United Kingdom’S Withdrawal from the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:59 pm on 29th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 1:59 pm, 29th March 2019

The Government have run down the clock in an attempt to blackmail MPs at every turn. The Government are in chaos, the country is in chaos, and the responsibility is the Government’s, and the Government’s alone. The Prime Minister pulled the meaningful vote in December because she knew it would fail. Since then, in more than three months, nothing has changed—not one single word in the 600 pages of the withdrawal agreement, not one single word in the 26 pages of the political declaration.

Today, the Government are trying to bounce the House into voting for a damaging deal that we have twice rejected, but, as ever, the Prime Minister refuses to listen. Today’s vote—third time lucky, she hopes—is an affront to democracy and this country. She has separated the withdrawal agreement from the future relationship, despite having told us that the two were indivisible. On 14 January, she told the House that

“the link between them means that the commitments of one cannot be banked without the commitments of the other.”——[Official Report, 14 January 2019;
Vol. 652, c. 826.]

Today, she is asking us to take a punt on the withdrawal agreement and hope for the best for the political declaration. It is not good enough; the two are linked.

Nothing demonstrates that linkage better than the backstop. The political declaration is incredibly vague, containing as it does a spectrum of possible outcomes, and nothing is even close to being resolved. That makes it even more likely that the UK would fall into the backstop, which would create regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, as Sammy Wilson said. We also know that it endures indefinitely, thanks to this Parliament prizing the Attorney General’s legal advice out of a very reluctant Government. Labour will not vote for a blindfold Brexit, and passing the withdrawal agreement today without the political declaration would be just that.

The Prime Minister said at the end of November, when she signed off the deal, that

“we won’t agree the leaving part, the withdrawal agreement, until we’ve got what we want in the future because these two go together”.

As my hon. Friend Ian Murray said, it would be like selling your house without knowing where you are moving to, although, unlike me, I am not sure he is old enough to have watched “Monty Python”.