I beg to move,
That this House
approves for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House on Monday
and the framework for the future relationship laid before the House on Monday
At the start of five days of debate that will set the course our country takes for decades to come, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on how we got here. When the treaty of Rome was signed in 1957, the United Kingdom stood apart. It was 15 years later, at the third attempt, that we joined what was then the European Economic Community. Ever since, our membership has been a contested matter.
In the first referendum in 1975, the British people voted to stay in, but almost a third of those who voted wanted to leave. Indeed, there are those in this Chamber who campaigned to leave at that time. As the EEC evolved into a European Union of increasing political depth, the British people’s doubts about our membership grew. Ultimately, membership of any union that involves the pooling of sovereignty can only be sustained with the consent of the people. In the referendum of 2016—the biggest democratic exercise in our history—the British public withdrew that consent.
The right hon. Lady has lost in the Supreme Court and in the European Court, and today she has lost in this House. I hope that she will not compound that by opposing a section 30 order for Scotland when the Scottish Government want it. Her history of opposition is not a good one and she should respect the democracy that she is talking about; it applies to Scotland too, Prime Minister.
As I have just said, membership of any union that involves the pooling of sovereignty can only be sustained with the consent of the people. In 2016, that consent was withdrawn by the British public in relation to our membership of the European Union. In 2014, when the people of Scotland were asked whether to remain in the United Kingdom, they voted to stay in the United Kingdom.
As I just repeated, in the referendum in 2016, the British people withdrew that consent, and they confirmed that choice a year later by voting overwhelmingly for parties that committed to delivering Brexit. The referendum was a vote to bring our EU membership to an end and to create a new role for our country in the world. To deliver on that vote, we need to deliver a Brexit that respects the decision of the British people: a Brexit that takes back control of our borders, laws and money and a Brexit that sets us on course for a better future outside the EU as a globally trading nation in charge of our own destiny and seizing the opportunities of trade with some of the fastest growing and most dynamic economies across the world.
Having read this agreement, it seems to me that we will not be able to enter into trade agreements because we are going to be stuck with the same rule base that we had in the EU. Does my right hon. Friend agree?
I do not think my hon. Friend will be surprised if I say that I do not agree with the analysis that she has just given in relation to the agreement. It is clear that we will have an independent trade policy and that we will be able to negotiate trade deals around the rest of the world. This is a specific issue that we looked at when we were putting forward our own proposals in the summer in relation to our future economic partnership with the European Union. I heard somebody on the Labour Benches asking from a sedentary position when we will be able to negotiate our trade deals. During the implementation period, we will be able to negotiate, sign and ratify trade deals around the world.
This will only be a moment of opportunity if we in this House can find a way to deliver a Brexit that begins to bring our country back together. That means protecting the easy trading relationship that supports just-in-time supply chains and the jobs that depend on them, the security co-operation that keeps us safe, the progress we have made in Northern Ireland, and the rights of citizens here in the UK and across the European Union.
The Prime Minister spoke of security co-operation, yet when I asked the Home Secretary the other day whether we would be left more safe or less safe as a result of this deal, he could not answer the question, because he could not guarantee that we would have access to the crucial SIS II database that ensures that we have information on terrorists, paedophiles and other criminals trying to cross our border. That is the reality of the deal that she has put before us.
As the hon. Gentleman knows full well, I think, the political declaration and the security section of that political declaration go well beyond any security arrangement that the European Union has with any other country—[Interruption.] And it makes it clear that in the next stage of negotiations, we will be negotiating how we can have access to the very elements that are covered by both SIS II and ECRIS. [Interruption.] No—perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to look at the political declaration. The reference to those elements is indeed in the political declaration. [Interruption.] He says that they are not. I am sorry, but I have to say to him that he may not understand the elements that lie behind SIS II and ECRIS.
I am going to make some progress for a minute.
Achieving all the things that I have just set out in terms of protecting our trading relationship, the security co-operation, the progress in Northern Ireland and the rights of citizens requires some compromise. I know there are some in this House, and in the country, who would prefer a closer relationship with the European Union than the one I am proposing—indeed, who would prefer the relationship that we currently have and want another referendum which they hope would overturn the decision we took in 2016. Although I profoundly disagree, they are arguing for what they believe is right for our country, and I respect that. But the hard truth is that we will not settle this issue and bring our country together that way. I ask them to think what it would say to the 52% who came out to vote leave, in many cases for the first time in decades, if their decision were ignored. What would it do to our politics?
I will take a significant number of interventions, but I will make some progress at this stage.
These are important points. There are those who want a closer relationship with the EU, but they need to recognise the message that was given by the 52% who voted to leave the European Union.
There are others in this House who would prefer a more distant relationship than the one I am proposing. Although I do not agree, I know that they are also arguing for what they think is best for our future, and I respect that too. But the hard truth is also that we will not settle this issue and bring our country together if, in delivering Brexit, we do not protect the trade and security co-operation on which so many jobs and lives depend, completely ignoring the views of the 48%. We can shut our eyes to these hard truths and carry on debating between these extremes for months to come, or we can accept that the only solution that will endure is one that addresses the concerns of those who voted leave, while reassuring those who voted remain. This argument has gone on long enough. It is corrosive to our politics, and life depends on compromise.
My constituency was split pretty much down the middle during the referendum. May I explain the crux of the problem that the Prime Minister has next week? She set as the benchmark for security co-operation things being better than the relationship the EU has with other countries. My constituents who voted leave voted for a better future for our country, and my constituents who voted remain wanted to protect all the good that we have with the European Union. With the deal she has negotiated, she has brought those two groups together, but against her deal.
The deal that I have negotiated provides that good security co-operation while protecting the jobs that depend on the trade relationship with the European Union. That is why, as I say, it is not a deal that appeals to those who want—there are many who want a relationship that is closer and there are those who want a relationship that is further apart. I believe it is important that we respect the views of those who voted leave and deliver Brexit, but we also recognise that we need to protect the trading relationship with the European Union and the jobs that rely on it for the future.
I will reference the problems if Parliament does not support this deal a little later in my speech, if my hon. Friend will wait for that.
I absolutely agree with the Prime Minister that we need to start coming together as a country once this process is over, but does she agree that if she is so convinced that her deal and political agreement are what the British people voted for, she should have the confidence to go back and ask them to verify whether it is something they support?
As I have said in this Chamber before, it is very important that all of us in this House recognise what this Parliament did. This Parliament overwhelmingly voted to give the choice of membership of the European Union to the British people. The people voted. They voted to leave. I believe it is incumbent on us to deliver that Brexit, and I believe it is a matter of trust in politicians and in this House that we do indeed deliver on that Brexit.
Will the deal that my right hon. Friend has agreed ensure that inward investment in this country, which has led to many hundreds of thousands of jobs—particularly in the automotive industry—will have the same access to markets that it presently has?
That is absolutely what underpinned the proposal that we put forward in the summer, and it is what underpins the ambitious trade relationship identified in the political declaration, ensuring that people can invest in this country with confidence. Reference was made earlier to people voting for a brighter future for this country. We can deliver that brighter future for this country with a deal that delivers a good relationship with Europe but also enables us to have those other trade deals around the rest of the world.
My right hon. Friend has courageously and consistently said that there will be no second referendum. Does she agree that a second referendum would reopen all the wounds within families and, above all, that it would put the Union itself in jeopardy?
I do, indeed, agree with my hon. Friend. I think a second referendum would exacerbate division in our country and would not bring our country back together again.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly referenced the 52% who voted to leave, but I am still confused about why she is not willing to take any cognizance of the fact that electoral law has been broken, and therefore the result of the referendum cannot be trusted. Otherwise, we may as well abolish electoral law altogether. Will the Prime Minister not at least respond to the findings of the Electoral Commission?
The Electoral Commission stills says it believes that it was a fair poll, and I believe that we should abide by the result of that poll and deliver for the people of this country.
We can choose to settle this issue now—
I have said I will make some progress, and then I will be generous in my acceptance of interventions.
We can choose to settle this issue now by backing the deal in this motion—a deal that delivers Brexit and a new partnership with the European Union, a deal that delivers for the whole United Kingdom, a deal that begins to bring our country back together again.
The deal that my right hon. Friend has brought back has my full and unequivocal support, but may I ask her to confirm that, as we leave, our country will still be a rules-based, international, outward-looking, caring and compassionate country that stands as a beacon for good in the world?
I am very happy to give my hon. Friend that absolute reassurance, but more than that, we will be a country that promotes those values and that promotes that rules-based international order around the world. That is what we have always done as the UK, and it is what we will continue to do.
The position in terms of voting rights and various elements once we have left the European Union is of course going to change, but what has been clear from the agreements that we have negotiated is the capacity for the United Kingdom to continue to give technical support where that is appropriate in a whole range of matters. On a number of the issues that are dealt with by the European Union, in terms of the rules that it operates, of course these are not just European Union rules, but international standards on which the United Kingdom will continue, during the implementation period and beyond, to have its role. I said I would take a second intervention.
I absolutely agree that it is the duty, I believe, of this Parliament and it is the duty of us as politicians to deliver on the result of the vote that the British people gave in 2016 in the referendum. We gave them the choice, they voted to leave the EU and it is up to us to deliver that leaving of the European Union in the interests of our country.
I will make some progress.
The decision we have before us has two elements to it: the withdrawal agreement that sets out the terms of our departure from the European Union and the political declaration that sets the terms of our future relationship with the EU.
If I may, I will just make a little progress.
The withdrawal agreement ensures that we leave the European Union on
I thank the Prime Minister for giving way and apologise for intervening. Two years ago, I said to my right hon. Friend that I could never imagine her requesting me to vote to take away the rights of my Italian parents, who are resident in Scotland. Will she confirm that her deal guarantees the rights of EU nationals in the UK—3.6 million of them—as well as those of 1 million UK citizens in the EU27, in a way that no deal would not?
The withdrawal agreement does indeed guarantee those citizens’ rights—the rights of UK citizens in the EU and of EU citizens here, in the UK. The withdrawal agreement delivers that guarantee.
No one can doubt the Prime Minister’s commitment to the deal and the passion with which she is selling it. In the early part of her statement, she twice referred to the status of Northern Ireland, saying that the deal is a good one for Northern Ireland. I come from Northern Ireland—I am a Catholic and a Unionist; I understand it pretty well. Can she explain why that passion for the deal as good for Northern Ireland is not shared by those who should understand Northern Ireland best?
My hon. Friend raises a point. I recognise that there are representatives of Northern Ireland in the Westminster Parliament who are concerned about aspects of the deal. It is this Parliament’s and this Government’s responsibility to provide some reassurance about those elements that have caused concern. I wish to continue to discuss the matter with representatives from Northern Ireland.
Although the Democratic Unionist party has 10 MPs in the House, it campaigned for leave and the majority of people in Northern Ireland, like me, campaigned for remain. The DUP does not speak for the majority of people in Northern Ireland. I can reassure the Prime Minister that her withdrawal agreement has considerable support in Northern Ireland, particularly among farmers, businesses and fishermen. [Interruption.] I am sorry that people feel that that is funny. It is not. It is really serious for the people of Northern Ireland.
Reassurance is needed from the Prime Minister on the constitutional guarantee of the Good Friday agreement, which the Labour party should be proud of. It is guaranteed in the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration, so why the Labour party chooses to vote against the withdrawal agreement beats me. Will the Prime Minister please give an assurance to the people of Northern Ireland that nothing in the deal threatens the consent principle or the constitutional status guaranteed in the Belfast agreement?
I am happy to give the hon. Lady that absolute assurance. The issue was referenced in the December joint report, it is in the withdrawal agreement and it is clear in the political declaration. Nothing in the relationship and the deal with the EU will affect that position. We will continue to uphold the Belfast agreement.
I am very grateful to the Prime Minister. Of course, the referendum was for the whole United Kingdom, and as a Unionist, I respect the result across the UK—Manchester, London, Scotland—[Hon. Members: “They voted remain.”] Whatever way they voted, the UK voted, and we should respect the result. In terms of the views in Northern Ireland, I am quite happy to put them to a test any time. We will happily go to the electorate and put our views to the people if needs be. I am quite certain that we would be returned in greater numbers than we are today, so I am quite happy to take on the challenge that has been put down.
In terms of guaranteeing Northern Ireland’s position, the Prime Minister will remember that in paragraph 50 of the joint report, which we spent four days negotiating, guarantees were given to Northern Ireland. Never mind the words that have been said in this House today, they were in the actual text. Why have they been deleted? Why has she not kept them in the withdrawal agreement? Why have they not been translated? That is what we have a problem with. Words are good. It is the legal text, what is in the agreement, that matters.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: there was that reference to the consent of the Northern Ireland institutions in relation to any potential new regulatory differences between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is a matter we will be looking at and can look at in this House with regards to the parliamentary arrangements between the institutions within the United Kingdom for the future. It is exactly on these issues, the question of potential new regulatory divergence, that I believe it will be possible to give reassurance to not just representatives in this Chamber, but the people of Northern Ireland for their future.
I will continue to take interventions, but I am going to make some more progress now.
The withdrawal agreement ensures a fair settlement of our financial obligations. I want to turn to the most contentious element of the withdrawal agreement. Perhaps this is a neat segue, as my last intervention was from Nigel Dodds, because I want to turn to the Northern Ireland protocol. It is important to remember what is at the heart of the protocol. It is our commitment to the people of Northern Ireland. It is about saying that whatever happens as we leave the European Union we will, as I have just said to Lady Hermon, honour the Belfast agreement. The hard-won peace that has inspired the world and the detailed arrangements that have delivered and sustained it will not be lost. The people of Northern Ireland and Ireland will be able to carry on living their lives as before. To deliver that, we need a solution in the future partnership that ensures there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Both the UK and the EU are fully committed to having our future relationship in place by
The Prime Minister is well aware that many of us have wished her well in these negotiations, but does she understand and recognise that many of us also have concerns about the backstop and equate it to entering a contract of employment that gives the sole right of termination to the other party?
I recognise the concerns there are in the House and, if my hon. Friend will permit me, I want to go on to reference them a little later.
I understand that some colleagues are worried, as I have just said, that we could end up stuck in the backstop indefinitely. In the negotiations, we secured seven separate commitments in the withdrawal agreement and political declaration to ensure that that is not the case. First, there is an explicit legal duty to use best endeavours to reach an agreement by the end of December 2020 that avoids the backstop coming into force in the first place.
That is not just a political commitment. As the Attorney General has set out, this is a recognised approach in international law, and we have the right to seek independent arbitration if this duty is not upheld. Secondly, if despite this, the future relationship is not ready in time, the backstop can be replaced by alternative arrangements. The political declaration makes it clear that we will seek to draw upon all available facilitations and technologies that could be used to avoid a hard border, and preparatory work will be done before we leave so that we can make rapid progress after our withdrawal. Thirdly, if neither the future relationship nor the alternative arrangements were ready by the end of 2020, we would not have to go into the backstop at this point. Instead, we have negotiated that there would be a clear choice between the backstop or a short extension to the implementation period.
Fourthly, if we do go into the backstop, the legal text is explicit that it should be temporary and that the article 50 legal base cannot provide for a permanent relationship. Fifthly, if the backstop is no longer necessary to avoid a hard border, we have the right to trigger a review through the Joint Committee. Sixthly, as a result of the changes that we have negotiated, there is an explicit termination clause that allows the backstop to be turned off. Finally, the legal text is now clear that once the backstop has been superseded, it will cease to apply, so if a future Parliament decided to move from an initially deep trade relationship to a looser one, the backstop could not return.
I am grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way—indeed, she is being very generous in giving way to a lot of people. We are told that the EU does not wish to exercise the backstop, Ireland does not wish to exercise it and certainly, the UK does not wish to exercise it. Is it not the case, therefore, that this is a matter not of renegotiating the withdrawal agreement, but of the European Union showing good will and good faith towards the United Kingdom by allowing us one additional line in the withdrawal agreement? This could be words to the effect that in the event of the backstop being triggered, the United Kingdom can, say, at three months’ notice, leave the customs union. To allow that one line would show enormous good faith and good will on the part of the EU, and nothing else.
I recognise the degree of concern that there is about this issue, and I will go on to speak about it further in my speech. The withdrawal agreement has been negotiated. It is clear from the European Union that this is the deal, and I just ask those colleagues who wish to reopen the withdrawal agreement to recognise that were it to be reopened, it would not simply be a question of what the United Kingdom then wanted to change; it would also be a question of enabling others to change elements of that withdrawal agreement. Given the rigorous fight that we had in the negotiations to ensure that there were certain elements that were in the interests of the United Kingdom, notably around fisheries and other issues, I caution hon. Members that not only has the EU made it clear that the withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened—we have agreed the deal and the deal is there—but it is not the one-way street that hon. Members would perhaps wish it to be.
