I will go through the reasons why they are wrong. This deal emphasises a mythical problem on the border—a problem that does not exist. The current practice means that trade can go across the Irish border, with taxes being collected, with goods being checked for conformity with regulations and with animal health being protected, yet we do not need a hard border. Indeed, all the parties to this agreement have said that they will not, in any circumstances, have a hard border. Only a couple of weeks ago, the EU and the Irish Government were assuring us that even if there is no deal, a hard border will not be imposed, because a hard border is not necessary. What we have in this withdrawal agreement, with the Northern Ireland protocol and the UK protocol, is designed to do only one thing: thwart the wishes of the people of the United Kingdom to leave the EU.
That is because we have only a number of options. The UK as a whole could stay in the single market and the customs union. If the Government wish to free themselves from that, Northern Ireland has to stay within the single market and the customs union. I defy any Member of this House to say that they could go back to their constituents, tell them what the Attorney General told the Cabinet was going to happen to their constituents and find that they would not be chased. First, their constituency would have to regard the rest of the UK as a third country, with the implication that they could not trade freely with the rest of the UK. They would have barriers placed between their part of the UK and the rest of it, and businessmen would face all the impediments. Indeed, the legal opinion makes it clear that there would be friction in trade—in other words, there would be additional costs, delays and barriers, and there would be distortions to trade, yet that is what this agreement entails for Northern Ireland.
We can get out of that only by doing one of two things. First, we could reach a future trade arrangement that the EU says is sufficient to allow us to be out of that arrangement completely. It could even insist that if we reach a free trade arrangement, we still have partly to stay within those restrictions, including more than 300 EU regulations which would be applied to Northern Ireland. Just in case the EU has missed any, it says, “Any future new ones that fall within the scope of this would also have to apply”, so we would have different laws from the rest of the UK.