European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Leaving the EU – in the House of Commons at 6:27 pm on 14th January 2019.

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Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade 6:27 pm, 14th January 2019

I will not go back over the ground that the Prime Minister went over extensively this afternoon, but I would say that we perhaps need to take cognisance of the wording of the letter that came from the two EU Presidents—of the Commission and of the Council. They have a very legalistic view, and when they say that something carries legal weight, it tends to do so. I share many of the reservations that many in this House have about the backstop, but I believe that the construction of the backstop and the relationship set out in the political declaration mean that the risk of getting to the backstop is much less than I fear the risk of our being unable to achieve Brexit is. For me, that has been one of the key political balances; Members across the House will have to make that decision for themselves.

The political declaration will enable both parties to deliver the legal agreements that will give the future relationship effect by the end of 2020, covering an economic partnership, but also a security partnership and specific agreements on cross-cutting co-operation.

There has been much speculation about what the alternative to the agreement is—that point was raised by Chris Bryant, who is no longer in his place. Let me be clear: there is no alternative agreement to that which has already been negotiated. The EU and the UK have painstakingly thrashed out a deal that has been endorsed by our Prime Minister and the 27 leaders of the other EU member states. Failure to accept a negotiated deal will lead us, as I said earlier, to either no deal or, worse, no Brexit.