Before I begin my statement, I am sure that the whole House will join me in remembering that this country entered the second world war 80 years ago today. It is of course true that the horror of that conflict surpasses all modern controversies. It is also true that this country still stands—then as now—for democracy, for the rule of law, and for the fight against racial and religious hatred, and I know that this whole House is united in defending those values around the world.
With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement about the G7 summit in Biarritz. As I speak, vast tracts of the Amazon rainforest are on fire, free trade is in retreat, 130 million girls worldwide are not in education and our oceans are being foully polluted, so it has never been more important for a global Britain to use our voice as an agent for change and progress. It is only by exerting our influence at a global level and only by sticking up for our values and beliefs that we can create the international context for Britain to prosper and to ensure that this is the greatest place on earth to live, work, start a family, open a business, trade and invest. So at the G7, I made the case for free trade as an engine of prosperity and progress that has lifted billions out of poverty, yet the reality is that trade, as a share of the world economy, has been stagnant for the last decade. In the leaders’ declaration, the G7 unanimously endorsed open and fair world trade and was determined to reform the World Trade Organisation and to reach agreement next year to simplify regulatory barriers.
Britain is on the verge of taking back control of our trade policy and restoring our independent seat in the WTO for the first time in 46 years. Our exports to the United States—[Interruption.] I wish my hon. Friend Dr Lee all the best. [Interruption.]
Order. I ask the House to have some regard to how our proceedings are viewed by people outside the Chamber. I will always facilitate the expression of opinion by this House. [Interruption.] Order. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is making a statement. That statement should be heard, and he will be heard, as will every other Member. End of subject.
Britain is on the verge of taking back control of our trade policy, as I said. [Interruption.] On the verge. We could achieve even more in our trade with the United States by using the powers we will regain to do a comprehensive free trade deal—a deal in which both President Trump and I have agreed that the NHS is not on the table. Unlike some in the House, I consider the United States to be a natural ally and a force for good in the world, and I recoil from the visceral, juvenile anti-Americanism that would do such profound damage to this country’s interest.
I know the whole House will share my concern about the gravity of the situation in Hong Kong. As a nation with a deep belief in freedom of expression and assembly, we stand firm in upholding Hong Kong’s way of life, guaranteed by one country, two systems. I welcome the unwavering support of my G7 counterparts on this vital matter. The UK is at the forefront of a new campaign to end the tragic loss of species around the world. We cannot bequeath a planet where the Sumatran tiger and the African elephant, and entire ecosystems like the great barrier reef, live in the shadow of destruction, so I am delighted that the G7 accepted UK proposals for more ambitious targets to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity. Britain is responsible for 2.6 million square miles of ocean, the fifth largest marine estate in the world. Our blue belt programme will ensure that marine protected areas encompass 1.5 million square miles and, at the G7, I announced a further £7 million for this vital effort.
I also announced another £10 million to protect the rainforest in Brazil, where 41,000 fires have raged so far this year—more than twice as many as in the same period in 2018. Britain is bidding to host the UN’s 26th climate change conference next year. If we succeed, we shall focus on solutions that harness the power of nature, including reforestation. There is one measure that would address all those issues. [Interruption.] If Opposition Members think that is a waste of money, it tells us all we need to know about the modern Labour party.
One measure that will address all those issues is to ensure that every girl in the world receives the education that is her right. That would not only curb infant mortality, eradicate illiteracy and reduce population pressures but would strike a blow for morality and justice. In Biarritz the G7 therefore endorsed the UK’s campaign for 12 years of quality education for every girl in the world, and I announced £90 million of new funding so that 600,000 children in countries torn by conflict, where girls are twice as likely as boys to be out of the classroom, get the chance to go to school.
As well as my G7 colleagues, I was delighted to meet other leaders, including President Ramaphosa of South Africa, Prime Minister Modi of India and Prime Minister Morrison of Australia, who, heroically, masked his emotions in the face of the historic innings of Ben Stokes. In every conversation, I was struck by the enthusiasm of my colleagues to strengthen their relations with this country, whether on trade, security and defence, or science and technology. I was also able to use the G7 to follow up my conversations in Berlin and Paris with Chancellor Merkel and President Macron on Brexit, as well as with Prime Minister Conte, Prime Minister Sánchez and President Tusk. I have since spoken to Commission President Juncker and many other leaders. I was able to make it clear to them all that everyone in this Government wants a deal. [Interruption.] We do. We do. But it is a reality that the House of Commons has rejected the current withdrawal agreement three times, and it simply cannot be resurrected. [Interruption.] And that is why I wrote to President Tusk—[Interruption.]
Order. Mr Sheerman, I look to you as a senior and distinguished elder statesman in the House to set an example of good behaviour, analogous to the Buddha-like calm of the Father of the House, which is exhibited at all times.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
That is why I wrote to President Tusk on
In the last few weeks, I believe that the chances of a deal have risen. This week, we are intensifying the pace of meetings in Brussels. Our European friends can see that we want an agreement and they are beginning to reflect that reality in their response. President Macron said—[Interruption.] Mr Speaker, Opposition Members don’t want to hear the words of our counterparts across the channel. They don’t want to hear about any progress that we might be making. [Interruption.] They don’t. [Interruption.]
Order. I want to hear everything said—
I have never had any difficulty hearing the Prime Minister, but if it is necessary for him to speak up, I am certain that he will overcome his natural shyness in order to do so.
Mr Speaker, I think they are wilfully closing their ears to the reality that our friends and partners are increasingly seeing the possibilities of an agreement. Again, I quote President Macron of France, who said:
“If there are things which, as part of what was negotiated by Michel Barnier, can be adapted and are in keeping with the two objectives I’ve…mentioned, stability in Ireland”— which we all support—
“and the integrity of the single market—we should identify them in the coming months.”
