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 6:00 pm on 4th September 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 6:00 pm, 4th September 2019

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Sir William Cash who, as always, is on the side of the optimists rather than the defeatists.

Listening to Stephen Kinnock, with whom I have had the pleasure of serving on the Brexit Committee, I fear he is a pessimist in this. He thinks we need a compromise, but he does not talk about the need for the European Union to compromise. He talks only about the need for the United Kingdom to compromise, in the face of a clear commitment by the British people to leave the European Union.

I will speak briefly to the amendments in my name and in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Three years ago, the people of the United Kingdom instructed us, with the largest democratic mandate in our history, to obtain a divorce from the European Union and, in March 2017, Parliament accepted that instruction by giving notice under article 50 of the EU treaty.

Article 50 makes provision for an amicable divorce or for a divorce without agreement. In a traditional divorce to dissolve a marriage, both parties accept the irretrievable breakdown and try to agree sensible future arrangements, but the EU has never accepted Brexit. The EU and its institutions do not want a divorce. If there was any doubt about that, it has been made clear to us on the Brexit Committee whenever we have visited the European institutions and their leaders that the EU is just hoping and praying that Brexit will go away and that we will remain in the European Union.

They do not want a divorce, so their motivation is to contest that divorce by putting forward unreasonable and unacceptable terms that offer us only a punishment deal. My right hon. Friend Mrs May anticipated that in her Lancaster House speech, in which she said she feared that that might be the approach of the European Union, that it would be intent on offering us a punishment deal.

That is exactly what the EU has done, and the only alternative to a punishment deal under article 50 is no deal. Unless amended, this Bill will remove even that option, which enables us to put pressure on the European Union to come to the negotiating table to talk about a better deal.

As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said yesterday, this is a dreadful deal that has already been rejected by the House on several occasions. With this Bill, are we really going to be left with the options of either no Brexit or Brexit in name only? That is essentially what we are talking about tonight.

The United Kingdom’s freedom to divorce under article 50 is constrained by this Bill by being made subject to an EU veto that enables the EU to block Brexit, effectively indefinitely, unless or until the UK reneges on the decision of a referendum. The Bill removes any incentive for the EU to negotiate, which is why the Prime Minister is right. If this Bill passes tonight, we will take away from him any opportunity to negotiate. All he could do is be a supplicant at the table of the European Union. In effect, this would be an example of modern international slavery, where we are imprisoned by the EU with no reasonable way out.

Sadly, the EU’s collaborators in this House have become more strident and less cautious as time has elapsed. My right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin has said, in public, in this House and in private, that his objection to no deal is only because of the lack of preparation—