[7th Allotted Day]

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 11:25 am on 11th January 2019.

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Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Conservative, Rayleigh and Wickford 11:25 am, 11th January 2019

No, check out.

I have seen the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend Sir Hugo Swire, but unfortunately it in no way affects the wording of the withdrawal agreement, which, as a treaty, would override it, so the provisions in his well-intentioned amendment are unfortunately, in practice, legally naive.

Fourthly, we risk undermining the integrity of the UK. The Government have told us repeatedly that they would never even contemplate creating a border down the Irish sea. Despite this, not only have they contemplated it; they have legislated for it in writing, because the agreement in the protocol creates internal borders within the UK, whereby Northern Ireland would become a rule taker in further areas, such as goods, agricultural products and VAT. This is one of the most compelling reasons why the DUP have said repeatedly that they will vote against this toxic withdrawal agreement, and I am 100% with them.

We should also remember that treating Northern Ireland differently threatens to break up the integrity of the UK. We know, from the excellent article written recently by my right hon. Friend Greg Hands, that the secretary-general of the European Commission, Martin Selmayr, has said that losing Northern Ireland is “the price of Brexit”. I cannot possibly pay that price or contemplate the break-up of the UK or anything that would encourage further separatism in Scotland. For that reason, too, I will vote against the deal.

Lastly, the agreement would ultimately be overseen by the European Court of Justice. Article 174 of the agreement, on page 286, envisages a situation in which both sides cannot agree on aspects of its implementation. In this case, they would create an arbitration panel to resolve the dispute, and the article clearly states that the European Court of Justice, where the matter affects Union law, which is very wide-ranging, would be the ultimate arbiter. It would decide the question and its rulings

“shall be binding on the arbitration panel.”

That would override this Parliament and our Supreme Court.

It has often been argued that my colleagues and I on the European Research Group do not want a deal. That is not true. We want a deal, but not this deal. What we want is often referred to as the super-Canada option, because it takes an existing EU-Canada free trade agreement, signed by the EU in 2016, and amends it into a more comprehensive free trade agreement by which we could trade equitably with the EU but outside the single market, the customs union and the ECJ. Under such an arrangement, we would really have left the EU. I want to make it absolutely clear that that, and not no deal, is our desired end state.

In summary, I hope that everyone who votes on this agreement on Tuesday night will be able to look their constituents firmly in the eye and say they have read it. It seems to me that as professional legislators that is the least we can do. The British people voted in a referendum to leave the EU by a majority of more than 1 million votes, and I believe that we as parliamentarians have a moral obligation to follow their instruction, but this agreement does not do that. It would leave us in effect hanging half in, half out of the EU, which is something that the Prime Minister specifically warned against in her excellent speech at Lancaster House in 2017.

Moreover, the agreement, if we were to approve it, would involve us giving up £39 billion for nothing, leave us as a rule taker, potentially lead us into a backstop from which there is no escape, threaten the break-up of the UK, and still leave us under the suzerainty of the ECJ. We would be a vassal state. This country has never bowed the knee to anyone in almost 1,000 years and I do not believe we should start now. I have read this. This is the best deal since Munich. This House of Commons has been told by The Telegraph and The Sun that this is a surrender document. It is. We in this House have never surrendered to anyone, and we never ever will, including next Tuesday night.