Before I call the Secretary of State of State for Exiting the European Union to move motion 1, I remind the House that I have selected amendment (a) in the name of the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin).
I beg to move,
That, in light of the new deal agreed with the European Union, which enables the United Kingdom to respect the result of the referendum on its membership of the European Union and to leave the European Union on 31 October with a deal, and for the purposes of section 1(1)(a) of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 and section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, this House approves the negotiated withdrawal agreement titled Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and the framework for the future relationship titled Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom that the United Kingdom has concluded with the European Union under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, as well as a Declaration by Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning the operation of the Democratic consent in Northern Ireland provision of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, copies of these three documents which were laid before this House on Saturday 19 October.
With this it will be convenient to discuss motion 2:
That this House approves the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union on exit day, without a withdrawal agreement as defined in section 20(1) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
Today is the time for this to come together and move forward. Someone who previously did that, and whom many Members of the House will still remember, was the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam. Her biography was called “Momentum” before it was a faction forcing out its own colleagues—[Interruption.]
Order. I understand that passions are inflamed, but I appeal to colleagues to weigh their words and to try to preserve the principle of political difference, personal amiability.
That spirit of bringing people together was what I was seeking to pay tribute to. After 1,213 days and frequent debates in this Chamber, now is the time for this House to move forward. Another pivotal figure in bringing different views together was Lord Trimble, who won the Nobel peace prize for his contribution to the Good Friday agreement. He has made clear his support for this deal, confirming that it is fully in accordance with the spirit of that agreement, and the people of Northern Ireland will be granted consent over their future as a result of the deal that the Prime Minister has negotiated. This deal also delivers on the referendum in a way that protects all parts of our Union against those who would seek to use division and delay to break it up, particularly those on the SNP Benches. As such, it is a vote that honours not one but two referendums by protecting both our democratic vote but also our United Kingdom.
This House called for a meaningful vote. Yet some who championed that now suggest that we should delay longer still. I respect the intention of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) who, indeed, has supported a deal three times and has indicated his support today. However, his amendment would render today’s vote meaningless. It would cause further delay when our constituents and our businesses want an end to uncertainty and are calling for us to get this done. The public will be appalled by pointless further delay. We need to get Brexit done by 31 October so that the country can move forward and, in that spirit, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.
The Secretary of State pointed out that some hon. Members have voted against a Brexit deal since the referendum, including the Prime Minister, who did so twice. Why do the Government not have the courage, therefore, to allow the same privilege to the people of this country by allowing them to make their judgment on this deal?
If the hon. Gentleman really thought that, he would have supported an election to let the people have their say on this issue, but he declined to do so. It is important that politicians do not pick and choose which votes they adhere to and that we respect the biggest vote in our country’s history.
The Secretary of State has just said the public do not want a delay. I was in Rainham yesterday, and 100% of the people I met said that they want Brexit delivered and that this Prime Minister’s deal delivers on Brexit. I applaud the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister for getting this done.
I very much agree with my hon. Friend, who speaks not just for his constituents but for people and, indeed, businesses up and down the country who want to see Brexit done.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that those who now call for a second referendum have denied the result of the first referendum? How, then, could the British people ever trust us to follow through on a second referendum?
I very much agree with my right hon. Friend. Indeed, some of those voices distrust not only one referendum but two referendums, and now they want a third referendum on which to campaign.
The right hon. Gentleman will know that many of us have long campaigned to leave the European Union. Will he tell me now why this agreement does not give an opportunity for the people of Northern Ireland to opt in and consent to what has been decided? That would have made a crucial difference to people on the pro-Union side in Northern Ireland who, like me, genuinely feel that, somehow, the United Kingdom Government are letting them down and giving in to others.
As the hon. Lady should know, the unilateral declaration published with the documentation on both the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration does, indeed, allow for a consent mechanism for the Northern Ireland Assembly. As the Prime Minister set out in his statement, it is right when we make a decision based on a majority across the United Kingdom that the Assembly reach a decision on that basis without one community having the power of veto over the other.
