Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:21 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 3:21 pm, 27th February 2019

I understand the point and the force with which it is put. Given the conversations that have gone on here and in Brussels, I have to say that I really do not see the prospect that after 94 days of trying, there will be a breakthrough in the next seven days. If there is, we must all come back to the House; there will be a statement from the Prime Minister and we will consider what she says. It will only be on the backstop, and we have accepted the inevitability of the backstop, so it would be more to try to solve a problem on her own Benches than with the Opposition.

However, I have always said that we will look at what the Prime Minister brings back. It was what we did when she brought back the deal in the first place. People invited me to commit beforehand that we would do this, that or the other, but I said I would wait to see what the deal was. I will faithfully wait to see, but at the moment I personally do not think that we shall be standing here in two weeks with significant changes, or any changes, to the withdrawal agreement. I will wait and see. I know that Members on the Government Benches want to be optimistic. My worry is that there is still the expectation of changes that will not happen, and therefore a lack of focus on what needs to happen next. That is why what the Prime Minister said yesterday was significant, because if the deal does not go through, obviously what happens next becomes deeply significant. However, we will faithfully look at whatever comes back and consider it.

A plan of the type that I have suggested is credible. It is a plan that is capable of negotiation, and it is one that the EU is prepared to negotiate. The only question now is, is the Prime Minister prepared to drop her red lines so that there can be a meaningful engagement with that alternative proposition? I invite hon. Members to vote for our amendment tonight, to ensure that that plan can form a consensus or a majority in this House to take us through to the next stage of the process.

I want to underline the commitment that we made on Monday, that if amendment (a) is defeated and the Prime Minister still refuses to negotiate a close economic relationship, Labour will support or table an amendment in favour of a public vote. That public vote would include a credible leave option and remain. It could be attached to the Prime Minister’s deal—what I have called a lock against a damaging Tory Brexit—or it could be attached to any deal that managed to win a majority in the House of Commons.