If I could finish this point, it might respond to some of the comments. Rather than focusing on the legal mechanisms that we now have to avoid the backstop and ensure that if it is used, it is only temporary, the real question that the House needs to ask itself is whether it is in the EU’s interest for the backstop to be used, and if it is used, for it to endure. The EU’s original proposal for the backstop would have split the UK into two customs territories and given only Northern Ireland tariff-free access to its market. It barely changed the EU’s orthodoxy. It was wholly unacceptable to us, but the backstop that we have succeeded in negotiating no longer splits the UK into two customs territories. It gives the whole UK tariff-free access to the EU’s market without free movement of people, without any financial contribution, without having to follow most of the level playing field rules, and without allowing the EU any access to our waters. The backstop is not a trick to trap us in the EU; it actually gives us some important benefits of access to the EU’s market without many of the obligations. That is something the EU will not want to let happen, let alone persist for a long time. I recognise that, as is clear from the contributions from my hon. Friends, some Members remain concerned. I have listened to those concerns, I want us to consider how we could go further, and I will continue to meet colleagues to find an acceptable solution.
As the Prime Minister confronts the inevitable contradictions at the heart of this process on behalf of the nation, is it not worth remembering that the vast majority of Members, including on the Opposition Benches, voted to trigger article 50 and voted for the referendum in the first place? Could I also remind her that out in the country her commitment to pursuing this is hugely admired? Given that this issue divides all parties in this House—indeed, on the Government Benches it even divides the factions—would it not be sensible next week, as Parliament begins to take back control, to consider a free vote?
It is important that all hon. Members remember not only that the House voted overwhelmingly to give the decision on whether to leave the EU to the people in the referendum, but that the House voted by a significant majority to trigger article 50 and so to continue that process of leaving the EU and that, as I said earlier, at last year’s general election about 80% of the vote went to parties that had in their manifesto a solid commitment to deliver on the Brexit vote. We should all remember that when it comes to voting on the motion next week.
Yesterday, we tried to ask the Attorney General for his legal advice as to how much of the £39 billion we were legally and contractually obliged to hand over. He refused to give us a specific figure. Will the Prime Minister now give that specific figure, given that we are to hand over this £39 billion to the EU when we are facing shortages in our own constituencies.
There are different elements to the £39 billion in terms of the liabilities to which they refer. Of course, roughly £20 billion of that sum relates to the payments that will be made during the implementation period, which is about ensuring the smooth and orderly exit that is good for businesses. Obviously, there are other liabilities within that where it is determined that we have legal obligations, but, as I say—it is £34 billion to £39 billion; everybody quotes the higher figure, but it is £34 billion to £39 billion—it is from within that range that the final figure will come.
We have five days of debate, but I recognise that hon. Members will want to contribute in today’s debate, so I will make some progress. The second part of this deal is the political declaration. This is a detailed set of instructions to negotiators that will be used to deliver a legal agreement on an ambitious future relationship after we have left. I know that some Members worry that the political declaration is not already legally binding. It cannot be a legal agreement at this stage because the EU cannot legally agree a future relationship with us until we are a non-member state. Through the negotiations, however, we have ensured that we have the framework for an ambitious new economic and security partnership that is absolutely in our national interest.
At the outset, the EU said we would have a binary choice—Norway or Canada. The political declaration concedes that there is a spectrum, and we will have an unprecedented economic relationship that no other major economy has. The EU also said we could not share security capabilities as a non-member state outside of free movement and the Schengen area, but we have secured the broadest security partnership in the EU’s history. If this deal is passed, the task ahead of us will be to turn this ambitious political declaration into our new legal agreement with the EU.
The economic analysis that was produced by the Government last week made it very clear that within the political declaration is a spectrum on which the balance of obligations in relation to the rights of access—the balance of obligations on checks at the border in relation to market access—must be addressed. It is clear that that will be ambitious, and we will continue to work for frictionless trade, which is indeed what was put forward in the White Paper in the summer. However, it was only right and proper that in our economic analysis we indicated a midpoint on that spectrum, which gave an indication to people of the impact of trade barriers should they be put up.
I thank the Prime Minister for giving way—she is being very generous—but does she not understand that by over-claiming what is in the political declaration, she is undermining trust? She is asking for our trust in her, and in the UK, to determine what will happen in future, because so little is resolved. Not only on the spectrum on the economics, but also on the security issues, she is over-claiming. She suggested to my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty that she had effectively secured agreement to SIS II, but she knows that she has not, because she tried to do so. Paragraph 87 of the political declaration does not refer to SIS II; it simply says that “the Parties” will “consider” the arrangements, and if we are lucky we will get something that will “approximate”. That is not the same as SIS II, and the Prime Minister knows it. Will she be straight with the country and with Parliament about the political declaration?
I have said this to Members before, and I will say it again. There is a difference between ensuring that we have the security capabilities that we need in the future, and simply saying that we will be doing that in a particular way. What paragraph 87 makes clear is the intent to have
“exchange of information on wanted or missing persons and objects and of criminal records, with the view to delivering capabilities that, in so far as is technically and legally possible, and considered necessary and in both Parties’
interests, approximate those enabled by relevant Union mechanisms.”
No; I am sorry.
This is a fundamental issue which has underpinned the approach to these negotiations. We could have approached the negotiations by saying, “We are going to take the models that already exist, and in all cases we are going to say that we have to be in those models in exactly the same way as we are today.” What we have said is that we look to ensure that we can have the capabilities that we have where we need those capabilities, and that is exactly what we are delivering—
I am sure the right hon. Lady will want to make it clear that she is not suggesting that the Prime Minister has been other than honest. She is presumably encouraging forthrightness, is she?
I certainly am encouraging forthrightness. I would not challenge the Prime Minister’s integrity, because I know that she has worked immensely hard on this, but I am asking her to give accurate information to the House. Will she tell us whether she tried to get SIS II, rather than pretending that she was trying to get parallel capabilities?
We are clear about the capabilities that are currently available to us as a member of SIS II and within ECRIS. It is still open to us to seek to have the same relationship in relation to SIS II and ECRIS as we currently have, but we want to ensure that we have the capabilities that underpin SIS II and ECRIS.
I am tempted to say that the right hon. Lady might like to cast her mind back to the time when I was Home Secretary and she was shadow Home Secretary, and I stood at this Dispatch Box moving the motion that ensured that we could rejoin 35 measures on justice and home affairs matters, including SIS II and ECRIS, while she, I seem to recall, was working with my right hon. Friend Dr Fox to prevent the Government from rejoining those measures.
If this deal is passed, the task ahead of us will be to turn this ambitious political declaration into our new legal agreement with the EU. [Interruption.] No, I am going to make more progress, and the next section of my speech might be of interest to Members of this House. In doing so, I want to build the broadest possible consensus both within this House and across the country. So for the next stage of negotiations we will ensure a greater and more formal role for Parliament. This will begin immediately as we develop our negotiating mandate, building on the political declaration ahead of
The outline of that mandate will be set in the political declaration; that is the deal that has been agreed with the European Union. What we are looking for is to have the expertise of the House and the views of the House when we go into that negotiating position. I also say to the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of the Select Committee that I stated that Ministers will appear before the Select Committee, but of course Ministers will have to be invited by the Select Committee to appear before it. I hope, however, that Select Committees will indeed accept that it is important for Ministers to appear before them on these matters. Taken together, these arrangements will support a national mission to forge the strongest possible future relationship with our European partners, commensurate with our wider global goals and in the interests of the whole country.
Let me turn to the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. First, it argues for a permanent customs union. The benefit of a customs union is that it means no tariffs, fees, charges, quantitative restrictions or rules of origin checks. All of these are explicit in our deal, but, importantly, it goes further, because it also gives us the crucial ability to have an independent trade policy beyond our partnership with the EU, which membership of the customs union would not. So the Leader of the Opposition needs to explain why he does not share our ambition for a global Britain.
Secondly, the amendment argues for a strong single market deal. If that means being close to the single market but not part of it, then it is our deal which delivers the closest possible partnership. If it actually means being in the single market, the Leader of the Opposition is opposing taking back control of our borders and ending free movement. That not only contravenes the democratic instruction of the British people, but it contravenes his own manifesto.
Thirdly, the amendment claims our deal would
“lead to increased barriers to trade in goods and services”.
Unless the Leader of the Opposition’s policy is to stay in the single market as well as the customs union, some increase in barriers is inevitable. But our deal is the best deal outside the single market and it gives us the opportunities that come from an independent trade policy and increased regulatory freedom.
As the UK will have lost the ability to influence EU rule-making on financial services directly, it is vital that we can play a full part in defending our interests in international bodies that set standards globally such as the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and the International Organization of Securities Commissions. Does the Prime Minister therefore share my concern that article 129 of the draft treaty, which clearly states that the EU may not take a contrary position to the EU in such bodies, will prevent us from doing so?
Article 129 is about the joint committee responsible for the management, administration and supervision of dispute resolution in the future. [Interruption.] I say to my hon. Friend that we have been very clear in the area of financial services that it is important, because of the significance of financial services to the United Kingdom, that we are able to ensure that we have the ability to set the regulations that we need to set as a global financial centre, working with the other regulatory bodies and doing that in the interests not just of the United Kingdom, but of financial stability across the world.
We are now at the stage in this process where we must all engage with the hard choices we face. Simply pretending that everything can stay the same as we leave the EU, as Labour’s amendment does, does not face up to those hard choices and amounts to not being straight with the people of this country.
Fourthly, the amendment claims that our deal would not protect workers’ rights and environmental standards. This is simply wrong. Our deal does protect them. As part of the single customs territory in the Northern Ireland protocol, we have committed to ensuring that there will be no reduction in standards in this area, including on labour and social protection, fundamental rights at work, occupational health and safety and fair working conditions. We have said that we will improve on this in developing our future relationship with the EU.
Indeed, we already go further than EU minimum standards, including on annual leave, paid maternity leave, flexible leave, paternity leave and pay, and parental leave, because we know that the first responsibility for protecting those rights sits with this Parliament. As we take back control of our laws, we will not only honour that responsibility, but go further still, including, for example, by implementing the recommendations of the Taylor review. So we will not just protect workers’ rights: we will enhance them.
Fifthly, the amendment claims that our deal allows the diminution of our security. The Leader of the Opposition knows full well that, if we fulfil the democratic decision of the British people to leave the European Union, we cannot have exactly the same rights as a third country that we currently have as a member. The question is: which deal represents the broadest security partnership in the EU’s history? It is our deal. What is he doing? He is opposing it.
Sixthly, the Leader of the Opposition’s amendment appears to reject the backstop— even though businesses, farmers and people from across the community in Northern Ireland support this insurance policy. There is real anger in Northern Ireland at the approach Labour is taking.
Finally, the amendment opposes leaving without a deal. But the EU have been crystal clear that no backstop means no deal. So the amendment is simultaneously opposing no deal and proposing a policy that would lead to exactly that. At this critical moment in our history, the Leader of the Opposition is not making a serious proposition for the future of this country. He is simply trying to force a general election. John McDonnell admitted it when he said:
“Our view is we should have a general election.”
At a time when we should be delivering on the vote of the British people, the Leader of the Opposition wants to ignore that and have another vote. At a time when the Government are working in the national interest, the Leader of the Opposition is playing party politics. At a time when we should all be focused, at this historic moment, on what is best for our country, the Leader of the Opposition is thinking about what gives him the best chance of forcing a general election.
Let me turn to the amendment from Hilary Benn. This also seeks to reject our deal, as well as to reject no deal. But the House cannot unilaterally rule out no deal. The only way to avoid no deal is to agree a deal—and that requires the agreement of the House and the European Union.
I have been very generous with interventions, and I will take further interventions in a few minutes after I have made this point. If you reject what the other side have described as the only deal on offer, then, whatever you say to the contrary, you put this country on course for no deal. This is doubly so when the amendment is silent on what alternative deal we should strike.
The EU27 member states have made it clear that this is the best deal available, and that there is neither the time nor the inclination to reopen negotiations and ensure that we leave in good order on
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. Exactly. They certainly do not intend to do that. They have made it very clear that this is the deal on the table.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to engage further with the Select Committees. When she came to the Liaison Committee last week, she will have heard one Committee Chair after another pointing out to her the catastrophic consequences of no deal and asking whether she would rule that out, if and when the House rejects this deal, because we cannot inflict that kind of catastrophe on our people.
This feels like the fall of the ancien régime this afternoon—[Interruption.] No, I think Sir Patrick McLoughlin was there. May I take the Prime Minister back to the bit that I think was supposed to be the Scotland part of this speech, on devolved Administrations? The Scottish Parliament will not be interested in Ministers making day trips to Scotland for a number of hours in order to come over with meaningless waffle. If we are to be convinced that our views will genuinely be taken into account, what will change? That has not happened up to this point.
The hon. Gentleman knows full well that we have had a high degree of engagement with the Scottish Government, and indeed with the Welsh Government, on all these matters as we have been going through. We will continue to have that high level of engagement. There are areas where there is a disagreement. The Scottish Government want, ideally, to remain in the European Union, but that would deny the vote of the British people—[Interruption.] That would deny the vote of the British people, so we do have a difference of opinion on that.
Let me now deal with another question that has been raised, which is the question of another referendum. I understand the argument that, if this House is deadlocked, we could give the decision back to the British people, but I ask the House to consider what that would say to those in our constituencies who put aside decades of doubt in the political process because they believed that their voice would finally be heard; what it would say about the state of our democracy if the biggest vote in our history were to be rerun because a majority in this House did not like the outcome; what it would do to that democracy; and what forces it would unleash.
This House voted to give the decision to the British people and this House promised that we would honour their decision. If we betray that promise, how can we expect them to trust us again? Even if we held a referendum, what would it achieve? It would not bring the country together; it would divide us all over again. It would not end the debate, because if it were close like last time, whichever side lost out would soon start to call for a third referendum. It would not take as forwards; rather, it would take us back to square one. This country cannot afford to spend the next decade going round in circles on the question of our relationship with the European Union. We have already spent too many years with divisions on Europe simmering in the body politic. We must deliver on the referendum that we have already had, focus on the day-to-day concerns of the people and take this country forward.
I thank the Prime Minister for her generosity in giving way. My youngest child has just gone to university. Can she give an assurance that, when he leaves, he will be able to walk out and make his way in this world and in this country? Will she give an assurance that this Government will have the ship back on track, will have respected the democratic view of this country, will have trusted the people, as we expect them to trust us, and will respect the European Union and have a close relationship with that great trading bloc? Will she also assure us that we will be able to hold our head up on the global stage and that we will not be diminished, but even greater?
I thank my hon. Friend, who may have anticipated what I am about to say. I can absolutely give her that assurance, because I want to be clear about what this deal delivers for the country. There will be an end to free movement once and for all, an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK, an end to those vast sums we send to Brussels every year, a fair settlement of our financial obligations—less than half what some predicted—
I am conscious that I have now been speaking and taking interventions for an hour. Many Members want to contribute to the debate, and I will make some progress.
We will have a new free trade area with no tariffs, fees, quantitative restrictions or rules of origin checks—an unprecedented economic relationship that no other major economy has. At the same time, we will be free to have an independent trade policy and to strike new trade deals all around the world. This deal means being out of EU programmes that do not work for us. We will be out of the common agricultural policy and out of the common fisheries policy as an independent coastal state once again, with full control over our waters. It means jobs protected, citizens’ rights protected, the integrity of our United Kingdom protected, the sovereignty of Gibraltar protected, and our security protected, with the broadest security partnership in the EU’s history, working together with our friends and neighbours to keep all our people safe. The British people want us to get on with a deal that honours the referendum and allows us to come together again as a country, whichever way we voted. This is the deal that delivers for the British people.
No, I am not going to take any more interventions.
Mr Speaker, I have spent nearly two years negotiating this deal. I have lost valued colleagues along the way. I have faced—
No, I am concluding. I have faced fierce criticism from all sides. If I had banged the table, walked out of the room and delivered the same deal that is before us today at the end of the process, some might say I had done a better job, but I did not play to the gallery. I focused on getting a deal that honours the referendum and sets us on course for a bright future, and I did so through painstaking hard work. I have never thought that politics was simply about broadcasting your own opinions on the matter at hand—[Interruption.]
Order. Mr MacNeil, I am concerned—[Interruption.] No, you were chuntering noisily from a sedentary position. I saw you, and I heard you. Your apprenticeship to become a statesman has still a substantial distance to travel.
Politics is as much about listening to people from all sides of the debate and then doing what you believe is in our national interest. That is what I have done, and sticking to the task has delivered results for the British people. When the EU gave us a choice between off-the-shelf models, I won us a bespoke deal. When in Salzburg the EU tried to insist on a backstop that carved out Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, I faced them down and they backed down. Right at the end, when Spain tried to make a move on Gibraltar, I stood firm and protected Gibraltar’s sovereignty. That is why the Chief Minister of Gibraltar has said that no friend of Gibraltar should vote this deal down.
