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European Union (Withdrawal) Acts

Part of Prime Minister’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 1:50 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Independent, Beaconsfield 1:50 pm, 19th October 2019

I share the view of my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke that the deal presented to us has many flaws. As a Unionist, I think that one of its principal flaws is that it threatens the Union of the United Kingdom very directly, although I am bound to accept that I also think that Brexit in general threatens the Union of the United Kingdom very directly; I have never really seen an easy way to resolve that issue and deliver Brexit at the same time.

Although I should congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the deal—he negotiated it; he was unhappy with the earlier deal; and he now says that he is satisfied with it—I remain of the view that if one looks at its detail in terms of the likely negotiating process that will have to take place next year, one is left in very serious doubt whether it will be possible to achieve a free trade agreement. This House will therefore be confronted in 12 months’ time with challenges very similar to those that we face at present, with deep economic consequences if we cannot find a way through them, so I am afraid that I am not enthusiastic about the deal.

I listened to my right hon. Friend Mrs May, who has been very consistent in her view on Brexit, which is that for MPs to offer a referendum and then try to thwart or reject it by our own actions is a con trick. I do not disagree with that, but we have the following disagreement: I do not believe that it is in any way a con trick, when one ends up with something so utterly different from what was offered, to go back and ask the electorate whether it is what they really want. I do not see anything wrong with that. I remain of the view that that possibility exists; if the House’s majority view were that it should be done, I would support it and seek to have it carried out, because the consequences are so momentous. I also make it clear to the Prime Minister that if that failed, I would not seek to oppose leaving on these terms. We have to resolve this.

That point brings me to the amendment moved by my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin. It is frankly extraordinary that a Government who say that they want to follow a sensible process should seek to railroad that process in a way that makes it likely that proper debate will not take place. To that I profoundly object. For that reason, I will support the amendment, and so should any Member of this House who wants an orderly form of Brexit.