Leaving the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:44 pm on 26th November 2018.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 3:44 pm, 26th November 2018

I thank the Prime Minister for the advance copy of her statement.

The Prime Minister may want to try to sell yesterday’s summit as a great success, but, to borrow a phrase, the reality is “nothing has changed”. She says that, if we reject this deal, it will take us back to square one. The truth is that, under this Government, we have never got beyond square one. The botched deal is a bad deal for this country, and all yesterday did was mark the end of this Government’s failed and miserable negotiations.

There can be no doubt that this deal would leave us with the worst of all worlds—no say over future rules and no certainty for the future. Even the Prime Minister’s own Cabinet cannot bring themselves to sell this deal. The Foreign Secretary said yesterday:

“This deal…mitigates most of the negative impacts”.

That is hardly a glowing endorsement. The silence from much of the rest of the Cabinet is telling. They know that these negotiations have failed and they know it will leave Britain worse off. In fact, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research confirmed that today, saying that the Prime Minister’s deal would mean our economy would be 3.9% smaller than it would otherwise be. This is more than our net contribution to the European Union, which is currently £8.9 billion a year—about £170 million per week. So why is the Prime Minister claiming that extra money to the NHS will be due to the Brexit dividend? Of course, we look forward to the official Treasury forecasts, and indeed the legal advice that this House voted to see nearly two weeks ago.

The Prime Minister’s claim that this deal takes back control over our borders, money and laws is, frankly, a fallacy. The reality is the opposite. She says that the political declaration should give us comfort that the Northern Ireland backstop will not be needed. But, in June 2020, this country will be faced with a stark choice: we can agree to extend the transition period, or accept the backstop. So can the Prime Minister confirm that, under her deal, if we are to avoid the backstop, we will have to accept whatever the European Union demands to extend the transition period—leaving a choice of paying more money without a say on the rules, or entering a backstop leading to a regulatory border down the Irish sea? So much for taking back control of our borders, money and laws.

It may not end there. The President of France, President Macron, has already made clear what his priorities will be in negotiating Britain a future deal. On Sunday he said:

“We will concentrate our efforts in order to obtain access to the British waters before the end of the transition period. And of course all of our fishermen will be protected.”

Is it not the case that, under the Prime Minister’s botched deal, we will have to agree to those demands on access to waters and quota shares if we want to finalise a future trade deal or extend the transition—breaking every promise the Prime Minister, the Environment Secretary and the Scotland Secretary have made to our fishing industry and our coastal communities?

There was another climbdown over Gibraltar at the weekend. Is it not the case that Spain now has a role over Gibraltar benefiting from any future relationship? That is still to be negotiated, not something the Prime Minister presented to the Commons last week.

In two weeks’ time, this House will begin voting on a legally binding withdrawal agreement and the vague wish list contained in the political declaration. The Prime Minister would be negotiating that future agreement from a position of profound weakness—threatened with paying more to extend the transition, with no say over our money, laws or borders, and at risk of the utterly unacceptable backstop, which was only made necessary by her own red lines, most of which have since been abandoned by her. Is it in the national interest for the Prime Minister to plough on when it is clear that this deal does not have the support of either side of this House or the country as a whole? Ploughing on is not stoic; it is an act of national self-harm. Instead of threatening this House with a no-deal scenario or a no-Brexit scenario, the Prime Minister now needs to prepare a plan B—something her predecessors failed to do. There is a sensible deal—[Interruption.] There is a sensible deal that could win the support of this House, based—[Interruption.]