Do not let anyone here think there is a better deal to be won by shouting louder. Do not imagine that, if we vote this down, a different deal is going to miraculously appear. The alternative is uncertainty and risk—the risk that Brexit could be stopped; the risk we could crash out with no deal. And the only certainty would be uncertainty—bad for our economy and bad for our standing in the world. That is not in the national interest.
The alternative is for this House to lead our country forward into a brighter future. I do not say this deal is perfect. It was never going to be, and that is the nature of a negotiation. Yes, it is a compromise. It speaks to the hopes and desires of our fellow citizens who voted to leave and of those who voted to stay in. We will not bring our country together if we seek a relationship that gives everything to one side of the argument and nothing to the other.
We should not let the search for the perfect Brexit prevent a good Brexit that delivers for the British people. And we should not contemplate a course that fails to respect the result of the referendum, because that would decimate the trust of millions of people in our politics for a generation.
I am concluding.
To all sides of the debate, to every Member in every party, I say that this deal deserves your support for what it achieves for all of our people and our whole United Kingdom—one Union of four nations, now and in the future. And this is a debate about our future. It is not about whether we could have taken a different road in the past, but about which road we should take from here.
If we put aside our differences and remember what unites us, if we broker an honourable compromise in the interests not of ourselves but of those we were sent here to serve and if we come together to do our duty to our constituents, we will pass the test that history has set for us today. It is not easy when the passions run so deep, but looking around this Chamber, I know we can meet this moment. So I promise you today that this is the very best deal for the British people. I ask you to back it in the best interests of our constituents and our country and, with my whole heart, I commend this motion to the House.
This is a seminal debate in the history of this House and for the future of our country. I have been in the House since 1983, and this debate and the decision we will take next week is one of the most important we will ever take as Members of this House.
The deal before us would make our country worse off. Taken together with the withdrawal agreement and the future partnership, it represents a huge and damaging failure for Britain. The Prime Minister says this is a good deal, and is so confident of that that she attempted to refuse to publish the Government’s legal advice—she was forced to publish it by votes in this House today.
However, the economic assessments and other assessments that we will see indicate that this is actually a bad deal. These documents are the product of two years of botched negotiations, in which the Government spent more time arguing with itself than it did in negotiating with the European Union. It is not only on Brexit where they have failed. The economy is weak, investment is poor, wage growth is weak, our public services are in crisis and local councils are collapsing because of this Government’s refusal to fund them properly. More people in this country are living in poverty, including half a million more children, since 2010. The Government should be ashamed of themselves for that. Poverty is rising, homelessness is rising and household debt is rising, too.
It is against that backdrop that the Government have produced this botched deal, which even breaches the Prime Minister’s own red lines. Across the House the deal has achieved something—it has united Conservative remainers, Conservative leavers and Members of every Opposition party in an extraordinary coalition against the deal.
Order. Calm yourselves. Some of these antics are rather undesirable and to be deprecated. They may have a role on the playing fields at some public school—I do not know—but they have no role in this Chamber. [Interruption.] No, they are just unseemly and inappropriate.
Order. I am going to say it once, but I will say it as many times as necessary, and colleagues who want to speak will be prevented from doing so by that sort of pathetic self-indulgence. The right hon. Gentleman will give way when he wants to give way. If you don’t like it, frankly, you can lump it.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. It could have all been so different. Following the 2017 general election, the Prime Minister could have attempted to build a consensus, recognising the new arithmetic of Parliament, and sought a deal that brought people together. Instead, just like her predecessor, who called a referendum without preparing for the eventuality of a leave vote, the Prime Minister has seen these negotiations only as an exercise in the internal management of the Conservative party, and that did not work out very well at all. When the two previous Brexit Secretaries, who, theoretically at least, led the negotiations—well, they did theoretically—say that they cannot support the deal, how can she expect anyone else in this House or in this country to have faith in a deal that has been rejected by two of the people who were involved in the negotiation of it?
Mr Speaker, no deal is not a real option, and the Government know that, because they are not seriously prepared for it. Eleven out of the 12 critical infrastructure projects that would need to be in place by the end of March 2019 to manage a no-deal Brexit are at risk of not being completed on time, according to the National Audit Office.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having the courage to give way to someone on this side of the House, when he refused to give way to the former shadow Chancellor three times running. Will he explain to the House why he has not got the courage to debate with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Sunday?
The Government have been forced to publish their full legal advice, as voted for by this House. I hope and assume that that advice will be published tomorrow, because Members ought to be in possession of all the facts. In 2007, the Prime Minister then argued, and I absolutely agreed with her, that the full legal advice should have been made available before the Iraq war. Why did she push it right to wire here and lose two votes in the House in order to try and prevent the publication of the legal advice, which is so necessary to inform us in our debates?
This withdrawal agreement is a leap in the dark. It takes us no closer to understanding what the future of our country post Brexit would look like, and neither does the future partnership, which I will come on to. The Prime Minister states that the transition period ends in December 2020. Article 132 actually says it can be extended for up to two years, to
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. He makes a very good point: Brexit is painted as dividing our nation, but it has actually united our party in opposition to the Prime Minister’s proposals. It has also united many Conservative Members against her proposals, including two former Brexit Secretaries, the former Foreign Secretary and two former science and higher education Ministers. I wanted to ask the Prime Minister who the new science and higher education Minister is, but she did not take my intervention. Perhaps batting for that sector is incompatible with her Brexit, and indeed any form of Brexit.
Before we proceed, may I say very gently to the House that interventions should be brief, not mini speeches.
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. The Labour party discussed this issue at great length at party conference and agreed that we would oppose this deal. We said that if the Government cannot govern and cannot command a majority of the House, then the great British tradition is that those Governments resign and we have a general election.
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. Does he agree that this Santa Claus letter of a deal offers no protection for workers’ rights, jobs, the environment or frictionless trade? Vote it down.
My hon. Friend is right, because the deal does not ensure that if there are changes across the EU that improve workers’ rights and conditions, they are necessarily mirrored in this country. When the Prime Minister talks so grandly about workers’ rights in this country, what comes to my mind is a million people on zero-hours contracts; what comes to my mind is people trying to make ends meet by doing two or three jobs just to feed their children.
As I said, the Prime Minister states that the transition period ends in 2020. Article 132 actually says that it can be extended for up to two years, to December 2022. The Business Secretary is already clear that it is likely to be extended to that period, and under this bad deal we would have to pay whatever the EU demands to extend it for those two years.
Under this deal, in December 2020 we will be faced with a choice: either pay more and extend the transition period, or fall into the backstop. At that point, Britain would be over a barrel. We would have left the EU, have no UK rebate and be forced to pay whatever was demanded. Alternatively, article 185, on the Northern Ireland protocol—the backstop—would apply. Not only would that mean that Northern Ireland would be subject to significantly different regulations from the rest of the UK, but the EU would have a right of veto—a right of veto—over the UK’s exit from the backstop arrangement. Far from taking back control, that is actually handing control to somebody else. That is what the Prime Minister is asking us to support. Whether in a backstop or an extended transition, the UK would have no say over the rules. By that time, we could have already given up our seat on the Council of Ministers, our commissioner and our MEPs, without having negotiated any alternative say in our future. This Government are not taking back control; they are losing control.
The one item that is in the control of all of us is which way we vote on Tuesday. The right hon. Leader of the Opposition has said that he does not want no deal. The EU leaders have made it clear that it is this deal or no deal. Does he realise that it will be his vote that pushes us into no deal? That is what he is asking us to vote for.
We are extraordinarily grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his elucidation, but that intervention suffers from one notable disadvantage: it was not even tangential to a point of order. His intervention and points of order are not even nodding acquaintances, in my experience.
It really is not credible for the Government to come to this House with this deal, that does damage a great deal of our economic interests, that does reduce our powers to decide our relationships in the future, and that does damage our trade, and then say there is no alternative. This House will make its decision next Tuesday. I hope and expect this House will reject that deal. At that point, the Government have lost the confidence of the House. They should reflect on that. They have either got to get a better deal from the EU or give way to those who will. No wonder the former Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Mr Gyimah, resigned, saying that this deal will cost us
“our voice, our vote and our veto.”
Well, if the House rejects this deal, as I hope it will, it is then up to the Government to go back and negotiate something, like a new comprehensive customs union, which would be backed by both the TUC and the CBI, and which is necessary to defend jobs and also have access to a strong single market. We cannot be told that this is the only thing we can do. The process of negotiation is to be accountable. The Government will be held to account. I hope this deal is rejected, in which case we will force the Government to go back and negotiate.
Order. I want to hear the intervention. There is a lot of noise.
Actually, I wanted to agree with my right hon. Friend that this is a bad deal. Does he not agree that our country would be better off remaining in the European Union than exiting on the basis of this deal?
The referendum took place. We fought the election respecting the result of the referendum. We are opposed to this deal. We think there is the possibility of getting an agreement that would be better for this country and give us the control that this Government’s proposals do not give us.
The past two years gives us no confidence that the Government can do a deal in under two years, taking us up to the transition period. So, at some point before December 2020, the focus would then inevitably shift from negotiations on the future relationship to negotiations on an extension of the transition period, including negotiating what further payments we would have to make to the EU. So, we are over a barrel—either paying whatever is demanded, or negotiating away fishing rights and who-knows-what else. This is a terrible failure of negotiation by this Government.
We will know the outcome of that next Tuesday, when the vote takes place in this House, but any analysis of this deal would show that it is unacceptable and should be defeated in this House.
Should the backstop come into force, there is no time limit or end point. It locks Britain into a deal from which it cannot leave. Remember that: it cannot leave without the agreement of the EU.
Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify his answer to Mr Leslie? He says that the Labour party stood on a manifesto that accepted the result of the referendum; he was clear on that. Yet since then, John McDonnell has suggested that the Labour party’s position would now be to support a second referendum. Will the Leader of the Opposition now clarify, for the sake of the House: is the Labour party’s position to support a second referendum, or is it that it accepts the result of the first referendum and will not support a second referendum?
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman read the Labour manifesto with great caution and detail. [Interruption.] Oh, he did. We were quite clear that we respected the result of the referendum. In our conference motion we discussed the whole issue at great length, and at the largest Labour party conference in our history, our party agreed unanimously to back the composite motion that we put forward. That motion opposed the process that the Government are bringing forward, and suggests that if the Government cannot govern—and it looks increasingly like they cannot—they should make way and have an election. That is our priority.
Should the backstop come into force, there is no time limit or end point. It locks Britain into a deal from which it cannot leave. As was said during proceedings on the Attorney General’s statement yesterday, this is the first time ever in the history of this country that we have signed up to a treaty that we could not leave of our own volition. That is quite a serious indictment of this Government. In the backstop, restrictions on state aid are hard-wired with an arbitration mechanism, but no such guarantee exists for workers’ rights, and new state aid rules could be brought in, whether they were in Britain’s interests or not. The Attorney General made that very clear yesterday.
Order. Members of the same party do not need to bicker as to whom the Leader of the Opposition is giving way to. I think it is Angus Brendan MacNeil who has been invited to intervene. Just before he does, I remind colleagues that it is legitimate to use mobile devices without impairing decorum, but it has just been brought to my attention that there is a very widespread use of them, and I gently remind colleagues that they most certainly should not be taking photographs in the Chamber. [Interruption.] Yes, I know exactly what I am doing and saying, and upon what advice. It requires no comment or contradiction, simply a recognition of the validity of the point.
The Leader of the Opposition talks about respecting the referendum. Fair enough—that is his point of view. I have a different perspective in Scotland. Will he respect the mandate of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament’s will to have a second independence referendum? How far does his respect go?
That is not actually relevant to today’s debate. We are talking about the deal that the Government have brought back, and that is what the debate is about. In the backstop, regulatory frameworks dealt with by non-regression clauses are non-enforceable by EU institutions or by arbitration arrangements, and would give the Government the power to tear up workers’ rights and damage environmental protections and consumer safeguards.
Is not one of the most extraordinary things about the debate so far that we have not had a single mention of the word immigration, and yet it was meant to be one of the most important aspects of the referendum? The Government have not even published an immigration Bill. We do not know what our immigration policy will be next year. Do we not really want to stand up for the rights of young British people to be able to study, work and live elsewhere in the European Union? It is British people who have used that right more than any other country in Europe.
I was coming to that in my speech, but my hon. Friend is absolutely right: young people need that right to travel and study. The Erasmus scheme has worked very well, giving a lot of people opportunities to study. I will come back to that issue. I just think we should reflect on the massive work done by European Union nationals who have come to make their homes in this country and helped us to develop our health service and many other services.
The backstop would apply separate regulatory rules to Northern Ireland, despite the fact that the Prime Minister said that this is something that
“no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 636, c. 823.]
That is another of her red lines breached. In fact, the list of the EU measures that continue to apply to Northern Ireland runs to 75 pages of the agreement.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is bad deal, and that one of the reasons for that is that the Prime Minister has spent much of the past two and a half years discussing the deal with her colleagues in the Conservative party rather than negotiating with the European Union?
My hon. Friend is so right. This has been a negotiation with the Cabinet, with Conservative MPs and within the Conservative party. That is where all the concentration has been. Indeed, one of the Brexit Secretaries hardly ever went to Brussels anyway, presumably being more interested in arguments within the Conservative party.
It is also clear that the Prime Minister’s red line regarding the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice has been torn up. Under the Prime Minister’s plan, by 2022 we will either be in a backstop or still in transition, where we will continue to contribute to the European Union budget and follow the rules overseen by the European Court of Justice. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary said on
On the future partnership, let us be clear: there is not a deal; there is a framework for a future partnership. Our trading relationship with Europe is still to be negotiated, and it will take years to do that. We still do not know what our long-term relationship with Europe would look like. That is why so many MPs across Parliament are not willing to vote for this blindfold Brexit and take a leap in the dark about Britain’s future. There is no mention of the Prime Minister’s favoured term, “implementation period”, anywhere in the 600 pages of the withdrawal agreement—and no wonder, as there is precious little new to implement spelled out either in the agreement or in the future partnership. The agreement does call for a transition period, but there is nothing to transition to. It is a bridge to nowhere. As the 26-page document says, it
“can lead to a spectrum of different outcomes…as well as checks and controls”— and we are expected to endorse that as a basis of our future relationship with the European Union. After two years of negotiations, all the Government have really agreed to is a very vague wish list. Only three of its 26 pages deal with trade. It is not a trade deal; it is not even close to a trade deal. The trade deal recently signed between the EU and Canada took seven years to negotiate and ran to 1,600 pages. In two and a half years, this Government have agreed to three pages of text on trade. It is hardly an encouraging start to our future trade relationships.
The former Brexit Secretary committed to a “detailed”, “precise” and “substantive” document. We had the right to expect one. What we got contains no mention of frictionless trade, promised at Chequers, or even trade “as frictionless as possible”, promised before that. There is no ambition to negotiate a new comprehensive customs union with a British say that would protect jobs, trade and industry—and so uncertainty continues for business.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this deal does not deliver frictionless trade and that this will have a negative impact on the economy and risk jobs as well?
It certainly does not deliver frictionless trade, and those working in industry are extremely worried about what will happen, because they do not see this deal as protecting their jobs or their futures.
The demand for a new comprehensive customs union has united both the Confederation of British Industry and the TUC, because it protects manufacturing supply chains. The decision to rule out a customs union and the lack of clarity in the deal risks deferring business investment on an even greater scale than at the moment, costing jobs and living standards. Many companies may decide that the lack of certainty means they will explore their contingency plans to relocate elsewhere.
The First Ministers of both Wales and Scotland have made clear to the Prime Minister that they would support participation in a customs union to protect the economy and jobs. A commitment to a new and comprehensive customs union could, I believe, have found support in this House, but the Government did not seek it.
The Leader of the Opposition talks about uncertainty, but I put to him just one example of why I encourage him to support the Prime Minister’s deal. If the deal does not go through, we could face a situation at 11.1 pm on
I imagine that the hon. Gentleman supports the Prime Minister’s deal because he is incredibly loyal to his party, with a blindness about the dangers of this deal for the rest of the country and the jobs that go with it.
The lack of clarity around these proposals also means that there is no guarantee of a strong deal with the single market, to ensure continued access to European markets in services. There is merely a vague commitment to go beyond the baseline of the World Trade Organisation.
As both the Attorney General and the Environment Secretary made clear in recent days, the commitments to workers’ rights, environmental protections and consumer safeguards are very far from secure. The social Europe that many people supported and continue to support was not part of why people voted to leave. All of that is at risk from this deal. This deal fails to give so many economic sectors and public services clarity about our future relationship with several European Union agencies and programmes.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Prime Minister’s deal seriously undermines environmental protection in this country, because it does not replace the European Court of Justice with anything like the strength of an enforcement body? Instead of the promised watchdog, we have little more than just a lapdog.
