Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement

Part of Yemen – in the House of Commons at 5:46 pm on 10th September 2018.

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Photo of Matthew Pennycook Matthew Pennycook Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 5:46 pm, 10th September 2018

I am well used to the hon. Lady asking questions that are slightly out of left field, but I fail to see how the Opposition can give an opinion on whether we will back a deal about which we do not know the full details and which is still being negotiated. We will faithfully apply our six tests when the deal comes before us, as we all hope it will.

The political gimmickry must stop, and when we approach this next Bill, we hope that the Government will focus on what is the most effective way to legislate for the issues in hand, but there is good reason to fear that that same short-termism—a myopic approach driven by whatever will buy Ministers a few days or weeks of respite from the predations of the European Research Group—could stand in the way of a sensible resolution to those parts of the withdrawal agreement on which no agreement has yet been reached. It is to that issue that I shall now turn.

As Members will know, several aspects of the agreement remain unresolved, of which the two biggest are the mechanism for settling future disputes and the Irish border. It is on the second of these that I shall focus, because the issue of how we avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland is clearly now the major sticking point to concluding a withdrawal agreement. We can talk as much as we like today, and on future days, about how Parliament will legislate for a withdrawal agreement, but if the issue of the Irish border is not resolved, there will not be a final deal to legislate for.