Leaving the EU: No Deal

Part of Leaving the Eu: No Deal – in the House of Commons at 4:24 pm on 19th December 2018.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 4:24 pm, 19th December 2018

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the matter of the Cabinet’s decision to accelerate preparations for a no-deal outcome to Brexit, following the Prime Minister’s failure to allow this House promptly to express its views on the Government’s deal, in the light of the significant public expenditure involved.

The background to this debate is well known. This House was due to vote on the Government’s deal on 11 December. The day before that vote, the Prime Minister pulled the vote, recognising that she was going to lose the vote, as she said, by “a significant margin” and saying that she wanted more time to “secure further assurances” on the backstop. I was in the House when the Prime Minister made her statement on 10 December, and in my view the majority were clearly against deferring the vote. No doubt for that reason the Prime Minister did not have the courage to put her decision to defer the meaningful vote to a vote, preferring instead for the Government not to move their own business.

The problem with the Prime Minister’s approach is obvious, which is why the majority were against deferring the vote. First, the Prime Minister is highly unlikely to get meaningful changes to the withdrawal agreement. Secondly, unless meaningful changes to the withdrawal agreement are made, the majority in this House are not likely to support her deal, whenever it gets put. That is a point bluntly accepted by the International Trade Secretary, who said recently

“It is very difficult to support the deal if we don’t get changes to the backstop. I don’t think it will get through.”

The first problem about getting meaningful changes to the withdrawal agreement was laid bare last week. After informal talks on Monday and Tuesday of last week between the Prime Minister and other leaders, and then the EU summit on Thursday and Friday, the EU made its position clear. The President of the Commission said that there is

“no room whatsoever for renegotiation”.

The Commission spokesperson said:

“The European Council has given the clarifications that were possible at this stage, so no further meetings with the UK are foreseen.”

The EU Council also made it clear that the withdrawal agreement is “not open for renegotiation”. That is why there have been such strong calls this week for the vote to be put back to this House this week.