With permission, I would like to update the House on our negotiations to leave the European Union. First, I want to pay tribute to my right hon. Friends the Members for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab) and for Tatton (Ms McVey). Delivering Brexit involves difficult choices for all of us. We do not agree on all of those choices, but I respect their views, and I would like to thank them sincerely for all that they have done.
Yesterday we agreed the provisional terms of our exit from the European Union, set out in the draft withdrawal agreement. We also agreed the broad terms of our future relationship, in an outline political declaration. President Juncker has now written to the President of the European Council to recommend that
“decisive progress has been made in the negotiations.”
A special European Council will be called for Sunday 25 November. This puts us close to a Brexit deal.
What we agreed yesterday was not the final deal. It is a draft treaty that means that we will leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way on 29 March 2019 and sets the framework for a future relationship that delivers in our national interest. It takes back control of our borders, laws and money, it protects jobs, security and the integrity of the United Kingdom, and it delivers in ways that many said could simply not be done.
We were told that we had a binary choice between the model of Norway or the model of Canada—that we could not have a bespoke deal. But the outline political declaration sets out an arrangement that is better for our country than both of these—a more ambitious free trade agreement than the EU has with any other country. We were told we would be treated like any other third country on security co-operation, but the outline political declaration sets out a breadth and depth of co-operation beyond anything the EU has agreed with any other country.
Let me take the House through the details. First, on the withdrawal agreement, the full legal text has now been agreed in principle. It sets out the terms on which the UK will leave the EU in 134 days’ time, on 29 March 2019. We have secured the rights of the more than 3 million EU citizens living in the UK and around 1 million UK nationals living in the EU. We have agreed a time-limited implementation period that ensures businesses only have to plan for one set of changes. We have agreed protocols to ensure Gibraltar and the sovereign base areas are covered by the withdrawal agreement, and we have agreed a fair financial settlement—far lower than the figures many mentioned at the start of this process.
Since the start of this process, I have been committed to ensuring that our exit from the EU deals with the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. I believe this issue can best be solved through our future relationship with the European Union, but the withdrawal agreement sets out an insurance policy should that new relationship not be ready in time for the end of the implementation period. I do not pretend that this has been a comfortable process or that either we or the EU are entirely happy with all of the arrangements that have been included, but of course that is the case—this is an arrangement that we have both said we never want to have to use. But while some people might pretend otherwise, there is no deal that delivers the Brexit the British people voted for that does not involve this insurance policy—not Canada plus plus plus, not “Norway for now,” not our own White Paper. The EU will not negotiate any future partnership without it.
As the House knows, the original proposal from the EU was not acceptable as it would have meant creating a customs border down the Irish sea and breaking up the integrity of our United Kingdom, so last month I set out for the House the four steps we needed to take. This is what we have now done, and it has seen the EU make a number of concessions towards our position.
First, the EU proposal for a Northern Ireland-only customs solution has been dropped and replaced with a new UK-wide temporary customs arrangement that protects the integrity of our precious Union.
Secondly, we have created an option for a single time-limited extension of the implementation period as an alternative to bringing in the backstop. As I have said many times, I do not want to extend the implementation period and I do not believe we will need to do so. This is about an insurance policy, but if it happens that at the end of 2020 our future relationship is not quite ready, the UK will be able to make a choice between the UK-wide temporary customs arrangement or a short extension of the implementation period.
Thirdly, the withdrawal agreement commits both parties to use best endeavours to ensure that this insurance policy is never used, and in the unlikely event that it is needed, if we choose the backstop, the withdrawal agreement is explicit that the backstop is temporary and that the article 50 legal base cannot provide for a permanent relationship. There is also a mechanism by which the backstop can be terminated.
Finally, we have ensured full continued access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK internal market.
The Brexit talks are about acting in the national interest, and that means making what I believe to be the right choices, not the easy ones. I know there are some who have said I should simply rip up the UK’s commitment to a backstop, but this would have been an entirely irresponsible course of action. It would have meant reneging on a promise made to the people of Northern Ireland during the referendum campaign and afterwards—that under no circumstances would Brexit lead to a return to the borders of the past—and it would have made it impossible to deliver a withdrawal agreement. As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I have a responsibility to people in every part of our country, and I intend to honour that promise.
By resolving this issue, we are now able to move on to finalising the details of an ambitious future partnership. The outline political declaration we have agreed sets out the basis for these negotiations, and we will negotiate intensively ahead of the European Council to turn this into a full future framework.
The declaration will end free movement once and for all. Instead we will have our own new skills-based immigration system, based not on the country people come from but on what they can contribute to the UK. The declaration agrees the creation of a free trade area for goods, with zero tariffs and no fees, charges or quantitative restrictions, across all goods sectors. No other major advanced economy has such an arrangement with the EU and, at the same time, we will also be free to strike new trade deals with other partners around the world.
We have also reached common ground on a close relationship on services and investment, including financial services, which goes well beyond World Trade Organisation commitments. The declaration ensures that we will be leaving the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy, so we will decide how best to sustain and support our farms and our environment, and the UK will become an independent coastal state once again.
We have also reached agreement on key elements of our future security partnership to keep our people safe. This includes swift and effective extradition arrangements, as well as arrangements for effective data exchange on passenger name records, DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data. We have also have agreed a close and flexible partnership on foreign, security and defence policy.
When I first became Prime Minister in 2016 there was no ready-made blueprint for Brexit. Many people said it could simply not be done. I have never accepted that. I have been committed day and night to delivering on the result of the referendum and ensuring the UK leaves the EU absolutely and on time. But I also said at the very start that withdrawing from EU membership after 40 years, and establishing a wholly new relationship that will endure for decades to come, would be complex and require hard work. I know that it has been a frustrating process—it has forced us to confront some very difficult issues—but a good Brexit, a Brexit which is in the national interest, is possible.
We have persevered and have made a decisive breakthrough. Once a final deal is agreed, I will bring it to Parliament, and I will ask MPs to consider the national interest and give it their backing. Voting against a deal would take us all back to square one. It would mean more uncertainty, more division and a failure to deliver on the decision of the British people that we should leave the EU. If we get behind a deal, we can bring our country back together and seize the opportunities that lie ahead. The British people want us to get this done and to get on with addressing the other issues they care about: creating more good jobs in every part of the UK; doing more to help families with the cost of living; helping our NHS to provide first-class care and our schools to give every child a great start in life; and focusing every ounce of our energy on building a brighter future for our country.
So the choice is clear: we can choose to leave with no deal; we can risk no Brexit at all; or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated—this deal. It is a deal that ends free movement; takes back control of our borders, laws and money; delivers a free trade area for goods with zero tariffs; leaves the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy; delivers an independent foreign and defence policy, while retaining the continued security co-operation to keep our people safe; maintains shared commitments to high standards; protects jobs; honours the integrity of our United Kingdom; and delivers the Brexit the British people voted for. I choose to deliver for the British people. I choose to do what is in our national interest. And I commend this statement to the House.
I want to thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of her statement.
The withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration represent a huge and damaging failure. After two years of bungled negotiations, the Government have produced a botched deal that breaches the Prime Minister’s own red lines and does not meet our six tests. The Government are in chaos. Their deal risks leaving the country in an indefinite halfway house, without a real say. When even the last Brexit Secretary, who, theoretically at least, negotiated the deal, says that
“I cannot support the proposed deal”,
what faith does that give anyone else in this place or in this country? The Government simply cannot put to Parliament this half-baked deal that both the Brexit Secretary and his predecessor have rejected. No deal is not a real option, and the Government have not seriously prepared for it. The Government must publish their full legal advice, the Treasury a full economic impact assessment of the deal and the Office for Budget Responsibility an updated economic forecast.
The withdrawal agreement is a leap in the dark—an ill-defined deal by a never defined date. There is no mention of the Prime Minister’s favoured term “implementation period” anywhere in the 585 pages of this document. And no wonder, as there is precious little new to implement spelled out in either the agreement or the political declaration. Article 3 of the agreement states that transition can be extended to end by “31 December 20XX”. Can the Prime Minister confirm that this permits an extension to be rolled on until 2099?
