Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:12 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 2:12 pm, 27th February 2019

If the House will forgive me, I have given way quite a lot and I want to move on to the substance of my speech.

At the end of this afternoon’s debate, this House will have a choice on the Government’s motion and the various amendments that Mr Speaker has selected, but by 12 March, at the latest, the House will have a more important choice when we bring back a second meaningful vote. There has been a lot of speculation, and we have already heard it in the debate this afternoon, about what should happen if the House declines to vote for a deal. Let me start by saying why I am confident that the Prime Minister will be able to put before the House a deal that it can support, and why this House should support such a deal.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke yesterday of the extensive work that has been taking place to make good on this House’s call for legal changes to guarantee that the Northern Ireland backstop cannot endure indefinitely. The House endorsed an amendment tabled by my hon. Friend Sir Graham Brady on 29 January. Since then, the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the Attorney General and I have been engaging in focused discussions with the EU, with the different institutions of the EU and with member state Governments to find a way forward that would work for both sides. We are making good progress in that work, with constructive discussions taking place this week.

As hon. Members will also have heard, there have been discussions on the political declaration, including additions or changes to increase the focus and ambition of both sides to deliver the future partnership, which we both seek, as soon as possible. The ideas we are putting forward in those discussions are not simply the Government’s; they reflect the intensive dialogue we have had with Members on both sides of the House. I have met Keir Starmer once and am keen to do so again, as he knows, and I have met colleagues from other political parties and colleagues representing all shades of opinion on this country’s relationship with the European Union.