[5th Allotted Day]

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 3:21 pm on 9th January 2019.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 3:21 pm, 9th January 2019

I accept that there has to be a withdrawal agreement, and I accept that it has to cover citizens’ rights and that there are payments. I have on more than one occasion stood here and said that the progress on citizens’ rights under the withdrawal agreement is a step in the right direction, although it does not go far enough—we have quibbled about that, but there will always be an argument about whether we have gone far enough.

I have also stood here and said that we will have to fulfil our financial obligations, for the very reason the Brexit Secretary said, which is that we will not get very far in trying to reach trade agreements, or any agreements, with anybody else on the international plane if, at the same time, we are walking away from the international agreements or obligations that we have.

That does not mean I do not have concerns about the withdrawal agreement, and about the backstop in particular. The backstop has become the central issue for two reasons: first, the lack of progress on the future relationship, and I will develop that point in just a moment; and, secondly, the avowed aim of some Conservative Members to diverge as far as possible from EU alignment. It is that fear that has driven the debate on the backstop, and it could have been avoided months ago.