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 6:30 pm on 4th September 2019.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 6:30 pm, 4th September 2019

I thank everybody who has contributed to this debate, because it has been largely thoughtful and reasoned, both in Committee and on Second Reading. It has been the sort of debate that we could usefully have had more often over the past couple of years. I recognise that the amendments, particularly those tabled by Richard Graham and my hon. Friend Stephen Kinnock, are put forward with good intentions and to seek to assist the process. However, our view on all the amendments is determined by the objective of the Bill itself, as was made clear by my right hon. Friend Hilary Benn on Second Reading.

The Bill has one clear purpose, which is to prevent a disastrous no-deal Brexit on 31 October. An extraordinary coalition has been brought together over the past few weeks to put the Bill forward in the spirit of consensus. We know that no deal would be a disaster for jobs, for the NHS, for policing and for security. The Government’s own papers from Operation Yellowhammer made that clear.

In addition, there is real anxiety about the lives of EU citizens in the UK and those who are too often forgotten, UK citizens in the EU, being thrown into uncertainty and potential legal jeopardy. Of course, as many have pointed out, no deal would not be the end of Brexit, quite the opposite: it would be the beginning of years of long negotiation over our future relationship in which we would start from a significantly disadvantaged position.

When we make the arguments against no deal, we are speaking not only on behalf of the coalition in this House but for many beyond. The CBI has called no deal

“a tripwire into economic chaos”.

The TUC has said it would be “a disaster” for working people. This is our last chance to avoid no deal. The House has voted against it three times, but we need this legislation because the Prime Minister and his Government cannot be trusted to enact the will of the House without it. Parliament is sitting today only because of the amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 tabled by Mr Grieve. The Prime Minister made it clear that he saw this September sitting period as a nuisance, saying that the

“whole September session…is a rigmarole”.

The Prime Minister has told the House that he is pursuing a deal with the EU, but he has equally told the House that nothing has been proposed to it, and the EU has, in effect, confirmed that. We heard the devastating critique from the former Chancellor earlier today. European officials have told the press:

“There was literally nothing on the table, not even a sketch of what the solution could look like.”

The Prime Minister’s closest adviser has apparently called the talks “a sham”—he got that right, at least. The Government’s current working alternative to the backstop is simply taking the backstop out. Nothing new is being proposed. But if, by some miracle, there is some deal negotiated with the EU, then the Prime Minister can bring it back to the House for us to vote on; that is incorporated in the Bill. Let me turn to the amendments to the Bill.