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Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:37 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of John Baron John Baron Conservative, Basildon and Billericay 4:37 pm, 27th February 2019

Just wait a minute—sit down. I have taken one intervention. We should look at how badly the SNP is doing in terms of representing the interests of the EU, as it were, with regard to election results.

Let me put the SNP to one side for a second and suggest to my fellow fusilier, the Secretary of State, that, as a leaver, I also accept that there is a need for compromise with regard to the withdrawal agreement. One cannot, after 45 years of integration, move from imperfection to perfection in one bound; there has to be compromise on both sides. That is why, while I have trouble with the transition period—there are many aspects that I do not like—at least it is definite. It is no worse than being in the EU itself—not really. As my right hon. Friend will know, what many Conservative Members have a problem with is the fact that the backstop is indefinite as it is presently constituted. I urge him to ensure that we have a meaningful change to the backstop to address the fact that at the moment we could be locked in an indefinite backstop that only the EU could free us from. No sensible person would enter into a relationship of that sort—it is madness.

When I say “meaningful” change, I mean that it has to have equal standing with the backstop, or the bit that we are changing. The Northern Ireland protocol containing the backstop is an appendix, so there is scope for a further appendix putting this right. It would be face-saving for the EU, if the agreement itself had not been changed. We could put a meaningful appendix into it. I suggest that the Government give that some thought, because it could assuage the concerns of a lot of Conservative Members with regard to the withdrawal agreement. Instead of worrying about where any additional text would go, agreement about the text itself could first being sought. That could be very helpful, because an awful lot of time could be wasted in trying to agree where that text goes before the text itself has been agreed.

That is something for the Secretary of State to think about. I wish him and his team well—genuinely so. I have expressed concern that the Prime Minister’s next steps, as outlined yesterday, may, at the margin, make a good deal less likely because the EU could perhaps hope that Parliament does its work for it by taking no deal off the table and by extending article 50. However, I still wish him well, because it is still within our grasp to achieve a withdrawal agreement that could bring us all together—certainly those of us on the Conservative Benches, and a number of hon. Members on the Opposition Benches—to get this agreement through.

Let me quickly turn to the Labour party’s policy on a second referendum, because that has not been touched on in this debate so far, but it is absolutely scandalous. Labour said that it would respect the wishes of the referendum, and now it is offering a second referendum. In one way, that is good, because it is clear blue water between the Conservative party and the Labour party. However, I would just offer these thoughts to the Labour party with regard to its recent assurances that it is going to offer a second referendum. First, it is a condescending policy—it is saying that people did not understand what they were voting for.