This evening there has been much criticism of the Prime Minister, and I think he was at fault. He was at fault for believing the EU when it said that it would negotiate in good faith. He was at fault for believing it when it said it would respect the integrity of the UK and of our internal market. But he is not at fault for trying to remedy the situation with this legislation.
I think it is quite simple: if we do not get a deal that we like, we really have three options. First, we can accept the EU’s idea of a deal by accepting a rule-taking role in relation to Europe. That would breach our manifesto and would fail to deliver Brexit in a form that the people would recognise. That is option one. Option two is to get no free trade agreement but to accept a border within the UK. That would breach the Act of Union and threaten the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. Option three is to make a reasonable and legal change to the withdrawal agreement, on terms that were understood and acceptable when that agreement was first framed, in order to safeguard the Union and deliver Brexit. I suggest that those changes would be legal, on the simple grounds that when laws conflict, as they do at this sort of transition phase, domestic law takes precedence.
I pay tribute—I wish he were in his place—to my hon. Friend Sir William Cash, who has done more than any Member of this House, past or present, to deliver the sovereignty of this nation. In the negotiations this time last year, he stood up more than anybody for the sovereignty of the UK, and it is because of him that we have enshrined in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 the commitment to UK sovereignty that we rely on now.
There is a fourth option, of course. There are those three unpalatable options—the third, which I hope we are legislating into force now, is an unpalatable one—but there is a fourth option. It is to get a deal that we can all accept—a deal that the EU itself accepted in principle in the negotiations last year and said at the outset of our trade negotiations would be possible: an agreement based on the deal that it has with Canada. That is the deal that would be acceptable, and it would mean that we did not have to do any of the unpalatable options I mentioned. The way to do that is to pass this Bill to give the Government the negotiating hand they need.