“Once we see and say this could be a possible outcome, this could be a possible arrangement, this backstop as a sort of placeholder is no longer necessary.”
That is a positive spirit, which we are not, I am afraid, hearing echoed on the other side of the House today. I believe there are indeed—[Interruption.] Opposition Members are fleeing already. There are indeed solutions—they don’t want to hear about solutions. They don’t want to hear about any of them. There are practical arrangements that we can find which avoid anyone putting infrastructure on the Irish border—I say that to the departing back of Mr Bradshaw, and he knows it well. These have been well worked out and involve measures such as trusted trader schemes, transit provisions, frontier zones, reduced bureaucracy for small and local traders, and many others.
In particular, we recognise—[Interruption.] I advise Opposition Members to pay attention to what is being said. We recognise that for reasons of geography and economics, agri-food is increasingly managed on a common basis across the island of Ireland. We are ready to find a way forward that recognises this reality, provided that it clearly enjoys the consent of all parties and institutions with an interest. We will discuss that with the EU shortly, and I will discuss it with the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, when I see him in Dublin on Monday.
It is simply wrong to say that we are not making progress. There is a lot to do in the coming days, but things are moving. A major reason for that is that everyone can see that this Government are utterly determined to leave the EU on
I returned from the G7 with real momentum in the Brexit discussions. I want to return from next month’s European Council in a similar way, with a deal that this House can debate, scrutinise and endorse in time for our departure on
Yesterday, a Bill was published—a Bill that the Leader of the Opposition has spent all summer working on. It is not a Bill in any normal sense of the word: it is without precedent in our history. It is a Bill that, if passed, would force me to go to Brussels and beg for an extension. It would force me to accept the terms offered. It would destroy any chance of negotiation for a new deal. It would destroy it. Indeed, it would enable our friends in Brussels to dictate the terms of the negotiation. That is what it would do. There is only one way to describe the Bill: it is Jeremy Corbyn’s surrender Bill. That is what it is. It means running up the white flag—the Bill is shameful. I want to make it clear to everybody in this House: there are no circumstances in which I will ever accept anything like it. I will never surrender the control of our negotiations in the way that the Leader of the Opposition is demanding. [Interruption.]
Order. People must not keep ranting from a sedentary position. However long it takes, the statement will be heard and the response to it will be heard. That is the reality and nothing can gainsay it.
We promised the people that we would get Brexit done. We promised to respect the result of the referendum, and we must do so now. Enough is enough. The country wants this done and it wants the referendum respected. We are negotiating a deal, and though I am confident of getting a deal, we will leave by
Order. For the avoidance of doubt, there is no vote on a Bill tonight. There is a vote on a motion, and if that motion is successful there will be a Bill tomorrow. [Interruption.] Order. I say this simply because the intelligibility of our proceedings to those observing them is important, and I am sure that everybody from all parts of the House will recognise that fundamental truth.
I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of his statement. I join with him in recognising the great human suffering of world war two and the great human bravery that took place during that awful conflict that began 80 years ago, which was essential in defeating the disgusting ideology of the Nazis and of fascism at that time.
The Prime Minister met EU leaders over the summer and EU Council President Tusk at the G7 summit. After those meetings, the Prime Minister struck an optimistic note, saying that the chances of a deal were, in his words, “improving”. His optimism was not shared by those who had been at the same meetings. The Prime Minister may claim that progress is being made, but EU leaders report that the Government have so far failed to present any new proposals. Can the Prime Minister clear this up? Can he tell us whether the UK has put forward any new proposal in relation to the backstop? If it has, will he publish them so that these proposals can be scrutinised by Parliament and by the public?
It is becoming increasingly clear that this reckless Government have only one plan: to crash out of the EU without a deal. The reality is exposed today in the in-house journal of the Conservative party—otherwise known as The Daily Telegraph—which reports that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff has called the negotiations “a sham”, that the strategy is to “run down the clock”, and that the proposal to alter the backstop is “a complete fantasy”—and those are the words of the Attorney General.
No deal will mean food shortages, reduced medical supplies and chaos at our ports. It is not me saying that; it is the Government’s own leaked analysis that says that, and it warns of chaos across the board. Today, we had expected the publication of the Government’s no deal preparations. The Government are hiding from scrutiny and hiding from the people and they are trying to hide us from their true intentions. This is not just a Government in chaos, but a Government of cowardice. Thankfully, some in Whitehall are putting those vital documents into the public domain, but we should not have to rely on sporadic leaks. Will the Prime Minister set out today when these documents will be published so that the people and Parliament can scrutinise and debate them? Many on the Government Benches would relish a no deal. They see it as an opportunity to open up Britain to a one-sided trade deal that puts us at the mercy of Donald Trump and United States corporations and that will increase the wealth of a few at the expense of the many.
When it comes to the crunch, too many on the Government Benches who once opposed a no-deal outcome are now putting their own careers before the good of the people of this country. Just look at all those Tory leadership candidates who said that it would be wrong to suspend Parliament in order to make no deal more likely, but who sit passively as their principles of just a few short weeks ago are cast aside—I do not know what they were doing over their summer holidays, but something has changed. And it gets worse, because not only have they all stood by while the Prime Minister launches his latest attack on democracy, but some have repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility of the Government ignoring any law passed by Parliament that attempts to stop a no-deal Brexit. Will the Prime Minister therefore take this opportunity, when he responds in a moment, to assure the country that his Government will abide by any legislation passed by Parliament this week?
The attack on our democracy in order to force through a disastrous no-deal Brexit is unprecedented, anti-democratic and unconstitutional. Labour will do all we can to protect our industry, protect our democracy and protect our people against this dangerous and reckless Government.
