Retaining Enhanced Protection

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:15 pm on 17th January 2018.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham East 2:15 pm, 17th January 2018

That is absolutely right, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman neatly and helpfully moves me on to my new clause 3, which deals with the question of the Irish hard border. I think that many people read the phase 1 agreement in an optimistic light. In many ways, those words were all things to all people. The can was kicked down the road, but there will have to be a translation into some sort of legal text by the time we get to the withdrawal agreement. Heaven help us when the two sides to the negotiations have to start talking in specific terms.

The Prime Minister had a slightly different view from the Republic of Ireland of what the phase 1 agreement meant. She reported back to the House that it was simply to be restricted to the issues listed in the Belfast agreement, which does not, of course, include trade in goods, to mention just one small policy area. There are massive questions about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. People in that area share reciprocal healthcare, as well as environmental factors such as rivers, streams and lakes. They have a shared energy market and shared fisheries, food and plant arrangements. All those are shared because of the very geography of what are two distinct countries, so trying to fudge the issue just will not work, particularly if the UK is a third party.