Can the Prime Minister confirm that if the UK Government cannot agree a comprehensive future relationship by January 2021, which few believe will be possible and which the last two years give us no confidence the Government can do, those negotiations would have to be put on hold, because the focus would then inevitably shift from negotiations on the future relationship to those on an extension of the transition period, including further payments to the EU? Article 132 sets out that process fairly clearly.
How confident is the Prime Minister that a deal can be done by the end of 2020, and can she confirm that if a new trade agreement is not agreed by 31 December 2020, article 132 will apply—meaning our paying a huge financial contribution to extend the transition period—if we are to avoid triggering the backstop, as the Prime Minister insists is her position? Should the backstop come into force, there would be no time limit or end point, and if either party requested a review and there was no agreement, it would go to independent arbitration. The backstop locks Britain into a deal it cannot leave without the agreement of the EU. Restrictions on state aid are hardwired into the backstop, with an arbitration mechanism, but no such guarantee exists for workers’ rights.
Can the Prime Minister confirm that the backstop applies separate regulatory rules to Northern Ireland, creating a de facto border down the Irish sea, as Northern Ireland would be subject to the customs union but not the rest of the UK? That is despite the fact that the Prime Minister said this was something
“no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to”—[Official Report, 28 February 2018; Vol. 636, c. 823.]
It is another of her red lines breached. In fact, the list of EU measures that continue to apply to the UK in respect of Northern Ireland runs to 68 pages of the agreement. This affects VAT declarations and rules of origin checks.
Moreover, it is clear that the Prime Minister’s red line regarding the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice has also been torn up. By 2021, under the Prime Minister’s plan, we will either be in a backstop or still be in transition, continuing to contribute to the EU budget and to follow the rules overseen by the ECJ. It is utterly far-fetched for the Prime Minister to say this plan means we take control over our laws, money and borders.
After two years of negotiation, all the Government have really agreed is a vague seven-page outline of political declarations, which looks like a substantial dilution of the Prime Minister’s previously declared negotiating priorities. There is only the scantiest mention of workers’ rights, consumers’ rights and environmental protection; there is no determination to achieve frictionless trade, or even trade as frictionless as possible; and no ambition to negotiate a new comprehensive customs union that would protect trade, jobs and industry, so uncertainty continues for businesses and all those who work in them. That risks investment decisions being deferred even further, costing jobs and living standards. Many companies might decide that the lack of certainty simply means they themselves will Brexit. There is no clear plan to get a strong deal with the single market to ensure continued access to European markets and services, merely a vague commitment to go beyond the baseline of the World Trade Organisation. The First Ministers of Wales and Scotland made it clear to the Prime Minister that participation in a customs union to protect the economy and jobs was essential.
Likewise, there is no ambition to achieve continuation of the European arrest warrant or an equivalent, and no clarity on our status with Europol, Eurojust or even the Galileo project. There is no clarity either on a future immigration system between the UK and the EU. Following the Windrush scandal, many EU nationals here will have no confidence—no confidence at all—in the Government’s ability to deliver a fair and efficient system.
The Brexit Secretary promised a “substantive” document; he is obviously no longer here, so can the Prime Minister inform the House of when that detailed framework agreement will be with us?
This is not the deal that the country was promised, and Parliament cannot, and I believe will not, accept a false choice between this bad deal and no deal. People around the country will be feeling anxious this morning—about the industries they work in, the jobs they hold and the stability of their communities and their country. The Government must now withdraw this half-baked deal, which it is clear does not have the backing of the Cabinet, this Parliament or the country as a whole.
Let me pick up some of the points that the right hon. Gentleman made. First, he said that no deal was not an option, but then complained that we were not preparing for no deal. Actually, we have been preparing for no deal, and we continue to prepare for no deal, because I recognise that we obviously have a further stage of negotiation with the European Council and then, when that deal is finalised with the European Council, it has to come back to this House. So we will continue those preparations.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the withdrawal agreement is ill defined. Five hundred pages of detailed legal text on the withdrawal agreement is not an ill-defined withdrawal agreement. He complained that the withdrawal agreement does not refer to the implementation period. Of course, it does refer to the transition period, which is exactly the same period of time.
The right hon. Gentleman then talked about the whole question of the decision on the backstop and the implementation period as coming at the end of 2020. Well, if he looks again at the documents that have been produced, he will see that actually the decision will be taken in June 2020 as to whether it is likely that the future relationship will not be in place on 1 January 2021. At that point, it will be for the UK to decide whether it wishes to extend the implementation period for a limited period, or whether it wishes to go into the backstop.
The right hon. Gentleman is wrong to say that we have not dealt with the issue of the border down the Irish sea. We have dealt with that, as I was clear in this House that we would. It took some considerable time to persuade the European Union to move from its proposal for a Northern Ireland-only customs territory to a UK-wide customs territory, but we have achieved that.
In relation to the question of workers’ rights, there is reference to non-regression.
The right hon. Gentleman says that the outline political declaration does not refer to what we are proposing in terms of a free trade area for the future; in fact, the protocol explicitly does reference that. It sets out very clearly that we will be creating a free trade area between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
I am really not sure what document the right hon. Gentleman has read, because he said that there were no references to extradition, but there are indeed references to extradition. He also said that there was nothing about Europol, whereas there is an express reference that we will be including in the future document:
“Terms for the United Kingdom’s cooperation via Europol and Eurojust.”
I say to the right hon. Gentleman that there is indeed a choice before Members of this House: it is a choice of whether or not we go ahead with a deal that does deliver on the vote while protecting jobs, our security and our Union. Of course, what he wants is for us to stay in the single market and the customs union. That would not deliver on the vote of the referendum. We are delivering an end to free movement, coming out of the common agricultural policy and out of the common fisheries policy, and we are taking back control of our money, borders and laws. That is the right deal for Britain, and it is the deal that we will be putting forward before this House.
It has always been a Brexiteer illusion that the country can leave the European Union treaties while selecting to retain all the benefits that we enjoy under the treaties and repudiating most, if not all, of the obligations. We have to face up to the fact that that is an illusion. Does my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agree that the biggest single economic benefit—in fact most of the main economic benefits—that we have enjoyed from our membership over the last decades flow from the completely open border between the whole of the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union and that upon that have been based huge flows of inward investment, the creation of just-in-time lines of supply and very many thousands of jobs in this country? So will she undertake that we will not change the present basis of that, which is the single market and the customs union, until we know what we are changing to and until we are satisfied that any change will retain those benefits and keep us completely open from any delays and costs caused by regulatory differences or anything else that would be created by moving away from where we are now? The economic future of this country will be threatened very considerably if we just decide, unilaterally, to walk out, as some of my colleagues seem prepared to recommend.
We have indeed heard from business a very clear message about the importance of frictionless borders, which is precisely why the proposal that the United Kingdom has put forward to the European Union is based on that concept of frictionless borders. The free trade area that we have put forward is precisely in that frame. My right hon. and learned Friend talks about remaining in the single market and the customs union. I do not believe that that is right for the future of the United Kingdom, because I do not believe that doing those things would deliver on the vote of the British people. There are various things that underpinned the vote. An end to free movement was crucial among those, and remaining in the customs union does not enable us to have an independent trade policy. I believe it is important that we do have an independent trade policy once we have left the European Union. We are negotiating the basis of our future trading relationship, but it is based on the concept of a free trade area and precisely the point that he makes about being able to move goods seamlessly across the border.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of her statement.
The Prime Minister comes before us today trying to sell us a deal that is already dead in the water. Not even her own Brexit Secretary could stand over it. Now, to lose one Brexit Secretary is one thing, but to lose two in a matter of months illuminates the chaotic nature of this Tory Government. The No. 10 front door has become a revolving one. The Prime Minister talks about taking back control. She cannot even control her own Cabinet. As I said yesterday, she is desperate and is increasingly looking defeated. What is absolutely shocking is that Scotland is not once mentioned in the document. Not once, Prime Minister, have the unique characteristics of Scotland’s devolved settlement been worthy of mention—[Interruption.]
Order. The Leader of the Scottish National party must be heard and heard with courtesy. [Interruption.] We are very grateful for your sedentary observations, Mr Graham, but I do not think that they greatly add to the quality of our deliberations. Everybody will be heard.
