Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:01 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee 5:01 pm, 27th February 2019

As I follow Sir William Cash, I would just point out to him that I am not convinced other European countries are looking at us with any kind of envy at the moment, given the confusion and chaos we seem to be in. I will want to move amendment (f), and I will also speak to amendments (a), (b) and (c).

We are back here again at our usual fortnightly gathering in which nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed in our family, Mr Speaker, is that Ed is currently halfway up Kilimanjaro with Little Mix, Danny Dyer and Shirley Ballas for Comic Relief. That has cued a whole series of bad jokes about which is harder: climbing an extremely high mountain or trying to get anybody to agree anything on Brexit. I fear his mountain climbing will be considerably shorter than our repeated debates.

I would like to deal with the amendments first before, if I have time, addressing the wider issue. The Government have changed their position on the next steps if there is no deal in place and agreed by the middle of March. That is clearly a result of our cross-party Bill and cross-party pressure. I want to pay tribute in particular to the work of Sir Oliver Letwin, Nick Boles, Dame Caroline Spelman, my right hon. Friend Hilary Benn and my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) and for Leicester West (Liz Kendall). It has taken a lot of cross-party work to get this far. Frankly, it should not have taken that, and it should not have taken the threats of resignation by Cabinet Ministers, to get the Government to do something sensible and just put in place parliamentary safeguards to avert the kind of no deal that would be hugely chaotic, that nobody has done preparation for, that would mean a real hit to our manufacturing industry, disadvantaging British manufacturing right around the world, and that would hit medicine supplies and push food prices up in shops—deeply irresponsible circumstances for our constituents.

I still have some questions and need some assurances, however, because we have had votes promised and then pulled, and we have had motions passed and then ignored. I hope that the Brexit Secretary will repeat the reassurances. He will know that I have raised questions about his previous dismissing of motions in saying that legislation took priority, and previously saying that no deal on 29 March was the default option. I heard the Minister for the Cabinet Office say earlier that the default position had now changed and it would no longer be the policy of the Government to pursue no deal on 29 March if there was not a deal in place in time and that, instead, Government policy would now be to respect the decision of the House on whether to pursue no deal or an extension of article 50. I would just like to have that confirmation.