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[2nd Allotted Day]

Part of Immigration (Time Limit on Detention) – in the House of Commons at 5:54 pm on 5th December 2018.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham 5:54 pm, 5th December 2018

That is up to the Government to negotiate. They have failed to produce the immigration White Paper for which we have been waiting for some time, and they really need get on with answering questions like my hon. Friend’s and providing some certainty.

Many Members have used metaphors for our present predicament. Let me add another to the mix. It is like buying a house that you have only seen from the outside. You hand over the full asking price at the outset, upfront. You sign all the legal transaction documents without even agreeing on the fixtures, fittings and completion date, or indeed knowing whether the immigration status of your family allows you to live there. Only after that do you commission a survey, the results of which you do not share with your family despite eventually finding out that the neighbours have an unlimited right of way across your garden and unfettered access to your garden pond—and you have no indication of when you will be able to move in. Who in their right mind would agree to such a deal on buying a house, let alone on such an important issue as the future constitutional basis of our whole country?

My hon. Friend Mr Gyimah, in an excellent speech—he is welcome to the Back Benches if he is going to make more speeches like that—described this as a deal in name only, and said that it was another case of difficult decisions being kicked into the long grass. Above all, what we need now, and have needed for some time, is certainty: certainty for our citizens, certainty for our businesses and investors, certainty for our fishermen, our farmers and many more. Yet the political agreement that accompanies this document—which sounds good—is littered with conditional phrases such as “agree to develop”, “intend to consider”, “will explore the possibility”, and “best endeavours”. That is not concrete enough for me to feel that I can sign up to it. My biggest fear is that this deal only extends the uncertainty—now confirmed by the Attorney General’s advice—over how long we will continue to be rule takers for our tariffs, our regulations, our alignment requirements, our competition laws and our trade deals, and the uncertainty over the integrity of our whole United Kingdom and our sovereignty.

As for Northern Ireland, the EU has spent the last two years declining to agree a practical arrangement for the border, despite facing the real and present danger of that ending in a no-deal Brexit that would see no handover of £39 billion, and the serious disorder that a no deal could bring in the short term at least. What I do not understand is why on earth the Prime Minister thinks the EU will agree to a solution to this, I think, much overhyped and largely fabricated problem of Northern Ireland in the next two years when the cheque will have been signed and a legally binding framework deal agreed. What leverage will we have left to secure mutually beneficial terms in all the outstanding issues to be resolved to avoid an interminable backstop—and there are many issues still to be resolved? It is unthinkable that we should sign a deal that compromises our sovereignty and the ability of this House and this Government, answerable to our peoples, indefinitely to set our own laws.