Not once have Scotland’s unique characteristics in the devolved settlement been worthy of mention. There are 100 mentions of Northern Ireland, mentions of Gibraltar, of Cyprus and of the Isle of Man, but no reference to Scotland. Utter contempt has again been shown to the Scottish Government, their Parliament and its people.
Differentiated deals for Northern Ireland means that Scotland can have its own differentiated deal. If Northern Ireland can stay in the single market, why not Scotland, Prime Minister? The Scottish Government have published compromise documents calling for just this and the Scottish Parliament has affirmed that position. Why does the Prime Minister ignore the democratically expressed position of the Scottish Government? What has happened to the claim of a partnership of equals? Why are the desires of Scotland being ignored, when we know that a differentiated settlement can be delivered? Why does the Prime Minister stand in the face of the legitimate demands of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament? [Interruption.] The Prime Minister can shake her head, but it is a matter of fact and a matter of reality. Show some respect to the devolved institutions. The price—[Interruption.] You can bay, you can shout and you can talk about it being dreadful, but why were the Scottish Government not consulted, as Gibraltar was, before the Prime Minister went to Cabinet yesterday?
The price that Scotland would be forced to pay is far too high, with lost jobs, household incomes slashed and our NHS under threat. Now is the time to get realistic and put sensible options back on the table, such as remaining in the single market—the only credible compromise, for which the SNP has consistently made the case. This deal is dead in the water. It is now clear that there is not a majority for this deal or a no deal. The Prime Minister must go back to Brussels, extend article 50 and tell Brussels that we must remain in the single market and the customs union. Anything else will lead to economic chaos and crisis. Prime Minister, do the right thing and we will work with you. Stop the clock and go back to Brussels.
May I pick up two key points that the right hon. Gentleman made? First, he made a reference to Scotland’s NHS being under threat. In fact, Scotland’s NHS depends on the Scottish Government —the SNP Government—determining the money—[Interruption.] It is no good him pointing his finger at me. We ensure that in the NHS settlement, the Barnettised settlement means that more money comes to Scotland, and Scotland has chosen not to spend it all on its NHS. That is an SNP decision. [Interruption.]
Order. A moment ago I protected the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), quite properly, when he was being brayed at in an unseemly manner. Let me say to Scottish National party Members that, having asked the question, they must hear the Prime Minister’s reply with courtesy. Don’t worry, everybody will get a chance, but the Prime Minister’s responses must be heard with a basic courtesy and respect.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I was then going to pick up the points that the right hon. Gentleman made about Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is not staying in the single market. What is within the documents is that, in order to ensure frictionless trade across the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, Northern Ireland will be meeting those regulations specifically in the goods part of the acquis, but it is not remaining a member of the single market. He talks about Scotland being given the same treatment as Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has a very particular set of circumstances. It is the only part of the United Kingdom that will have a land border with a country that is continuing as a member of the European Union. That is why, together with our commitments in the Belfast agreement, Northern Ireland is dealt with separately in the withdrawal agreement.
Finally, much of the right hon. Gentleman’s question was a complaint that Scotland was not specifically mentioned in these documents. Scotland is not specifically mentioned; Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom.
May I state that I have always wished my right hon. Friend well, and my question is in this light. I have deep misgivings, on reading much of this document overnight, about the way that we will be treated with the backstop. When we read this, we realise that we are locking ourselves in to an arrangement from which we seem unable, therefore, to have the sovereign right to withdraw. That seems to me to be the biggest single issue here, which strips away the thing that we said when we wanted a vote to leave, which was that we took back control. I say to my right hon. Friend that my concern is that we have the sovereign right when we want to leave the UN; we have the sovereign right when we want to leave NATO; we have even the sovereign right when we want to leave the EU; but we do not have the sovereign right to leave this arrangement.
My right hon. Friend says that the references to the backstop raise some difficult issues. I fully accept that they raise some difficult issues. I fully accept that, across the House, there are concerns in relation to the backstop—indeed, I share some of those concerns. These have not been easy decisions to take. It has been necessary, as I explained, and it would be necessary in any deal that we struck for our future partnership with the European Union, to agree a withdrawal agreement. We wanted to commit to ensure that we delivered no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and it has been clear that that withdrawal agreement needed to include this insurance policy.
My right hon. Friend talks about being held in the backstop. First, the backstop is not necessarily what will happen because we want to ensure that the future relationship is in place before the backstop is necessary. Secondly, in the circumstance that a temporary interim period was needed before the future relationship came into place, we would be able to choose a preference between the backstop and the extension of the implementation period. There are pros and cons on both sides of the argument and there will be Members who believe that one is better than the other.
There is a mechanism for coming out of the protocol if the backstop is in place. My right hon. Friend is right: that mechanism does require mutual consent. It is for both sides to agree that—I make no bones about that. However, it enables the backstop to be replaced in a number of circumstances, first and crucially if the future relationship supersedes it. Originally, that was the only point at which it could be superseded; now, alternative arrangements could replace it. But I repeat what I have always said: it is my intention to work to ensure that such an arrangement is not necessary and we are able to go into our future relationship when we come out of the implementation period.
The Prime Minister rightly asserts that there are two alternatives to her plan: no deal and no Brexit. The Government are making considerable investment in contingency planning for no deal. What contingency planning is she doing for no Brexit, including, for example, advising the Commission that article 50 may have to be withdrawn, and she herself preparing for the fact—however much she hates it—that the House may instruct her to carry out a people’s vote?
The right hon. Gentleman asks what plans we are making for no Brexit. We are making no plans for no Brexit, because this Government are going to deliver on the vote of the British people.
If we took the best part of £39 billion over the next couple of years and spent it on public services and tax cuts, would that not be a wonderful boost to our economy and the public mood, and would it not be a better way of spending the money than buying 21 months—[Interruption.]
Order. This is extremely discourteous. The right hon. Gentleman has a right to be heard without being shouted down while he is speaking. I invite him to begin his question again and to deliver it in full.
Mr Speaker, I was saying, would it not be a wonderful boost to our economy and our public services if we spent that money on ourselves, rather than on 21 months of delay, massive business uncertainty and something that would sour the political and the public mood for the whole period?
As I said at a very early stage of the negotiations, the United Kingdom is a country that meets its legal obligations. That says a great deal about the sort of country we are. There are legal obligations. As I said in my statement, the sum of money my right hon. Friend refers to is considerably less than the European Union was originally proposing we would be required to pay as part of the financial settlement. But I remain firmly of the view that we as a country should ensure that we continue to meet our legal obligations, and we will do so.
I could stand here today and take the Prime Minister through the list of promises and pledges that she made to this House, and to us privately, about the future of Northern Ireland in the future relationship with the EU, but I fear it would be a waste of time, since she clearly does not listen.
This House and every Member in it now has a clear choice. The House has been left in a position where the choice is subjection to the rules and laws of others who may not have our interests at heart. In terms of Northern Ireland and our precious Union, five who have resigned today have all talked about the threat to the integrity of the Union. I congratulate them on and praise them for what they have said and done, and their strong actions.
As has just been said, this is £39 billion for nothing. The choice is now clear: we stand up for the United Kingdom—the whole United Kingdom and the integrity of the United Kingdom—or we vote for a vassal state, with the break-up of the United Kingdom. That is the choice.
I will respond to the right hon. Gentleman. He is right that he and I have had many discussions on this issue, and I hope that we will continue to be able to have many discussions on this issue. We have ensured throughout the negotiations that the border in Northern Ireland has been one of the key issues that we have been addressing.
The right hon. Gentleman refers to the commitments I made in terms of Northern Ireland and the future relationship. Those commitments remain absolutely. We are looking to ensure that we have the frictionless trade across borders that will enable us to not only deliver on our commitment for Northern Ireland, but ensure that we have frictionless trade between the United Kingdom and the whole of the rest of the European Union. Many aspects of the deal that we have agreed actually ensure that we are preserving the integrity of the United Kingdom.
There has been significant focus on the question of the backstop. As I say, the backstop is something that neither side—neither the United Kingdom, nor the European Union—wishes to ever see being exercised. Indeed, as I have said, in circumstances where there needs to be a period before the future relationship is introduced, there are alternative routes that can be taken.
