October EU Council

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:51 pm on 22nd October 2018.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 4:51 pm, 22nd October 2018

There was an awful lot in the right hon. Gentleman’s comments about process, but not much about substance, and what Labour actually wants to see. It is incumbent on all of us in public life to be careful about the language we use. There are passionate beliefs and views on this and other subjects, but whatever the subject we should all be careful about our language.

The right hon. Gentleman said a lot about process, as I said, and at one point he seemed to be asking us to set out our plan. I have to say to him that we set out our plan in the White Paper of more than 100 pages back in the summer. He talks about a future relationship of a customs union, but whatever future relationship we have, we do have to deal with the backstop issue. Without a backstop in the withdrawal agreement, there will be no withdrawal agreement. Without the withdrawal agreement, there will be no future relationship—nothing is agreed until everything is agreed—so it does not matter what future relationship we want, we still need to deal with this backstop issue.

The right hon. Gentleman’s position has been that no deal is not acceptable in any circumstances. That means accepting any deal that the European Union wants to give us, including a deal that would carve Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom. Perhaps, though, his shadow Chancellor, who made the comment that he was longing for a United Ireland, might actually welcome that.

All I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman is that, throughout all this, all we have seen from the Labour party and from him is them playing politics with this issue. One minute, they want to accept the referendum, the next they want a second referendum. One minute, they want to say that free movement will end, the next they say that free movement is still on the table. One minute, they want to do trade deals, the next they want to be in a customs union that will stop them from doing trade deals. He is doing everything he can to frustrate Brexit and trigger a general election. He has voted against sufficient progress, he has tried to block the withdrawal Act, and he has vowed to oppose any deal that the Government bring back. I am looking and working for the right deal in the national interests of this country; he is putting politics ahead of the national interest.