European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:50 pm on 4th September 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Barclay Stephen Barclay The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 4:50 pm, 4th September 2019

The Prime Minister addressed the issue about Royal Assent during his statement yesterday and Ministers abide by the code. The hon. Gentleman says that the negotiation is a sham, yet one should look at what the Commission has said. At Strasbourg, it said that alternative arrangements had merit as an alternative to the backstop. Just last month, the Council pledged, in its official guidelines on Brexit negotiations, “flexible and imaginative solutions.” Senior European figures claim the backstop will not be required. For example, a former German MEP and member of the European Parliament Brexit steering group said there was a

“99% chance that the backstop would never be used.”

Indeed, the issue arises because of the sequencing of talks, which was at the choice of the EU itself and left insufficient time for the negotiation. In fact, this issue should be addressed as part of the future economic relationship.

In addressing issues such as the claim made by those on the Opposition Benches, it is worth reflecting on the fact that the EU position has moved, from the language of “no change” to the withdrawal agreement to now saying that changes can be made if “legally operative text” on alternative arrangements can be found. It is worth contrasting Donald Tusk’s comments in June that

“nothing has changed when it comes to our position”,

with President Macron’s comments last month that he was “very confident” that the UK and EU would be able to find a solution

“if there is a good will on both sides”.