If the right hon. Gentleman says to me that he is concerned that we have not considered Northern Ireland throughout this process—
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for saying that he has not said that, because I have remained committed to delivering on three things for Northern Ireland: no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland; for us to continue to maintain and respond to our obligations under the Belfast agreement; and to ensure that we protect the integrity of the United Kingdom.
Nobody but nobody can doubt the Prime Minister’s absolute commitment and dedication to doing her duty and trying to deliver on the result of the EU referendum, but the harsh, cruel truth is that this is not the promised deal. The reason why the people of this country are so fed up is that they have been made so many promises, none of which has been delivered upon, because they cannot be delivered upon.
I agree with the Prime Minister that we face three choices: we either accept this agreement, for which I respectfully suggest that there is now no majority; we have no deal, which would be profoundly irresponsible and catastrophic for our country; or we have no Brexit and remain in the European Union—the best deal that we have with the European Union. On that basis, will she at least undertake today not to rule out taking this back to the British people and having a people’s vote?
I am afraid, on that particular issue, that I will disappoint my right hon. Friend. I am not going to change the position I have taken in this House and, indeed, more widely. I believe that it is the duty of Members of this Parliament to ensure that we deliver on the choice that was made by the British people—a choice that this Parliament overwhelmingly decided to give to them. That means that we will not be taking the option that she said of remaining in the European Union, but will indeed be leaving the European Union, and that will happen on 29 March next year.
The Prime Minister has once again told the House that we will be leaving the customs union, but the truth is that we will be remaining in a customs union, both in the transition and in the backstop arrangement, which can be ended only with the agreement of the EU. The truth is also that the only way to protect jobs, investment and an open border in Northern Ireland in the long term is to remain within it. Will the Prime Minister now look the British people in the eye and admit that remaining in a customs union is in our national economic interest, because without it we will be poorer as a country?
What is in our national interest is ensuring that we continue to have a good trading partnership with the European Union once we have left. That is why we have put forward a proposal, which is reflected in the outline political declaration, for a free trade area in goods. It is why we have also put forward a proposal that would ensure the frictionless trade of goods across the border. The right hon. Gentleman and I disagree. A customs union is not the only way to ensure that we continue to have a good trading relationship with the European Union. We have put forward a proposal that is reflected in the outline political declaration to achieve that, while also ensuring that we are able to take advantage of operating an independent trade policy.
These 585 pages are a testament to broken promises, failed negotiations and abject capitulation to the EU. Does my right hon. Friend understand that they represent a list of failures—on Northern Ireland, on ECJ issues, on indefinite extension of time, on customs, on full independence of trade and of fisheries and, above all, on our truly leaving the EU, because it will control our laws? Furthermore, there have been some very serious breaches of ministerial responsibilities, the ministerial code and collective responsibility.
What we are looking at here is a withdrawal agreement that determines the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union and a declaration that identifies the scope and structure of our future relationship. Our future relationship is one that will not see the European Union controlling our laws because, in those areas where we choose to align with the European Union, it will be for this Parliament to decide that, and that decision will therefore be taken here by the United Kingdom. There will not be European Court of Justice jurisdiction in the United Kingdom. That is what we have negotiated in the outline political declaration for our future relationship.
I recognise my hon. Friend as one of the Members of this House who has campaigned on this issue probably since the day—maybe even since before—he came into this House. He has continued to campaign on this issue with a passion, and I recognise the concerns that he has expressed. As Prime Minister and as a Government, it is our duty to ensure that we put together a deal that not only respects the vote of the British people—it does, in the ways that I have said, and it also ends free movement—but does so in a way that protects jobs. That is why I believe it is important not only that we take back control in the areas mentioned, but that we maintain a good trading relationship with the European Union, as well as having good trading relationships elsewhere. That is in our economic interest and in our national interest, and that is what we will deliver.
The political declaration includes passenger name records and the Prüm fingerprint database, but makes no reference to the crucial Schengen Information System II criminal database, which we check 500 million times a year, or to a replica European arrest warrant, and that is at a time when cross-border crime and security threats are at their highest ever level. The Prime Minister knows that these measures save lives, stop criminals and stop terrorists, so how can she of all people say, with her head and her heart, that this public safety downgrade is in the national interest?
First, of course, there is reference to us agreeing expeditious, swift and effective arrangements to enable the United Kingdom and member states to extradite suspected and convicted persons effectively and expeditiously. That will be part of the measure, and the instrument that is used will be part of further negotiations that will take place. The right hon. Lady is right to say that SIS II is important to us. There are two further areas of exchange of information that I and the Home Secretary believe are important—SIS II and the European Criminal Records Information System—and we will take those matters forward with the European Union in our further negotiations.
I greatly respect the Prime Minister’s efforts in seeking to achieve an agreement, but I do not believe that this is a good deal for Britain’s long-term future. She recognises that she has had to make unpalatable choices, and in reality, there are clearly three choices now ahead of our country, and they are crucial choices, especially for young people, who will have to live with them for the longest. The Prime Minister said that this is in the national interest, so why not allow people in our nation to have their say? If that was good enough before, why is it not good enough now?
My right hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) has already raised that issue, as have Opposition Members, but this House chose to ask the people of the United Kingdom whether they wished to remain in or leave the European Union. There was an overwhelming vote in Parliament to do that—[Interruption.] There was an overwhelming vote in Parliament: it was about six to one, so anybody who says that it was not overwhelming is wrong. The British people exercised their vote in numbers that we have never seen before, and the result was that we should leave the European Union. With other European issues, I have seen other countries and member states of the European Union taking matters back to their populace and holding a referendum, and when the vote has gone against what the European Union wanted, there has then effectively been a second vote—a sort of “go back and think again” vote—but I do not think it is right that we should do that in this country. We gave people the choice; we should deliver on the decision they took.
We have been going for about an hour now and it is quite clear that not a single right hon. or hon. Member has supported the plans that the Prime Minister has set out. It is clear that she cannot command the House of Commons on these proposals. In fact, I am almost tempted to ask Conservative Members to put their hands up if they actually support the Prime Minister on this set of proposals. [Interruption.] Not one. In that case, she says that remaining in the European Union is an option, so how can the British people fulfil that choice, if that is what they choose?
I apologise, because I did not quite hear the question, but I think the hon. Gentleman said that staying in the European Union was an option—
You said it.
No, I said that there was a risk of no Brexit at all, but the Government are determined to deliver on the vote that the British people took to leave the European Union.
My right hon. Friend—and she is unquestionably honourable—said that we would leave the customs union; annex 2 says otherwise. My right hon. Friend said that she would maintain the integrity of the United Kingdom; a whole protocol says otherwise. My right hon. Friend said that we would be out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice; article 174 says otherwise. As what my right hon. Friend says, and what my right hon. Friend does, no longer match, should I not write to my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady)?
My hon. Friend refers to the articles that relate to the protocol in the withdrawal agreement. I have been absolutely clear that some difficult choices have had to be made in relation to that protocol. Those choices have been made because I believe—I strongly and firmly believe—that it is important that we ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. But as I have said before, and as my hon. Friend has heard me say before, it is not only our intention, but we will be working to ensure, that that protocol does not need to be put into place.
What we are negotiating, alongside that withdrawal agreement, is not something that will be of a temporary nature, but what will be a future relationship with the European Union that will last for decades to come. In that future relationship, we will no longer be a member of the customs union. We will no longer be a member of the single market. An end to free movement will have been delivered. The integrity of the United Kingdom will have been maintained. The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the United Kingdom will end, and we will come out of the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy. So I ask my hon. Friend to consider the nature of the future relationship that we will be delivering with the European Union, which does indeed deliver on the commitments I have made.
With Northern Ireland potentially swimming in the deep end of the pool, can the Prime Minister confirm that, based on the British Government’s own logic, no economic border between Wales and England would arise should my country decide to front crawl down to them?
As we look at the proposals for the trading relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union, I am conscious of the significant trade that takes place between Ireland and Wales, and the importance that that has for the Welsh ports. If we look at the future relationship, we have made a proposal for frictionless trade that would protect the business of the Welsh ports and ensure we have that as part of the good trading relationship for the future.
May I put it to my right hon. Friend that the majority in the country, in Parliament and in this party accept the result of the referendum?