The Secretary of State has followed the example of the Prime Minister in quoting David Trimble. I pay tribute to David Trimble as a great leader of the Ulster Unionist party; he now sits as a Tory Member of the other place. I asked the Prime Minister and am now asking the Secretary of State for a clear guarantee that there is nothing in this new Brexit deal that undermines or weakens the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, as guaranteed in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement and the consent principle. Do not quote Lord Trimble to me. Give me a clear commitment.
I refer the hon. Lady to the letter that the Prime Minister sent to President Juncker on 2 October. The first commitment within that letter was the absolute commitment of this Prime Minister and this Government to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. We share that commitment not just within the United Kingdom but with our friends in the Irish Government. That is why we have shown flexibility in the arrangements, some of which have caused difficulty to some colleagues in the House, to address the concerns, particularly in the nationalist community, about the possible impact on the Belfast/Good Friday agreement.
The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) mentioned the opt-in, which was in the letter that the Prime Minister sent to Jean-Claude Juncker two weeks ago—that is where it came from—but it has since been abandoned. The Prime Minister and others seem a bit bemused, but that was an opt-in.
Secondly, the Secretary of State now talks about it having to be agreed by majority vote. Can we now take it that the Government’s policy is to do away with vetoes on, for instance, getting the Assembly up and running? Four of the five parties in Northern Ireland want the Assembly up and running—the Assembly will meet on Monday, which is good news—so does that veto no longer apply? [Interruption.] I see the Prime Minister nodding, for which I am grateful. That is a very big breakthrough in Northern Ireland.
It is also worth clarifying—this speaks very much to the unilateral declaration and the concerns on how it operates—that this is about a reserved matter that applies to our international agreements as a United Kingdom and not the powers that sit with the Assembly, within the Good Friday agreement. That is why there was not a willingness to give one community a power of veto over the other.
It is simply not true to say that agriculture and manufactured goods, and so on, are reserved matters. These are matters devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Secretary of State is just not correct. Please do not use that argument. This was recognised by the Prime Minister in the letter he sent to Jean-Claude Juncker only a few weeks ago.
The difficulty with that argument, with great respect—I do very much respect the right hon. Gentleman’s concerns—is that Stormont is not sitting at present. That is why we have the mechanism set out further in the unilateral declaration on how that will be addressed if Stormont is not sitting.
I promised to give way to my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt).
When, a few weeks ago, I voted for the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019—distressingly, it is often referred to as the Benn Act, rather than given its full title: the Benn-Burt Act—it was with the clear intention of ensuring that maximum effort was committed to the negotiations in order to secure a deal and prevent the risk of no deal. I am grateful to the Prime Minister and to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for having succeeded in an objective that did not at the time seem to gather favour. Now that they have succeeded in that, I want a vote on it tonight. Having referred to the good intentions of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) in moving his amendment today, which I will be voting against, could the Secretary of State give some reassurance to the House as to why he believes it is not necessary if we are to fulfil the terms of the deal and the efforts that have been made in the past few weeks?
I will come to that precise point shortly, but I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his support—perhaps the legislation should now be called the Burt-Benn Act, rather than the Benn-Burt Act.
I will make a little more progress before taking further interventions.
This is a deal that the Prime Minister was told was impossible. We were told that the withdrawal agreement could not be changed. Indeed, the shadow Brexit Secretary used to hold up the text of the agreement and say that not a word had been changed. We were told that the backstop could not be removed; it was the all-weather, all-life insurance on which the European Union relied. We were told that there was insufficient time for a new deal, and indeed that the negotiations were a sham—and sometimes that was just from the voices on our own side.
The real significance of the Prime Minister’s achievement is that the people of Northern Ireland will have a vote that will give them consent over their future arrangements, and there will no longer be any European veto over what those future arrangements will be. Just as importantly, the deal changes the dynamics of the future negotiations. Before, many Members of the House were concerned that the backstop would be used as leverage, with the EU holding the prospect of our being permanently stuck in its orbit against us. Indeed, many Members spoke about it being easier to leave the EU than to leave the backstop. With this new deal, because of the need for Northern Ireland’s consent over its future, the dynamics of the future relationship will change, because the EU’s interests will be aligned with ours in reaching a future relationship that benefits both sides.
In my constituency, 52% of people voted to leave and 48% voted to remain. When we come to the sheer weight of legislation that will be needed to put into force the referendum result, might we not only keep faith with the 52% by leaving, but remember, as we have experienced today in the House, that 48% did not wish to leave?
