UK’s Withdrawal from the EU

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 1:40 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 1:40 pm, 14th February 2019

I really must make progress, because other Members want to speak. [Interruption.] I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stirling for pointing out, from a sedentary position, that all those people have said that they will support the Prime Minister’s deal. In fact, they were all approached by the Prime Minister and told, “It is my deal or no deal: ask your MPs to support my deal.”

I was contacted by a number of businesses in my constituency, and I also went to see a number of businesses and civic organisations that were brought over at the request of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Yes, they all wanted us to avoid no deal, but when they were asked what they really wanted, none of them said, “The Prime Minister’s deal, as I read it in Hansard.” All of them—with one minor exception—said that if they could have what they wanted, we would not be leaving the European Union. If the Government were listening to the concerns of business, we would not be leaving the EU, and if we had to leave the EU, we would not be leaving the customs union and we would not be leaving the single market.

Let me make clear, incidentally, that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has explained to me why he has to leave. I accept that, and I take no offence from the fact that he is not able to stay until the end of my speech.

I want to refer briefly to the backstop, but only briefly. The backstop is there because the Government have not yet fulfilled the obligation to which they willingly signed up in December 2017 to come up with a solution to the border question that would honour the Belfast agreement while also meeting their own unilateral red lines. It is no surprise that the Government have not yet come up with that solution, because it does not exist. The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, John Penrose, admitted that from the Dispatch Box just over two weeks ago.

What everyone is calling the backstop would be better described, as it was yesterday by the former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, as a safety net. It is there to make sure that whatever else gets dropped in the chaos of Brexit, the Belfast agreement will not, in any circumstances, be allowed to fall and smash on the floor. It is not a backstop; it is a peace process guarantee. I defy anyone to say that they want the peace process guarantee to be time-limited, or to suggest that any party to the peace process would ever want to walk away from it unilaterally.