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UK’s Withdrawal from the EU

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 1:26 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Father of the House of Commons 1:26 pm, 14th February 2019

I will give way to my right hon. Friend—my best friend among all these arch-remainers, who are otherwise my political allies in the House, day in, day out, though they all voted against the agreement. They are still threatening to do so, because they do not want to leave. They think there should be a people’s vote.

Then there was a faction of people who were not content to vote for the political agreement, because it will take years to negotiate and is rather general, and who wished to be reassured on the record, before we started negotiations, that we would establish basic and sensible points, such as our staying in a customs union and having some regulatory alignment. If that was established, all the arguments about the Irish border would go completely out of the window, because we would have an open border in Ireland and an open border in England. I would like to see that. I would vote for that—and I have, several times; I voted with the official Opposition once or twice on a customs union—but it is not necessary, because everything is up for grabs after we leave. There will be wide-ranging negotiation. I think the pressure from business interests, economies and people of common sense on both sides of the channel will drive us towards something like that in some years.

Meanwhile—this is where we are now—the Government have pursued one of the factions on the Conservative side of the House. We have a kind of breakaway party within a party—a bit like Momentum, really—with a leader and a chief whip. They are ardent right wingers. The Government have set off in pursuit of these bizarre—as some Government members say—negotiating tactics; some of them, though, seem positively to want to leave with no deal, because any agreement with foreigners from the continent is a threat to our sovereignty.