I condemn the rhetoric that the Prime Minister used when he talked about a “surrender Bill”. I really hope that he will reflect on his use of language. We are not surrendering because we are at war with Europe; they are surely our partners. If anything, it is a no-deal exit that would mean surrendering our industry, our jobs, and our standards and protections in a trade deal with Donald Trump and the United States.
The UK should be using its position in the G7 to promote policies to tackle the climate emergency. The climate emergency is real, but instead of standing up to President Trump, it was in fact agreed this time, in order to save his blushes, that there would be no joint communiqué on this at the G7. That is not leadership; that is fiddling while the Amazon burns. The situation across the Amazon should be a wake-up call to the Prime Minister, who once described global warming as a “primitive fear…without foundation”. As we watch fires rage, and not only across the Amazon but in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, does he stand by those sentiments?
While funds to protect and restore the Amazon rain forest are welcome, the Prime Minister knows that this is merely a drop in the ocean, so will more money be pledged for the Amazon, and are additional funds being made available to tackle fires in sub-Saharan Africa? Will he be introducing measures to stop UK companies aiding, abetting and profiting from the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, and indeed rain forests in west Africa? On
On Iran, it is notable that the Prime Minister fails to condemn President Trump’s unilateral decision to tear up the internationally agreed Iran nuclear deal, creating a crisis that now risks a slide into even deeper conflict. Does the Prime Minister plan to work with European partners to restore the Iran nuclear deal and de-escalate tensions in the Gulf? We are clear that in government Labour would work tirelessly through the UN for a negotiated reinstatement of the nuclear deal, and to defuse the threat of war in the Gulf. Effective diplomacy, not threats and bluster, must prevail. Will he call on the Iranian authorities to end the unjust detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and what actions has he taken so far to ensure her release from the terrible situation that she has been plunged into?
We are all concerned about the situation in Hong Kong. No Government anywhere should get to shut down rights and freedoms, or to pick and choose which laws they adhere to. Will the Prime Minister urge the Chinese Government to stick to the joint declaration of 1984 and stand up for the rights of citizens in Hong Kong?
Later today, this House has a last chance to stop this Government riding roughshod over constitutional and democratic rights in this country, so that a cabal in Downing Street cannot crash us out without a deal, without any democratic mandate and against the majority of public opinion. The Prime Minister is not winning friends in Europe; he is losing friends at home. His is a Government with no mandate, no morals and—as of today—no majority.
The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that this country has engaged actively with our European friends and partners to make sense of the Iran nuclear deal and to ensure that that deal continues. He will know that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary continues to work actively not only to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, but on all the very sad consular cases that we are currently dealing with in Iran. I pay tribute to the Foreign Secretary and the work of all his officials.
I am glad for what the right hon. Gentleman said about the importance of preserving democracy in Hong Kong, and he will observe the strength of the G7 statement on that matter. But quite frankly, when it comes to the Bill that he is assisting to bring forward tomorrow, with the procedure that is coming forward tonight, let us be in no doubt that this man is a former Bennite. In fact, I believe that he is still a Bennite. He voted against every single piece of EU legislation. He voted against Maastricht. He voted against Lisbon. Time and time and time again, he has said that we must uphold the result of the EU referendum. Time and time again, he has said that he is on the side of democracy and vindicating the will of the people. And what do we see now? He has been converted—with his hordes of Momentum activists trying to take over the streets—into the agent of those who would subvert democracy and overturn the will of the people. That is what he wants to do. He wants to entrust the decision about how long this country remains in the European Union to our friends and partners in Brussels, and not to this House. That is not democracy.
I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman, inadvertently or not, has become the agent of further delay, further confusion and further uncertainty for business in this country and abroad. That is what he is prescribing. That is what he stands for. That is the result of his policy. I urge everybody on all sides of the House not to support his approach. Let us go forward, and not back with the right hon. Gentleman.
It seems to me that the Prime Minister’s extraordinary knockabout performance today merely confirms his obvious strategy, which is to set conditions that make no deal inevitable, to make sure that as much blame as possible is attached to the EU and to this House for that consequence, and then—as quickly as he can—to fight a flag-waving general election before the consequences of no deal become too obvious to the public. Perhaps my right hon. Friend would let me know whether that clear explanation of his policy is one that he entirely accepts. Does he also accept that if he gets his way and gets no deal, we will then have to begin years of negotiations with the Europeans and the rest of the world about getting new trade, security and other arrangements in force? Does he seriously think that this approach will obtain from any other country in the world a free trade arrangement that is half as good as the Common Market that Conservative Governments have helped to put together over the years?
Order. I want to hear what the Prime Minister has to say in response to the question, and that response must be heard.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. As the Father of the House knows, I am a long-standing admirer of his. Indeed, I was the only member of the 2001 intake to vote for my right hon. and learned Friend as leader of the Conservative party. [Interruption.] I was—a fact that I do not think he much thanked me for at the time. I have long been a fan of his, and indeed in many ways we are ad idem in our views. I agree with him—I do not want an election. We do not want an election. I do not think the Leader of the Opposition wants an election, by the way, as far as I can make it out. We do not want an election; we want to get the deal done, and the best way to get a deal is to support the Government in the Lobby tonight.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement.
My goodness—this is the second time the Prime Minister has been at the Dispatch Box, and this must be the shortest-lived honeymoon in parliamentary history; you simply have to look around his Benches. He may say that he does not want an election, and his colleagues certainly do not want one, but I will let him into a secret: we do, because we want the people of Scotland to be able to have their say on this shambolic Government. The Leader of the House talks about the strategy of the Prime Minister. We hear use of the words “collaborators” and “surrender”; the Prime Minister really should have some dignity and show some respect for the office he —temporarily—holds.
Over the weekend, we saw commemorations across the world to mark the 80th anniversary of the second world war, when brave citizens came together and stood together against tyranny. My thoughts and those of my party are with those who suffered, the veterans and their families. We should also recognise that the European Union is the legacy of two world wars that had ripped Europe apart. The European Union has been an important vehicle for peace and stability in Europe.
