European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 5:18 pm on 12th March 2019.

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Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip 5:18 pm, 12th March 2019

In any circumstances, we would have the freedom to decide what our tariffs were going to be, and under this—[Interruption.] Under this deal, we would lose the power to decide what tariffs we levied on the perimeter of the UK.

The most powerful argument that has been made this afternoon is the threat that some Members are apparently ready to hijack the long-standing rules of the House in order to take our constitution hostage, with Parliament to direct the Executive in international relations. That upends hundreds of years of constitutional practice and makes a nonsense of relations between Parliament and the Government. I believe it would lead to an even greater gap between people and this place. Let us abandon that project of dismantling our constitution in the name of making this country an effective colony of the EU.

Instead, we should take what now seems to be the more difficult route but is, in the end, the only one that preserves our self-respect, which is to leave as we are required by law on 29 March and to become once again an independent country able to make our own choices. I am not in favour of crashing out, as many call it. The Malthouse compromise indicates the way forward—the UK observes single market rules and customs duties and restrains our right to compete for a period of three years while we negotiate a free trade deal. I believe the EU would be open to that.

As we come to the final stages, it is vital that we retain our freedom of manoeuvre and do not rule out no deal. A delay will achieve nothing except to compound the uncertainty for business. Now is the time to behave as what we are—the fifth biggest economy in the world, the second biggest military power in NATO and, by many counts, the most influential cultural and intellectual force in Europe—and not to accept what I believe would be a humiliation and the subordination of our democracy.