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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:15 am on 22nd May 2019.

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Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke Conservative, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland 10:15 am, 22nd May 2019

Indeed it does not. It has become a holy grail—a totemic example of our determination somehow to be in and half-out at the same time. As other hon. Members have pointed out, that is a fundamentally untenable position. Making the decision to leave the European Union means embracing the choices, challenges and opportunities that come with that; the same would be true of the decision to be part of the European Union. There are trade-offs to be made in either position. In that respect, there has been a fundamental lack of honesty throughout the entire debate.

The European Commission’s own website states:

“The Customs Union is a foundation of the European Union”.

I am clear that continued membership of the customs union would be not only a serious misjudgment, but a breach of faith with the referendum result. It was therefore with absolute incredulity that I watched the Prime Minister yesterday promising to adopt both the customs union and a second referendum as official Government policy if Parliament votes for them. Frankly, that position represents a devastating failure of politics, leadership and statecraft. Indeed, the only redeeming feature of the situation is that this desperate attempt to win the Labour party’s support must be the final one.

Many of us have advocated a Canada-style trading relationship with the EU, with frictionless trade and a high level of customs facilitation. In such an arrangement, we would be fundamentally responsible for controlling our internal affairs. Regrettably, we have encountered the twin misfortune of having a leader who never asked for it and an European Union that would rather turn us into a colony. Unless and until both those facts change, it is incumbent on us all to prepare for no deal. Indeed, on the very same day in March that Ministers stood at the Dispatch Box warning of the lack of preparedness for no deal, the European Parliament in Strasbourg voted through no-deal measures on, among other things, social security, road freight connectivity, basic air connectivity, the fishing fund, fishing vessels authorisation, railway safety and connectivity, and road haulage. There is no reason why there should be any interruption to or shortage of goods coming into the UK in a no-deal scenario.