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UK’s Withdrawal from the EU

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 4:28 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean 4:28 pm, 14th February 2019

Let me concentrate, in the minutes I have, on some of the essential points. When I regretfully voted against the withdrawal agreement and political declaration in January, it was primarily because of the Northern Ireland backstop, which was the reason for many of my colleagues as well. When we voted in favour of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend Sir Graham Brady two weeks ago and the House specifically argued that we should replace the backstop, we demonstrated that if the Prime Minister can secure movement on the backstop, she can get her withdrawal agreement and political declaration through the House. I want the Prime Minister to have the opportunity to do that.

However, we have to face some facts. In negotiations, the other side often does not move until the end point. I listened carefully to what the shadow Brexit Secretary said. I think he chose 13 March as his line in the sand, but if there is going to be any movement on a deal, it will have to be signed off by the European leaders at a Council. There are only two opportunities in the diary: there is an informal summit of the EU and the Arab League at the end of February in Sharm el-Sheikh; and then there is the European Council on 21 and 22 March. I am afraid it is my judgment, particularly now that we have another set of debates in this House on 26 and 27 February