Turning to the G7 summit, I wish to express my shared concern at the unrest in Hong Kong. I also associate myself with the actions on climate change and on protecting the Amazon rain forest. But I take issue with President Trump’s comments in relation to Russia. It is not acceptable to condone Russia’s military and cyber aggression around the world. Furthermore, while the summit declared its support for progress in Ukraine, the President of the United States failed to challenge Russia’s violation of international law in Ukraine—another utterly disgraceful lack of leadership from the President of the United States.
Following the summit, the Prime Minister displayed his own lack of leadership by moving to prorogue Parliament and strip power away from elected representatives—closing down Parliament by sending three Privy Counsellors to instruct the Queen to sanction the closure of Parliament. Three Privy Counsellors acting on the instructions of the Prime Minister to shut down Parliament: where is the democracy in that? While he can dance around and profess to speak for the people, we all know the truth—he is in fact doing the opposite. By proroguing Parliament, the Prime Minister is robbing the people of power; robbing them of a say over their future.
In true Trumpian style, the Prime Minister is acting more like a tinpot dictator than a democrat. He talks of the will of the people—but what about the will of the people of Scotland? Prime Minister, the Scottish people did not vote for Brexit. The people of Scotland did not vote for a no-deal Brexit. They did not vote for the Tory party and they certainly did not vote for this Prime Minister. The people of Scotland voted to remain in the European Union. The Scottish people voted overwhelmingly against the Tory party and this Government. The people of Scotland made their choice, and they chose that the SNP should be their voice. So I ask the Prime Minister: are you a democrat, or not; do you respect the will of the Scottish people, or not? Will you, Prime Minister, if you believe yourself not to be the latter, then give the people back their say: allow Parliament to have its say; respect the will of Parliament in stopping a no-deal Brexit—a no-deal Brexit that would be devastating for jobs and communities?
The right hon. Gentleman makes a serious point about the US’s attitude towards Russia. May I gently remind him that, when it came to the Skripal poisonings in Salisbury, the United States expelled 60 diplomats in support of the UK, in solidarity with the UK and to show their revulsion at Russian behaviour? As for whether or not it is right to have a Queen’s Speech, the Opposition have been calling for a Queen’s Speech just about every week—finally they get one, and they protest.
On the EU, it remains the policy of the Scottish nationalist party once we have come out of the European Union on
Will the Prime Minister confirm that, from
The Prime Minister has lost his majority, with my hon. Friend Dr Lee joining the Liberal Democrats. Doctors like him tell me that they want to stop Brexit because it will plunge our NHS into deep crisis, haemorrhaging vital staff and threatening access to life-saving medicines. When will the Prime Minister stop playing with people’s lives and stop Brexit?
I am glad that the hon. Lady has given me occasion to remind the House that there are now in fact 700 more doctors in the NHS since the vote to leave the EU. Just in the last six weeks, we have been able to announce another £1.8 billion going to 20 new hospital upgrades around the country, in addition to the £34 billion extra that the Conservative Government are putting into the NHS. I am grateful to her for allowing me to point that out.
My right hon. Friend has assured me that he is very keen to get a deal with the European Union, but last Friday Chancellor Merkel of Germany observed somewhat acerbically that nine days into the 30 days that the Prime Minister had requested during his visit to Berlin, she had not yet seen any proposals from the United Kingdom. Could the Prime Minister now make a commitment to publish this afternoon the UK’s proposals, so that those of us who are considering what to do later today can have had the benefit of seeing them? Will he further commit to transmitting those proposals without delay to the European Union?
Actually, as I told my right hon. Friend this morning, Chancellor Merkel was making an elementary point, which is that we could easily do a deal within 30 days, and we certainly shall. What she also said is that there is no point—[Interruption.] What my friends across the EU have said is that there is no point in having a negotiation or beginning formal talks as long as there is a risk that Parliament will make that negotiation impossible by taking away the ability of this country to negotiate. So every time we set out ideas, the first thing they ask is what Parliament will do.
So I urge my friends tonight, I urge colleagues tonight, to give us the leeway to get the deal that we need. It is very, very clear: the outlines of the deal that can be done are very clear. If Members had been listening earlier, they would have heard in my statement the rough shape of what that deal can be, both in getting the alternative arrangements and in solving the problems of the Irish backstop. I am afraid that, by their actions—I must regretfully say this to the House—they are making that deal less likely. We are working flat out to secure it, but the measures, if passed tonight, would make our prospects of success much less likely.
“nothing credible has come from the British government” on alternatives to the backstop. It is also reported that the Attorney General told the Prime Minister at the beginning of August that, if he insisted on the removal of the backstop, it would inevitably result in no deal. Is that true? If it is true, can the Prime Minister try and persuade the House why it is credible to argue that progress is being made in the negotiations, because a growing number of Members have come to the conclusion that what he really wants is a no-deal Brexit, and that is why many of us will try, over the next two days, to prevent that from happening—in the national interest.
The sad truth is that there are many Members in this House, I am afraid including the right hon. Gentleman, who simply want to block Brexit. That is the truth. That is the reality, and they are using the discussion of a so-called no-deal Brexit to conceal their real intentions. By their measures tonight and tomorrow, they would be fatally undermining this Government’s ability to negotiate a deal. That is the reality.
We can get a deal. We can remove the backstop. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well what this country needs to do, because it is agreed on all sides of the House. The problem with the withdrawal agreement is not just the political declaration; it is the backstop. That makes agreement impossible on both sides of the House. But as long as this House is proposing motions such as the ones tonight and tomorrow, I am afraid we have no chance of getting progress from our EU friends.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We are indeed, as I said at the G7—if my memory serves me correctly, we are making a contribution of another £1.4 billion to the green climate fund and it is a high priority of this Government.
