European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:02 pm on 4th September 2019.

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Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 4:02 pm, 4th September 2019

I will make some progress and then I will give way.

In circumstances in which there is no progress in the negotiations, we are hurtling towards no deal and the Prime Minister is closing down this place, we have no alternative but to pursue this Bill. We have to act with urgency and to pass binding legislation to rule out no deal by the time this House prorogues. That is what this Bill will achieve today.

I want to put on record my thanks to the right hon. and hon. Members who have worked over many weeks on this Bill, in particular Sir Oliver Letwin, Mr Grieve, my right hon. Friend Hilary Benn and Mr Hammond, as well as the leaders of the Scottish National party, the Lib Dems, the Greens, Plaid and Change UK, because this has genuinely been a cross-party Bill. On behalf of all my colleagues, I acknowledge the courage of the 21 former Conservative MPs who voted as a matter of principle in the Standing Order No. 24 debate last night, putting their country before their career. We acknowledge their courage and what they did as a matter of principle.

Why has there been such concerted effort? It is not usual to find an alliance of all Opposition parties and cross-party MPs. The answer is that we all appreciate the appalling damage no deal would cause to jobs, to industry, to our NHS, to security, and to peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland. Therefore, we were all shocked, if not surprised, at the warnings contained in the leaked Yellowhammer documents: food and fuel shortages, delay to medicines, and chaos at ports and channel crossings, all affecting the poorest communities. What leapt out to me from the Yellowhammer documents was the honest advice to the Government that, try as they might, the civil servants could not find a way of avoiding the conclusion that if we leave without a deal there will have to be infrastructure in Northern Ireland.