EU Exit Negotiations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:42 am on 15th November 2018.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 10:42 am, 15th November 2018

My right hon. Friend says that the references to the backstop raise some difficult issues. I fully accept that they raise some difficult issues. I fully accept that, across the House, there are concerns in relation to the backstop—indeed, I share some of those concerns. These have not been easy decisions to take. It has been necessary, as I explained, and it would be necessary in any deal that we struck for our future partnership with the European Union, to agree a withdrawal agreement. We wanted to commit to ensure that we delivered no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and it has been clear that that withdrawal agreement needed to include this insurance policy.

My right hon. Friend talks about being held in the backstop. First, the backstop is not necessarily what will happen because we want to ensure that the future relationship is in place before the backstop is necessary. Secondly, in the circumstance that a temporary interim period was needed before the future relationship came into place, we would be able to choose a preference between the backstop and the extension of the implementation period. There are pros and cons on both sides of the argument and there will be Members who believe that one is better than the other.

There is a mechanism for coming out of the protocol if the backstop is in place. My right hon. Friend is right: that mechanism does require mutual consent. It is for both sides to agree that—I make no bones about that. However, it enables the backstop to be replaced in a number of circumstances, first and crucially if the future relationship supersedes it. Originally, that was the only point at which it could be superseded; now, alternative arrangements could replace it. But I repeat what I have always said: it is my intention to work to ensure that such an arrangement is not necessary and we are able to go into our future relationship when we come out of the implementation period.