We back my right hon. Friend in trying to get the sovereignty she has argued for, and the prospects of prosperity, security and a fruitful partnership across the channel, the North sea and across the world.
The alternatives, if we do not go through with this, are the probability of crashing out and the possibility of a Government led by the Leader of the Opposition, neither of which is a desirable alternative.
I believe, as I think my hon. Friend does, that it is important for us to move forward in not only delivering on the vote, but ensuring that we do so in a way that protects our prosperity, and people’s jobs and livelihoods for the future. But more than that, there are significant opportunities for this country, once we leave the European Union, to develop that brighter future with those further trading relationships around the rest of the world, while keeping a good trading relationship with our closest partners in the EU.
Will the Prime Minister now recognise that she made a catastrophic error when she decided to kowtow to the fantasy extremist beliefs of the Brexiteers in her own party, instead of bringing the country together? Their views are impossible to bring about, and they are now openly plotting against her after she has tried to do her best in the negotiation. Surely she now needs to listen to the fact that there is no majority in this House for the botched deal she has brought back. She should think again and see whether, in this House, there can be a consensual way forward that leaves her Brextremists out in the cold where they belong.
I have kowtowed to no one. The instruction I take is the instruction that was given to every Member of this House by the British people in the referendum in 2016.
It may surprise the House, but I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry). Prime Minister, the whole House accepts that you have done your best, but the Labour party has made it plain today that it will vote against this deal. The SNP will vote against it. The Liberals will vote against it. The DUP will vote against it—our key ally in this place will vote against it. Over 80 Tory Back Benchers—well, it is 84 now, and it is going up by the hour—will vote against it. It is therefore mathematically impossible to get this deal through the House of Commons. The stark reality, Prime Minister, is that it was dead on arrival at St Tommy’s before you stood up, so I plead with you to accept the political reality of the situation you now face.
I say to my right hon. Friend that I respect the fact that he obviously holds very clear views on the issue of our membership of the European Union and the sort of relationship that we should have with the European Union thereafter. We will go forward with the final negotiations towards that European Council meeting on 25 November. When a deal is brought back, it will be for Members of this House not just to look at the details of that deal, but to consider the vote of the British people and our duty to deliver on the vote of the British people. This is the deal that has been negotiated with the European Union. We have to finalise it, and the vote will come when we have a meaningful vote. It will be for Members of this House to determine how they wish to vote at that time and to remember, when they cast their vote, the importance of ensuring that we deliver on the vote of the British people.
The Prime Minister will be aware that the main financial backer of Brexit, Mr Arron Banks, is now under criminal investigation by the National Crime Agency because of serious doubts about the true source of the money he spent on the leave campaign. Did the Prime Minister, when she was Home Secretary in 2016, decline a request from the security services for Mr Banks to be investigated?
I say to the right hon. Gentleman that of course we do not comment in this House on individual criminal investigations that take place.
There are many ironies in this whole Brexit process. One of them, as we just heard, is that colleagues on the Government Benches are going to use a parliamentary vote that 11 of us voted for last December and for which we received a torrent of abuse, accusations of treachery and betrayal, and threats of deselection—but as we have heard so many times, we are where we are. I pay tribute to the fact that the Prime Minister did get agreement in Cabinet. Can she reassure us that regardless of however many ministerial resignations there are between now and that vote, the agreement will come to Parliament and Parliament will have its say, and that she is clear that voting for that agreement is in the national interest?
I can give my right hon. Friend the assurance that obviously we have the step of the European Union Council in finalising the deal, but a deal, when finalised, will indeed be brought to Parliament. As I suggested earlier, it will be for every Member of this House to determine their vote in the national interest.
The Prime Minister has carried out her mission on this with no small sense of duty, but it has been a failure, and it has turned out to be a humiliation. This was sold to the people as taking back control, but the promises of the right-wing nationalists who drove this have been shown to have turned to dust. Instead, we are being asked to sign over control of vast swathes of our economy with no say over them while paying tens of billions for the privilege. Is it not the case that far from taking back control, this is the biggest voluntary surrender of sovereignty in living memory, and that it is time to think again?
My answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s question is no. He referred to the £39 billion, which, of course, was the financial settlement that is in the withdrawal agreement, which is part of the overall package of the withdrawal agreement and the future relationship. The future relationship that we are negotiating with the European Union is designed—and the outline political declaration makes this clear—to deliver on exactly the issues that mattered to the British people when they voted for Brexit. Of course, as I have said many times in the House, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
This backstop is completely intolerable, and I feel confident that even in the unlikely event that legislation for it reaches the House, it will be ferociously opposed. Will my right hon. Friend therefore accept that this deal could well be a choice by the Government to have no deal imposed on them at the last minute, and will she therefore trigger all the implementation of no-deal contingencies now?
As I indicated in response to an earlier question, we will be continuing the no-deal preparations, because I am conscious that we have further stages in relation to this process: the European Council, and, of course, bringing this matter back to the House—and, as my hon. Friend has recognised, that is not just the meaningful vote, but the legislation that must then go through. As I said earlier, recognising that we have that European Council, and that meaningful vote to take place in the House, we will be continuing our no-deal preparations.
While it might be tempting to watch the much vaunted Tory Brexit festival, this is deeply serious stuff. The Prime Minister knows that according to her Treasury’s own analysis, every single one of her plans means people losing their jobs. So will she look at the plan which means our losing the least number of jobs, which is the least damaging, and which may, unlike her plan, win support across the House—the plan to remain part of the customs union and the single market?
We will be leaving the customs union and leaving the single market.
Whether we voted remain or leave, whether we sit on this side of the House or the other, we know that millions of people voted for Brexit because they were anxious about the futures, about their children and about their families. Away from the Westminster bubble, we must remember to consider those vast communities when we consider the outcomes today. We know that it is no deal that would be most damaging to them.
May I ask the Prime Minister what the response has been from the business councils that she set up—those major employers in the country that will protect those jobs?
Let me first thank my right hon. Friend for focusing people’s sights on people outside the Chamber, because they are the ones we must consider when we are looking at our decisions in relation to this deal when it comes forward.
A number of quotes have come from industry about the deal. It has been said, for example, that
“it delivers a clear path ahead that business so desperately needs” .
The Federation of Small Businesses has said that it
“brings with it some certainty that our small businesses have craved.”
Businesses out there have been looking for the certainty that a deal will bring. They have also been concerned that we focus on that free trade area and on that frictionless trade across borders, which is, of course, exactly what the Government have done.
Can the Prime Minister guarantee to the House that at the end of March we will continue to have frictionless supply chains, and that at the end of this process we will be in control of our borders, we will have brought back all the judicial powers that we have surrendered, and we will be free from the European Court’s jurisdictions?
I can say to the right hon. Gentleman that the future relationship we are negotiating with the European Union absolutely delivers on the points that he made about no jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, and taking back control of our borders so that free movement is ended. We have also based the concept of the free trade area on the need for that frictionless trade in goods, to ensure that the people whose jobs depend on those supply chains do not see those jobs go, and that not only are we able to retain those jobs, but, with the other trade agreements that we are able to bring forward once we are outside the European Union, we can enhance the economy and create more jobs in this country.
May I congratulate the Prime Minister on her exceptional efforts to honour the result of the referendum and to achieve a deal with the EU under the most difficult and demanding circumstances? Will she elaborate on the scale and breadth of the future partnerships agreed on security and defence?
I am happy to do that for my right hon. Friend. There are two areas in relation to security. One, of course, is internal security on which I have answered a number of questions, and where we intend to maintain co-operation in a number of areas where we are currently working very closely with our European partners. The other is external security and defence; we will have an independent foreign policy—it will be for us to make decisions—but what we have negotiated, and is set out in the outline political declaration, is an ability for the UK, where it makes sense to do so, to work with our European partners on matters of security and defence, and on issues like the imposition of sanctions where it makes sense for those sanctions to be Europe-wide rather than simply to cover the EU, and for the UK to be part of them. We will have our independent ability to deliver on sanctions, but we will co-operate with our partners in the EU. That retains our independence but also ensures that we are able to act at all times in the best interests of the UK and of maintaining our security and defence.