The hon. Lady is absolutely correct. The environmental protections that we have are essential. We cannot protect the environment inside national borders; it has to be done across national borders. We have to have the toughest possible environmental protection regulations, and the suspicion many of us have is that there is an appetite on the Government Benches to remove many of those protections as time goes on.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government’s obsession with clamping down on state aid is the wrong focus, and they should be focusing on all the important protections that we are discussing?
The state aid rules of the European Union are something that this Government have been very happy to sign up to and, indeed, use as a means of not defending the steelworks at Redcar, when they could have done something about it and defended those jobs. This Government should be condemned for their failure to do anything to protect those steelworks and those jobs. I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention and the work he did to try to protect those jobs.
Let us take, for example, the Galileo programme, to which the UK has so far contributed £1.2 billion, but from which we now seem set to walk away. Then there is the lack of clarity about whether we will continue to participate in the European arrest warrant, Europol or Eurojust. The Chequers proposal argued for the UK maintaining membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency and the European Medicines Agency, but the future partnership merely allows for co-operation.
I am coming on to that in just one second.
We lack similar clarity about many other areas, including Horizon 2020 and Erasmus—it was mentioned by my hon. Friend Chris Bryant—which have been so brilliant in providing students with opportunities to study in other countries. That is why so many young people are so concerned at this present time about what is happening.
There is no clarity about any future immigration system between the UK and the European Union, and it now seems that the immigration White Paper we were promised in December 2017 will not even appear in December 2018. Following the disgraceful Windrush scandal, many prospective migrants will have no confidence in the ability of this Government to deliver a fair and efficient system.
I thank my right hon. Friend for mentioning immigration. Immigration is a serious concern for our young people, especially to do with Brexit. As he has mentioned the Windrush scandal, does he agree that learning the lessons is not good enough? We need a public inquiry if we are really to understand the Windrush scandal and the “hostile environment”. When we get that, we will understand more about how far the Government are committed to immigration and getting things right, especially at times like this.
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention, and as the daughter of a Windrush generation migrant to this country, she fully understands how horrible it felt in her community when this Prime Minister, as Home Secretary, deliberately created the “hostile environment”, which was so damaging to community relations all across our country.
Many EU nationals already here have no faith in this Government to manage the process of settled status fairly or efficiently. These are people who have contributed to our country, our economy, our public services and especially our NHS. We all meet them in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. It is these people who are now so anxious about their future.
To our negotiating partners in the European Union, I say: “We understand why, after two years of negotiations, you want this resolved, but this Parliament represents the people of this country and the deal negotiated by this Government is not good enough for the people of this country, so if Parliament votes down the deal, then reopening the negotiations cannot and should not be ruled out.” There is a deal that I believe can win the support of this House and bring the country together, based on a new comprehensive and permanent customs union with a UK say and real protection of workers’ rights and environmental and consumer safeguards.
I have been very generous in giving way, particularly to Conservative Members.
As I conclude, I want to pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit Secretary, and his team of shadow Ministers. He is now facing his third Brexit Secretary, but he has stayed the course in holding this Government to account. I thank him and his wonderful team, and their supporters, for what they have done, and for the success today in forcing the Government to release the legal advice they were trying to withhold from us.
This is not the deal the country was promised and Parliament cannot—and, I believe, will not—accept it. The false choice between this bad deal and no deal will also be rejected. [Interruption.]
Order. The Leader of the Opposition is not currently giving way; he is developing his point. [Interruption.] No, he is developing his point. Hon. Members do not need to set themselves up as though they are conducting an orchestra. It is not necessary. Mr Hoare, for example, you are an incorrigible individual. Your assistance in this matter is not required. I am afraid that you are a veteran of Oxford Union badinage and you have never really overcome it.
As I said, this is not the deal the country promised and Parliament cannot, and I believe will not, accept it, and the false choice between a bad deal and no deal will also be rejected.
People around the country are very anxious. Businesses and workers are anxious about the industries they work in, the jobs they hold and this country’s stability.
I have given way a great many times, and I will draw my remarks to a close soon.
The responsibility for the state of anxiety lies solely with the Government. Two years of botched negotiations have led us here. Members of this House have a very important decision to make one week today. To vote for the deal would be to damage our economy, to make our constituents poorer and to take a leap in the dark with the future of this country. Do not take my word for it—the Government published their own economic assessment, which found that the Chequers proposals would make our economy nearly 4% smaller than it would otherwise be, thus knocking £100 billion out of our economy within 15 years. For those who like to break down those sorts of figures into weekly amounts, that is nearly £2 billion a week less. That definitely was not seen on the side of a bus.
Labour will vote against this deal. It is a bad deal for Britain, a bad deal for our economy and a bad deal for our democracy. Our country deserves better.
It is perfectly clear from listening to the leader of the Labour party that he is joining the shadow Chancellor and the shadow Brexit Secretary and is now determined to frustrate Brexit and the result of the referendum in 2016. That is absolutely clear from what he just said.
I must regretfully say to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that I cannot believe that a single Member sincerely believes that the deal before us is good for the UK.
In which case, I am happy to acknowledge my right hon. Friend’s sincerity. However, I have to say that the Government’s heart does not appear to be in this deal. From listening to those who are sent out to defend and explain it, they know that it is a democratic disaster.
As has been said, after two years of negotiation, the deal has achieved an extraordinary thing: it has finally brought us together. Remainers and leavers, myself and Tony Blair, we are united—indeed, the whole Johnson family is united—in the belief that the deal is a national humiliation that makes a mockery of Brexit. I am sorry to say this—these are hard truths—but there will be no proper free trade deals and we will not take back control of our laws. For the Government to continue to suggest otherwise is to do violence to the natural meaning of words. We will give up £39 billion for nothing. We will not be taking back control of our borders. Not only have we yet to settle the terms on which EU migrants will in future come to this country, but we will be levying EU tariffs at UK ports and sending 80% of the cash to Brussels. In short, we are going to be rule-takers. We are going to be a de facto colony. Out of sheer funk—I am sorry to have to say this to the House—we are ensuring that we will never, ever be able to take advantage of the freedoms we should have won by Brexit.
Under the terms of the backstop, we have to stay in the customs union, while Northern Ireland, and therefore the rest of the UK if we want to keep the Union together, will stay in regulatory alignment unless and until the EU decides to let us go. And why should they let us go? By handing over £39 billion, we lose all our leverage in the talks. With the £95 billion surplus they have with us in goods alone, the EU has absolutely no interest or incentive to allow us—
The Prime Minister gave us seven reasons why the EU will not be using the backstop. Yesterday, the Attorney General made it completely clear that the backstop, if it ever came into place, would be challengeable under EU law itself. I say to my greatly respected colleague that I think he is promoting “Project Fear”. What is his option—
Order. Resume your seat. I am sorry to have to bark at the hon. Lady, but the intervention is just too long—end of. Enough.
A very good point none the less, Mr Speaker. It is exactly on the point. As I have been saying, the EU has no incentive whatever to let us out of this backstop precisely because they have a massive trade surplus with us. Furthermore, when they look at UK manufacturing and UK business, they realise that they will have, in that backstop and through the whole of the implementation period and beyond, unchecked and unmediated power effectively to legislate for the UK with no UK representation.
If the House will allow me, I will make some progress.
The EU knows that having that regulatory control over us, they would have no incentive, as it were, to take the foot off our neck. They will have us in permanent captivity as a memento mori, as a reminder to the world of what happens to all those who try to leave the EU. This is a recipe for blackmail and it is open to any member of the EU to name its price for Britain’s right to leave the backstop. The Spanish will make a play for Gibraltar. They French will go for our fish and our bankers. The Germans may well want some concessions on the free movement of EU nationals—and so it goes on.
I will give way in just a second.
The worst of it is that we have not even tried properly to leave or show any real interest in having a different future.
The Prime Minister, at the Dispatch Box today, was generous. She made very clear that for us to unify the country we have to bring the 48% who voted to stay, as well as the 52%. Can I ask my right hon. Friend, someone who was regarded in London as a unifying political figure, what he would do to bring the 48% and the 52% together?
As I say, remain and leave have been, to a very large extent, united in their dismay at what I think is a wholly undemocratic deal. The thing that really pains me—Stephen Gethins asked about the role of Ministers in this—is that we on the UK side of the negotiation have been responsible for forging our own manacles, in the sense that it is almost as though we decided that we needed to stay in the customs union and in the single market in defiance of the wishes of the people.
I will give way in a minute to my hon. Friend, who has been chuntering away from a sedentary position behind me. We should be careful about claiming any kind of subterfuge—we have lost two Brexit Secretaries in the course of these negotiations, and it is very hard to understand how the former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union could have been kept in the dark about the crucial addition to paragraph 23 of the political declaration. This country agreed in paragraph 23, apparently without the knowledge of the elected politician concerned, that our future relationship would be based on the backstop. No one campaigned for that outcome. No one voted for this type of Brexit. This is not Brexit, but a feeble simulacrum of national independence.
I will give way in a second to my hon. Friend Sir Roger Gale. It is a paint and plaster pseudo-Brexit, and beneath the camouflage, we find the same old EU institutions—the customs union and the single market—all of it adjudicated, by the way, by the European Court of Justice. If we vote for this deal, we will not be taking back control, but losing it.
Order. Members must not shout across the Chamber at the right hon. Gentleman. It is extremely unseemly—[Interruption.] Order. I have no doubt that he is well able to look after himself. I am not really concerned about him; I am concerned about the reputation of the House.
I must make some progress. If we vote for this deal, we are not taking back control. Indeed, I say to colleagues and friends across the House of Commons that we are part of a representative democracy, and voting for this deal would be not just like, as it were, turkeys voting for Christmas; it is actually worse than that. There is a sense in which we would be voting for Turkey, or Turkish—[Interruption.] That is exactly true. We would be voting for Turkish-style membership of the customs union, obliged to watch as access to the UK market is traded by Brussels, but with no say in the negotiations. Of course, the kicker is that with its veto, the EU ensures that the backstop that they impose on us is more subservient even than the arrangements that the Turks have—[Interruption.] That is absolutely true. It is a wonder, frankly, that any democratic politician could conceivably vote for this deal, and yet I know that many good colleagues are indeed determined to do so in the belief that we have no alternative or that we have run out of road, and as we heard earlier, that Brussels will offer us nothing else.
Given that my right hon. Friend appears to be unwilling to enter into an understanding of what a negotiation is, can we take it that he has only ever meant that no deal is a good deal because he does not believe in having a deal with an institution—this windmill at which he tilts at every turn—to which he is philosophically opposed?
I have great respect and admiration for my hon. Friend, but I do not philosophically oppose the EU; I simply think that membership is no longer right for the UK. That was what I campaigned on, and I think the British people were completely right. I do not believe that no deal is the option we should be going for automatically, but I will come to that in just a minute. I want to deal with the anxieties that I know that he shares, because I think that he is profoundly mistaken, as indeed are other colleagues, in thinking that we have absolutely no option but to go ahead on this basis. We have plenty of other options. In order to see the way ahead, we need to understand what happens if next Tuesday this great House of Commons votes down this deal, as I very much hope it does. I will tell hon. Members what will happen, but they have to put themselves in the mind of our counterparts across the table in Brussels. In Brussels, they think they’ve got us beat— they do.
They think our nerve will eventually fail, that the Prime Minister will come to the summit next week and, in the event of the deal having been voted down, ask for some cosmetic changes, and I expect they will think about granting some cosmetic language that is intended to be helpful but which does not change the legal position.
In Brussels, they are confident that some time before next March, the Government will come back to the House and that the deal will go through somehow or other—by hook or by crook—because, as everybody keeps saying, there is allegedly no alternative. The Norway option will be seen for what it is—an even worse solution than what is currently proposed—and the notion of extending article 50, thereby delaying the date of Brexit, will be greeted, I think, with fury by the electorate, as would any attempt to amend the terms of exit so as to plunge us back into the customs union. That would be rumbled by the electorate as well.
No, although I understand exactly my hon. Friend’s analogy. I have heard it said by defenders of the Government that we may be 1-0 down at the end of the first half of the negotiations, but that we will win 2-0—I mean 2-1—by the end.
I do not see it that way. If we go on like this, with the backstop as it is, we will be thrashed out of sight. [Hon. Members: “Let Carol in!”] I will come to Carol in a minute. Having studied the UK’s negotiating style in detail, I do not think that it believes—[Interruption.]
Order. There is excessive noise in the Chamber. My understanding, in so far as I can hear—[Interruption.] Order. Calm yourselves. My understanding is that Mr Johnson is not currently giving way.
I think the House will agree that I have given way quite a lot so far, and I am very happy to do so again in the future, but I want to come to the point that has been raised by my hon. Friends.
Just one second. In Brussels, they think we have nothing left in our tank and that we want to do a deal at any price. As we all think about this vote and what we are individually going to do, and thinking about the attitude in Brussels towards us, now is the time for us to show them that they grossly underestimate this country and this House of Commons and our attachment to our liberties. There is an alternative. There is another way. We should not pretend, after two years of wasted negotiations, that it is going to be easy, but it is the only option that delivers on the will of the people and also, I believe, maintains our democratic self-respect as a country. That option is obvious from this debate, and from every poll that I have seen. We should go back to Brussels and say, “Yes, we want a deal if we can get one, and yes, there is much in the withdrawal agreement that we can keep, notably the good work that has been done on citizens.”
My hon. Friend, from a sedentary position, compares the European Union to Lavrov and Russia. I think that that is an entirely inapposite comparison. These are our friends. These are our partners. To compare them to Russia today is quite extraordinary.
We should say that we appreciate the good work that is being done to protect the rights of citizens on either side of the channel, but we must be clear that we will not accept the backstop. It is nonsensical to claim that it is somehow essential to further progress in the negotiations. The question of the Irish border is for the future partnership, not the withdrawal agreement. It was always absurd that it should be imported into this section of the negotiations. We should use the implementation period to negotiate that future partnership, which is what I believe the Government themselves envisage—and, by the way, we should withhold at least half that £39 billion until the negotiation on the new partnership is concluded.
I am afraid that that is a finely balanced question. [Interruption.] Much will depend on what happens after the vote on Tuesday. I believe that if we say what I propose, the EU will understand that the Government have found their resolve and are willing to be tough at last, and I believe that the EU will do a deal on those terms.
I am going to anticipate the intervention of my right hon. and learned Friend. I bet I know what he is going to say. In case the EU does not agree, we must be absolutely emphatic now that we are preparing urgently for the possibility that we will indeed have to leave before we reach a final agreement.
What we are voting on is the withdrawal agreement, and three points that must be settled before the big, wide, grown-up negotiations start on the future relationship. There will be a very wide agenda over the next few years. My right hon. Friend is suggesting that we reject the withdrawal agreement now, in December, before we leave in March, and that we go back and say, “We are not going to pay our contribution to any legal liabilities and any continued access, and we are not at this stage going to guarantee an open border in Ireland.” Does he think there is the faintest chance of that being listened to seriously by any other member Government? If he gets his way, will he not doom us to rushing into a no-deal arrangement?
I do not agree with that at all. Obviously we should state what is agreed among all—that there will be no hard border in Northern Ireland. All sides agree on that. As for the legal liabilities to pay the £39 billion, they are, to say the least, contested. I believe it is additionally vital to do what we have failed to do so far, which is to show that we have the conviction and the willingness to leave without an agreement. Yes, I agree that that will mean a great national effort if it comes to that point, and yes it will mean that we have to make sure we get all the goods to our ports in addition to Dover, and ensure that the planes can fly and we address all the other questions.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for finally giving way. He is presenting an illusion of the EU not being good for the UK. Does he also think Euratom is not good for the UK, and if so can he explain to those currently waiting for cancer diagnosis and treatment where they are going to get their radioactive sources from?
I am glad to have given way because that is the kind of scaremongering about the consequences of leaving the EU that does no favours to the debate. In the event of our coming out without an agreement, the Treasury will have an opportunity to use the £39 billion to ensure that we can support the economy rather than talking it down, and I believe it will be far better to make that effort now and at least be responsible for our destiny than to agree to give up our right to self-government forever—because that is effectively what we will be doing—just because of our lack of short-term competence or confidence. Frankly, the EU will not treat us as a sovereign equal in these negotiations unless and until we are willing to stand up for our own interests now and in the future.
I think our country is ready for us to take this stand. [Interruption.] I think it is, because I think it has had enough of being told that we cannot do it—that the fifth or sixth biggest economy in the world is not strong enough to run itself. If we fail now, it will not be good enough—
I have given way a great deal.
It will not be good enough to say to our fishermen that we cannot actually take back control of our fish because in the end it all proved to be too difficult and it will not be good enough to say to the people of Northern Ireland that after all those promises we accept that they must be treated differently from the rest of the UK.
