Future Relationship Between the UK and the EU

Part of Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 18th July 2018.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 6:45 pm, 18th July 2018

I will not, because I have answered the hon. Gentleman’s points and we cannot get into a detailed exchange.

The result of the Prime Minister’s approach has been paralysis, not simply on Brexit but on the other crises facing our country. The Government have neither the authority to deal with Brexit nor the ability to tackle the issues that led to it. There has been a dawning realisation from the Prime Minister that those early red lines were a mistake, but each time she tries to step over them, she has been hauled back by the extremists within her party.

At Chequers, it did seem that the Prime Minister was beginning to face up to the hard facts—to break free from the icy grip of the European Research Group. Not far enough, not soon enough, but tentative steps towards reality, towards a customs settlement and a regulatory alignment demanded by business—a point made by my hon. Friend Richard Burden—and also necessary to resolve the issue of the Northern Ireland border.

Of course, the former Brexit Secretary was right when he endorsed Donald Trump's view that the plan would “kill” the prospect of a US-UK deal; and of course, it was just a starting point, not the end point of negotiations. It would inevitably involve further movement by the Government. Knowing that, the ERG tore it to shreds, and Monday night’s debacle was the last nail in the coffin. Rather than defeat the amendments—as they could have, overwhelmingly—the Government rolled over and accepted wrecking amendments that left their White Paper dead in the water. The Minister shakes his head, but if there was any doubt about its death, Mr Baker laid it to rest today in what was, frankly, a chilling contribution.

While the Prime Minister turns on those in her own party who would welcome the Chequers plan, threatening them, she embraces those who would destroy her, and she continues to bring them into Government. Having resigned, the hon. Member for Wycombe was succeeded as a Brexit Minister by his predecessor as chair of the ERG, Chris Heaton-Harris —who, of course, joins another former chair, Suella Braverman. It is beginning to look as if there is a secondment scheme going on between the ERG and the Brexit ministerial team.