The Prime Minister knows that her deal is dead and that no deal would be a disaster, so we risk chaos, job losses, environmental rules torn up, the NHS in crisis. That was never the will of the people; they did not vote for that. This is not a parlour game; it is about real people’s real lives, and those risks can only be addressed if we put aside party politics. So I appeal to the Prime Minister again: why will she not give the people of this country a vote—a people’s vote—on where this country goes next?
I could refer the hon. Lady to answers I have given earlier, but let me repeat my answer: this Parliament gave the people a vote, the people voted to leave, and we will deliver on the people’s vote.
With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), I believe these issues are so complex that one should not deal with them on a personal basis, but will the Prime Minister help me in my loyalty by answering my question? What if the Brexit Secretary is right: what if his devastating resignation letter is correct and we are likely, or possibly, going to be locked permanently in a backstop arrangement? What if, therefore, she loses this vote in Parliament, which is very likely: can she promise me that, whatever happens in this vote, she will deliver Brexit at the end of March?
First, we will be leaving the EU on 29 March 2019; that is a set date and I am determined that we will deliver on that whatever happens in between. On the backstop question, as I have said, neither side wants the backstop arrangement to be operated, but if it was, it is no more than a temporary construct. There are various aspects to this, and I will draw my hon. Friend’s attention to one or two of them. First, it is not possible on the legal basis of article 50, under which this withdrawal agreement is set, for it to set a permanent relationship for the future. That is explicitly referred to in the withdrawal agreement: it does not establish a permanent relationship. That is inherent in the operation of the article 50 legal base. I also say to my hon. Friend that one of the things we have got removed from this protocol is the idea that was there at one stage that if we had moved on to the future relationship and the British Government chose to change that future relationship, the backstop could be reinserted; it cannot be—once it is superseded, it cannot be revived.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on proving yet again that we cannot square the wheel. Can she say, hand on heart, whether she believes that what she has negotiated is better than the deal we have now?
I firmly believe that this country’s best days are ahead of us. We will get a good deal with the European Union and take advantage of our independence outside the EU with our trade deals around the rest of the world.
My own constituency, like the rest of the country, is deeply divided today. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there was always going to be a really difficult moment when the theory of a perfect Brexit met the cold reality of hard choices and compromise? Does she agree that this is absolutely not the moment to walk away from our responsibilities to govern and to provide this country with leadership at this difficult time?
Yes, I do agree with my right hon. Friend. This is a complex negotiation, and it does require difficult choices to be made. The challenge for all of us in this House is to make those choices not according to what we wish the world could be like but according to the reality of the world that we see, and to make those choices pragmatically and in the interests of the British people.
The Prime Minister insists that this deal is in the national interest, but specifically on the economy, the agreement will ensure that we have no say in the rules that govern how we trade, it does not include services as part of free and frictionless trade, and it offers only the illusion of future trade deals. Given all this, does the Treasury believe that we will grow faster and create more jobs under the negotiated agreement or under our current relationship with the European Union?
The hon. Lady refers to the withdrawal agreement. What is important in terms of the relationship that will persist for decades between this country and the European Union is the future partnership that we negotiate with the EU. As we have said, the outline political declaration is based on the concept of a free trade area and on ensuring that we can continue to have that good trade relationship. I can assure her, as I have assured hon. Members across the House before, that when the meaningful vote is before this House, Members will have the appropriate analysis to inform them in coming to their decision.
It will be blindingly obvious to the entire country that the Prime Minister’s deal cannot pass this House. People will find it unforgivable that we are running out of road and that in 134 days we will be crashing out of the European Union with no deal and no transition, with catastrophic consequences for all the communities that we represent in this House. May I urge her to think again about whether at this stage we should go back to the people and present them with the options, rather than just stumbling on regardless into something that will have such profound implications for all of our lives?
The nature of Brexit and our future relationship with the European Union will be a matter that will come before this House in the vote that the House will take. Members of the House will have various issues to consider when they take that vote. I say to my hon. Friend, as I have said to other hon. and right hon. Members, that I firmly believe that, having given the choice as to whether we should leave the EU to the British people, it is right and proper, and indeed our duty as a Parliament and a Government, to deliver on that vote.
We now know that during the transition, which may well have to be extended, we in the UK will give up our say over the rules that govern large parts of our economy, and that if the backstop comes into play, we will not unilaterally be able to leave it. How is giving up our current say and influence for no say and influence taking back control?
What the hon. Lady describes in terms of the transition period was clear. I answered questions on it in the House back in March when the European Council agreed on the concept of the transition period. That was absolutely clear. The point of the transition period is to move towards the future relationship, and the future relationship is one in which we will have the ability to determine our position. Yes, we put forward a proposal in the White Paper which had frictionless trade and a common rulebook, but alongside that common rulebook was a parliamentary lock on determining whether or not this country would accept any changes in those rules.
The Government are preparing to give £39 billion to the EU. There is no legal obligation to do so, and we are going to get nothing in return. That is £60 million for each and every constituency in this country. If I had £60 million in Wellingborough, I would have the Isham bypass, I would have our roads mended properly, I would have an urgent care centre at the Isebrook Hospital and I would have millions of pounds over. Please, Prime Minister, use that money in this country—do not give it to the EU.
The premise of my hon. Friend’s question was that there was no legal obligation for us to pay anything to the European Union. I have to say that I believe that is not the case; I believe there are legal obligations for this country in relation to the financial settlement with the European Union. As I said earlier, I believe that we are a country that abides by our legal obligations.
This deal is not in the national interest, and the Prime Minister knows that. It leaves us less secure, less influential and more isolated. However, can the Prime Minister set out what scenarios would lead to no Brexit at all? As far as I can tell, there are only two: first, she calls a general election, which I assume she will not be doing, or, secondly, she allows a people’s vote. Which of those two is it going to be?
The right hon. Gentleman described what he thinks the position will be for the United Kingdom if we go ahead with this deal. He talks about our being more isolated; that will not be the case. The United Kingdom will be continuing to play its role on the world stage in a whole variety of organisations that we will be involved in, but also in the way in which we negotiate trade deals with the rest of the world and the way in which we support and co-operate with parts of the rest of the world on matters such as security and defence. There is no sense in which this United Kingdom is going to be isolated when we leave the European Union.
For many months, this House was assured that it would have the full future framework before it when it was voting on the withdrawal agreement. I was encouraged to hear the Prime Minister say that further detail will emerge, as that will be critical for jobs and employment in my constituency. Can the Prime Minister outline when we will see that full future framework?
I thank my hon. Friend because this gives me an opportunity to set out the process that will be followed. We will now be entering into further intense negotiations with the European Union, such that a full future framework can be delivered to the European Council as part of the overall package. That will then, of course, be published and available for Members of this House to see. I am conscious that it is important—while we cannot agree legal text on the future relationship, because we cannot do that until we have left the European Union—that we have sufficient detail in that future framework so that Members are able to have confidence in the future relationship with the European Union when they come to vote in the meaningful vote.
I have known the Prime Minister all her parliamentary career. I do not always agree with her, but I know her to be a woman of courage. I feel sorry for her this morning—let down by the disloyalty of so many of her colleagues. I also feel sorry for her because we have given her an impossible task. We know increasingly, in this country and in this House, that there is no deal better than staying in the European Union, and it is time that we did something to recognise that, be courageous and take this back to the people.
The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised that the answer I give him, despite the fact that we have known each other throughout my career in this House, will be no different from that I have given to other right hon. and hon. Members in relation to taking the vote back the people. It was a decision of this Parliament by six to one that the people should have that choice, and they exercised their vote, as I said earlier, in numbers that we have not seen before. It is only right and proper that this Parliament—this Government—delivers on that vote.
Can the Prime Minister describe any surer way of frustrating the referendum result, and ultimately remaining in the European Union, than to accept a Hotel California Brexit deal, which ensures that we can never truly leave the EU, with all its manipulative, entangling and undemocratic practices?
We are leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019. We are negotiating a future relationship with the European Union that will, indeed, deliver on the vote of the British people in the referendum by bringing an end to free movement and an end to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and by coming out of the common agricultural policy and out of the common fisheries policy. These are issues to which I have previously referred, and we will be leaving on 29 March 2019.