My right hon. Friend talks about avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland. Speaking to the DUP conference at the weekend before last, he said that if Great Britain chose to vary regulations, there would be a need for regulatory checks and a customs border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Does he accept then that in some future world where the UK can vary its regulations as a whole that would inevitably lead to regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland?
I am glad my hon. Friend has raised that point, because it is very important. Michel Barnier himself has said that technical solutions to implement such regulatory checks—not necessarily customs checks but regulatory checks—away from the frontier can be found, and that is what we should be doing. Frankly, that is what we should have been doing for the last two years; that is where our effort and our energy should have gone. And on that point about regulation, it will not be good enough to tell the people of Northern Ireland they are now going to be treated differently and it will not be good enough to tell the businesspeople of the UK that now and in the future they will be burdened with regulation emanating from Brussels over which we will have absolutely no control, and we could not stop it because we could not see an alternative. I must say to colleagues that if they think it is too disruptive to go now for the super-Canada option—to go now for freedom—just wait until we feel the popular reaction that will follow when people realise the referendum has been betrayed.
Can my right hon. Friend tell us how his cunning plan, which will end up with no deal, will secure the 485,000 jobs that rely on the automotive sector and the just-in-time supply chains that he first heard about some six months ago from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy?
I will not comment on when I heard about just-in-time supply chains, but it was many years ago. The objective, as my right hon. Friend knows, is to create a zero-tariff, zero-quota deal with the EU, which is readily deliverable when we consider that we already have zero tariffs and zero quotas. As for her anxiety about job losses, we have already heard a lot of prophecies about job losses. I think it was said that we would lose 500,000 jobs in this country if the British people had the temerity to vote leave. Actually, we gained 800,000 jobs, so I take such prophecies with a pinch of salt.
The sad thing is that too many people—indeed, some of the people who have been negotiating this deal—seem to regard Brexit as a disaster to be managed, rather than an opportunity. They see bad news as a vindication of that judgment and talk up bad news as a result. In taking that attitude, they badly misunderstand the instincts of the people of this country, who did not vote for Brexit out of hate, as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff tweeted after the referendum. They voted to take back control of our laws because they believe—I think, rightly—that if we govern ourselves and legislate in the interests of the UK economy, they have a better chance of good jobs, higher wages, cheaper food and clothes, and a brighter future, all of which are possible under a proper Brexit, and none of which can be delivered by this deal.
Above all, if we vote through this apology for Brexit, we will be showing that we have treated the 17.4 million people—the highest number of people ever to vote for a single proposition—with contempt. We will be turning our backs on those people. We must understand that when people voted to leave in 2016, they voted for change. They did not vote for an endless transition or a thinly disguised version of the status quo: they voted for freedom, independence and a better Britain—and for a country where politicians actually listen to what the people say. If we try to cheat them now—as I fear that we are trying to cheat them—they will spot it, and they will never forgive us.
It is difficult to be here today. It is in many respects a debate that many of us wish was not happening. It is with real sorrow that I rise to respond to the Government’s motion. The reality of Brexit is now laid before us—broken promises of taking back control from a Government that are so out of control; 21 ministerial resignations; countries, communities and households divided; our politics stale; and a Prime Minister fighting for her political life.
The past number of months have been filled with political drama—theatre, squabbles and chaos—and from crisis to crisis, the Government hang on by a thread. Beneath all that is the reality, the hard, cold truth, that this is a moment of self-harm in our history. History has a way of teaching us lessons. If only we would listen.
In moments such as these, I reflect on someone we regard as an icon: Winnie Ewing—Madame Ecosse—who came into this House 51 years ago to represent the seat of Hamilton. She represented the Highlands and Islands in the European Parliament and fought hard to ensure that Scotland benefited from its membership of that Parliament. I can see those benefits throughout my constituency in all the projects that were funded by European money. We had a welcoming ear in the European Parliament, and Winnie played an important part in the development of that institution.
We have heard today about the importance of Erasmus, and it holds a special place in the Scottish National party’s heart because it was Winnie Ewing who chaired the European Parliament’s education and culture committee when Erasmus was established in the 1980s. It is the legacy of someone who fought hard to ensure that all of us benefited from that European membership. In contrasting the approach that we have had from Europe with that of this place, I want to quote the great lady herself. She said:
“Time after time, on matters great and small, we are still standing on the sidelines, mutely accepting what is decided elsewhere instead of raising our voices and making our own choices. Scotland’s much vaunted partnership of Jonah and the whale.”
Respect for human dignity, human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law are the core values of the European Union. Those values have united, not divided, us as citizens of Europe for many years. They are now ingrained in our society, and they are to be cherished and protected, not discarded or eroded. I am proud and privileged to be a citizen of the European Union. The European Union has been the greatest peace project in our lifetime. It was born out of the horrors of two world wars that ripped Europe apart, and it is a project that has gone on to change the course of our communities and improve citizens’ rights and opportunities across the continent. It is a project that I still believe is worth defending, and those of us on the SNP Benches will defend it. It is a project that has enabled our generations to travel, to work, to live and to thrive across all the countries of the European Union.
I come here today with a heavy heart and with the deepest regret that the opportunities I had to work in Amsterdam, to travel throughout Europe in my working career and to learn from the best and the brightest across Europe will be taken from our children. That is what we are doing. Embracing the diversity of European culture has enriched so many of us. We have had exciting opportunities to live and work in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Berlin, Copenhagen, Vienna and so many other places. Our generation has had so many choices and opportunities to work and develop friendships across Europe, to learn from the rich diversity that Europe has to offer, to benefit from the experiences of different cultures and to form friendships with those like us who celebrate being European citizens with shared rights. The right to live and work across the EU is to be ended as a right for the next generation.
I have in the Gallery today an ex-colleague from Amsterdam, where I worked for a bakery ingredients company. My friendship with him was formed out of the opportunity I had to work in Amsterdam, and it is a celebration of the success of the opportunities that EU membership gave to all of us. That right to live and work together across the EU is to be ended as a right for the next generation. That automatic right to benefit from those career opportunities is to be removed. The opportunities to benefit from an inclusive Europe are to be swapped for the constraints of an inward-looking United Kingdom.
Most people in this Chamber know that my husband is German, but not all of them know that his mother was Polish and that his parents were not allowed to marry. The child they had together was taken from them. His mother was a forced labourer and his father was lifted by the Gestapo. Long before we ended up in this mess, he used to celebrate the fact that after one generation, he could live and work where he wanted and marry who he loved. In one more generation, we are taking all that away. It is shameful.
I thank my hon. Friend for that explanation of what we are doing. Colleagues, we must reflect on where we are. I appeal to everyone throughout this House to stop and think about that erudite explanation of what has happened in Europe over the past 70 or 80 years. We should enshrine the benefits of free movement of people that have enriched so many of us. It is not too late to turn back.
I am proud to be the first ever Polish-born British Member of Parliament and to celebrate the contribution that 1 million Poles have made to our country. However, by offering or proposing another referendum, does the right hon. Gentleman not share my concern that we could be giving wind to UKIP’s sails? The party is currently withering on the vine and falling apart, but there will be a renaissance for UKIP if we have another referendum that overturns the previous result.
I respectfully say to the hon. Gentleman that we have to take that argument on. Migration has enriched us. Scotland’s population has barely grown over the past 100 years. We have gone from 4.8 million to just over 5 million people. If we do not have access to the free movement of people, we will be unable to deliver sustainable economic growth. I again say respectfully to the hon. Gentleman that thousands of Poles have come to work in Scotland over the past few years, and I say to each and every one of them who may be watching tonight, “You are welcome.” They are welcome because of the contribution that they make to our lives, our culture and our economy. The thought that we would take up the drawbridge and prevent people from coming to participate in the growth of the future of our country is, quite frankly, repugnant. I will fight along with my colleagues to ensure that we remain an open society and that we can continue to be enriched by those who want to come, live and contribute to our economy. They are welcome and will remain welcome.
In April 1988, when the single market campaign began, one prominent speaker stated:
“A single market without barriers—visible or invisible—giving you direct and unhindered access to the purchasing power of over 300 million of the world's wealthiest and most prosperous people... We are putting the European Community to work for ordinary people: for cheaper air fares, for more and better services, for consumer choice and product safety.”
That was Margaret Thatcher. Even Margaret Thatcher recognised that shared markets, collaboration and partnership in Europe was in all our interests.
Many people may be puzzled as to why I begin by expressing the sentiment and not the content of the Government’s motion, but I do so because it is right. It is right to remember the real loss that we all will feel. That loss is down not simply to this deal or any other, but to the fact that any deal will mean a loss to our economy, our society and our children. The SNP has long argued and continues to believe that staying in the European Union is the best option for Scotland and, indeed, for all parts of the United Kingdom. When I hear the Prime Minister say that if we vote down this deal or no deal, that means staying in the European Union, I say, “Yes, please.”
There is no option that will be better for our economy, for jobs and for our communities than staying in the EU. It is the height of irresponsibility for any Government to bring forward a proposition that will make their people poorer and mean that people will lose their jobs. We heard earlier from the previous Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, that the warning on jobs was part of project fear, but let us look at the reality and at what we already know: 1,000 jobs lost from the European Banking Authority and 1,000 jobs lost from the European Medicines Agency. That is not project fear. That is the reality, and it has already happened.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in calling on the Government, even at this late stage, to drop the charge they intend to impose on EU nationals to keep rights they already enjoy in this country right now? The cost of a passport might not be much to them, but it should be dropped as an act of good will.
My hon. Friend is correct. We simply should not be charging people to exercise the right they should have to be here. I go further, because of course we are discussing rejecting this deal, but we are also ruling out no deal. The Government should make it crystal clear that, in any scenario, the rights of all our EU citizens here will be protected.
There is another factor when we discuss the rights of EU citizens here, because there are also UK citizens in Europe. UK citizens who are currently in Europe will only have the right to stay, live and work in that one territory. The rights they have had up until now, of living, travelling and working throughout the European Union, are to be ended. What a disgrace. I know of people who live in Belgium but work throughout the European continent, and they are going to have those rights countermanded. That is a disgrace.
Let me make some progress.
Although we respect that England and Wales voted to leave the European Union, we ask that the Government respect that Scotland did not. However, it is clear that the UK Government have no intention of respecting the will of the Scottish people, as the deal we are asked to support will do nothing but bring harm and hardship—socially, economically and politically—to Scotland.
We must remember that this fight, this huge struggle and this burden on our society we now face from Brexit come from the Tory party, and from the Tory party alone. The European debate was an internal battle for the Tories, and they drove it into the public discourse, on to a bigger battlefield, not because of the interests of the citizens of this country but because of the deep divisions and narrow interests within the Tory party itself, not outside it. We know today that it does not have to be so. We know that the Prime Minister’s deal will be voted down—we know it and she knows it—and this House should also vote to remove no deal from the table. There is no scenario where we will be wealthier with Brexit. No Government should expose their citizens to economic risk, which is what will happen with Brexit. The Government’s own analysis shows that to be the case.
We must stop this madness. We can go back to the people of these islands and be honest with them on the consequences of Brexit. Today the advocate-general, Manuel Campos Sánchez-Bordona, has advised that EU law would allow the UK unilaterally to revoke article 50. We can hit the reset button. That, Prime Minister, is called leadership.
The right hon. Gentleman touched on this earlier, but does he agree that perhaps the people who are most affected by this are UK citizens who live in the EU? It will require 27 countries in 27 different ways to address their concerns and their issues, so they are perhaps most vulnerable in what the Government are seeking to impose on us.
I fully agree, and I touched on that earlier. It just shows how this Brexit deal is a complete shambles and how we need to think again.
“A future in which Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England continue to flourish side-by-side as equal partners.”
Those words are not mine; they are the words of the Prime Minister. A Prime Minister who promised we would be equal partners, but her rhetoric is in ruins, as her Government’s record has shown time and again that the Tories believe Scotland to be not an equal partner but a second-class nation worth only second-class treatment. Throughout the entire negotiating period, the UK Government have treated Scotland with contempt. As I look around the Chamber, I can see the shaking of heads, but where are the 13 Scottish Tory MPs who were to stand up for Scotland? In this debate, which is so crucial to Scotland’s future, the Tories are not just found wanting—they are simply not here; they have disappeared.
My right hon. Friend is making an incredibly powerful speech. On contempt for the Scottish people and for our Parliament, does he agree that, if this Government and their MPs continue to treat Scotland with the kind of disrespect we have seen throughout this Brexit process, it will only make independence for Scotland more likely and come sooner?
I thank my hon. Friend for that. I will make a prediction to this Parliament that Scotland will become an independent country. I say simply to the UK Parliament: keep going. Since we have come here, we have had English votes for English laws and the power grab that is taking place. The people of Scotland will one day make their judgment on what is happening.
I want to make some progress, as I am aware that many others wish to speak.
Throughout the entire negotiating period, the UK Government have treated Scotland with contempt. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain, yet the will of the Scottish people means nothing—absolutely nothing—to this Prime Minister. Instead of engaging meaningfully with Scotland during this critical time, she chose last-minute photocalls and stage-managed events in Scotland—all smoke and mirrors to dress up the fact that her Government could not care less about Scotland, and we can see it tonight. The Tories think they can do whatever they want to Scotland and get away with it. They think they can railroad through this deal against our will and against our interests. The Tories’ mask has well and truly slipped. Scotland is not a second-class nation and our people do not deserve a second-class deal. This proposed deal is a non-starter and a no-deal Brexit is unthinkable. That means the priority now must be to stop Brexit and the SNP has made it clear that we will support any steps that would secure Scotland’s place in the European Union, in line with the votes of the people of Scotland. But we have also said that, if the UK is to leave the EU, by far and away the least damaging option is to stay in the single market, which is eight times bigger than the UK alone, and the customs union.
The right hon. Gentleman has nailed his saltire to the mast. He has been very clear and we know what he is saying: he wants to stay in the EU. How is he going to get out of the common fisheries policy? What is he going to do for Scottish fishermen?
Well, well, well, Scottish fishing. Scottish fishing was sold down the river in the 1970s because Ted Heath made sure that our fishing interests were sold out. I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that the deal the Government have brought forward is the worst of all deals because in the transition period the UK would remain in the CFP but would have no effect on the rules. Let us look at what the EU has made clear because you are going to enter into a transition but you are not holding any cards in terms of the future relationship, and the EU27 have said that the starting position for the negotiations on fishing will be the existing quotas. The Scottish fishermen have been sold out by the Tories, who have duped them into thinking that they are going to be taking back control of their waters—nothing could be further from the truth.
I am going to make some progress.
Not content with ignoring the Scottish Government’s compromise option for two years, the Prime Minister now wants to shut Scotland’s voice out entirely. She cannot go on ignoring Scotland. Tomorrow, the Scottish Parliament will debate a cross-party motion that rejects this deal and a no-deal Brexit. Perhaps there are lessons for this place because at Holyrood parties have come together against a damaging Brexit, with a consensus and a desire to work collectively to defend Scotland’s interests. How many of the 13 Tory MPs from Scotland will stand up with us to defend Scotland’s interests? Where are they? I think we know the answer from the failure of the Scottish Tory MPs to stand up against a power grab when Westminster voted to take back control from the Scottish Parliament. We saw, when our powers over fishing, farming and the environment were to be trampled all over by Westminster, that the Scottish Tories turned a blind eye—Scottish Tories standing silent as the Scottish Parliament, our Parliament, which the people of Scotland voted for in such huge numbers in 1997, had its powers constrained.
The Prime Minister boasts that her deal has support, but her deal does not have the support of the people of Scotland. A poll published earlier this year found that almost two thirds of Scottish voters believe that the Westminster Government are ignoring their concerns during the Brexit negotiations. There is now more support in Scotland for remaining in the EU than there was at the time of the 2016 referendum. According to research carried out for the people’s vote campaign, 66% of Scottish voters support staying in the EU. The Prime Minister, like her predecessors, is out of step with the feelings of the Scottish people.
It is not just Scottish people: countless experts and professionals throughout the UK have said that it is a bad deal. Why is the Prime Minister not listening? Her proposed deal is unacceptable and must be defeated in this House. Some 80,000 jobs in Scotland will be put directly at risk as a result of Brexit. [Interruption.] I can see Ministers shaking their heads, but that is the analysis of the Fraser of Allander Institute. Indeed, the UK Government’s own economic analysis points to the fact that a no-deal Brexit would damage the Scottish economy and wipe out more than 8.5% of our GDP. How any Government can impose these risks on Scotland is simply breath-taking.
