EU Exit Negotiations

Part of Government Overseas Aid Commitment: Private Investment – in the House of Commons at 5:14 pm on 9th October 2018.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 5:14 pm, 9th October 2018

On the backstop, it is being reported that the Government are now willing to accept an indefinite UK-wide customs union as part of the Northern Ireland backstop offer—of course, it will not actually be using the words “customs union”. So can the Secretary of State set the record straight: is a customs union now the Government policy, at least for the Northern Ireland backstop—yes or no?

Thirdly, the Secretary of State repeatedly told Parliament that the final deal this House votes on would include a “clear blueprint” for the future relationship with the EU. In recent days, the Government have been emphasising just how precise this will be, yet it is nowhere to be seen. The Chequers proposals have been widely rejected by the EU and by MPs from across this House, and there is growing concern now that the Government are heading for no deal, as recent warnings from businesses, including Toyota and BMW, underline. If it is not no deal, will it be a vague deal asking us to jump blindfolded into the unknown? Labour will not support that. So will he take this opportunity to rule out a vague or blind Brexit?

For all the warm words, the reality is this: the Government have had 18 months yet they have not even concluded the terms of the withdrawal agreement and they have barely started negotiating the details of the future relationship with the EU. A responsible Government would realise the fix they are in. Instead, this Government simply repeat the mantra, “It’s Chequers or no deal.” It is not so much “nothing has changed” as “nothing can change”. This is not a necessity; this is a political choice, and it is deeply irresponsible. No Government have the right to plunge the country into chaos as a result of their own failure. Time is running out, but there is still time to change course, and I urge the Secretary of State to do so.