Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:20 pm on 3rd September 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney 9:20 pm, 3rd September 2019

It is an honour to follow Kate Hoey.

I rise to oppose the motion, and shall do so by considering what it sets out to achieve. The motion does not prevent no deal; it simply requires the Prime Minister, if a deal is not agreed, to ask for an extension and to accept it. That does not avoid no deal; it simply pushes further away the point at which we in this House have to make a decision. The people we represent are expecting us to make a decision. It is what we are here for. It is what they are crying out for us to do. I say to Members of all parties: we cannot legislate no deal away; we can only vote for a deal or revoke article 50. If revocation is what is sought—I know that some Members would favour that—let us have that debate and say so. Those who voted as part of the overwhelming majority for the referendum and to trigger article 50 can then explain why they have changed their minds. The question of revocation was tested in the indicative votes and heavily defeated. I venture to say that there is no majority for revocation in the House, so all that this procedure seeks to do is to delay—to kick the can further down the road in the hope that something will turn up.

In essence, no plan is proposed in the motion. By contrast, the Government are pursuing a strategy based on the only thing that has commanded a majority in this House: the Brady amendment on alternative arrangements to replace the backstop. It will be said that the EU has no intention of doing replacing it, but the EU is watching and waiting to see what we do here. It has no incentive to move for as long as it thinks that Parliament will destroy the Government’s negotiating position or cancel Brexit altogether. If we in this House declare in advance that we must come to an agreement, the Government’s negotiating position is destroyed and the EU will never have an incentive to move. Rather than banishing no deal, then, this whole scheme makes it impossible to achieve one, and in so doing puts off the day of reckoning even further. But that day cannot be avoided forever.

There is only one way to avoid no deal and to achieve a deal, and paradoxically that is to be ready and willing to leave without one. Only if we are clear about that does the Prime Minister stand a chance. I accept that that readiness causes disquiet among so many of my right hon. and hon. Friends tonight, but I urge all those friends who, like me, want to see a deal, to come with us and give the Prime Minister the unequivocal backing that he needs, because that is the only path to the deal that we all want to see. To vote against the Government tonight is not to vote against no deal; to vote against the Government tonight is to vote against even the possibility of a deal—against the chance of a deal and even the glimmer of a deal. The motion and the Bill it foreshadows achieve nothing more than a delay, which in turn achieves nothing more than to sow more division and discord—the division and discord that is doing such damage to our country’s social fabric.