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Uk’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:42 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green 5:42 pm, 13th March 2019

Forgive me, but I will not give way. I am sure the hon. Lady will ask the same question. The answer is that I have not spoken to the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, but I take very serious consideration of that issue.

I do not believe that the Government’s deal is dead. What made it almost impossible for some of us to vote for was the Attorney General’s paragraph 19, which seemed to contradict the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments the night before. That is why the Malthouse compromise has gone forward. It covers both categories—making the deal, or being unable to make the deal—and that will allow us to reach an agreement.

The key is finding a way to replace the backstop as it exists now with alternative arrangements, which are listed in amendment (f)—I will not go through them now. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford is correct to say that we have essentially asked for four elements, behind which lie a great deal more detail that has been discussed in a series of meetings with my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench. We reached what I thought was a pretty good agreement. I credit the Prime Minister and others for having bound in those alternative arrangements. They were not bound in absolutely but they did make big progress in the deal she laid on the table, which will help enormously, because if we replace the backstop with the Malthouse alternatives, we get rid of the risk of the backstop being an imprisonment or an entrapment. It would become customs arrangements that allow all sides, including Dover and Calais, to trade successfully without too many problems. That is really the point.

I know that some of my colleagues are concerned—rightly—about extending for the sake of it. I am not in favour of that. In any case, I believe that will be rejected by the European Union because there needs to be a purpose. The point of the extension we propose is to meet the practicalities of getting the arrangements in place ready for the process of managed withdrawal without a withdrawal agreement. I would not vote for an extension with no purpose because all we will do is kick the can do the road, as the Prime Minister has said, ending up with exactly the same decisions to make only a few months later.

I recommend the Malthouse process because it allows us to manage the process of leaving carefully with practical solutions, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford laid out. It allows us a period of time in which to create that. I recommend it to my hon. and right hon. Friends and Opposition Members. If we come together and vote for amendment (f), we offer two things: the opportunity to get an arrangement that allows us to leave with a withdrawal agreement or, in the event of not having such an agreement, we can manage the process of leaving in a way that takes away the fear of having no deal.