The UK Government’s intention to end the free movement of people will be hugely damaging to our economy. Inward migration has made an overwhelmingly positive contribution to Scotland’s economy, meeting our needs for workers in sectors such as health and social care, as well as in the tourism industry in the highlands and islands. Any reduction in EU migration could have a serious effect on Scotland’s population growth and its demographic composition. All the projected increase in Scotland’s population over the next 25 years is due to migration. According to the Scottish Fiscal Commission, with 50% less EU migration, the working-age population would decline by almost 1% and the proportion of children would decline by 4.3%. The Prime Minister’s deal totally fails to meet Scotland’s needs.
An example of exactly what my right hon. Friend is talking about came to my ears today. A pilot who works for a Scottish airline has a choice between having a strong EU Dutch passport or a UK passport. Having a UK passport would mean that he would have to pay around £10,000 for himself, his wife and his children to stay in the UK, and he would be left with a weaker passport. Or he can go with a Dutch passport and work internationally in the airline industry. That is the very damage that my right hon. Friend is talking about. The Government do not care about what they will do to the transport infrastructure of the highlands. They will carry on blindly, as they have been doing.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We must make the point right across Scotland that there is an existential threat to our living standards and our workers. We must make sure that we stop Brexit. If we cannot stop Brexit for the United Kingdom, we have to take seriously our own responsibility to protect Scotland.
Brexit uncertainty is already damaging our economy to the tune of £600 per household per year, as the value of the pound falls and inflation rises. That is not “Project Fear”; that has happened. That is what has happened since the sheer irresponsibility of the Vote Leave campaign, with ridiculous statements on the side of a bus, promoted by the ex-Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, who should be hanging his head in shame.
There is no certainty in the Prime Minister’s deal on future trading arrangements for goods and services, no certainty on future mobility, no clarity on law, and no guarantee on continued participation in the EU funding programmes that support our universities, communities, non-governmental organisations and businesses. Uncertainty leads to risks for investment and further risks for our economy. Under a free trade agreement, GDP would be £9 billion lower by 2030 than if we stayed in the European Union. That is equivalent to £1,600 per person in Scotland. That is what Brexit risks per year, making the people of Scotland poorer. That is why the Scottish National party, in all good faith, has offered a compromise. If we are to be dragged out of the European Union against our will, then, at the very least, we must remain in the single market and the customs union to protect our economy. Without single market and customs union membership, the future relationship can only be a free trade agreement, introducing barriers to Scottish companies’ abilities to trade. That will damage jobs, investment, productivity and earnings.
The Government’s own analysis proves that Brexit is bad for Scotland: trade volumes, GDP and wages would all fall, while Government borrowing and trade costs would increase. All the analysis shows that a no-deal scenario would be catastrophic and it is likely that the corporate sector in general is not well equipped to deal with a no-deal Brexit. It is more important than ever that we are not faced with a false choice between a bad deal and a no deal. We need to have more time. We must extend article 50 and take an alternative route to protect our economy. This deal and no deal are not options. Only those reckless enough to risk economic hardship will back this deal.
Despite what the Prime Minister said here today, her own Chancellor agrees with the SNP. He admitted on Radio 4 that, in economic terms, we will be worse off after Brexit and after leaving the single market. Even more telling is the admission from the Prime Minister herself in the House last week. In response to Nigel Dodds, she said:
“What we want to be able to do in the future is to have our independent trade policy. One of the issues in relation to the backstop is whether or not we would be able to do that—that is one of the issues that we would not want to see us continuing to be in the backstop for.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 650, c. 32.]
So the Prime Minister is clear. There is a concern from this Government over their ability to be able to strike and implement free trade deals if the backstop comes into force. Why then is she arguing here that this deal delivers? Again, I ask the House: how can we support a deal and back the Government on delivering an outcome that would make our economy smaller and our communities poorer?
Ministers have tried to spin support in favour of this deal, citing the support from sectors across the United Kingdom. However, let me say this to those who believe that this deal is the only option: it is not and we deserve better. We know that frictionless trade at the border is crucial for Scotland’s food and drink exports, but there is no guarantee of that as, under the deal, border checks and controls will depend on the extent of the UK’s alignment with EU customs and regulatory regimes. Yet the declaration contains no commitment to a common rulebook on regulation. The SNP believes that our food and drink sector deserves assurance. It deserves cast-iron protections for the industry, not a false binary choice between a no Brexit and a blindfold Brexit.
Yet again, another UK Tory Government in Westminster have bargained off our fishing sector. The utterances from No. 10 are false assurances. The UK is reneging on its promises to support Scottish fishing by accepting a link between UK waters and access to EU markets. Its commitment to a separate fisheries agreement as part of the economic partnership could mean the UK ceding access for EU vessels to UK waters, or accepting tariffs and customs barriers on trade and fish, seafood and farmed salmon with the EU. That is not acceptable. That will mean that, again, Scottish interests are being traded off against each other. That is absolutely unacceptable and those Scottish Tories who profess to want to protect Scottish fishermen should hang their heads in shame. If the Tories go through the Lobby to protect this Government, they will once again have sold Scotland out for party political gain and they will not be forgiven for it.
The UK Government must respect the will of the Scottish people who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. It is a democratic outrage that Scotland has been dragged out of the EU against its will. The withdrawal agreement sidelines Scotland and sells out our vital national industries. How could any representative in good conscience support such a move? Let me be clear: next week, the SNP will reject the withdrawal agreement because it will leave Scotland poorer and rip opportunities away from future generations. Does the Prime Minister show any respect at all for our mandate? No. Do this Government have respect for the fact that every Scottish local authority voted remain and that the nation voted 62% in favour of staying in the EU? No. Well, in Scotland we will make our voices heard once again.
Northern Ireland has been given a differential deal that will put Scotland at a competitive disadvantage. There is no reason why a similar arrangement cannot be afforded to Scotland. The SNP will table an amendment to ensure that the voice of Scotland is well and truly heard in this place. Those who claim to be democrats—those who claim to have respect for the people of Scotland and for the mandate of the Scottish people and Parliament—cannot vote with the UK Government on this deal. It is clearer now than ever before that the only way to protect Scotland’s interest is to be an independent nation.
The First Minister has been very clear that she will set out the next steps on Scotland’s future once the terms of the Brexit deal are clear. The process of Brexit has demonstrated weaknesses in the UK’s constitutional arrangements. Scotland has been ignored, sidelined and undermined through the entire Brexit process. The costs to the people in Scotland of not being independent have been laid bare.
Today is a moment of huge historical significance. For decades to come, people will remember what this place decided to do—whether we, as public representatives with the responsibility to protect our communities and constituents, voted for a deal that would harm and hinder their opportunities, or whether we stood up for them. This is no ordinary time in our history and it is no ordinary time for our politics. Brexit has cast the politics of Westminster into a landscape of crumbling certainties.
We are at a defining moment. We must stand up for our constituents. We cannot ignore the economic analysis. We cannot drive blindfolded off the cliff edge. We must take back control in this place. We must have the courage of our convictions and wield the power gifted us to do the right thing. We must stop this deal and this Government railroading recklessly over our rights, our freedoms and the opportunities of our people. There is another way, there is time and we must take it.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to trouble you with this, but in the course of proceedings yesterday, you gently rebuked me for intervening from a sedentary position on Caroline Lucas. You went on to suggest that there had been general shouting and braying, and the Gloucestershire Echo is now reporting that I was admonished by you for participating in such behaviour. Would you be kind enough to confirm that there was no suggestion of braying or other disrespectful behaviour from me? It is not my style and I would be grateful if the position could be clarified so that the record and the Echo can be set straight.
I am very happy to set the record straight for the benefit of the hon. Gentleman. In all my experience of him, which is now quite considerable, I think I can say authoritatively that the hon. Gentleman and braying are complete strangers; they have never met. Indeed, other than by virtue of the fact that he is a well-educated fellow, I would question whether he would even know the meaning of “to bray.” The hon. Gentleman is in every other respect a good citizen. He did heckle, but he was not braying, and his behaviour is ordinarily not in any way unseemly, so he can tell his local newspaper to put that in their pipe—if they still have one—and smoke it.
Mr Speaker, there may not be room in the Gloucestershire Echo for the whole of your ruling in response to my hon. Friend Alex Chalk. I am grateful to allowed to speak so early in the debate, and I will be brief out of consideration for the many Members on both sides of the House who wish to participate.
Following Ian Blackford, I have to wonder how he has apparently not realised that the British economy has been growing steadily since the vote to leave in the referendum in 2016. If the Scottish economy is failing in the way that he suggests, perhaps it has something to do with the Scottish Government and their failure to provide the services that are needed north of the border, rather than having anything to do with the Brexit vote.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke at length about the tradition of democracy and respect for the rule of law. He called them European traditions without noting that they are actually strongest in this country—in Britain—and have been for a very, long time. I wonder whether he might reflect for a moment, as he thinks about that respect for democracy and the rule of law, what damage could be done to that respect and to those values that are so precious in our country if he and his hon. Friends were successful in ignoring the biggest democratic mandate in British history.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will reflect for just a tiny moment on the fact that Ireland, which became independent of the UK 96 years ago, will this year be growing five times faster than the UK. For further understanding of that, it will take the UK five years to do what Ireland does in one year.
The hon. Gentleman will know, I am sure, what is the fastest growing major European economy at the moment. He also knows the difficulties that Ireland had some years ago as a result of its membership of the euro—something that would be inflicted on Scotland by the nationalists if they had their way.
I think the Prime Minister has enormous good will on both sides of the House. I think that Members on both sides of the House know that she has worked phenomenally hard to try to secure the best agreement. I also think she is correct when she makes the point that the country feels ready to move on. There is palpable tiredness with this subject. People the length and breadth of the United Kingdom want to know that we are going to move forward and put into effect the referendum that took place two and half years ago.
I listened earlier to the Leader of the Opposition as he talked about fear and concern in business and said that uncertainty was affecting investment in our country. It is important that Members on both sides of the House understand that if there is fear and uncertainty in boardrooms in this country, it is because of the concern about what would happen if the right hon. Gentleman were ever to form a Government in this country, and if there is capital flight going on at the moment from our country, it is because of that concern, not because of concern about Brexit. Certainly, we on this side of the House are in no doubt that it is better to have a Conservative Government led by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister than the alternative.
I think we have probably heard enough from the Scottish nationalists for all five days of the debate.
But more remarkable, perhaps, is the number of Labour Members who feel that it would be much safer for the country to continue to have a Conservative Government led by the Prime Minister than one—
The hon. Gentleman says that he hopes that his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will continue to see the deal through, but of course only he knows whether that is going to be the case—so can he enlighten us?
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I am not going to enlighten him on that, although I could enlighten him on so many other things.
There is so much that is good and sensible in the proposed withdrawal agreement. Crucially, the implementation period gives business a degree of certainty and the time to accommodate to changes. That is critically important. Also, I think that Members on both sides of the House absolutely welcome the mutual protection of citizens that is embodied in the agreement. That has been very important to Members on both sides of the House ever since the referendum over two years ago.
The Prime Minister was clear in her assessment when she said that there are those Members who would like to see much closer integration than is proposed in the withdrawal agreement. There are also those who would like to see a much looser relationship than is proposed. I am firmly in the latter camp. I find much in the agreement disagreeable. I think that it does propose to tie us in too closely to the European Union in the future. But like many others in this House, I recognise that there is a need to compromise. I recognise that at a time when we are negotiating with 27 other countries, and at a time when there is no overall majority in the House of Commons, some compromise is necessary.
But—this is my central point for my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union—while recognising that compromise is necessary, there is one compromise beyond all others that makes this withdrawal agreement very difficult for many of us to support. It is the possibility, however remote, that we might be leaving a treaty that allows us to give notice to quit to join one that can only be left with the consent of the other party. To do that in the name of taking back control is very difficult for many of us to accept.
Over the next seven days, I urge the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister in the strongest possible terms to redouble their efforts to find a way to give real reassurance that we, the United Kingdom, could leave the backstop in the event that we have to enter it and to recognise that if negotiations on a future trading arrangement were to break down, there has to be a way to leave that backstop agreement. We have seven days of debate and discussion ahead of us. Many of us are hoping to hear that reassurance and are willing the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister well in that process.
Over 20 years ago, as the new President of the Board of Trade, my first overseas visit to a major trade partner—Japan—was dominated by the most overwhelming concern. Business and politicians alike wanted reassurance that the then new Labour Government would not be leaving the European Union. They were polite, but they were blunt. They had invested in the UK because the UK was in the European Union, and if we left, so would they. Just today, their ambassador re-emphasised their nervousness.
So in 2016, I could foresee serious economic harm to Britain’s interests, but I accepted that we had to abide by the referendum result and concentrate our energies on damage limitation. Despite the mixes messages from the Government, I voted to trigger article 50 and the process of withdrawal, but frankly, since then, it has been downhill all the way. First, it became clear that those who had clamoured for us to leave the European Union had not the faintest idea what to do next. There was no concrete plan for the nation’s future—just a series of sweeping assertions about how easy, swift and painless leaving would be and the golden future that awaited us.
Then we saw that the Prime Minister’s decisions were being taken not in the best interests of the country, but to satisfy her Brexit extremists. The withdrawal Bill then proposed that the control we were taking should be returned not to Parliament but to Ministers, with little, if any, real parliamentary scrutiny. Asserting Parliament’s legitimate role has been an uphill struggle, as we saw in the most recent Division today.
Article 50 allows only a two-year window for negotiations, so I expected the Government to seek the fastest possible progress. I agreed with them that withdrawal and future partnership were best considered side by side, but when that was rejected, concluding negotiations on part one—the withdrawal agreement—became all the more urgent. Leaving is one thing; what matters more is where we are going and on what terms, and that dialogue has yet to begin in earnest.
If anyone had said that we would reach the end of our two-year window struggling to reach any deal at all, I would never have believed it. But it is hard to negotiate successfully if we cannot agree on what we want, wilfully throw away our negotiating flexibility and sack people who tell us what we do not want to hear.
Over these two years, while the Government have wrangled endlessly about how to proceed, one disastrously unforeseen consequence of leaving the EU after another has been revealed. Government Members keep insisting that everyone who voted knew exactly what they were doing and what the possible consequences would be. It may be so. All I can say is, I did not.
When I heard the Prime Minister pontificating about escaping the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, it never crossed my mind that that meant leaving Euratom—the watchdog not just for cancer treatment, but for the safety of nuclear power stations. I know from ministerial experience that we have, and have had for years, a shortage of people across the world with those skills and capacities, and we are about to leave behind some of those on whom we presently rely. However, whatever I did not know, I did know how much we rely on Dover for our import and export trade. I had not focused either on the losses to our scientific and medical research, or things such as the Galileo project.
As each of these problems emerges, I keep hearing that it is all right because the Government will continue all this investment—for example, to support our farmers—all on our own, so clearly the Prime Minister has found another of those magic money trees. Much of our consumption—for example, our food consumption—relies on the frictionless trade that we now enjoy, so, too, does modern manufacturing. Key goods and components are perpetually whizzing around the European Union and back to the UK, and thousands of jobs across Britain depend on this just-in-time delivery. That is why I was appalled to hear the Prime Minister announce, casually, that Britain would leave both the single market and the customs union—and, what is more, that these were red lines.
The economist Professor Patrick Minford declared the other day that just as the Thatcher years saw the demise of major industries such as coal and steel, so, too, leaving the EU, which he nevertheless supports, will probably—and, in my view, disastrously—see the end of what is left of UK manufacturing. I know that, nevertheless, most of the business community urges us to vote for this deal to provide the certainty that business always, understandably, seeks. I understand that totally; I have dealt with it for years. But no one should be under any illusions. Bluntly, these are not commitments to invest or stay in Brexit Britain. These are perfectly justifiable attempts to keep business going for the next two to three years to give them a breathing space, without disruption, to make their long-term decisions, which may not be in our favour.
I recognise, too, the concern that staying in a customs union may restrict our ability to negotiate other trade deals, say, with the United States. Personally, I am not starry-eyed about such deals. For a start, it is frankly inconceivable that any American President, let alone this American President, would do a trade deal with the UK without making it a key condition that giant US health corporations be allowed unfettered access to our national health service. I can well imagine that that might suit some right wingers who hanker after a privatised NHS and would let those companies use a free trade deal to accomplish exactly that, along with in other public services, while leaving the hands of Tory politicians clean. Equally, we would face demands to admit chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef, and no doubt other delights on which we have not yet focused.
Other trade deals would not be consequence-free either. India and China, to name but two, would, again understandably, want additional visas for their citizens—I have no quarrel with that—but the Prime Minister’s emphasis on the end of free movement may give some people the misleading impression that she is offering an end to immigration. She is not. According to the most recent figures, it is non-EU immigration that is increasing.
Not satisfied with the grave red lines misjudgement, tying her own hands and restricting her room for manoeuvre, the Prime Minister added to that the crass folly of selecting a date—not just a date, but a time—for our leaving and, to please and reassure her Brexiteers, she put it into the Bill. As that self-inflicted deadline approached, some began to say that it would be best to leave the EU at the end of March, giving up our prime negotiating cards and our strength, and work out afterwards what would be in our interests in future. I do not think that I have ever heard anything so criminally irresponsible from any Government or the supporters of any Government.
