EU Withdrawal Agreement

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 3:09 pm on 18th December 2018.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 3:09 pm, 18th December 2018

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for my caution in taking advice from the Government on when the Opposition should table a motion of no confidence in the Government. Last week, I heard plenty of Conservative Members say, “Bring it on.” In the role that I currently occupy, many people on both sides of the House give me their opinions all the time, and very rarely do two people agree on the way forward.

It is wholly unacceptable to delay the meaningful vote for another month in the knowledge that there is no realistic chance of delivering material changes to this deal. Yesterday, Nicky Morgan said in this House that the Prime Minister is

“asking the House to accept a deferral for several weeks of the meaningful vote on the draft withdrawal agreement, on the basis that further assurances can be agreed with the European Union, but there is nothing in what she has said today or in what has been reported from the EU Council to suggest that those further assurances are likely to be given.”—[Official Report, 17 December 2018;
Vol. 651, c. 540.]

That is the problem. That is why, rather than having this debate today, the Government should be putting their deal to the House, because if that deal is defeated, everybody then needs to put the national interest first. We need to confront what the achievable and available options are and decide, as a House, what happens next in a way that protects jobs and the economy.

But what we hear from the Government is the opposite: delay over a meaningful vote, and then the distraction of no deal, hence today’s headlines about £2 billion for no- deal planning. Talking up no deal has always been misguided and, in my view, deeply irresponsible. The Treasury estimates that a no-deal outcome would mean a 9.3% decline in GDP over 15 years. It would see every region of the UK worse off. It would mean 20% tariffs on agri-foods and significant tariffs on manufactured goods. It would mean no common security arrangements in place, and a hard border in Northern Ireland. It would be catastrophic for the UK. That is why no deal has never truly been a viable option. It is a political hoax, and I think that, deep down, the Government and the Prime Minister know it. I know from personal experience how seriously the Prime Minister takes the security arrangements of the United Kingdom, and to put ourselves in a position where they would be jeopardised is not, I think, something that, deep down, she thinks could possibly be acceptable for this country.