Brexit Negotiations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:44 am on 3rd October 2019.

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Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 11:44 am, 3rd October 2019

I must confess that I am disappointed by the tone and some of the remarks that the right hon. Gentleman has made, because I think that this is a very good basis for a deal. To take his points in turn, and to take his questions seriously, he asks what the advantage is of this deal over the previous withdrawal agreement. Simply, it is that the objections on all sides of the House to the previous withdrawal agreement were based on the backstop, which would, as he knows, keep the UK locked in the customs union and single market with no say on those arrangements. I listened carefully to hon. Members on both sides of the House during those debates and that was the burden of the House’s objections to the backstop.

The right hon. Gentleman asked a reasonable question about standards and environmental and social protections. I think that it would be the will of the House under any circumstances to keep our standards the highest in the world. The advantage that we have in coming out of the EU, as I am sure he would accept if he reflected on it, is that we can go further. There are some things that we can now do that have been long called for by the British people—for instance, on animal welfare—that would be very advantageous. For instance, we can now ban the cruel export of live animals. I am sure that he will see that advantages will flow from that approach.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about physical infrastructure at the border, and I have been clear many times—and the Government have been clear many times, as were the previous Administration under my right hon. Friend Mrs May—that under no circumstances would the UK institute physical infrastructure at or near the border.

The right hon. Gentleman raised the concerns of businesses in Northern Ireland. Of course they must be at the forefront of our minds, and we will ensure that their needs are properly looked after. That is indeed why we have made the compromises that we have for the immediate future to protect their immediate interests. He asked about unfettered access to the GB market, and they will of course have unfettered access to the GB market with no checks whatever. That goes without saying. One thing that is certain about those businesses is that they want a deal. I have talked to them, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has. I believe that this is their chance, and our chance, to get a deal.

I listened to what the right hon. Gentleman said about delay and keeping this country in the EU beyond 31 October. That option does not commend itself to me: it would incur another £1 billion a month to no advantage whatever. The people of this country have had enough unnecessary dither and delay. They want to get Brexit done; they want to get on and do a deal. This is a very good basis for a deal, I commend it to the House and I hope that right hon. and hon. Members across the House will support it.