[9th Allotted Day]

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 5:12 pm on 15th January 2019.

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Photo of John Baron John Baron Conservative, Basildon and Billericay 5:12 pm, 15th January 2019

I rise to speak to amendment (f) in my name and that of other right hon. and hon. Members. Briefly, it would give the UK Government the unilateral right to exit the backstop at a time of their choosing. It is very straightforward: the UK could not find itself suspended indefinitely in a backstop. If the amendment is passed, it would allow the UK to choose the time to exit, had we entered the backstop; the UK would not have to seek EU approval to do so.

I speak with some sadness. The negotiations to date have been approached as a problem to be solved, rather than as an opportunity to be seized. I, for one, do not like the transition period, but in any negotiation—in particular after 40 to 45 years of integration—there has to be an element of compromise, and I am willing to accept that. The backstop, however, is the real problem for many on the Conservative Benches.

At the moment, the Government cannot answer this very simple question, which directly addresses the indefinite nature of the backstop: without any legal certainty with regards to our ability to exit the backstop unilaterally, what certainty is there that the EU would not play a long game, dragging out the negotiations? By further extending the transition period, which it could do, we could still be having this discussion in three, four or five years to come. That is not honouring the result of the referendum. We need to leave the EU. We need to be definite about that, and the backstop is not the answer because it is indefinite. We could be there for a very long time—