The Prime Minister won the last election based on the promise to “get Brexit done”. That was his mandate, given to him by the British people—to move on. He said there would be
“no more dither and delay”.
He said, “Let’s get our oven-ready deal through.” He won an 80-seat majority based on that withdrawal agreement, and this Parliament ratified it. We are calling on him to deliver the deal he promised, one that would work for Britain in terms of protecting jobs and the Union, and then we can get on with tackling the coronavirus crisis. So why is he dithering and delaying? Why is he introducing legislation designed to reopen old Brexit wounds? He called the withdrawal agreement a “fantastic” deal for the country, but now he says it never made sense. Was he deliberately misleading the British people then, or is he doing so now?
Not only has the Prime Minister undermined trust here at home, but he is trashing his Government’s reputation as a trustworthy and reliable member of the international community, because it is absolutely clear that this legislation breaks international law. The Brexiteer who signed off this deal as Attorney General described the Bill as “unconscionable” and all five living former Prime Ministers are united in agreement.
Our greatness as a country is built upon our values and the fact that we have long stood up for the rule of law. This Prime Minister wants to throw all that away. The UK needs to be standing up to the Chinese communist party’s breaches of international law and Russia’s foul play, but how can we do that with credibility if we are advocating breaking international law? With one stroke of his pen, this Prime Minister has torpedoed the painstaking work that our diplomats do every day.
This is not just a question of trust or morality; it is also about our commercial and economic interests. We are going out into the world to negotiate new trade deals post Brexit, but how can any other country trust us to keep to those agreements? If this Bill passes into statute, the Prime Minister will be sending his trade negotiators naked into the conference chambers. This Bill is not only dismantling the manifesto pledge and our international reputation, but it is creating a constitutional crisis, trashing the common frameworks that are the basis for our devolved constitutional settlement and creating the conditions for a race to the bottom on standards, opening the door to chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef becoming the norm. Trade negotiations are never a walk in the park. Both sides will always defend their interests, and that is fair enough, but the rules are the rules. A commitment is a commitment. Our word is our bond. I therefore urge hon. Members to behave with honour and to join us in the No Lobby this evening.