Eu: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Motions)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:58 pm on 1st April 2019.

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Photo of Steve Barclay Steve Barclay The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 6:58 pm, 1st April 2019

No. I am conscious that I have only five minutes, and I wish to press on.

It is worth reminding the House that it was only last Friday that Members—[Interruption.] I do not know why Anna Soubry is chuntering. I have been given a steer from the Chair to give time for other Members and she wants to come in a second time. I have taken her intervention.

On Friday, the House voted against the withdrawal agreement. It is worth pointing out that a number of the motions before the House require the withdrawal agreement as part of the package, including motions (C) and (D). Likewise, the motions on a public vote are proposals that include the same withdrawal agreement that the Members who signed them opposed. The fourth motion before the House includes a vast number of signatories who stood on manifestos contrary to what they have signed. So, again, that points to the contradictions inherent in the approach that many have taken throughout this debate. People are taking positions one week and then signing motions that are contrary to them the following week.

I have used four minutes of my five, so I will press on very quickly. Many of these points were raised in the debate last Wednesday, including on the permanent customs union. The concern relates to giving control of our trade policy, in particular our trade defences, to EU countries over which we would have no say. It is questionable why we would want to give MEPs in other countries control over our trade defences, whether in ceramics or steel, or on many of the issues debated in this House. My right hon. Friend Greg Hands has quite often drawn the attention of the House—I am pleased to see him in his place—to some of the issues I do not have time to expand on today. Likewise, Sammy Wilson reminded the House, when he intervened on the Father of the House, that regulatory alignments often drive friction at the border—much more so than the tariffs on which the debate tends to centre.

Motion (D) was debated last Wednesday, so we do not need to rehearse the arguments about financial contributions, the acceptance of freedom of movement or alignment with EU rules—all the issues that cause concern. Indeed, the Governor of the Bank of England, no ardent Brexiteer he, talked about the damage and how highly undesirable this option is, because of the rule-taking element strangulating a part of our economy that paid £72 billion of tax in 2016-17. We should be cautious about the rule-taking implications. In his remarks, my hon. Friend Nick Boles talked about an extension to 22 May. I simply remind my very good friend that—I am sure he is aware of this point—the conclusions from the Council do not give an automatic right to an extension to 22 May, given that we have passed the 29 March deadline.

We debated motion (E) last week. It was defeated by 27 votes, so the arguments were rehearsed. Likewise, we debated motion (D), which was defeated by 109 votes. What we have is a rehashing of a number of arguments that did not curry favour last week. Again, many of the issues remain. Motion (G) does not specify how long the public inquiry should be. On average, they last for three years. Are we going to subject our businesses to a further three years of uncertainty, followed by a further vote?

What we need to do is give certainty to our business community and to safeguard the rights of EU citizens. That is what the House rejected by rejecting the deal. What we see today is a number of motions signed by people who, just last Friday, rejected the withdrawal agreement. They stood on manifestos that contradict the motion before the House and, in essence, are asking colleagues across the House to vote for a package that includes a part that they themselves rejected just a matter of days ago.