1st Allotted Day

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 5:46 pm on 4th December 2018.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 5:46 pm, 4th December 2018

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 1 January 2021, but there is still the possibility that it is not ready before the end of the implementation period. The only way to absolutely guarantee no hard border on the island of Ireland at the end of the implementation period is to have a backstop in the withdrawal agreement as a last resort insurance policy. Let us be clear: this is true not just for the deal we have negotiated. Whether you want a model like Canada’s or whether you want to see the UK as a member of the European Economic Area, any future relationship will need to be negotiated and will need an insurance policy if that negotiation cannot be completed in time. Put simply, there is no possible withdrawal agreement without a legally operative backstop. No backstop means no deal.