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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

I am not going to give way to my right hon. Friend because I think you are very keen, Mr Speaker, to get everybody in, or some more people in, before the wind-ups.

We are going to have to go to the European Council on 21 and 22 March. Because we have the debate on 27 February, I do not see any prospect of the EU now moving before that Council meeting. I know that is uncomfortable and difficult, but that is how negotiations work. We may wish that they worked differently, but that is how they work. Our job as Members of Parliament is to get the best possible agreement that we can get—not for ourselves, but for our constituents—so that we can leave the European Union in an orderly way. That is my preference, so I think we are going to have to give the Prime Minister a chance to do it. If we in this House choose to frustrate that, she is not going to come back with a meaningful change to that deal and we are not going to get it through this House. Then we are going to have to face a choice—I choice I do not want to face—between leaving without an agreement and not leaving at all. I think we should be honest about all this stuff about delay. Many people who back delay really mean not leaving ever, and some other people think we can avoid the choice. I do not think we can but I would prefer to have an agreement.

It is also worth saying in the debate about deal or no deal that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet’s withdrawal agreement and political declaration is not really a deal in the normal sense of the word. All it does is give us a couple of years during which, admittedly, things stay the same. That might be welcome for business, but it gives business no certainty at all about what comes afterwards. What is to be recommended in the Malthouse compromise is that, if we can replace the backstop with a free trade agreement—a backstop that would be acceptable, even if it were a permanent solution—that would give business certainty from this spring about a baseline. They would know that in future, whatever happened, they would have a free trade agreement. I think that that would give business certainty to invest, create jobs and be successful in our country. That is what I urge the Prime Minister to do, and I urge my colleagues to give her the opportunity to do so and to reject all the amendments on the Order Paper today.