I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of her statement. Yesterday, EU leaders agreed to grant the United Kingdom an article 50 extension until
A measure of this could be seen in this House on Monday when one third of her party voted against her own policy to request a short delay and four of her Cabinet members abstained. Can the Prime Minister confirm that the request by the Leader of the House on Tuesday for the EU to reopen the withdrawal agreement has also been rebuffed? The Prime Minister stuck rigidly to a flawed plan and now the clock has run down, leaving Britain in limbo and adding to the deep uncertainty for business, workers and people all across this country.
I welcome that the Prime Minister finally decided to reach out to the Opposition last week and open talks to try to find a breakthrough. The fact that the invitation did not even come at the eleventh hour, but at five past midnight three days after the Prime Minister had missed her own Brexit deadline of
Labour will continue to engage constructively in talks, because we respect the result of the referendum and we are committed to defending jobs, industry and living standards by delivering a close economic relationship with the European Union and securing frictionless trade with improved rights and standards. If that is not possible, we believe all options should remain on the table, including the option of a public vote. We see no advantage in the proposals of the Secretary of State for International Trade to create distance and divergence in our trading relationship with our largest trading partner.
This House must also bear in mind that after a deal has passed, the current Prime Minister has said that she will step down. We have no idea who may succeed her, so with that in mind, we have to entrench any agreement, because some of those already throwing their hats into the ring have said that they would scrap the Human Rights Act, they would rip up burdensome regulation, or they would even prefer to leave without any deal at all. Some on the Conservative Benches want nothing more than to use Brexit to create a race to the bottom, opening up our economy to US big pharma companies in our national health service and hormone-treated beef on our plates, to slash workers’ rights and consumer standards, and to have the UK become a virtual tax haven on the shores of Europe.
Let me be clear to the Prime Minister and to the country: Labour will not support any deal that would leave us open to such a dystopian vision for the future of this country. It is incumbent on all of us now to find a way forward. We must continue to talk to each other, and if the Government are serious, the red lines must move and we must see a real compromise. I look forward to the discussions in the coming days and, even at this late stage, to working to find a deal that can command the support not only of this House, but, perhaps more importantly, of the public across this country too.