To be fair, I have allowed the last two interventions to distract me from the fact that the key purpose of a Queen’s Speech is to set out the domestic agenda—to talk about the 20,000 new police officers, and to ensure that people see the benefits of frontline funding for the NHS, levelling up funding for schools, and delivering full-fibre broadband across the country. However, as we ramp up preparation for no deal, we know exactly the kind of thing that we will need if we get a deal, although the deal that we are likely to get—if we get there—will be substantively different from the last withdrawal agreement. Also, we have been trying to pass legislation regarding no-deal preparations over the last few months.
Again, I am allowing myself to be distracted. We keep talking about deal or no deal, but actually we mean the withdrawal agreement; the deal is yet to come. We use the terms interchangeably. The deal, in terms of trade deals, is all about the future relationship with the EU, and we have not even got there yet. All we are talking about—I say “all”; of course it is complicated and significant—is how we physically leave the EU. Deciding what the trading relationship will look like will take time. One of my fundamental concerns—albeit from two and a half years ago, so it cannot be revisited—was accepting the sequencing that Michel Barnier and the EU put to us: that we had to get the divorce done before we could talk about the future relationship. It would have been far more sensible—this formed the basis of the Vote Leave campaign—to do both at the same time.
On the backstop, for example, instead of coming up with the convoluted system that has failed to get through this place so many times, it would have been far easier had we known what the ultimate trading relationship between Northern Ireland, in particular, and the Republic of Ireland would be. We would then have been able to work on solutions—alternative arrangements—not just in the last year, but in the last three years. That would have been a far better and more holistic approach to leaving.