June European Council

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:54 pm on 2nd July 2018.

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Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader 4:54 pm, 2nd July 2018

I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of her statement. How embarrassing it must have been for her last week in Brussels, when the most oft-heard words were, “Time is running out.” We learnt that this year the Brexit Secretary has spent only four hours in talks with Michel Barnier. The EU’s chief negotiator has warned that

“huge and serious divergence remains, in particular on Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

The UK is inching ever closer to a cliff edge, but the Prime Minister cannot even negotiate with her own Cabinet, let alone—[Interruption.] I hear the guffawing and laughter coming from the Conservative Benches, including from the Prime Minister. They should reflect on the fact that this is about the jobs and security of our people; they deserve to have these important matters taken seriously, not treated like a Punch and Judy show by the Conservatives.

In a worrying development, EU officials yesterday warned that the deal might not be ready until December at the earliest. The Irish Prime Minister summed up the situation perfectly when he said:

“I think it would have been helpful to have that white paper two years ago. You would have thought they’d have had that before people voted.”

To go to a European Council meeting with nothing to negotiate on and then to come back and hold a Cabinet summit beggars belief. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. On Friday, the Prime Minister will face her Cabinet. Goodness knows where she will be with Brexit this time next week. More than two years on from the Brexit vote, we are no clearer on what the Government want—two years wasted, with no vision and no plan. The result is that jobs and investment are at risk from lack of a coherent plan. Where is the leadership? Where is the recognition of the responsibility that the Prime Minister has to protect jobs? Mr Speaker, you could not make this up. No wonder businesses, communities and the devolved Administrations are speaking out.

Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether December is her new deal deadline for negotiations? Does she think it is right that NHS England is preparing for no deal and working to secure medicine and equipment because she cannot give simple reassurances? To protect the NHS and to protect jobs and investment, will she commit now to keeping the United Kingdom in the single market and in the customs union to protect our communities?