I welcome what the Prime Minister has said about the backstop because he knows, as the entire House knows, that that is one of the fundamental reasons why the withdrawal agreement could not get through this House. Not only is it anti-democratic in the sense that laws would be made for the economy of Northern Ireland and nobody in Belfast or London would have any say at all in the making of them, or even ask questions about them, but it is contrary to the principles that people say they believe in, in the Belfast agreement and the St Andrews agreement, which requires the consent of both communities, and no member of any Unionist party in Northern Ireland supports the backstop.
I also welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to a deal, because we are committed to getting a deal—a good deal for Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. When he meets the Irish Prime Minister on Monday, which I welcome, can he convey to the Prime Minister, as we have tried to convey to him, that it would be entirely sensible and reasonable for him to sit down with us, and other representatives of Unionists in Northern Ireland, for direct discussions, which would be very helpful in the current atmosphere, but which the Irish Government have consistently—amazingly—refused to do, while at the same time preaching to others about the need for conciliation and movement and progress? So I appeal to the Prime Minister, on behalf of everyone in Northern Ireland, to try to get some momentum into the discussions between the Irish Republic and Unionists in Northern Ireland on this vital issue.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support. He perfectly understands the issues, and knows that he and I are at one in seeking to get rid of the backstop. I believe that we can get rid of the backstop, and we can—[Hon. Members: “How?”] You see—they do not want to. They do not want to do it. We can make progress, but not if we take away the possibility of no deal, which is what the Leader of the Opposition is proposing to do, and not if we give the power infinitely to extend UK membership of the EU to Brussels, which is what his Bill would do.
Will the Prime Minister reflect on the fact that when the House of Commons debated the European Union Referendum Act 2015 it was passed by a majority of six to one and that, when the House debated the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017, it was passed four to one by this House? What does he think a further three or six-month delay would achieve, other than betraying those people, and those votes that we have already had?
I passionately agree with what my right hon. Friend has just said. I ask all those thinking tonight and tomorrow of voting to extend again, beyond
It is good to hear the Prime Minister say that he will uphold the constitution and the rule of law, because of course it is essential that the United Kingdom upholds the rule of law for effective working with the G7 in future. Will he give the House his word that he and his Government will respect legislation passed by this House and decisions made by the two legal jurisdictions in this Union—the jurisdiction in Scotland and the jurisdiction in England?
Will my right hon. Friend confirm his determination to keep up the pressure on Russia, which continues to illegally occupy Crimea, and whose involvement in the occupied territories in east Ukraine led to further deaths this weekend? I strongly welcome his statement at the Dispatch Box that he agrees that it is not appropriate for Russia to rejoin the G7. Will he continue to give every support to the newly elected President Zelensky and the members of the Ukrainian Parliament?
I know the great interest that my right hon. Friend has taken in Ukraine and the fortunes of that wonderful country. I assure him that President Zelensky rang me before the G7 particularly to insist on his continued concerns about the Russian activities. I am sure that those concerns are shared across the House.
We have been in extensive talks. As the right hon. Lady will appreciate, it does not make sense to negotiate in public, but it has been clear from what I have said already that the backstop is unacceptable and so is the political declaration as currently written. We have detailed proposals of how to address both issues and we are making progress. I say respectfully to friends on both sides of the House that now is the time to allow UK negotiators to get on with their job.
In the Prime Minister’s discussions with the German Chancellor and the French President, was there discussion on the need for compromise? After all, the issue of the backstop is resolvable with compromise on all sides and there are many people in this House—moderate Brexiteers and remainers—who want to compromise. When it comes to a solution, if the EU will not change the deal and if this House will not pass the present deal, will the Prime Minister reflect on the Vienna convention and the conditional unilateral declaration, which would allow us to unilaterally state our determination to exit from the backstop?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who has pursued this line of thinking for many months. I must say that I think there is a better and more elegant way of doing this. We can excise the offending bits of the treaty. We can make a great deal of progress. We can have a new treaty. It will be a vast improvement. I think that Opposition Members should look forward to that and should be encouraging and supportive of this Government’s efforts in getting us out of the EU in a way that they voted for time and time and time again.
The Prime Minister insists the UK will be ready for no deal, while at the same time duplicitously using threat to force the European Union to cave in to his non-existent alternative arrangements. Will he admit that a no-deal scenario would be catastrophic, or will he continue to face both ways—deceive the public and use no deal for his own electoral gain?
I am afraid I do not agree with what the right hon. Lady said about no deal. As I said on the steps of Downing Street, I think there will be bumps on the road, but this is a very great country and a very great economy, and we will get it done. I am afraid that the most fatal thing to getting a deal is for this country to show that it is so apprehensive about coming out on other terms as to accept anything that the EU prescribes. That is, I am afraid, the course down which the right hon. Member for Islington North is beckoning us to go. That would be a disaster.
I warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement at the G7 to give more money to Education Cannot Wait and the leadership he has consistently shown on the importance of girls’ education around the world. Will he commit to continuing to champion this cause and seek for more of our aid budget to be spent on global education?
I thank my hon. Friend for everything she has done, both on the development front and in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to champion female education around the world. I believe that 12 years of quality education is the single most effective policy for solving most of the ills of the world.
The Prime Minister has made a number of wild and unsubstantiated claims about the negotiations. Can I ask him directly: did the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, Frost, in a Tuesday
The Prime Minister will be aware that many of us are concerned that we are currently on course to leave the European Union without a deal on
I do not comment on leaks—[Interruption.] Even in pages as hallowed as the ones described. What I can tell my right hon. Friend—he asked me exactly the same question this morning—is that we are working for a deal, and I believe that we will get a deal. It should be a deal that I think everybody in this House would want to support and which, above all, their constituents would want to support. They want and we want this business to be over and for us to leave the EU on
Further to the question asked by Mr Gauke, will the Prime Minister confirm that Dominic Cummings described the renegotiations as a “sham”? Will he also tell the House—a simple yes or no will do—whether it is true that he rang the editor of The Daily Telegraph and remonstrated with him about those reports, of which we have all now heard? Yes or no, Prime Minister—did you ring him up?