The Prime Minister says that people just want it to be over. Of course they do. Heaven knows, I think we all probably share that sentiment. But it is a con, perhaps the biggest con of all. If we pass the deal, it will not be over. The really serious stuff has not even started and it will go on for years.
Of course, to guide us, we have the political declaration. We have already heard from the Governments of France and Spain how binding they believe its warm words to be. The point is that it settles nothing. All is to be “explored”, “continued”, “considered” or “discussed”. Nothing is settled.
From the outset, the Prime Minister resisted the idea that this sovereign Parliament should have the chance to vote and express its opinion on any deal she might secure. She forcefully resisted the notion of a meaningful vote, and now that we have one, she is doing her utmost to make it meaningless by insisting that there is only one way for MPs to vote: for her deal.
The outcome of the series of votes is unpredictable and could well be indecisive. I have seen such a thing happen in this House before. Should there now be a further people’s vote? I hear “no” from most Conservative Members. But I am in no doubt that I know infinitely more now about the potential consequences of leaving the EU than I did in 2016, and I think, having been in the Cabinet for some 11 years, I probably knew a little bit about it before. I know, too, that what leave campaigners promised is not on offer, mostly because it was undeliverable.
The hon. Members for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) and for Bracknell (Dr Lee) have reminded us that a major medical intervention must be preceded by an assurance that informed consent has been given. Consumer protection law gives a 14-day cooling-off period for people to make sure they know what they are doing. This time, the very future of our country is at stake.
There has been a determined effort to keep people in the dark. Economic assessments of Brexit’s impact prepared for Ministers were withheld, like the Government’s legal advice. The real-life consequences of leaving with no deal, which clearly still attracts some Conservative Members, are not being fully spelt out. The Chancellor, like the Governor of the Bank of England, publicly accepts that we would be economically better off staying in the EU, but he points out—and this is fair—that many who voted leave thought that a price worth paying to recover our sovereignty. But the deal on offer, which the Prime Minister says is the only deal on offer, does not recover our sovereignty. It leaves us rule takers from the European Union without any voice in shaping those rules. It represents what may well be the biggest transfer of sovereignty ever proposed by any British Government, because this time sovereignty is not being shared—it is being surrendered.
None of us can know today just what decisions or options, if any, will emerge from next Tuesday’s votes. The Prime Minister demands—she repeated it today—of all MPs that, when we vote, we do so not in any party or personal interest, but for what we honestly believe to be the interests of our country. I shall, Mr Speaker, and it will not be for this deal.
Order. With immediate effect, an eight-minute limit will now apply.
It may be that I can shorten my comments, because I want wholeheartedly and thoroughly to adopt the outstanding and excellent analysis and conclusions of Margaret Beckett. She does indeed speak with great authority. She of course knows, as a proud representative of the city of Derby, the Rolls-Royce plant in her own constituency. She also knows the Toyota plant near Derby. When she speaks about the just-in-time supply chains and our manufacturing, I suggest that there are few who could speak with so much genuine authority and knowledge. In her analysis and conclusions, she is absolutely right. I am delighted that she and I also agree that we should now have a people’s vote on this, the most important decision that our country faces and will take for decades.
Mr Speaker, I also want to say this. You, I think, understand perhaps more than many how that consensus, that agreement, was here in this House shortly after the referendum result. The great failing—it gives me no pleasure to say this of my own Government—was from the outset, when instead of reaching out across this House and across our country to heal the divisions, to bring together the 48% and the 52%, I am afraid and sorry to say the exact opposite was done. The 48% were tossed aside. We were abused. We were sidelined. If we had even the temerity to question almost anything we were called remoaners. It is supremely ironic that it is because of brave colleagues, who normally sit here in what is called the naughty Chamber, who about a year ago stood up to the abuse from those calling us traitors and mutineers—and yes, the death threats—and voted, with some courage, that hon. Members will be able to debate in the way that we will and then to vote. The irony is not lost on me that some of those who were most ardent in their opposition to what we did 12 months ago are now the most keen to take advantage of it.
I will not vote for this deal on any other basis than it goes to the people for their approval. This is not a good deal. In fact, as many have already observed, it is not a deal. It is certainly not what we were promised, not even by our Prime Minister. Shortly after the triggering of article 50, she was interviewed by Andrew Marr. The tape exists. He questioned whether it would be possible in the next two years to begin to get anywhere near securing all the various deals that had to be secured or even get to the beginning stage. She was confident that it could all be done within two years. Well, here we are today and what do we know? We have a political declaration that can be ripped up by any Prime Minister or any Government that come in once we have left the European Union. The withdrawal agreement is the only legally binding part of the so-called deal. As we know, there is nothing to implement, and certainly nothing that we were promised. The so-called transition period is to an unknown destination, because after two and a half years, we still do not know what our eventual relationship with the European Union will be. That is simply not good enough.
The withdrawal agreement is indeed a blindfolded Brexit that fails to deliver on the promises made not just by the leave campaign but, I am sorry to say, by my own Government. As the right hon. Member for Derby South said so beautifully and eloquently, the right hon. and hon. Government Members who think that we should just get on with it, do it, and that we can all go home for Christmas and it will all be over, are—with great respect—completely and utterly fooling themselves. We have already heard speeches from those who prefer a no deal, hard Brexit, and people can be assured that if we leave next March with nothing more than this withdrawal agreement and a political declaration that can be torn up, they will carry on and on and on for years in their quest to sever all ties with the European Union. As I say, they will do that because of the non-binding nature of the political declaration.
How poor is that political declaration? As others have observed, it is so vague that the Government could not even apply their assessments to it to try to inform us of its financial consequences.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is exemplified in article 107 of the future framework document? It just says:
“The Parties should consider appropriate arrangements for cooperation on space”— and that is it.
Indeed, it is nothing more than warm words of good intentions. There is no mention of the frictionless trade that we were all promised. Services that make up 80% of our economy barely get a mention, and of course, the political declaration is the high point as we now go to the negotiations in March.
The worst part of the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration is that it will make our constituents and our country poorer, and I did not come to this place and will not vote to do anything that makes my constituents poorer, especially when a far better alternative exists. On their own admission, the Government are urging people to vote for this so-called deal in the clear knowledge that it will reduce the future economic prospects of the people of this country. And that is on their best assessments—or rather, guesses—because we know of the inherent problems and inaccuracies, in effect, of the impact assessments and the forecasts that have been made. Those just give us the best assessments when, in fact, many believe that it will be far worse than even those estimates.
No one should be under any illusions about how bad a place the backstop will be. I will not rehearse some of the arguments that have been put forward very well by others. This is not just vassalage; it will convey only a bare bones customs union, with none of the regulatory alignment that is so critical for business. Northern Ireland will have limited benefits, but those benefits will be better than the rest of the United Kingdom, which is clearly a threat to the Union of our country. I say to Members on the Government Benches: as members of the Conservative and Unionist party, on what possible basis can you vote for that? As others have observed, we will not be able to deliver any of the unicorn trade deals that have so far eluded us, but which will apparently magically appear in the next two years; nor, it seems, will we be able to benefit from the dozens of great trade deals that we already have because we are a member of the European Union. That is the reality.
This is not what leave voters in Broxtowe voted for. They have seen through the lies on buses and they now know of the broken promises. They see that whichever way we cut it, Brexit will make them poorer and reduce the life chances of their children and grandchildren. Now that they see the reality of Brexit, they are entitled to change their minds and have a final say by way of a people’s vote.
It is said that this Brexit is a price worth paying, but I reject that. I understand the political consequences—many hon. Members have mentioned the need to deliver this—but we must all put our country and our constituents first. If we do that, we will understand that the best deal with the EU is our current deal with the EU. It is not just good for trade; it is also about the country we are—open-minded, open-hearted. I fear for our country if we set course now, agree to this deal and make the grave mistake of leaving the EU, which has conveyed so much prosperity and delivered peace and a better country.
I want to begin by acknowledging the effort that Ministers, including the Prime Minister, and civil servants have put into trying to negotiate a deal. The fact that so many of us object to what has been brought back reflects not on that effort, but on the decisions that the Government have made. First, as we have heard, the Government embarked on the negotiations with the cries of those who argued for Brexit ringing in their ears. We need to remember the point made by my right hon. Friend Margaret Beckett. We were told that
“we will hold all the cards”; that this
“will be one of the easiest trade deals in history”; that
“getting out the EU can be quick and easy”; that
“within two years...we can negotiate a free trade area massively larger than the EU”.
How slowly the truth has been revealed, and how painful a process it has been.
Secondly, while the referendum result made it clear that we would leave the institutions, it did not determine the future of our economic relationship. Thirdly, I believe that history will record the Prime Minister’s red lines to have been an absolutely catastrophic mistake, because they created the problem of the border in Northern Ireland and removed the Government’s room for manoeuvre. They boxed the Prime Minister in. These illusions and decisions resulted in the plague of disagreement that affected the Cabinet and led to so many ministerial resignations, including the loss of not one but two Brexit Secretaries. Goodness me! They exited the Department before we even exited the EU.
The Government spent two years trying to agree what to ask for, and the result was the contortion that was the Chequers proposal—an attempt to keep the border open and save friction-free trade. The problem was it was rejected by the EU. The Prime Minister spoke about home truths. Now is the time for some honesty. If we wish to maintain an open border in Northern Ireland, we will have to stay in a customs union and observe most, if not all, of the rules of the single market, but not a single Minister is prepared to acknowledge that truth.
As was demonstrated by Boris Johnson in his contribution, those who argued for Brexit have been exposed as having absolutely no plan for it at all. A Canada deal would fail to solve the Northern Ireland problem and would not give us friction-free trade, and as to the suggestion that we should leave the EU on WTO terms—no deal—I will turn to that in a moment.
The problem with the deal is the political declaration. We were assured that it would be substantive and detailed. It is not. It is merely words and aspirations that have no legal force. We have no idea where we are going, no idea where we will end up, no clarity and no certainty, and for business and future investment, which hate uncertainty, what kind of a deal is that?
The Prime Minister was questioned by my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, about security. She was asked why there was no reference to ECRIS or SIS II in the deal. In 2016, the police in Britain made 100,000 requests to ECRIS. In 2017, we made 500,000 queries to SIS II. That tells us how important those two sources of information are to the protection of our security, but neither is mentioned in the political declaration.
What about services, foreign policy co-ordination, policing and information-sharing, taking part in EU agencies, fisheries, data, recognition of professional qualifications, broadcasting rights, intellectual property, public procurement, consumer safety, aviation, freight, energy, medicines, scientific co-operation, and lots of other things? What is the answer on all those? “We do not know.” “We cannot be sure.” “It is yet to be sorted out.” The truth is that that will not do.
The Treasury figures published last week, showing the reduction in GDP that would result from a no deal compared to what would otherwise happen, are sobering and speak for themselves. Those who try to wave all that away by saying, “It would not be the end of the world”, or “There would be some disruption initially”, simply fail to do justice to the economic consequences of taking such a highly damaging step. They pay no heed to the fears and concerns of businesses that know it would be a disaster, and they do not respect the importance of the Good Friday agreement and the open border in Northern Ireland.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the use of the slogan “No deal is better than a bad deal” was most unfortunate, given that no deal is in fact the very worst thing that could happen to our country? Was that not verging on the irresponsible?
I completely agree with the right hon. Lady. That is a nonsensical argument that the Government have advanced for the last two years. Ministers know that we cannot leave with no deal: they know that we are not ready. I do not think that any responsible Government would allow this country to leave the EU with no deal, but they are unwilling to say that, because no deal must be kept alive as the bogeyman to frighten the House of Commons into voting for the Prime Minister’s deal.
Does the right hon. Gentleman also agree that no deal—cutting ourselves off in that way—would have serious repercussions not only for our politics, but for our relations with our European neighbours?
Absolutely. I do not believe that there is a majority in the House for leaving with no deal, and we will have an opportunity to demonstrate our view in our vote next week.
This decision will define the present generation of Members of Parliament and shape the future for our children and our grandchildren. From the very beginning, our nation has been divided on the subject of Europe. From Hugh Gaitskell’s speech about the end of 1,000 years of British history, to Edward Heath’s argument that joining the Common Market was a
“great step forward towards the removal of divisions in western Europe”,
I argued for remaining in the European Union, but not because it is perfect. It is far from perfect, and it needs reform. The result of the referendum told us and the rise of populism across Europe is telling Governments that too many people feel that the balance between sovereignty, self-determination, control—call it what you will—and co-operation with other countries is not quite right. That thirst for control is a reflection of the lack of control that many of our constituents feel they have over their lives, given what has happened to their jobs and the changes that they have seen. But at this moment in our history, in this century, working with our neighbours and our friends is an absolute necessity if we are to address the great challenges that we all face on this small and fragile planet: the challenges of trade, dealing with threats to peace and security, preventing the climate of our earth from running out of control with devastating consequences for all the people whom we represent, and dealing with the tide of humanity that is travelling across the globe in search of a better life.
I will not dissemble, and I will not pretend. I think that leaving the European Union is a terrible mistake. It will damage our economy and discourage investment; it will hurt our constituents; it will make it much more difficult to do something about the many reasons why people voted to leave; it will reduce our influence in the world; and it will disregard the extraordinary achievement of the European ideal in bringing peace to a continent on which centuries of war had seen blood shed for no purpose, and generation after generation laid beneath the earth. In this year of the centenary of the end of the first world war, we should remember that, as well as remembering them.
We have to deal with the situation we find ourselves in, and my final plea to the House is as follows. Now is the moment to tell each other the truth. We owe that to a nation that has shown itself to be divided almost exactly down the middle. We have to bear in mind our responsibility to the 48% as well as the 52%, and no one is going to get out of this mess everything they wanted. No one is going to get everything they thought they would get. No one is going to receive all the things they were told they would receive. All of us are going to have to compromise, and we are going to have to find a way forward that a majority can agree upon.
The reason I would ask the House next week to vote for my amendment if it is selected is that the sooner we are able to say to the Government that we are not prepared to support the motion before us and we are not prepared to leave with no deal, the sooner we can move forward and find a solution to this problem in the time that remains. Thanks to the amendment successfully moved by Mr Grieve earlier today, the House can at least end this debate secure in the knowledge that, as and when that time comes, we will have an opportunity to have our say, and so it should be.
Order. I am extremely grateful to Hilary Benn. He began his speech by saying he was moving his amendment and I know what he meant was that he was speaking to it. Simply for the avoidance of doubt, I should emphasise to the House that under the motion agreed earlier today—that is to say the business of the House motion, in respect of which Mr Grieve did indeed move an amendment—no amendment will be selected by me until next Tuesday, and it will be on that day of course that the votes take place. I say that simply for purposes of clarification.
Still with the eight-minute limit, I call Sir Roger Gale.
It is always a pleasure to follow Hilary Benn. I do not agree with everything he said, but let me start with a point of definite agreement: the European Union needs reform. I personally believe that the EU is corrupt, bureaucratic, meddlesome and wasteful, but for all of that I voted remain. I did so because I believe my children and grandchildren and my constituents’ children and grandchildren would be better off within than outwith the European Union in terms of the economy and security.
That is how I voted, but unfortunately 52% of the British public did not. I have accepted that result, although I understand that others take a different view and would like to rerun the referendum or have a people’s vote or try to overturn the decision. But I believe we do have a duty now to honour the expressed wish of the British people, and for that reason I shall be supporting the withdrawal agreement. It is not perfect—no compromise ever is—but I listened very carefully to what the Attorney General said yesterday and his words were, to paraphrase slightly, that it is a risk, but a risk we have to take when we consider all the alternatives.
If we look at all the alternatives—I tried to goad my right hon. Friend Boris Johnson into offering one this evening and got nothing—such as the hard Brexit and if we have to rule out, as I do, a return to no Brexit, we are left with the withdrawal agreement. I believe my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was absolutely correct in saying it is not possible to go back to the Commission cap in hand. We might get a tweak here and a tweak there, but the idea that anybody is going to offer a radical reassessment of what is on offer today is baying at the moon. I spend a certain amount of time leading the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe delegation, and I meet European parliamentarians, as I have in the past few weeks. They are astonished, looking through the other end of the telescope, at how much has been given to the United Kingdom, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is absolutely right to say that if she goes back and tries to reopen the deal, 27 other countries will all say “Me, too,” and then we shall have a raft of changes that will not be to our advantage. So for all that the withdrawal agreement is not perfect, I shall support it.
I want to touch briefly on the hard Brexit because this is part of my equation and now I need to be parochial. I am proud to be a Member of Parliament representing the garden of England—Kent. Other people do not seem to have grasped this fact, but quite a lot of trade comes through Dover and into the rest of the country and goes out through Dover. The fact of the matter is that probably 20 years ago 85% of the lorries going out were British, whereas now 85% of the lorries coming in and going out are continental.