The withdrawal agreement that the Prime Minister is presenting to us today is not in the national interest, and it is very clear that it will not make us better off. She may not be aware that an overnight YouGov poll shows that 63% of the British public are against this deal, with 64% favouring a people’s vote if the deal is rejected by this House, and it is very clear from the contributions this morning that that is what will happen. Will she now listen to the millions of people across our country and give them a say on what Brexit will actually mean, rather than on the false promises on which the vote to leave was predicated?
The documents were actually published yesterday evening: 500 pages of the withdrawal agreement, plus the outline political declaration and the joint statement. Once again, the hon. Lady’s assumption is that we should, in some sense, try to go back on the vote of the British people. I believe absolutely that we should not and that we should ensure that we do leave the European Union. That is the decision that was taken by the British people, and that is the decision we will deliver on.
When I resigned from the Government in June, I called for the suspension of article 50 because I feared this likely parliamentary impasse. The Prime Minister is a thoroughly decent person who has public service running through her veins. With that in mind, and with an eye on the importance of the responsibility of government, will she outline the legal, legislative and political requirements for suspending article 50 or, indeed, revoking it?
As I think my hon. Friend knows, there has been a case before the courts on the issue of the extension of article 50. The Government’s position is clear: we will not extend article 50.
Articles 14, 87, 89, 158 and 174 of this agreement mean that the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will continue to reign supreme across the UK, for four years after the transition period in some respects, for eight years after the transition period in other respects and indefinitely in the case of Northern Ireland. In what respects has the Prime Minister’s red line on the European Court of Justice survived this agreement?
I was very clear when we brought back the agreement in the December 2017 joint report that, in relation to citizens’ rights for example, there would continue to be an ability for the interpretation of the European Court of Justice in relation to European Union law on those rights to be considered for a period of time beyond the end of the transition period and that it would then cease.
It is not the case that Northern Ireland will be indefinitely under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The future relationship that we are negotiating with the European Union will ensure that the United Kingdom is removed from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. If the hon. and learned Lady looks at the proposed governance arrangements, she will see that we are very clear that the court of one party cannot determine matters in relation to another party.
My right hon. Friend has repeated today that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, so can she explain why there is nothing in the withdrawal agreement that makes the withdrawal agreement legally contingent upon the implementation and agreement of a legal relationship for the future?
There are, indeed, clauses that link the withdrawal agreement to the future relationship. The legal term “best endeavours” is used in a number of places in relation to this matter to ensure that that future relationship is in place. Obviously, as I said earlier, we are still to negotiate further details in relation to that future relationship, and it is the determination of both sides, as expressed in these documents, that that future relationship should be capable of being put into place at the end of the transition period.
The Prime Minister made a very dignified statement in difficult circumstances, but does she realise that when people outside this House read these hundreds of pages of Eurospeak, they will realise that, in a way, we are being sold out? We have been sold out by our negotiators, who have allowed the EU to take the lead. Will she not accept that at this stage not only are we all being collectively sold out, but the people of Northern Ireland are being sold out absolutely?
I do not agree with the hon. Lady in relation to the suggestion that in some sense the European Commission and the European Union have given nothing away to the UK during these negotiations. These have been tough negotiations; this is a complex matter. For example, as I referred to in my statement, the EU has been clear for some time that the choice we had in our future relationship was a binary one between the Norway model or the Canada model, but it has now accepted that that is not the case and there is a bespoke agreement for the United Kingdom. They said we could not share security capabilities, but, as is clear in the outline political declaration, we do have access to certain security capabilities. They said we could not preserve the invisible border between Northern Ireland and Ireland without splitting the UK’s customs territories—that is now no longer the case. These are all issues that our negotiators have negotiated in the interests of the United Kingdom.
The boost to our economy that was referred to earlier and the necessary protection for our constituents’ jobs can occur only if UK industry has a frictionless trade area and deep regulatory co-operation. But UK financial services and UK industry also need certainty, so will my right hon. Friend confirm to the House that the future political framework will contain a common rulebook and a deep customs arrangement?
As my hon. Friend has seen, the outline political declaration makes reference to the free trade area that we will be negotiating with the European Union and, indeed, to the need to ensure that we have those good arrangements across our border. As was outlined in the joint statement that accompanied the outline political declaration, there are two areas, in particular, where further negotiation is continuing. One of them is this issue of the trade relationship. The other is, as I indicated in my response to the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), aspects of the security relationship that we are continuing to negotiate. But we continue to work on the basis that my hon. Friend has set out of the importance of that frictionless trade across borders.
The right hon. Lady has been a professional colleague for more than 20 years, and I personally saw how hard she worked during the 2011 riots. This whole House recognises the dedication and hard work she has put into this 585-page agreement. However, because of her huge parliamentary experience, she will recognise that this agreement does not command a majority in this House and that in the 10 days to follow before the EU signs off this agreement she is likely to face challenges within her own party. In those circumstances, in our constitutional arrangement, when politics is broken, one can only put the question back to the British people.
I think that having had the vote in 2016, the British people will look at this Chamber, this House and this Parliament and say what people say to me when I go to talk to them on the doorsteps, which is, “Actually, we have taken the decision to leave. Just get on with it. Just deliver.”
Prime Minister, you said that it would be our choice whether we go into an implementation period or a backstop if the agreement cannot be reached. But this document says that the protocol gives the UK a choice either to implement the backstop or to seek an extension of the implementation period, which it does by requesting that. How is that our choice and not theirs?
It is our choice on which of those we wish to do. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the extension of the implementation period needs agreement with the EU, and that is why I have described this as a choice. It is for us to say whether we wish the backstop or the implementation period to be extended, but she is absolutely right that the extension would be a matter for negotiation with the EU. If we get to that point, there would be arguments on both sides about which would be preferable for the UK, just as there would be arguments on both sides within the EU, because the backstop is not a situation the EU wants either.
I have a great deal of sympathy for the Prime Minister—she has walked the Via Dolorosa set out for her by her own party—but the false choice she is offering this place is between a deal that is dead before it has even been read by most people in this House and no deal at all. Is it not now time for the British people to take back control from this place and for her to extend article 50 and let the people decide in a people’s vote?
I refer the hon. Lady to the answers I have given previously to that question.
My right hon. Friend tells the House that we will leave the EU at the end of March 2019, but we have also heard from her and hon. Members on both sides of the House that that is not the case. With due respect, under this deal we will have no unilateral way to leave and, worse still, there will be no incentive for the EU to let us go.
We will be leaving the EU on 29 March 2019. After that date, we will no longer be a member of the EU. Yes, we have agreed in the transition period that we will continue to operate with the EU very much as we do today, and that is to avoid a cliff edge for business on 29 March and to ensure that business can adapt to the changes in our future relationship. I repeat that from the 29 March 2019 we will no longer be a member of the EU.
During the course of yesterday, and excluding the Cabinet, can the Prime Minister tell the House which organisations and individuals were informed and briefed on the proposed deal, in which order they were briefed and what hierarchy was applied?
Members of the Cabinet came together yesterday to look at the withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration. The information was made available to them once the text had been finalised. Those negotiations carried on quite late, and the Cabinet was able to take its decision on the basis of the proper papers.
Why did the Prime Minister say that rejecting the deal risked no Brexit? Can she quantify that risk and say how it might occur?
My right hon. Friend will be aware that there may be those in the House, as we have heard from several Opposition Members, who wish to ensure we do not leave the EU. I believe that it is important that we do leave the EU and that we do so on the basis of a good future relationship with the EU.
It is obvious that the Prime Minister does not command a majority in the House. People who support leave know the deal gives power to the EU instead of bringing it back, and people who support remain know it is not as good as the one we have. We have got to this position because she has been playing games with Brexit from the beginning, including by calling a general election in the middle of the negotiation period. Will she now do the right thing, go back to the people and let them say whether the deal is good enough? It would not be a rerun of the referendum. The first was based on promises; this one would be based on facts.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave earlier.
Is there not a danger that in getting hung up on issues such as the backstop, which although immensely important is something that all sides wish to avoid, or the transition period, which is by definition temporary, we lose sight of the really important issue, which is the future relationship with the EU? That is what we should be focusing on and discussing, and that is what our constituents expect us to deliver. Is it not the case that however they voted in the referendum, the vast majority of Members of this House voted to trigger article 50, and the public expect us to deliver on our promise? Members on the Government Benches in particular should be careful what they wish for in making it harder to move to that position.
