Leaving the EU: Extension Period Negotiations — [Mr Laurence Robertson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:02 am on 22nd May 2019.

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Photo of Ben Bradley Ben Bradley Conservative, Mansfield 10:02 am, 22nd May 2019

It is time for change, as my hon. Friend says from a sedentary position. There are two ways we can proceed: either we revoke article 50, which is totally unacceptable, or we stand firm in our commitment to leave on 31 October, come what may. A good deal would be great; no deal would be okay. Either way, we have to leave and we have to honour the promise that we made to the public.

It is clear that the Prime Minister cannot get a better deal, as she has shown that she will not leave without the EU’s agreement. A new leader might be able to do something different, but the vital thing is that there can be no more delay and no more trying to fudge the withdrawal agreement into something acceptable, because it will not happen and is wasting time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and Upminster is absolutely right about what needs to happen now. She went into great detail about plans that need to be put in place for our exit on 31 October. We should keep trying to agree something; we have time, so we should keep trying. However, if the European Union sticks to its word, at the end of October we will probably be faced with the decision to leave without an agreement, or to stay in the EU. I will certainly not be a part of any party or group that tries to block or overturn Brexit at that point. We have to leave.

I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to reassure me on the points raised by our hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and Upminster. Will he assure us all that we are planning properly for our departure; that we will lay out our plans for the UK’s key priorities for trade and future relationships if we leave on WTO terms; that we have put in motion plans to mitigate the short-term adverse impacts; that we will ensure we have the necessary agreements in place to keep things moving; that we are looking at the practical delivery, not just the theory, of alternative proposals for the Irish border; and that the attitude of the Government and the civil service will be one of steely determination to deliver the smoothest possible exit on those terms, as it now seems the most likely outcome? It should be perfectly possible, as we will have had six months more to prepare than we had expected. The Minister’s predecessor, my hon. Friend Chris Heaton-Harris, was adamant at the time of his resignation that we are as prepared as we could be, and I trust that that remains true.

We cannot start to heal the divisions that exist in this country until we have left the European Union. We cannot seek to restore trust and reaffirm democracy in this country until we have left the European Union. Anybody who wishes to lead this country and start to implement the positive, small “c” conservative agenda that those of us on the Government side of the House crave must first get their hands dirty with Brexit solutions, not just soundbites. They need to deliver and get us out on 31 October at the very latest, or we can be sure that, come the next election, no Conservative leader will deliver anything for a very long time. I know the Minister understands that.

It is not only faith in the Prime Minister and the Conservative party that has been shaken by broken Brexit promises; it is faith in our entire political system and its institutions, and in politics as a whole. That faith is not lost forever, but every day that we drift on without showing clear determination to honour the referendum result makes it harder to recover that trust. I hope the Minister can assure me that in his role with responsibility for preparing our leaving without an agreement, and in the absence of a deal that works for the UK, he is confident that everything is being done to ensure that we are in a position to leave on 31 October.