Eu: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Motions)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:52 pm on 27th March 2019.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 5:52 pm, 27th March 2019

I am happy that we have got this far in spite of the Government’s attempts to derail the process, but I am sad that we are having the first attempt at this sort of dialogue 1,007 days after 23 June 2016.

I am pleased that the tone has been broadly positive, with people setting out their views on the different options before us. However, I must speak strongly against motion (B)—the no-deal option tabled by Mr Baron—because anyone who advocates no deal is not participating in rational discourse, as I think he called it. No one advocating no deal could possibly have recently spoken to business, the police, the NHS, UK citizens in the EU, or EU citizens in the UK, because there are no-deal implications for all of them. I therefore hope that no deal gets soundly defeated today.

Turning to motion (D), while a common market 2.0 could be one of the best of the available options, it could also possibly be one of the worst, because it would leave us as rule takers not rule makers. It would also enable those who are antagonistic towards the EU to carry on their campaign on the basis that we would have to sign up to a large part of the EU’s agenda, including making financial contributions, without having any say in the goings-on. In many ways, it probably represents a halfway house before another push to leave the European Union at some point, so I hope that that option will not be supported either.

I am afraid that a number of other motions before us fall into the category of unicorns or wishful thinking. The idea that things can be renegotiated at very short notice in the time that might be available, with new protocols and arrangements found that have not been found in the last two and a half years, is wishful thinking. Of course, anything we do requires the European Union to agree to an extension. Some of the motions, such as the customs union proposal, are not unicorns but are far too unambitious in the arrangement they seek with the European Union.

I will focus on two motions in my last couple of minutes. I am pleased that Joanna Cherry tabled motion (L) with cross-party support, underlining that revoking article 50 remains a possibility for the United Kingdom, and should be a possibility up to the very last moment. We need the ability to block a no-deal scenario, which is what revocation is there for. I am pleased a cross-party effort was involved in the case that went to the European Court of Justice to secure confirmation that the UK can revoke article 50 at any point prior to our departure.

On motion (M), as other Members have commented, I hope the oratory of Margaret Beckett will have convinced many in this Chamber, and not just those who are already signed up to the idea, to come in behind a confirmatory public vote. As many Members have said this afternoon, and as I am sure others will say before the debate is over, the explanation given a thousand days ago on what would be on offer in our leaving the European Union is clearly not what will be deliverable. If the House decides to proceed with some of the motions today, they are clearly not what was voted on two and a half years ago. Certainly they are not what the Prime Minister says is representative of Brexit, which is why I think this has to go back to a confirmatory public vote. With the level of cross-party support for such a vote, I hope it is something we will be able to proceed with when we get to the next stage.