I support my right hon. Friend’s comments. He is absolutely right. There has of course been a lot of focus on the backstop, and I recognise why, because there are genuine concerns about its operation. As he says, others have referred to the transition or implementation period. What will actually determine our relationship with the European Union for decades ahead, though, is the future relationship that we negotiate with the European Union. That is what will determine the futures of my right hon. Friend’s constituents, of my constituents and of people right across the whole United Kingdom.
Order. I take this opportunity to inform the House that we have now had 50 questions from Back Benchers, so may I please appeal to colleagues to put short and pointed questions, as exemplified by the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne)?
No deal would have catastrophic consequences for UK manufacturing; this deal will not pass Parliament. Why does the Prime Minister persist in seeking to achieve the unachievable? With every day of delay, we are one step closer to the cliff. To go over that cliff without an agreement would be the ultimate betrayal of the British national interest.
When the deal comes to the House, Members will of course have a choice as to whether to accept it. I understand that motor manufacturers have welcomed the deal; they recognise that it is a step forward in ensuring that we can deliver on what matters for them in the future relationship and trading partnership with the EU.
Many of the questions asked by colleagues today would be addressed if there were more detail on the future relationship, but of course it has been the EU negotiators, not the British negotiators, who have refused to discuss the future relationship before the withdrawal agreement is agreed, so I thank the Prime Minister for the outline of the future relationship. Will she clarify that we will get more detail on that future relationship before the critical vote in this House?
Yes, I am very happy to confirm that for my hon. Friend. She refers to the position of the EU negotiators; in fact, I think that many feel that they have been looking more at the future relationship than they had expected. We will ensure that more detail is available for Members of this House before the meaningful vote.
The Prime Minister has said that the country faces three choices: no Brexit; any agreement that she is able to finalise with the EU and get through this House; and no deal. She has also just said that we will get an economic analysis—an impact assessment. Will she undertake to ensure that that impact assessment includes a comparison of the current deal we have—no Brexit—and the one that she proposes to put to a meaningful vote in this House? To withhold that from the House would be unacceptable.
We will ensure, in advance of the time at which people take their decision in relation to the meaningful vote, that proper analysis is available to enable people to make a judgment between the deal that is being proposed and alternative arrangements.
The Prime Minister is well known for her dancing; sadly, having seen the withdrawal agreement, it is now clear whose tune she has been dancing to. My right hon. Friend campaigned for remain and she voted for remain. Surely it is now in the national interest for her to leave, perhaps following a short transition period.
I note the way my hon. Friend carefully tried to weave into his question various references to matters that are perhaps not entirely relevant to the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration. Every Member of this House will have a decision to take when the deal is brought back. I believe it is important that we have a deal that delivers on the vote of the British people, which I believe the deal does, but in a way that protects jobs, people’s security and, of course, the integrity of our United Kingdom.
Today is truly a sad day for our country: the Government is collapsing while we are riddled with food banks, child poverty rises and 30% of workers are in hardship jobs. What from this three-page wish list does the Prime Minister suggest will change this country’s fortunes for the better?
First, absolute poverty is in fact at a low, and we have seen in the figures that came out earlier this week that real wages have been growing faster recently than at any time in the past decade, so the hon. Lady’s portrayal of this country is not fair. She asks what will ensure and improve the future of the British people; well, first of all, getting a good trade deal with the European Union is important, and that is what we are working towards—that is what the outline political declaration sets out—and we are also ensuring that we can have good trade deals around the rest of the world. I have to point out to the hon. Lady, given the Benches on which she sits, that what is necessary for all that is the good economic management that the Conservative Government have produced.
I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend has in good faith negotiated the best deal on the withdrawal agreement that she could. It does not please Brussels, it does not please London, and it probably does not please any Member of this House; nevertheless, do we not owe it to the British people to scrutinise it carefully, together with the remaining documents that my right hon. Friend will bring back from the summit in November, to see whether it is in the best interests of the British people, rather than crashing out of the EU with no deal?
It is important that there is some further negotiation to fill out the details of the future relationship, and as my hon. Friend says, it will be important for Members of this House, when they have the meaningful vote, to consider those documents, alongside the analysis that the Government will provide, so that they have the full information to be able to take that vote and, as he says, in doing so recall the duty that I believe we have to deliver on the referendum vote.
It is clear that this deal is not as good as the one we currently have: it will make the country worse off. It is also clear that there is no majority in the House for the Prime Minister’s deal or for no deal. She has ruled out extending article 50 or a people’s vote, so what is the plan if she does not get support for her deal in the House?
The hon. Lady will know the process that the House has set out in relation to that matter. In praising membership of the European Union, she and a number of other Members on the Labour Benches have effectively suggested that we should set aside the vote of the British people and remain in the European Union. That would not be the right thing to do; we must deliver on the vote of the British people.
Outside in the real world, many employers and employees are depending on all of us to take responsible steps to protect their jobs. Does the Prime Minister agree with techUK, which represents more than 1 million jobs in this country in the fast-growing tech sector, and which states that failing to achieve parliamentary approval of the withdrawal agreement would “disrupt supply chains”, “hit investment” and “lead to job losses”, and that
“small and medium sized businesses would be worst affected”?
When the time comes for Members of this House to vote in the meaningful vote and to consider the deal that is before them, they will indeed, as I said earlier, need not only to recall the duty to deliver on the vote of the British people but to look very closely at the implications of the vote that they cast. It is the jobs and futures of our constituents that should be at the forefront of our minds.
Given how important immigration was for some leave voters, will the Prime Minister guarantee today that her immigration White Paper will be published and debated before the meaningful vote on the deal?
The issue of immigration was indeed important for many people during the vote. They wanted free movement to end. What we are negotiating is an end to free movement. We will publish the immigration White Paper in due course.
The Prime Minister has worked tirelessly over the past 18 months to achieve this draft agreement. My constituency voted for Brexit for many reasons. Chief among them was to reverse 40 years of economic decline. In her opinion, does this agreement provide the framework within which we can revive the economy in coastal towns such as Lowestoft, whether in trade, manufacturing or fishing?
Yes, I believe that it does. Crucially for fishing, we will be out of the common fisheries policy and will be able to work to enhance the fortunes of our fishing industry. Alongside this agreement, it is important to look at what the Government are doing elsewhere—for example, through our modern industrial strategy—to ensure that we are delivering an economy that works for everyone in all parts of the UK.
The Prime Minister has been very determined to respect the will of the people. More than 60% of my constituency in Batley and Spen voted to leave, believing that they would be taking back control, but this deal’s backstop will be policed by a third party. Today, she has said that it will not be used, it will not be necessary and it will be temporary, but in order for it not to be used, we will have to pay—who knows what?—potentially massive amounts to the EU to extend the transition period. How is making my constituents and the country poorer taking back control?
The best way of ensuring that the backstop is not used is to get the future relationship—the future partnership—with the European Union in place by 1 January 2021.
Will my right hon. Friend please confirm that, after 31 December 2020, other nations will not have access to anything other than the surplus fish stocks in British waters that the UK fleet cannot catch, even if the implementation period is extended?
We have not changed our position, which is that, as of December 2020, the UK should be an independent coastal state able to negotiate the issue of access to its waters for the following year and, obviously, for thereafter.
The Prime Minister has been on her feet now for almost two hours. She has talked about making difficult choices. She has also said that this was not the final deal. With the pound set to have its biggest fall for two years and only seven MPs in two hours expressing any support for this deal at all, will she tell us what she expects to change to enable her to break that deadlock?
What will happen over the next few days, and before the special European Council takes place, is the final negotiation on matters relating to the future relationship. We will fill out the details and show a future relationship that will indeed be good for the UK economy.
First, there is huge personal respect for the Prime Minister wherever Members stand on this matter.
May I urge my right hon. Friend to study evidence given to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee this week by customs experts, particularly their suggestions around facilitation and technical ways of achieving a soft border that does not require a backstop? Does she agree that the independent arbitration panel is bound to find that, if the EU does not negotiate the future arrangement with that in mind, it is likely to be found to have acted in bad faith?