Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:48 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Barclay Stephen Barclay The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 6:48 pm, 27th February 2019

As the right hon. Lady knows, I have been sat in the Chamber for the vast majority of the debate, so I do not know about any such comments. The reason why I was so explicit in what I set out and in repeating what the Prime Minister said—and indeed why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was so clear in what he said—is that that is the Government position, and I hope that the right hon. Lady will take things in that spirit. Obviously, I do not know what other comments have been made, but I am happy to confirm the Prime Minister’s comments at the Dispatch Box.

In introducing amendment (a), in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer said that nothing has changed over the past two weeks, notwithstanding that several Members, including the right hon. Members for Leeds Central and for Birkenhead (Frank Field), contradicted him. The latter said he thinks there has been a change, but I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman was being too modest, because over the past two weeks something material has changed: the position of the Leader of the Opposition. Two weeks ago we thought he was honouring the referendum and honouring his manifesto commitment, whereas we now learn that he is committed to a second referendum.

The Leader of the Opposition started out with six tests, and he now wants five commitments. His five commitments relate to the political declaration, but he uses them to justify not voting for the withdrawal agreement, even though that withdrawal agreement includes protecting citizens’ rights, honouring our international obligations and protecting the Northern Ireland border, all of which he calls for. Indeed, he says he wants to be part of the single market but, at the same time, he wants not to be part of state aid rules or freedom of movement, which shows all the consistency we are familiar with from the Leader of the Opposition.

Amendment (k) expresses the SNP’s discontent with no deal, regardless of whether we extend article 50. I do not think we need a vote in this House to understand that the SNP is discontented—we can probably take that as read.

My right hon. Friend Mr Paterson raised the issue of alternative arrangements, and I am happy to confirm that the UK and the EU have agreed to consider a joint work stream to develop alternative arrangements to ensure no hard border on the island of Ireland. We will also be setting up domestic structures to take advice from external experts, from businesses that trade with the EU and beyond, and from colleagues across the House. That will be supported by civil service resources and £20 million of Government funding. The work will be done in parallel, without prejudice to the ongoing negotiations.