I have always been a pragmatist on Europe and our membership of the EU, so my community and I wanted a practical way forward found following the referendum, but the Prime Minister’s negotiated deal, which we are being asked to vote on, while well intentioned, is not a practical way forward for Britain. It means rules without say. Instead of us taking back control, it gives away control. We will have less say over the rules that shape our lives. Worse, we will not be at the table when rules are set that will matter to Britain strategically—rules that might disadvantage the City or British industry if designed the wrong way. We are not taking back control; we are giving it away.
From my perspective, that sovereignty giveaway alone makes the deal unacceptable for Britain. In fact, I find it impossible to see any future Parliament ever updating fresh rules set at EU level that we have had to commit to, whether we liked them or not, so this deal will in the end be shown to be inoperable, most likely when we have a Government with a low or no majority, as at present. This fragile and unstable withdrawal agreement and political declaration will double up political instability, and translate it into economic instability, making things worse.
The PM’s deal is inoperable. I might welcome the Government’s assurances on EU workers—there are many in my community—but the detail is limited to the very short term. My constituents and people running businesses who come to my surgery want more than that; they want to know what happens beyond the so-called transition period. As others have said, it is disappointing that the Government have not yet set out their immigration plans for the House to take into consideration during today’s debate and at next week’s vote. This really matters to the very mixed community that I represent; it needs clarity.
On the Union, and Northern Ireland in particular, I am greatly concerned about the deal undermining the Good Friday agreement, and the Government’s weak approach to the backstop. I am concerned about the prospects for the re-emergence of a hard border in Northern Ireland, and about that becoming more of a challenge the more we diverge on product standards and regulations. I am concerned about the prospects of a Northern Ireland that risks being increasingly decoupled from the United Kingdom, and about how that could undermine the Union that is at the heart of the United Kingdom.
I am sure that others will talk about the economic projections. The effect on our economy and jobs is also of huge concern. The open-ended and uncertain period covered by the withdrawal agreement leaves this country utterly exposed as a rule taker, at a time when we face global economic uncertainty and an increased push for protectionism. During this period, the EU can decide whether we are breaking rules on state aid or have complied with them, and whether and how much we can be fined. It will be judge and jury. That is what we are being asked to support in the withdrawal agreement, and I cannot accept it.
As my hon. Friend Mr Gyimah compellingly set out, the timescale covered is hugely likely to be extended.