conscious of time and will be very brief.
I rise to congratulate my right hon Friend the Prime Minister on what I thought was an excellent speech and to say that, absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, I will support the Government tonight in both votes—on Second Reading and, massively importantly, on the programme motion. We did not have programme motions during Maastricht. Some people might recall that we had to have 100 hours in Committee before we could actually get a limit on speeches. Sometimes, I wonder whether that would not be a good thing, but not tonight, it has to be said. There is a reason for that—we have had more than 100 hours in Committee over the past three and a half years. The reality is that, if there is anything about this arrangement that we have not now debated and thrashed to death, I would love to know what it is.
I will give way in a minute.
Those who say that they do not have enough time in the next few days, because they have so many things to debate forget that there was a White Paper published last year—I see my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir David Lidington) sitting on my left—that contained, sadly, most of the elements of the withdrawal agreement. That was debated, and the issue has been debated in meaningful vote after meaningful vote. Many of the things in the agreement have not changed. I for one would like to see more of it changed, and I will come back to that in a second.
I just want to emphasise the need for scrutiny. In an earlier intervention, the right hon. Gentleman said that this Bill is repealing the European Communities Act 1972. In fact, in clause 1, it reimposes it. Surely that should be scrutinised properly by the House.
The right hon. Gentleman has known that for more than a year now. There is no surprise there. I certainly have real concerns about that matter, but I have to say to him that I have known about it for some time. This did not pop up suddenly in my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s agreement. We have thrashed this out through the White Paper and in meaningful vote after meaningful vote. Honestly, we have to ask ourselves the question: has this House not debated that element to absolute destruction?
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. I regret that I am on a different side from him on this occasion, as I was on Maastricht, but I am enjoying his speech as much as I did then.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that, until very recently, there was no suggestion that England, Scotland and Wales were going to go into their own customs union and single market, and that the whole of Ireland, including Northern Ireland, was going to go into a single market and customs union with the continent of Europe? Indeed, that was expressly ruled out only a few months ago by the present Prime Minister. At the moment that issue is due to be disposed of in three hours, with other issues being disposed of tomorrow morning. If every member of the DUP tries to speak, they will be reduced to a three-minute time limit in their speeches, and that also applies to other Members of the House. Having spent more than 100 hours over Maastricht, when he occupied quite a lot of the time himself, why on earth does he think that we should not debate such important constitutional issues?
I say to my right hon. and learned Friend that, absolutely, I am very happy to debate it. He touches on the one issue that was not in the White Paper and is different, and I accept that. I am sure that, had the Opposition sat down with the usual channels and carefully discussed the really serious elements on which they wanted more time, it may have been possible to have allowed that. The reality is that they have taken the position from day one that they would oppose this Bill, but make no other propositions. We could, for example, go round the clock—he and I agree about that. We have time. After all, what is the weekend for? I do not have any problem with that. I have a simple point to make, which is that those who argue endlessly that there is not enough time are really arguing that they do not like the idea of the deadline of 31 October and do not want to stick to it. My right hon Friend the Prime Minister has said that it is in law and that we are going to stick to that.
With due respect to the hon. Gentleman, he does intervene a lot. The reality is that we have also spent a lot—[Interruption.] I do not mean that rudely, I just genuinely mean that he does intervene a lot.
There is a very good video doing the rounds. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) has not seen it, but it would be good if he had. It is not about him; it is about many others who have argued here for one case, but who now, since the referendum, seem to have managed to change their views massively. The streets of Westminster are marked by the skid marks of politicians who have done U-turns on the position they took directly after the referendum. We had pledges to implement the referendum. I note that, when the result first came out, the shadow Secretary of State for Brexit said on two occasions that the referendum would have to be implemented and that freedom of movement would end when we left. Now, of course, the Opposition are shifting their position around and they want to delay. More than that, the Leader of the Opposition has said that he now wants to make certain that the Bill cannot possibly go through.
That brings me very briefly to two points that have been made. One is on a second referendum, which some Members want to include in an amendment to this Bill. They want more time to do that. I have a simple point to make: those who want a second referendum argue very carefully that it should not contain a question about leaving, which strikes me as bizarre. More importantly, why should any member of the public, or any one of our constituents, who voted in the first referendum—
One second. May I just finish my point?
