Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Leaving the Eu: Negotiations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:18 pm on 10th July 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 4:18 pm, 10th July 2018

As my hon. Friends have already said, we have the best deal now. It is pretty clear that we were prospering over 40 years. We have moved from being the sick man of Europe and the dirty man of Europe to one that was leading on the environment and leading on the economy. That happened during our time as a member of the European Union. The deal we have at the moment is the best possible deal. Anything different is going to be far worse.

I want to take on an argument put forward by those on the Conservative Benches that somehow having a people’s vote would undermine our negotiating position. Madam Deputy Speaker, does anyone in this House seriously believe that what we have seen from the Government is strengthening our negotiating position? What a disaster! I wonder whether Conservative Members ever talk to anyone from France, Germany, Italy or any of the other 27 member countries. They see us as a laughing stock. Our stock as a country has fallen. We used to be highly regarded for our diplomatic skills, for our leadership and for our stability. In a short time, this discredited Conservative Government have made us the laughing stock not just of Europe but of the developed world.

As a Minister in the coalition Government, I attended five European Councils, first as a junior Business Minister and then as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. Over five years, I was involved in a whole set of negotiations in Europe: on the economy delivering a growth package, which was very much written here in London; and on an energy and climate change package, which was very much written here in London. My experience was that we could always win for Britain, completely contrary to the nonsense we hear from so many Brexiteers. Moreover, people listened to us. When we engaged in proper negotiations and proper politics, we could always win the day. I have been disappointed, angered and distressed by the appalling inability of the Government to negotiate—with themselves, frankly, let alone the European Union. Their attempt to try to build those relationships, which are critical in a successful negotiation, has failed lamentably.

I want to end with one problem that I have with the Chequers statement. The Minister was unable to answer it and the Prime Minister was unable to answer it during her statement on Monday. It is important in relation to the negotiations with Europe and to what this Parliament eventually decides. If there is a new rule produced by our EU colleagues relating to the single market for goods, this House will have the freedom to vote on it. That sounds very enticing to a Brexiteer: we will have the freedom to do that, we have taken back control and so on. What has not been spelled out is what happens if this House votes to reject such a new rule. It is absolutely clear that were the House to do that, the whole agreement that we negotiate with Brussels will collapse. This is going to be one of the key questions during the negotiations and during deliberations in this House. I think it is one of the questions on which the Chequers statement will fail.

This country and this House need better leadership. We have not got it and I fear we are not going to get it. That is the reason why this House needs to give the people the final say.