Consequential, transitional, transitory and saving provision

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:57 pm on 17th January 2018.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Chair, Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union, Chair, Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union 6:57 pm, 17th January 2018

This Bill is necessary but, as my right hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer so eloquently pointed out, deeply flawed. Despite the changes that have been made, it remains deeply flawed, and their lordships will have a lot of work to do as it passes down the corridor. I welcome the Government’s move to accept the need for primary legislation to implement the withdrawal agreement, but the task now for the House as we watch the Bill depart is to think about the future.

Sir Edward Leigh talked about a vision, but let us tell each other the truth. At the moment, we have no idea what is going to go into the withdrawal agreement, partly because it has not yet been negotiated, but mainly because the Cabinet is yet to decide what it wishes to ask for, and the House should be really rather anxious about the position that we find ourselves in. The referendum result was 19 months ago, but there are only nine months to go until the negotiations are meant to end, and the discussions on our future trading arrangements may not begin until March. The House will be very concerned about that position.

The truth is that the Government cannot reach agreement. The truth is that they are probably the first Government in history to go into negotiations knowing that they will almost certainly end up with a worse deal than we currently have because of the red lines that they have chosen to put in place, and knowing that it will not therefore be possible to honour the promise that has been made to the people of Northern Ireland and indeed of the Republic about an open border. Therefore, if I have one plea, as we see this Bill depart for now, it is that the Government will, very quickly, do their job and set out for this House and for the British people what it is that they are seeking, because when we come to that meaningful vote, believe you me, this House will ensure that it is meaningful when it comes to decisions about our future.