G7 Summit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:33 pm on 3rd September 2019.

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Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 3:33 pm, 3rd September 2019

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.”

Is that the negative spirit of those on the Opposition Benches? No, it is not. And speaking in Berlin of possible alternatives to the backstop, Chancellor Merkel of Germany said:

“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 31 October, come what may, without a deal if necessary. That is why over the summer my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has been leading the Government’s efforts, seven days a week, to accelerate our national preparations for that possibility. He will make a statement on that subject shortly. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has made all the necessary funds available. We have already reached agreements with our partners to roll over trade deals worth around £89 billion of exports and imports. We have secured air services agreements around the world. We have increased the capacity of our Border Force, strengthened the resilience of our ports, bolstered our freight capacity and worked in meticulous detail to ensure the uninterrupted supply of critical goods, including medicines. We will be ready.

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 31 October. But there is one step that would jeopardise all the progress that we have made in the G7 and around the capitals of Europe, and that is if this House were to decide that it was simply impossible for us to leave without a deal and to make that step illegal. [Interruption.] That is what they want—to undermine our negotiations; to force us to beg for yet another pointless delay. If that happens, all the progress we have been making will have been for nothing.

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.]