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady, but I do not comment on leaks. As I say, I saw the story on the front of the Telegraph this morning. It seemed to me wholly implausible, but—I can happily answer her question on that—I have not seen fit to ring any journalist today on any matter, because as you can imagine, I have been working flat out to get out of the EU on
When it comes to alternative arrangements to the backstop, the commission that I co-chair is making real progress. Yesterday, we published a revised withdrawal agreement and a political declaration. We are hosting a conference in Dundalk next week, bringing together parliamentarians from across these islands. I thank the Prime Minister for the meetings that I have had with his team and I assure him that our proposals are in very good shape going forward.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the fantastic work that he has done with many colleagues to prepare for the alternative arrangements that really do hold out the prospect of a solution to the problem of the Northern Irish border—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman would care to study the report, he might elucidate himself on that matter. There are a number of proposals that have been made, and indeed, many others, that hold out real hope of progress, but those are not the only areas in which we are making progress. There are several areas in which we are now discussing how the UK can retire whole and perfect from the EU while retaining the integrity of the market in Ireland. That is a hard thing to achieve, but it can be done.
First, I apologise to the Prime Minister because I did explode a little when he said something about loyalty and I thought about the loyalty that was sometimes deficient when we had a different Prime Minister—Mrs May. My apologies for that, but the one thing that I really welcome out of the G7 statement he made is what he said about girls’ education. My daughter was a special adviser to a former Foreign Secretary. Will he tell me whether it is right that a special adviser could be treated like the young woman was in No. 10—to be sacked on the spot and marched out of No. 10 by an armed police officer? Is that the way to treat women in work, or is it not?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the support that he gives to our campaign and the UK cause of 12 years of quality education for every girl in the world, and indeed, I thank members of his family for what they have done to support that campaign. On staffing matters, I will not comment, as he would expect.
Most of us in this place would prefer a good trade deal to no deal at all, but will the Prime Minister reflect on the fact that of the top 10 of the EU’s trading partners, half trade on WTO no-deal terms? Will he therefore continue to put to the sword this ludicrous suggestion that Britain would be incapable of trading on such terms? We would prosper.
My hon. Friend is totally right. There is a huge opportunity for the UK to recover its standing, which it used to have before 1973, as a great individual actor and campaigner for global free trade. That is what we are going to do, not just with a great free trade deal with our EU friends, which of course will be the centrepiece of our negotiations, but with free trade deals around the world.
Ten million pounds to protect the rain forest is welcome, but far more effective would be to stand up to President Bolsonaro, who is deliberately accelerating and encouraging these fires to open up more of the Amazon, threatening indigenous communities and accelerating the climate crisis. Will the Prime Minister do the right thing and refuse any future trading arrangements with Brazil unless and until high environmental and human rights standards are properly and fully enforced?
I would be reluctant to encourage any measure now that did anything to reduce free trade around the world. It would be much better to support the reforestation of Brazil in the way we are. We have a campaign to plant 1 trillion trees.
As the Prime Minister knows, my constituents are passionately pro-deal, and I think he is too; in fact I know he is—he has told me that personally and he has told the House many times. But can I bust one of the most dishonest myths of all, which is that one cannot respect the referendum result and be in favour of leaving with a deal? That is where I and, I think, all my constituents are. The Prime Minister has said today that the chances of a deal have increased and that things are moving. What evidence of progress can he put before the House before the vote this week? It could be critical to where people such as me go.
I would just make one point: before we began our efforts, it was common ground with the EU27 that every dot and comma of the withdrawal agreement was immutable and could not be changed, but that is no longer the case. We are already shifting them, in Ireland, in Berlin and in France. Progress is being made, and now is not the time to slacken that work.
Ruth Davidson walked last week, the Prime Minister’s majority in this place has gone this week, and he might even expel his hero Churchill’s grandson from his own party. I do not care what he does to his own party, but I take exception to the impact of his policy on Scotland. Would Scots not be better to vote for independence so as to maintain our place in the EU?
Scots did not swallow that argument in 2014—[Interruption.] No, they rejected it by a thumping majority. They could see that they were better off together with the rest of the UK, and so it remains.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the last thing we hear about in this place is the democratic will of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU? Make no mistake: the motion, if passed tonight, and the Bill on Wednesday, would mean nothing less than revocation of article 50, because they would bind his hands to the point that we would never ever be able to leave?
My hon. Friend is entirely right. I am afraid that too many people who want to vote for the motions tonight and tomorrow really seek to frustrate the will of the people and to overturn and cancel the result of the referendum.
Did the Prime Minister have an opportunity at the G7 to discuss the steel industry? I ask this on behalf of the 380 employees of Cogent Orb in Newport who yesterday received the devastating news that Tata is to close its plant. It is tragic for them, and tragic as it is the only plant in the UK that produces electrical steel that could, with Government encouragement, be a part of the supply chain for electric vehicles.
A huge amount of work is going on at the moment in respect of the Tata investments. The hon. Lady will have seen what was achieved recently with British Steel in Scunthorpe and Skinningrove. I thank my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary for that, and indeed the previous Business Secretary for his work in getting the deal done. We will indeed ensure that British steel—UK steel—is used in the supply chain for electric vehicles.
My discussions with Prime Minister Trudeau were extremely friendly. We look forward to rolling over the comprehensive economic and trade agreement—the free trade deal—with Canada, and taking our relations to new heights.
