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Duties in connection with the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 4th September 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Labour, Aberavon 5:30 pm, 4th September 2019

I gently say to the hon. Gentleman that the meaningful votes that took place are a very different kettle of fish from what was produced by the cross-party talks. As I will say later in my speech, the cross-party talks contained a number of extremely important compromises and concessions from Labour Members. It is therefore a travesty that this Parliament never had the opportunity to debate or vote on the withdrawal agreement Bill. It is a different kettle of fish from what went before. For those with short memories, the withdrawal agreement Bill was very different from the former Prime Minister’s initial so-called “blind Brexit”—which was rejected three times by this House—because it contained 10 major concessions that gave far more clarity on the UK-EU relationship. We were not prepared to give carte blanche to the Government.

The cross-party talks gave the detail that we need. That was a direct result of the hard work of Opposition and Government Front Benchers and negotiating teams over the course of six weeks of serious talks. The concessions included a customs union compromise, with a binding vote on post-Brexit customs arrangements; a workers’ rights Bill that would guarantee that employment rights in the UK would not lag behind those of the EU; a pledge that the UK would see no change in the level of environmental protection after Brexit; a promise to seek as close to frictionless trade in goods with the EU as possible while being outside the single market and ending free movement; a commitment to having parliamentary time to allow for a vote at Committee stage on whether the deal should be put to a second referendum; an assurance to MPs that they must have the final say on the future UK’s relationship with the EU; and a promise that Northern Ireland would stay aligned with the rest of the UK on regulations and customs, even if the backstop were to come into force.