I very much respect that point. The right hon. Gentleman has always reached out to build consensus across the House, which is important. The commitment that the Prime Minister gave in his statement, on how the House will be consulted on the new phase of negotiations, is intended in part to address the concerns that the right hon. Gentleman and other Members across the House have raised, in order to have a balanced approach to the future relationship.
I listened intently to the Prime Minister’s statement and the debate that followed, and it seemed that assurances were given to Europhiles that the intention in phase 2 would be to follow close regulatory alignment with the EU, yet a carrot was offered to Eurosceptics in the form of there being unalignment, and even the suggestion that no deal would not be off the table in phase 2. Both cannot be true, so which is it?
Paragraph 77 sets out our commitment to high international standards and to their being reciprocal, as befits the relationship that we reach with the European Union. The hon. Gentleman really should have more confidence that we in this House will set regulation that is world leading and best in class, that reflects the Queen’s Speech, with its world-leading regulation on the environment, and that reflects the commitments that many in the House have sought on workers’ rights. We should also be mindful that, of course, it is this House that went ahead of the EU on paternity rights and parental leave. We can go further than the EU in protecting people’s rights, rather than simply match the EU.
It is my assessment that the deal struck by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister accords with the Good Friday agreement. I think it presages a new golden age for relationships north and south of the border, which is to be welcomed. I congratulate the Government on adopting the stance of consent rather than veto—that reflects modern island-of-Ireland politics today.
As Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend speaks with great authority on this issue. I know that he in particular will have recognised the importance of the fact that the whole of the United Kingdom will benefit from our future trade deals around the world, with every part of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, leaving, as the Prime Minister said in his statement, whole and entire.
It is right that we examine the detail in this place, and the Secretary of State is doing a great job in answering the questions, but may I suggest to him that we, as a collective body, need a slightly more optimistic note? It is my firm belief that now we have got rid of the backstop, we will achieve a fair and good trade deal by December 2020. We should be focused on that, rather than on all the minor detail. It is a bright future, if we decide to take it today.
My hon. Friend is right to talk of the opportunity for trade deals that Brexit unlocks. We start from a position of great understanding of the respective economies—a big part of a trade deal is usually negotiating that understanding at the start—and we can seize the opportunities of those trade deals around the world. That is exactly why we need to move forward.
Should the House divide later on the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), the amendment will have my support. I suggest to the Secretary of State that there is a way through that brings the consensus he talks about: we support the amendment and the Government table the legislation next week so that we can scrutinise the detail. We can then make meaningful decisions on Second and Third Reading, but, crucially, those of us who have some reservations about the Government’s trustworthiness can see the commitments that the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister have made from the Dispatch Box, which I welcome, written on the face of the Bill before we make that final, crucial decision on how we continue the process.
I respect the care with which the hon. Gentleman has looked at these issues, but his constituents, like many throughout the country, now want the country to move forward and for us to get this deal done. There is of course a distinction between the meaningful vote today and the further opportunities there will be on Second and Third Reading of the withdrawal agreement Bill for assurance to be provided for in line with the statements that the Prime Minister has made from the Dispatch Box today.
Surely the crucial point of this new deal is that it offers Great Britain a fairly hard Brexit in order to facilitate trade agreements with countries for which European standards are incompatible. An economy cannot be a European-style economy and a US-style economy at the same time. The Secretary of State is not giving us an economic assessment to tell us what jobs and industries will grow on the back of this deal and what goods and services will be cheaper to compensate for loss of aerospace, automotive, financial services and so much more. He cannot tell us that today.
The hon. Gentleman really should listen to business leaders like Sir Stuart Rose who says that we should get this deal done; to the Bank of England Governor who says that this will be a boost to our economy; and to the many business leaders want an end to this uncertainty. We cannot simply keep debating the same issues in a House that has said no to everything and refused to say yes to anything.
This debate should be about restoring the independence of our country in accordance with the votes of the referendum. Given that in the implementation period the EU will have massive powers over us, is there something that the Government can build into the draft legislation to give us reassurance that the EU will not abuse those very excessive powers?