Once again we have heard bluff and bluster from the Prime Minister, after a summer during which he found a veritable forest of magic money trees. Can he tell me where he will find the money—or has he found a pot of gold?
May I invite the hon. Lady to listen to the Chancellor’s spending review statement tomorrow? If she is seriously opposing this spending on schools, hospitals and police when it is well within the limits of fiscal prudence—if that is really what the Labour party is all about now—I think she should say so.
Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, during his various conversations over the past few weeks, he has made it absolutely clear to all our neighbours and partners that we will establish complete sovereign control over our exclusive economic zone from
I can certainly confirm that we will be out of the common fisheries policy by 2020. We will take back control of our fisheries—unlike the Scottish National party, which, in a supine and invertebrate way, would hand them back to Brussels.
I beg the Prime Minister to answer the question that I am going to ask, rather than just saying “No comment” as if this were a magazine interview.
Along with others, I have filed papers for a legal case against the prorogation of Parliament, because I do not want the Domestic Abuse Bill—for which so many people in this House have worked so hard—to fall. I signed my witness statements yesterday. I had to go to my mother-in-law’s to print them, because I do not have a printer, but I think that they probably have one at No. 10.
Is it true that senior civil servants have refused to sign witness statements for ongoing legal proceedings relating to the prorogation? Were the director of legislative affairs and the Cabinet Secretary asked to do so, and did they agree? I signed mine; did they?
As the hon. Lady would imagine, the proper processes were gone through to ensure that we were able to announce a Queen’s Speech. Opposition Members have been calling for a Queen’s Speech for week after week, and Valerie Vaz has demanded one. [Interruption.] She has. We will also ensure that the Domestic Abuse Bill, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill and other Bills receive proper consideration and are rolled over.
This is, of course, a G7 statement, and the Prime Minister is a celebrated internationalist, but may I make a local point? The people of Shropshire, in five constituencies, voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. Can my right hon. Friend make a slight departure from great matters of state, and reassure the good people of Shropshire that Brexit will be delivered?
For automotive manufacturers in my constituency and beyond, the WTO tariffs that would apply in the case of a no-deal Brexit would not only wipe out their profits but often exceed them. Why should anyone take what the Prime Minister says about jobs and investment seriously when he has been so reckless with people’s livelihoods?
We are working with all sectors, including automotive supply chains, to protect their interests, but of course the best way to ensure that we do not have a no-deal Brexit is to support the Government and to oppose the measures that the Leader of the Opposition is putting forward.
May I thank my right hon. Friend for mentioning Ben Stokes in his speech? I was lucky enough to be there that day, and it reminded me that sometimes even the most difficult of challenges can be achieved. I do believe it will be possible to achieve an agreed negotiation with the EU, although it is difficult. If it is achieved on
Yes, indeed there is time, and we have gone over that thoroughly. I am delighted by my hon. Friend’s confidence; she speaks as someone well-acquainted with the ways of Brussels and the EU, and she will know that the deals are always done, as it were, on the steps of the court in the final furlong. That is where we will get the deal.
I have answered this question twice before. We will abide by the law, but I have to say I think it is a quite incredible thing to propose, deleterious to the interests of this country and this Government, and which will make it impossible for us to get the deal this country needs.
I can indeed explain. My hon. Friend will recall that under the Kyoto protocol, targets were set for the reduction of greenhouse gases; what the world now wants to see is specific targets—quanta—for the protection of endangered species, whether flora or fauna. It is a tragedy that the number of elephants in the wild is down now to about 300,000 and the number of lions down to perhaps 15,000; we are seeing the tragic reduction of species around the world, and the world needs to work together to prevent that loss of habitat and loss of species, and that is what we agreed to do at G7. [Interruption.] Emily Thornberry does not care about it, but, believe me, the people of this country care passionately—they care passionately about what is happening to animals around the world. She is totally indifferent to it, but my constituents certainly are not.
The Prime Minister tells us he is going to Dublin on Monday to see the Taoiseach where no doubt he will be asked, as he has been asked today, about his proposals for the backstop, so may I ask if he has seen the comment from former Member of this House Gavin Barwell, who says that he has
“had same reports re ‘sham negotiations’
from multiple govt sources” and that if it is not true, the Government should publish their proposals to replace the backstop? Why will he not do that?
We do not negotiate in public, but I think I have given the House quite a lot already about what we want and what we want to do. The one thing that will stop us achieving this is if our negotiating ability is neutralised by this House of Commons.
In order to get the leverage to get this great deal through that the Prime Minister is working on, he has said that any Member on these Benches who does not vote tonight in support of the Government will lose the Whip and indeed not be able to stand again as a Conservative MP. Working on that basis, in the event that a deal is reached, which I very much hope it will be, will that treatment apply to those MPs who do not vote for his great deal?
Your argument seems to be that you have a plan but that you just cannot share it with the House, or indeed with Chancellor Merkel, and that we just have to trust you; and that Parliament, which has a mandate—unlike your Government, who no longer have a majority—should not legislate against a no deal because that would somehow scupper your plans, which nobody knows. Prime Minister, why should we trust that you have a plan and, indeed, that you can deliver it?
Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the leaders of Europe are willing to give the Government time to bring forward new proposals for leaving the EU with a deal, ahead of the crucial summit on
My hon. Friend is completely right. We need time to get this deal over the line. The crucial summit will be on
“You rightly say the onus is on us to produce those solutions…You have set a very blistering timetable of 30 days—if I understood you correctly, I am more than happy with that.”
Given that the Prime Minister accepted the 30-day challenge, and said that the onus was on this place and this country to come up with solutions, why will he not answer the question from Steve Brine? [Interruption.] Wait for it, Prime Minister! That is the question that we are all asking: where is the evidence that, halfway towards his own deadline, he has done anything at all?
