The Minister today, and the Prime Minister yesterday, talked about the importance of honesty in the debate. I agree, but my contention is that a lack of honesty and candour about the reality of what the Government are trying to do has been largely responsible for their ending up in this position.
Let us take the issue of the backstop. The backstop is only there if a treaty is not agreed that does the same job as the backstop, which is to ensure such a degree of customs and regulatory alignment that there is no need for a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Have the Government really been honest about what that means for any treaty that is agreed instead of the backstop? Have they been candid about that? I do not think so. Do we really think that the Government have been candid and honest with themselves, their own Back Benchers or the country about the implications of what they agreed to this time last year, when they agreed that the backstop or something like it would be there? I do not think so.
What the Government agreed was such a degree of alignment, which is now beginning to be reflected in the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration, that instead of taking back control as the referendum was supposed to do, people can now see that this is an enormous transfer of sovereignty from the UK to the European Union. It sets a future for us as huge European rule takers. I agree with the Minister about honesty and candour, but I do not think it has been there.
The second point is about process and trust. I do not want to repeat the exchanges during the urgent question earlier, but there is now a real suspicion that what the Government will try to do is not bring forward an early resumption of the debate, but instead run down the clock, so that this decision is not made on the basis of the merits of the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration, but rather set against the disaster of no deal. To do that is simply to hold a gun to Parliament’s head. Are the Government really going to say, “If you don’t vote for what we propose, we are due to start stockpiling food”? That is hugely irresponsible with the public, industry and business.
The final point about honesty is this: the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Mr Lidington says we have to face up to the implications of the alternatives. The challenge I put to him and to his fellow Ministers is to ensure that Parliament can vote on those alternatives. I agree with him: we should be responsible for the consequences of them.