Exiting the European Union: Meaningful Vote

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:24 pm on 11th December 2018.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 2:24 pm, 11th December 2018

That is a very reasonable question, but it is not for me to answer it; as I understand it, the Leader of the Opposition has the right to respond briefly at the conclusion of this debate, and he might well seize the opportunity to give my hon. Friend the answer he seeks.

When the debate and vote come back to this House, the whole House will have to face up to some choices, because the decision in 2016 that this country should leave the EU has consequences. The idea, which still persists in some circles, that we can have all of the benefits of EU membership without accepting the obligations that go with it is a fantasy. Hon. Members in all parts of the House need to face up to that, and I suggest that it is a truth known to any Opposition Member who has either negotiated within the EU while serving as a Minister or worked for one of the European institutions.

When the Leader of the Opposition responds to this debate, I hope he will use the opportunity to explain in greater detail something about his own position. At the moment he asserts that he wishes for a comprehensive and permanent customs union between this country and the EU, with a British say in future trade deals—a wish that, however desirable, cuts across central elements of the European treaties, most notably the common commercial policy. He asserts that we should use the transitional period to renegotiate the deal, dismissing the reality that the transitional period does not exist unless and until the deal has been ratified.

The right hon. Gentleman says he would solve the issue of the backstop with a customs union for the whole of the United Kingdom, disregarding the fact that that would not solve it because the need for common regulatory standards would remain. He argues that we should have a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU without any commitment to EU state aid rules, but member states and the Commission could not have been clearer that that runs contrary to the most fundamental principles of the European treaties and of the practice and policy of successive Councils and Commissions over the years.