European Union (Withdrawal) Act

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 5:51 pm on 12th March 2019.

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Photo of Nick Herbert Nick Herbert Conservative, Arundel and South Downs 5:51 pm, 12th March 2019

I will support the deal tonight, as I did before. I welcome the further agreement that was struck in Strasbourg in relation to the backstop. We now have far greater legal certainty about our ability to exit it.

The focus of this debate, and of most of the debate in the past 24 hours and previously, has been the legalities of the backstop and of our exiting it. Ultimately, we should care about the real-world risk of being trapped in the backstop, but that has been discussed very little. What are the actual chances that we will be trapped in the backstop, not from a legal point of view but from a political point of view? Is it likely that we will find ourselves in that position? I think it is perfectly possible to argue that it is highly unlikely.

First, I agree with my right hon. Friend Stephen Crabb that our being in the backstop would not benefit the EU at all. The EU would not want us to remain in the backstop because, for instance, while we were in it, we would have many of the benefits of the single market without paying into the EU. The idea that the EU wishes to trap us in the backstop is simply a wrong analysis.

Secondly, we would have several hurdles to jump before we ever got into the backstop. We would only start to consider it as a possibility if a trade deal were not ready. We now have further legal certainty about the efforts to ensure that the trade deal will be ready. It would only start to become a possibility if the implementation period were not extended. That is an alternative. It would only start to become a possibility if alternative arrangements were not completed. Again, we now have more certainty about the preparations for those alternative arrangements. We should stop talking about the backstop as though we are certain to get into it and certain to be trapped.