Why should any of our constituents believe any one of us now? We promised them at the time of the previous referendum in 2016 that we would implement it. We then came into this House and voted to implement it and voted to implement article 50. Why, when we go back to them, should we be able to say, “Don’t worry. Trust us. Despite what we said to you last time, and although we have now reneged on that, we’re going to give you another chance, because we think that, somehow, you might change your decision, and if you do not, you need to trust us that we will stand by the decision that you have not changed, even though you gave us that decision earlier.”? That, frankly, is utterly absurd.
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. It may have been inadvertent, but he did suggest that those advocating a people’s vote or second referendum did not want to put the option of leaving in it. That is, I have to say to him, entirely inaccurate. Perhaps he would like to consider this: he believes that this debate should be curtailed. One thing that I have learned is that, if we want to get public acceptance of a decision that people do not like, the process of debate is absolutely key. Therefore, he will maximise the resentments when, in fact, an opportunity exists for him to go back to the people and ask them to confirm that the deal is what a majority want.
I am always grateful to receive an intervention from my right hon. and learned Friend, but I have to tell him that I disagree with him. The British people voted to leave the European Union, so they clearly like it and they like the idea that we are going to get on with it. I do not know who he is talking to in his constituency, but I have to tell him that most of those in my constituency—even those who voted remain—keep on saying, “Whatever else we do, let us get this done and get it done now.” My right hon. and learned Friend will know full well, because he has played a very significant part in all these debates under two Prime Ministers, that he has not missed a single opportunity to table amendments and to debate almost every single part of this agreement that now sits in front of us. I have no problem with that, and I respect him entirely. He remains a friend. Despite the fact that we disagree, I refuse to be rude or antagonistic. I simply say that he knows he has played his full part.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Is not one of the real problems faced by this and the previous Parliament that when we voted, for whatever reason, to give the decision back to the people, we decided to be not representatives but delegates? On this one issue only, we are delegated to carry out the wishes of the majority. That does not mean that we should ignore the minority, but why, after saying that we should be delegates, are the same people advocating a second a referendum in which we would be delegates, when they cannot manage the first one?
I always love giving way to the right hon. Gentleman—in fact, I will call him my right hon. Friend in this particular moment—because he talks common sense. When we passed the European Union Referendum Act 2015, we made it very clear—and we confirmed this after the referendum—that, although we are a House of representatives and not delegates, we were handing back to the British people the sovereign power that comes from them to us for the period of a Parliament. We gave that power back to them to make the decision. They have made that decision, and as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister knows, we now must act on it. As far as I am concerned, the deal has flaws and includes things that I do not particularly like, but I recognise that the overarching priority right now is to deliver on the referendum and leave the European Union, and this remains the only way that we can achieve that. I absolutely agree with the right hon. Gentleman on that.
I am not going to give way any more; I have given way enough.
If there is any attempt in this process to amend the Bill to keep us in a customs union, I would simply argue that I thought it was made very clear throughout—and there were many comments by Opposition Members, including the Leader of the Opposition, to this effect—that leaving the customs union was part of the package of leaving. [Interruption.] Others will disagree. I do not say that they are wrong. I simply say that I think it was pretty explicit throughout the whole referendum campaign that the jewel in the crown of leaving was being able to set our own trade negotiations and trade deals. Taking that power back is a really critical part of taking back control. If we handed that power back, it would be an enormous mistake. It also has to be said that such an amendment—this will be up to Mr Speaker, of course—would be a wrecking amendment, because it is not possible to go back and ask the EU to change the deal one more time. Such an amendment would therefore wreck the Bill and there would be only one reason for it: to stop this Bill and prevent us from leaving the European Union. Although others will want to do that, I do not agree with them.
We all have to make difficult choices. I do want the Government to engage enormously with our colleagues from Northern Ireland, because there is very much an issue regarding them leaving with us when we strike a future trade deal. It is really important that we engage with them, because we must leave as one Union, not separated or separable.
The right hon. Gentleman has said to the House that very little has changed and that we do not need further debate, but the Prime Minister and members of the Government repeatedly said—just a few weeks ago—that they would never accept a border down the Irish sea. This change in the agreement is the most fundamental change to our Union since the Act of Union. That merits debate and discussion, and this House needs to listen to that discussion.