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European Union (Withdrawal)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:31 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Duchy of Lancaster) 9:31 pm, 3rd September 2019

Following the comments of Caroline Lucas, I am sure that it would be possible to provide the Leader of the House with a pillow to make him more comfortable, as he seems to be struggling during the debate.

I rise to support Sir Oliver Letwin. We have a simple objective: to block no deal and secure a resolution to the crisis and chaos that the country faces. A series of Government reports have set out the consequences of no deal, the most recent of which is on Operation Yellowhammer. It refers to medicine, fuel and food shortages, and increased risks on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The Government have been so shocked and embarrassed that they have attempted to sanitise the report—in fact, they have tried to make it disappear. However, it is in the interests of all our constituents—apart, of course, from those who are busy shorting the pound—to block no deal. We are not talking, as Ministers do, about bumps in the road; we are talking about job losses and business closures.

The Government claim that taking no deal off the table would damage our prospects of securing a deal. The first problem I have with that argument is that walking away without a deal is not like walking out of the car showroom without a car; in a no-deal scenario, we will be forced to leave with the banger with bald tyres and a chipped windscreen. The second problem, as set out by the right hon. Member for West Dorset, is that no deal will damage us far more than it will our EU friends. With no deal, the EU will get a headache, but we will get severe angina.

The final problem is that there is no evidence that the Government are seeking a deal. The EU-UK website lists three documents since June that touch on the issue. There have been a couple of calls between our Prime Minister and Jean-Claude Juncker. There has been our chief negotiator, David Frost, going to Brussels, but he has said that under no circumstances would he even allow a technical extension to article 50, which of course we all know would be required if the Government were in fact to secure a deal. I have asked colleagues in the European Parliament, and we have asked Guy Verhofstadt, whether there is any evidence whatsoever that the Government are seeking a deal, and the answer is that there is total radio silence from the UK Government on deal negotiations. Of course, the charming Dominic Cummings—the man who has staff escorted off the premises by armed police officers—let the cat out of the bag when he said that the negotiations are a “sham”.

In conclusion, tonight we must act, first, to stop a calamitous, jobs-destroying, influence-sapping no-deal Brexit; secondly, to force the Government to find a way out of a paralysis that is destroying our country’s credibility, tearing communities apart and stopping the Government dealing with the real problems we face as a nation; thirdly, to allow the people to express their views on the appropriateness of a no-deal Brexit; and finally, to demonstrate that the UK Parliament will resist the shutdown of our democracy and the authoritarian power grab of a rogue minority Government.