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

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.