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 hope that the Minister will agree with us on this. We want a political declaration that is extensive, precise and substantive. When this House votes on the final deal, it must have a very clear signal of what the future relationship will be like—not a vague statement that allows us to crawl over the line to 29 March next year without any sense of where our relationship will end up in future. As I have said, the Opposition would not accept such a vague document.

When the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration are put before us, we will faithfully apply the six tests that we set out in March of last year. Let me be very clear: those six tests cannot, in our eyes, be met simply by failing to address them altogether. The political declaration on the future relationship must be sufficiently detailed and clear that hon. and right hon. Members are able to arrive at an informed judgment about whether the final deal and the future relationship are good enough for the country and for their constituents.

I appreciate that the negotiations are ongoing and that the drafting of the declaration is not yet under way, but in his summing up, I hope that the Minister will provide greater clarity on this matter. In particular, will he provide the House with a greater sense of the type of political declaration that the Government will be pushing for at Salzburg, an idea of the level of detail the Government believe that it needs to contain, and confirm, or reaffirm, that the Government still require a document that is both precise and substantive?

In conclusion, as I said at the outset of my speech, the Opposition welcome the White Paper as well as the opportunity to debate in more detail the legislation that we all hope will be laid before us later this year, but we urgently need a change of approach and pace from the Government. When it comes to the forthcoming European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, we hope that we see less of the short-term political gimmickry that we have seen in the past and more serious consideration of what is the most effective way to legislate. To that end, we call on the Government to allow pre-legislative scrutiny of those sections of the forthcoming Bill that relate to aspects of the withdrawal agreement that have already been agreed.

When it comes to the crucial issue of the Irish border and the default backstop, we need the Government to do everything they can to defuse the tensions that have built up around the issue and play their part over the coming weeks in delivering a solution. Finally, when it comes to the political declaration on the future framework the Government need to press for a document of sufficient precision and detail to allow the House to make an informed judgment.

The clock is ticking. The Government must shift their focus away from the deep divisions in their own ranks and towards what is needed to secure a deal that will work for the country. Urgent progress is essential not only to secure a withdrawal agreement, but, as my hon. Friend Chris Bryant said, to ensure that full and proper scrutiny of the legislation that will be required to enact it.