I really think that the hon. Lady should learn to count. The 30-day timetable may have begun, but it has not elapsed. What our friends and partners want to see is that the House of Commons is not going to block Brexit. They are not going to make a concession to this side, to our country, until they know that the House of Commons is not going to block Brexit. We will be bringing forward our proposals in due time, long before the 30 days are up, but what we want to see is that the UK Parliament stands behind our negotiators. And that is what they want to see in Brussels.
I voted for the withdrawal agreement three times, so I am pleased to hear that the Prime Minister expects to make progress throughout September and October. He will know that it was the policy of the previous Prime Minister to keep this House regularly updated. For those of us who are considering how to vote tonight, were he to reconsider his decision and make statements throughout the whole of September and October, that would be a material factor.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend; we have battled together on many fronts. I can commit, of course, to updating the House regularly on this matter. It is highly unlikely that you could keep me away—when the House is sitting—and that is what I will do. Indeed, my hon. Friend can expect a statement right now from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, so he does not have to wait until September.
The Prime Minister has described the consequences of a no-deal exit as a few “bumps in the road”. If that is the case, is not the right time to have a general election after his few bumps in the road have been implemented, when he can fully own the consequences, rather than relying on making statements about them before they have actually happened?
The United Kingdom already has close links with India, not least because of the valuable contribution made by the 1.6 million who make up the British-Indian diaspora. What discussions did my right hon. Friend have at the G7 with Prime Minister Modi of India about strengthening those ties post-Brexit?
I did indeed have an extremely good conversation with Prime Minister Modi, and we agreed to strengthen our co-operation not just on the security side, where clearly the UK and India stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight against terror, but on military co-operation in the Asia-Pacific region, where we share many interests, and, of course, on free trade as well—doing a big free trade deal with India. I thank my hon. Friend for everything he does to promote that incredibly important relationship.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. The G7 has delivered great things for the Global Fund’s fight against AIDS, saving an estimated 27 million lives worldwide, but does the Prime Minister agree that its primary function is to see countries come together for mutual benefit? What benefit does the Prime Minister believe the 2019 G7 summit brought to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
As I said in my statement, the UK depends on a global trading system that is open. One of the most important things agreed at the G7—in the face of rising tensions between China and America—was to support the WTO and the rules-based international system. I was delighted that Washington actually made a commitment, which I hope will be followed through, to return their member to the appellate body of the WTO in Geneva, which is important for global free trade.
Further to the question from my hon. Friend Vicky Ford, when the Prime Minister brings this deal to us next month—I very much hope and I am sure he will—will he explain whether plans are in place to pass all the legislation between
Of course. Other hon. Members have asked exactly the same question today. I can certainly make this offer: we would be very happy to brief my hon. Friend on exactly how that can be done. We are sure it can be done.
When there is a conflict between what the people of this country voted for after being asked a question by this Parliament and the many Members in this Parliament who seem to want to stop the people’s decision being implemented, whose side is he on?
The hon. Lady has been very valiant on this issue for many years, and I support and agree with her. After 45 years of EU membership—the institution has changed radically since the British people were last consulted—it was right to ask people whether they thought that their future belonged in that federalising, tightly integrating body, because that went to the questions of their identity, their future and what they thought of their country. When they returned their verdict, it was absolutely right for us to agree with and implement that verdict, and this House of Commons has promised many times to do so. I hope we now get on and do it.
My constituents, 68% of whom voted to leave, are incredibly dismayed about what they see as shenanigans in Westminster to try to stop Brexit. Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we do not deliver Brexit by
My right hon. Friend puts his finger on the issue. If we fail to deliver Brexit, we risk incurring a fatal lack of trust not just in the major parties—in all parties—but in our democracy itself.
I think the Prime Minister owes the people of Northern Ireland some explanation of why he and his Government have treated the Good Friday agreement—the Belfast agreement—in such a careless and cavalier manner. That agreement has kept stability and peace in Northern Ireland since it was signed 21 years ago.
It is reported that the Crown Solicitor’s Office in Belfast has advised the Government that a no-deal Brexit would be in contravention of the Good Friday agreement, so I call upon the Prime Minister to publish today, in full—he owes that to the people of Northern Ireland, and certainly to this House—any legal advice he has received from the Crown Solicitor’s Office about how a no-deal Brexit would contravene the agreement.
I thank the hon. Lady, and I know she has been a long-standing campaigner for peace in Northern Ireland. However, I must respectfully say to her that, actually, it is the backstop and the withdrawal agreement itself that undermine the balance of the Good Friday agreement because, in important matters, they give a greater preponderance to the voice of Dublin in the affairs of Northern Ireland than they do to the UK—the UK having left the EU. That is a simple fact, and I do not think it is widely enough understood. That is one of the reasons the withdrawal agreement itself is in conflict with the Good Friday agreement.
As for the advice the hon. Lady asks about, I have not seen any such advice.
No, it was not. I do not know what happened to my right hon. Friend and his Morris Minor, but we intend to do a much better deal in Brussels over the next few weeks.
I think what everybody in this House wants to do—I hope it is what they want to do—is to bring Brexit to a conclusion and to get this thing done. If the hon. Gentleman wants to deliver Brexit with a deal, the best thing he can do is support the Government tonight and tomorrow.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s commitment to getting us out of the EU on
If a police officer in Tonypandy or Maerdy arrests a suspect, he or she can immediately, and in real time, consult all the EU databases of criminality, which is essential to being able to send criminals to prison. Border officers can also consult those databases when a person hands over their passport. If we leave without a deal, as the former Prime Minister rightly said, there will be no deal on security. How will we make sure that the people are safe if we leave without a deal on
I have no doubt that we will continue bilateral arrangements with our EU friends to ensure that both of our populations are protected, but I am glad that the hon. Gentleman gives me the opportunity to remind the House that we are recruiting another 20,000 police officers to make this country safer and one of the safest in the world.