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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:29 am on 22nd May 2019.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 10:29 am, 22nd May 2019

Thank you, Mr Robertson. I am pleased to begin summing up.

I do not think anyone will be surprised that I disagree with quite a lot of what I have heard in the last 59 and a half minutes. In fact, most people in here, and a lot of people back home, would be extremely disappointed if I did not.

I congratulate Julia Lopez on securing the debate. She spoke very passionately and I have no doubt whatsoever that she spoke with complete sincerity, but I have to say that, far too often, she just does not get it. There was no recognition at all in her outline of how we got here that it was her party and her Government that put us here. Her party called a referendum to solve the endemic infighting within its ranks. We can see from this morning’s debate what a complete and abject failure that has been. Her party unilaterally changed its own manifesto mid-term, from one that gave it a majority Government and said we would stay in the single market and the customs union, to one that lost it that majority and said we are going to come out.

When I asked the hon. Lady what alternative she suggests to the Northern Ireland backstop, she promised to come back to it later. She then referred to the need—I think it is correct; I wrote it down—to “check and clear goods away from the border”. That would be a violation of the Good Friday agreement and incompatible with the Northern Ireland peace process.

How can it be that three years after the referendum and more than 20 years since the peace process was secured —a process that is still happening; it is not an event that is finished and done and dusted—we still have people leading debates in this Parliament, and speaking knowledgeably about other aspects of the relationship with the European Union, but not understanding what a catastrophic mistake it would be to think that border checks carried out somewhere away from the border would be good enough? They will not be. Nobody but nobody has suggested a solution that comes anywhere close to answering that contradiction. We cannot avoid a customs border between two countries if one is in a customs union and one is not. When the Government set out something that has been tested, and works, that will allow that to happen, then they can credibly say they will come out of the customs union and respect the Northern Ireland peace process and the Good Friday agreement. I do not think it is possible and I have seen no credible suggestion that it is.

It is not good enough to continually make the European Union out as the villain. The European Union did not force anybody to call a referendum. The European Union did not force anybody to trigger article 50 before anyone in the UK Government had a clue how they were going to deal with it. The European Union did not force the Prime Minister to unilaterally paint herself into a corner with red lines. The European Union did not force the Prime Minister to call an unnecessary election to enhance her majority and end up throwing it away. Those have all been mistakes that have been made by this and the previous Prime Minister. It is high time that the Conservative party accepted its collective responsibility for putting those Prime Ministers into power and supporting them through all those catastrophic mistakes, simply because it thought it might enhance the party’s chances of holding on to power for a wee bit longer.

Given that Eddie Hughes was so glowing about trade and tourism between the UK and the European Union, I asked him why Thomas Cook was in trouble. He suggested it was because TUI had been criticised by Which? magazine. TUI is Thomas Cook’s biggest competitor in the United Kingdom. We might have thought that if TUI was being criticised and getting bad publicity that would help its biggest rival, rather than push it further into difficulty.