European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 5:37 pm on 12th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire 5:37 pm, 12th March 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Joanna Cherry, my colleague on the Brexit Committee. She and I agree on some things; we disagree profoundly on others.

I will be brief. I rise to say that I will be supporting the deal this evening. I supported the deal the last time we voted on it, and I supported it for a number of reasons. Parts of it represented compromises for me and did not reflect fully what I would have wanted at this stage of the Brexit process. However, overall, it represented a reasonable, pragmatic approach to the article 50 process.

The other reason I supported the deal last time was that I supported the original backstop. I did not support the subsequent vote on the so-called Brady amendment—I did not support the strategy of trying to knock the backstop out of the withdrawal agreement. I actually think that the backstop is there for good and right reasons, which reflect noble purposes. I am sorry, but colleagues on whichever side of the House who say that Brexit has nothing whatever to do with the Good Friday agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland display an ignorance about what has been achieved in Northern Ireland in the last 20 years. Peace in Northern Ireland is simply the biggest achievement of our politics in the United Kingdom in the last 50 years, and it should be incumbent on all of us to defend it. I am afraid that, back in 2016, the way in which Brexit would affect Northern Ireland and the difficult, complicated border issue there was an afterthought; we did not invest enough time in thinking that through and coming up with a solution. The backstop is there for a very good reason.

I never accepted the narrative that has grown in recent months on the Government side of the House and among some on the Opposition Benches that the backstop is some kind of entrapment mechanism. I regard that as a conspiracy theory. I tested this view with Ministers in Europe when I visited with the Exiting the European Union Committee, as well as on individual visits. I talked to independent trade and legal experts here in the UK who also reject the conspiracy theory that the backstop has been cooked up as an entrapment mechanism between a tricky Irish Government and a malevolent EU Commission to somehow lock the UK long term into an arrangement that we do not want.