A hard Brexit means a hard border. We have heard a lot about hard borders in Northern Ireland, but we have not heard about hard borders in England—a hard border between Dover and Calais. That shutter will come down. There will be controls, if we go for a hard Brexit. Kent Members visited the Dover Harbour Board last week and we spoke with the Freight Transport Association and Kent police, and I spoke personally with a freight forwarder. If those shutters come down, the traffic backs up at about a mile an hour. That is out of the port of Dover, up the M20, up the M26 and on to the M25, and then we are stuffed.
If the M25 comes to a grinding halt, south London comes to a grinding halt and soon Birmingham will come to a grinding halt. No car parts for the just-in-time car industry, no life-saving pharmaceuticals, no construction materials—rockwool, which is used extensively in construction, comes through Dover—and no food. The good people of North East Somerset and of Uxbridge may not care whether Kent is turned into a lorry park, but I do. What I also know is that the people of Somerset and Uxbridge will scream blue murder when they find that they cannot buy their new Chelsea tractor, their life-saving drugs or the foodstuffs that they enjoy that come in from mainland Europe. We will hear those screams from the west country and west London in Westminster.
We have three options. I rule out no Brexit, because I believe that it is not what people voted for. I have had to rule out, for the reasons I have just given, hard Brexit. I believe that it would be immensely damaging. Even my miserable maths says that two out of three leaves one, and that one is the withdrawal agreement that will be before us on Tuesday night. I believe that I owe it to my constituents’ children and grandchildren to vote for it, get behind it and then let this great country move forward. That is what I shall do on Tuesday.
I wish to say a few words on behalf of the Liberal Democrats’ position that we should have a people’s vote with the option to remain in the European Union. We shall campaign to remain in the European Union, as we believe unambiguously that that is in the national interest and the right thing to do.
I think that I am one of the relatively few people left in the House who actually campaigned to join the European Union and in support of membership during the Wilson referendum. It was my privilege at the time to campaign alongside some very fine British and Scottish statesman, such as Jo Grimond, John Mackintosh and, perhaps above all, John Smith, who strongly believed that Britain’s future lay in the European Union. John Smith in particular would be pleased with the amendment that my Liberal Democrat colleagues have tabled, which fully endorses the Labour party’s amendment, but would add a small section that the leader of the Labour party either forgot or was embarrassed to refer to. It would add
“including a public vote as endorsed by the Labour Party Conference”.
He did not mention that this evening.
My other relevant experience, which I share with Margaret Beckett, is of having worked as President of the Board of Trade, for five years in the coalition Government. There were several important lessons from that experience. The first was the importance to Britain—and this was recognised by both parties in the coalition and the Labour party—of its membership of the single market. It stemmed originally from an insight in the 1980s under Mrs Thatcher and was taken up by the Blair Government, that the future of the British economy lay with services, not just financial services but more generally. It was an area in which Britain had a considerable competitive advantage, and was in the national interest to promote. We did so, and we lectured countries such as Germany that were dragging their feet on issues such as mutual recognition of professional qualifications. At the end of the campaign for the single market, in 2015, we reached a provisional understanding on a digital single market, which was very much in the interests of Britain’s emerging digital economy and creative industries. The Prime Minister herself said recently that this was something that Britain should be part of, until it was pointed out that we cannot be part of it if we leave the single market.
The other major lesson of that period comes from having negotiated with General Motors over Ellesmere Port and Luton, with Ford over its plants in the UK, with Toyota, with Jaguar Land Rover over its expansion, with Airbus over its big investments here, and with Siemens over its investment in wind turbines. In each case, the company made it absolutely clear that it was making its investments in the UK manufacturing sector in order to be part of the wider European market. Many of those investors, who invested here in good faith, now feel somewhat betrayed. The Japanese have said that very clearly, having been told by successive Governments that our membership of the European Union single market, on which the future of their investment here depended, would be maintained.
Looking forward, there are overwhelming arguments for remaining a member of the European Union. Some of them have already been expressed, including the arguments about peace, put forward by Hilary Benn, and about high environmental standards. The fundamental point, however, is the impact on our living standards. It has been acknowledged—even by the Government in the past two weeks, as a result of their assessments—that however Brexit is constructed, we will be worse off if we leave the European Union. We can have different scenarios and assumptions, but there is none that shows that we would actually benefit from leaving the EU. We can see the signs of this already in what has happened since 2016. We have seen the biggest devaluation since the second world war, the cut in real incomes, the stifling of business investment and the decline in productivity. These things will continue on a bigger scale.
We are offered the fantasy of a clutch of trade deals, but we need to look at what that actually means. There will be some trade deals that can be negotiated. Small countries in the Caribbean will certainly sign up for trade deals to get better access for their bananas and sugar. Some countries will find it relatively easy to come to an agreement. They include Japan, Korea and Canada, but they already have trade agreements with the European Union, so we would gain nothing from that.
Does my right hon. Friend share my concern about our participation in the world-leading Horizon 2020 programme and the Horizon Europe programme that will follow it? When I questioned the Prime Minister last week at the Liaison Committee, there was no clarity as to whether we would be part of that successor programme, which will be vital for our science base in this country.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and he speaks with the authority of his Select Committee. Many universities will be among the biggest casualties of Brexit precisely for this reason. The loss of the Horizon and Erasmus programmes, and in some sectors the loss of Galileo, will be a major blow to the UK economy.
On the specific issue of trade deals, the countries that really matter are the United States, India, China and possibly Russia. We know about the United States, which has made it absolutely clear that an “America first” trade agreement will mean fewer British exports to the United States and more imports to Britain from the United States. It is quite unambiguous about how it defines a successful trade deal. When Mr Clarke and I negotiated with the United States on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement, even the milder Obama Administration made it clear that they wanted British food standards to be shredded and that they could offer very little in return because public procurement, which is a key issue in the United States, is a state function.
Agreement with India is also difficult to achieve, as we have already heard. It is a very protectionist economy, and it would offer limited access for whisky and financial services in return for a substantial increase in visas for relatively low-paid Indian professional workers, which the Prime Minister has already specifically ruled out. The Chinese might reach an agreement, but only if we turned a blind eye to Chinese practices on intellectual property and the rest, and we are trying to impose more sanctions on Russia, so what kind of a trade deal could we possibly get there? This really is a fantasy. However, we need to be careful—this is where the amendment of Hilary Benn is so important—that we do not allow the development of the argument that we must have the possibility of no deal. There was an argument for saying that the no-deal option must be kept on the table when we were negotiating with the European Union, but an agreement has been reached and no better terms are going to be obtained. The Prime Minister is now negotiating with the House, and that is why no deal is there. It is not to threaten the Europe, but to threaten us, and we must stand up to that and reject it absolutely.
Finally, a people’s vote is essential because we must give people the choice now that we know what Brexit means. We need informed consent, not just an opinion expressed on promises made at the time. The perfectly reasonable argument has been advanced that we want to bring the country together, and the Prime Minister spoke eloquently about that. We do not want to perpetuate division, but the brutal truth is that the country is bitterly divided, and it will be bitterly divided if we leave under the terms that the Government have negotiated. We will be entering into a set of conditions in which the economy will deteriorate relative to how it would have performed in the European Union. The younger generation coming through will bear the brunt of the costs. Most of them voted to remain in the EU—an estimated 80% of 18 year olds wish to remain—and there will be great bitterness and resentment about what the older generation has imposed upon them. The issue will not go away, and there will be continued demand for a further vote on the question.
Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that the Prime Minister’s gambit that this will somehow be the end of the matter is not true? The 26-page political declaration is just the start of further negotiations, and people deserve the right to say whether they want to continue talking about Brexit and to suck the air out of this Parliament’s ability to tackle the big issues in this country.
That is absolutely right, and none of us should be under any illusion that this issue is going to die in March next year. As my hon. Friend points out, we will have five or 10 years of continued negotiation about what type of trade relationship we have, and there will be bitter divisions around that. We will have a great deal of disillusionment with the costs that Brexit will inevitably entail and continued demands to return to the issue. Let us agree to have another vote on Brexit now that we know what it is. That is the least damaging and least hurtful way that we can proceed as a country.
I am conscious that one should pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for the selfless devotion that she has shown over the past two and a half years in trying to carry out Brexit. I say that particularly because of the view that I have taken that I cannot support the deal that she is bringing before this House, but it would be wrong not to acknowledge the appalling hand that she was dealt at the start of the negotiation or, indeed, her good intentions in trying to carry it out.
I want to explain briefly to the House why I cannot lend the Government my support on this matter. The reality is not so much the Prime Minister’s red lines, but the rather harsher truth that the decision that underpinned Brexit was built upon a fantasy. It was a fantasy about the nature of the United Kingdom, about its apparent lack of interdependence with other states, and about our ability to get a deal from the EU, which seemed to presuppose that we were separating ourselves from a sovereign entity not, as we are in reality, trying to detach ourselves from an international treaty organisation organised by a complicated rulebook and with limited scope for movement.
A consequence of that can be seen in the way in which, over a period of time, the ambitions that my right hon. Friend set out had progressively to be narrowed, particularly when she was also being attacked from her own side by some of my colleagues, who wanted to restrict her and imposed on her the red lines that underpinned much of her negotiation. The consequence of that is where we are now. Quite frankly, we might have been led by archangels to get a better outcome, because all negotiations move towards the mean centre, and it is where the power lies that you end up getting the agreement.
The consequence is that, far from detaching ourselves from a complicated international treaty, we only have to look at the 585-plus pages of the document that has been brought back, plus the 26 pages of the political declaration, to see that we are in the process of enmeshing ourselves in another very complex international treaty, but one that is much more disadvantageous to this country than the one we are leaving.
One only has to look at this, perhaps with a lawyer’s eye, to see the arbitration mechanisms, the continuing role of the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice and the complex issues underpinning Northern Ireland, where what we are effectively doing is substituting a bilateral treaty with the Irish Government, which was underpinned for its legitimacy by a referendum north and south of the border, and replacing it with an international treaty that makes the EU the guarantor of certain aspects of it. Where is the recovery of sovereignty in that?
Far from it giving us greater freedom of action, the entirety of this document restricts it. Of course I understand that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister hopes that, in the political negotiations to follow, some of those problems may be overcome. I cannot make a prediction, but it is possible that they may be overcome, because I acknowledge that the EU may wish it, too. But the reality is that there is enough of a challenge that it ought to give this House real pause for thought.
Of course if there were total consensus, I might be reassured that, despite the fact I see this as a second-rate outcome, it may be worthy of support, but I only have to listen to so many of my hon. and right hon. Friends to realise, and I agree with what has been said, that in reality, far from bringing this debate to an end, we are only just embarking on it. And it will destroy this country over years of sterile debate about a future relationship, with the very real possibility that, at the end of it, we are still left in a relationship of dependency, because that comes from our geography, without any of the advantages of full participation. I do not consider that I can look my sons in the eye and say that I am simply prepared to sign this off.
The point has been made that we are living at a time when the will of the people should be respected and that we cannot ignore the result of the 2016 referendum, and I certainly acknowledge that it cannot be ignored. Many people voted for a multiplicity of reasons and the majority of them voted to leave, but when one ends up with a deal that is so markedly different from the things that were discussed in the referendum, it does not seem undemocratic to say that if the Prime Minister wishes to have this deal, the proper course of action is to go back to the people of this country and ask them whether it is what they really want.
There is an alternative, which is remaining in the EU, and I acknowledge there might even be one or two other alternatives beyond that, although renegotiating this package looks to be a pretty fantastic idea. As for no deal, a moment’s look at the economic projections shows that it would plunge this country into chaos for the sake of satisfying the ideological fixations of a tiny minority of this House, and that I will not let happen.
I do not know what will happen if the Government lose the motion. I have no desire to hurt the Government, and I want my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to continue leading this country, but at least it would provide an opportunity for this House to rise to the occasion, to put party political considerations to one side and to start to work together to see if we can achieve a better outcome. The opportunity is there. I am pleased that hon. Members supported my amendment this afternoon and I am grateful to them, as it provides a foundation, at least by means of process, for taking that forward. I will vote for the amendment in the name of Hilary Benn in due course, because it also takes matters a further step forward. I am certainly prepared to engage with any right hon. and hon. Member in this House as to what other options than my own ideas might be available, although I come back to a basic point: we cannot be seen to be cheating the electorate of the 2016 outcome, and we have to recognise and acknowledge the consequences of that in the way in which we consult them. Subject to that, with reluctance, because it is certainly not an easy matter for me to find myself diverging from my own party, I have to say that this is a matter on which the national interest must come first. I am absolutely firm in my conviction that this deal is not good for the future of our country.
This House has, fundamentally, a duty to respect the clear will of the people of the United Kingdom as delivered in the referendum and to deliver our exit from the EU as one United Kingdom. I regret to say that the withdrawal agreement put forward by the Prime Minister and a majority but not all of the Cabinet falls short of that objective. To enter into this arrangement, first through the transition period, as proposed, and then the backstop provisions, means we enter a twilight world where the EU is given unprecedented powers over the UK, certainly in the transition period, and massive leverage in the negotiations on the future trade relationship. And we would have to rely on the good will of others to let us ever leave these arrangements. Under these terms, the UK’s future as a strong and independent global trading nation, standing together, is in real and imminent jeopardy; this is an outcome that does not honour the result of the referendum or take back control of our laws, money and borders.
I am sure my right hon. Friend will agree that it is ironic that while the Prime Minister is out on her roadshow trying to sell this deal to the great and the good, the place where it actually matters is this House and she has managed to unite it against this deal.
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. There is a point here, in that this deal does not satisfy anybody. Leave voters are outraged at what they see as the betrayal of Brexit and remain voters are asking, “What on earth is the point of losing all our say but still taking all the EU rules?” The political declaration, despite previous promises, does not set out a clear, precise future relationship and raises significant issues in its own right. As for the legally binding withdrawal agreement, we are somehow now told to take on faith that it might never be used, even though 18 months has been spent negotiating it, as nobody actually wants it. But as the Attorney General made clear yesterday, in a forthright and candid session before the House, there is “no unilateral” exit clause and
“no unilateral right…to terminate”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 650, c. 557.]
He said it is indefinite and that the whole thing was “undesirable”, “unsatisfactory”, “unattractive” and “a calculated risk”. That is hardly the most ringing endorsement for reasons why this House should vote for it.
Commitments were given in paragraph 50 of the joint report to both our party and to the House, but there does not seem to be any reference to them in the document that has been produced.
Again, I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because I have said this on a number of occasions. I have asked the Prime Minister about that point but have yet to receive a reason for it. Hundreds of detailed legal clauses in hundreds of pages are devoted to the Northern Ireland situation and the backstop, but there is not a single line and not a single word in relation to paragraph 50, which followed paragraph 49, of the joint report in December. That provision was inserted specifically to allow that the final say in and decision on any regulatory differences between Great Britain and Northern Ireland should rest with the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive, yet none of that appears anywhere in the withdrawal agreement. We have received no satisfactory explanation as to why that has been deleted. Indeed, the assurance was given at the time that the backstop would be UK wide—that there would not be this sort of special carve-out or provision for Northern Ireland—so the whole concept of the backstop is nonsense. Deciding a fall-back position, an insurance policy, before even starting the talks or reaching any decisions on the final arrangements was always nonsense. The whole process has been bedevilled by the fact that so much time has been spent on negotiating something that we are now told that nobody wants and that nobody will ever want to see introduced, and we are now told that other arrangements will be put in place.
Quite frankly, this is an issue of trust, because some of the words that have been spoken and some of the things that were told to this House and to us directly as a party during the negotiations have not come to pass. I remind the House of what the Prime Minister said to the House on
“undermine the UK common market and threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish sea, and no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to it.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 636, c. 823.]
A customs and regulatory border—that is precisely what the Government now propose. The Prime Minister said in terms on
We are now being asked to take on trust the word of the Government. Who knows who the Government will be in two, three or four years’ time, whenever these negotiations come to an end? Who knows what the European Commission and European Parliament will look like at that time? We do know, though, that the final text of the withdrawal agreement will remain. It will be the thing that will stand and endure. It will be the only reference point that will be used, and it commits that after we come to the point at which we decide to go into this transition period of two years—and even if we do not get a deal after that, and there is absolutely no guarantee that we would have any such deal after that period of time—we will automatically go into the backstop arrangements. That will include large swaths of rules and laws in relation to the single market for goods and agri-food. It will not just build on the regulatory differences that are there now, because the existing regulatory differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom were decided by this Parliament and by the Assembly and the previous legislatures, and they are there for health reasons, not because we are in a different regime. The reason we would have checks and differences would be that Northern Ireland would be in a different regime—the single market regime, subject