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European Union (Withdrawal) Acts

Part of Prime Minister’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 11:25 am on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Barclay Stephen Barclay The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 11:25 am, 19th October 2019

Let me make some progress, then I will take further interventions.

By contrast with the efforts of the Prime Minister—who was told that a deal was impossible and that neither the backstop nor one word of the withdrawal agreement could be amended—the Leader of the Opposition appears to have rejected the deal before he has even read it. This is an Opposition who cannot see further than opposition for opposition’s sake.

The shadow Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer, will always, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, have read the detail. He has been in post throughout the three years, but during that time has used a wide range of arguments to support his case. He said in July 2018:

“We respect the result of the…referendum”,

and he recognised that we are leaving the European Union, but he now says that

“any outcome…must be subject to a referendum and we would campaign for remain”.

He said that Labour’s concerns were never about the withdrawal agreement or the backstop;

“They were about the Political Declaration”.

That is what he put on Twitter on 17 October this year, yet he used to stand in this Chamber and object to the withdrawal agreement because it had not changed. At the time of the third meaningful vote, which was purely on the withdrawal agreement and not the political declaration, he still objected to the withdrawal agreement. In 2018, he said that Labour could not support a withdrawal agreement without

“a mechanism for universal exit”,

which is exactly what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has secured through the vote of consent for the Northern Ireland Assembly, but the shadow Secretary of State now says that the issue is no longer about the withdrawal agreement; it is instead about the political declaration.

For much of this debate, Labour has been for being a participant in the EU customs union, yet we have heard from a senior member of the Labour party that its real position is 100% remain. As one media report alleged this week, during the cross-party talks, Labour even rejected a copy-and-paste of its own proposal, describing it as “unacceptable”.

Some in government have cautioned against listening to experts during this debate, but it is clear from business experts and the Bank of England’s Governor—