Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement

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

Alert me about debates like this

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

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As I shall come on to say, we need urgent, rapid progress on this issue, given the time constraints that we face.

Many Brexiteers—although, I must make clear, not all—continue to belittle the Irish border issue on the grounds that it is a problem that has been exaggerated by nefarious Brussels bureaucrats or those at home who seek a close future relationship with the EU. Having initially dismissed the issue as posing no threat to the peace process, they now seek to talk down the Good Friday agreement. Their behaviour is not only irresponsible, but misunderstands the significance of the open border as the manifestation of peace on the island of Ireland. The border is a deeply political problem, not just a technical problem. It is about not merely how we avoid a hardening of the border, but how we ensure continued co-operation in a range of areas—economic and social as well as political—as set out in the Good Friday agreement.

Anxiety on both sides of the border and across all communities about the risk of no deal, or the failure to agree a legally binding backstop, is very real, and it is growing. Of course, the best means of solving the issue would be to secure agreement on a future relationship that is compatible with protecting north-south co-operation and avoiding a hard border, thereby ensuring that any legally binding backstop that might be agreed will never be used, yet the ideological red lines that the Prime Minister outlined in her Lancaster House speech are fundamentally incompatible with securing a future relationship of that kind.