Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:22 pm on 9th January 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion 3:22 pm, 9th January 2020

Congratulations, Mr Deputy Speaker, on your restoration to the Chair. I am pleased to speak after David Simmonds. I wish I could say that I agreed with more of what he said. I do not for a moment doubt his personal commitment to refugee children, as I hope he will not doubt my own, but I think we have very different solutions to how we would address their plight. Frankly, I think our country has an awful lot more to do to honour our obligations to refugees, and in particular to child refugees, than perhaps was reflected in his words this afternoon.

I want to say a few words about the withdrawal agreement that is to be passed, I fear, later this afternoon, and I want to summarise some of the reasons why I will be voting against it. It does still contain this trapdoor to no deal at the end of this year, and despite everything that has been said from the Government Front Bench, I fail to understand why they are so doggedly remaining with this 11-month period—an entirely arbitrary period—and saying that that is the period within which they want to have agreed a new trade agreement. The President of the Commission said just yesterday that that is not going to yield the kind of deep agreement that apparently the Prime Minister wants, so it is very hard to see how this is actually in the best interests of the country.

Secondly, I worry deeply about the race to the bottom on social and environmental standards, which I think is at the heart of this withdrawal agreement. We heard again yesterday, when we raised these in the debate, that there is no guarantee against regression on environmental standards. There is certainly no dynamic alignment being suggested. Indeed, I fear we will see a wrecking ball being taken to the precious environmental standards in particular, which we have been absolutely dependent on our negotiations in the EU to achieve. The Prime Minister has of course famously said that Brexit is an opportunity to, in his words, “regulate differently”. When he says that he wants to regulate differently, I find it very hard to believe that he actually means improving regulations when it comes to the environment in particular.