European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:13 pm on 4th September 2019.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Chair, Committee on Exiting the European Union 3:13 pm, 4th September 2019

I have read those reports and they are of concern to me, as I know they are to the right hon. Gentleman and many others in the House.

The aim of the clause is not, as I think the Leader of the House suggested yesterday, to create a “marionette Government” but, I would argue, to give the Government the time they need to do their job. I say that because it is not clear what is happening at the moment, as we discussed yesterday, and how much negotiation is taking place when no proposals have been made. It is very hard to understand that, because I would have thought that the Government had been working flat out since July. It is also important to make the point that even if agreement was reached, it is very hard to see how it would be possible to get the House’s approval and pass all the legislation between 18 October or so and 31 October.

My final point is this. What would happen if we left with no deal? The Prime Minister talks about getting it done and ending the uncertainty, but the truth is—Steve Brine made this point powerfully—that no deal would not end anything. It would simply plunge us into greater uncertainty—uncertainty about the degree and length of disruption, uncertainty about the border arrangements in Northern Ireland, and uncertainty about our future trading relationship with our biggest, nearest and most important trading partners, the other members of the European Union.

Given that it has taken three years to get this far—in other words, not very far at all—and given that it took Canada seven years to negotiate a deal and the Prime Minister says he wants a super-Canada deal, it is going to take years to agree a new relationship. Every single EU member state, member state parliament and regional parliament will have to agree to any deal. No deal will not be the end of Brexit; it will only be the end of the beginning. In that time, faced with that degree of uncertainty, businesses will have countless decisions to make about where to invest, what to make and where, what to do about the sudden disappearance of all the arrangements that they have come to know and work within, and what to do about the sudden imposition of tariffs. It would be utterly irresponsible to allow that to happen. We have a duty to prevent it, and I hope the House will vote for this Bill tonight.