Yes, I am happy to give that reassurance to my right hon. Friend. That is something that we can commit to do as we move forward.
My right hon. Friend spoke earlier about there not being pointless delay, and I actually agree with him about that. This matter has to be brought to a conclusion, but he must be aware that quite apart from approving it in its generality, we also have a duty as a House to look at the detail of this deal in primary legislation. In the course of that, the House is entitled to pass amendments which, provided they do not undermine the treaty itself, are wholly legitimate. The difficulty is that, by insisting that the Benn Act be effectively subverted and removed, the impression the Government are giving is that they have other intentions—of taking us out at such a gallop that that proper scrutiny cannot take place. I wish the Government would just listen a little bit, because I think that they would find there is much more common ground on this than they have ever been prepared to acknowledge, instead of which they continue to give the impression that they just want to drive a coach and horses through the rights of this House to carry out proper scrutiny.
I have always had great respect for the legal acumen and the seriousness of my right hon. and learned Friend, but there is an inconsistency in his case when he talks about wanting to look at legislation in more detail, having supported the Benn-Burt legislation that was passed in haste, and having supported the Cooper legislation, which needed to be corrected by Lord Pannick and others in the House of Lords, because it would have had the effect of doing the opposite of what it intended as it would have forced a Prime Minister to come back to this House after the EU Council had finished, thereby making a no deal more likely rather than less. That Cooper legislation is a very good example of where my right hon. and learned Friend did not look at legislation in detail, and, indeed, where it would have had a perverse consequence at odds with his arguments for supporting it at the time. Indeed, there is a further inconsistency: he championed section 13, but when the Prime Minister secured a new deal, which my right hon. and learned Friend said that he could not achieve, then denies the House a right to vote in a meaningful way as required by his own section 13 because he no longer wants it to apply on the same rules as it did when he passed it.
I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. This deal has hardly lacked scrutiny, given the number of times it has been voted on and debated in this House, although we now have an altered deal. May I just point out that the implementing legislation is simply that: it does not alter the substance of the agreement but merely implements the agreement in domestic law. We can do that very quickly and amend that Bill after ratification of the agreement if necessary, because it is only a piece of domestic implementing legislation. There is no case for delaying that legislation, and I am going to vote for the deal today, if I get the chance.
First, I welcome the support of my hon. Friend. One issue that the shadow Secretary of State and I agree on is that, on these issues, there has not been a lack of scrutiny, given the frequency with which we seem to debate them in the House.
It is also worth reminding ourselves of what the motion is addressing today. The motion is addressing the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration secured by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The mechanism to implement that—the withdrawal agreement Bill—has still to be debated. Indeed, even that pertains only to the winding-down arrangements and not, as is often referenced in this House, to the future trade deal that we want to get on and debate. It is therefore a rather odd that the main issue—our relationship with Europe—is being thwarted because of a circular, endless debate on the same issue, when we need to support the deal today in order to unlock the withdrawal agreement Bill that we need to debate.
Is not the simple fact of the matter that all the people who cry out for a deal have to support the deal that has been brought forward by the Prime Minister? It is a first step on the way to many other opportunities that this House will have to discuss this particular issue, but we really have to move forward now and respect the result of the referendum three and a half years ago.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is the first step, not the final one. The House will have further opportunities to debate these issues.
Does the Secretary of State agree that amendment (a) is a panic measure by the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) and others, because they had no idea or confidence that a deal would be before us today that would allow those of us in this House who want to secure a deal to move on and leave the European Union by 31 October? As a result, if the House votes for amendment (a) today, we will be forced—even if a deal is approved—to seek an extension until 31 January, underlining that the sponsors of Benn Act had only one motivation: to delay Brexit and stop it.
I very much agree with the right hon. Lady’s points, as well as with the principle and consistency that she has shown throughout the debate. It is indeed an interesting snippet within the point that she raises that some of the voices in the media this morning were complaining that there had been insufficient time between the deal on 17 October and the debate in the House today, 19 October. And yet, this is the timescale that the Benn legislation itself required of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when it came to bringing issues before the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for very kindly giving way. He has used the word “scrutiny” on a number of occasions in his contribution so far, yet he was on BBC News this morning confirming that no economic analysis has been done on the deal presented to the House today. [Interruption.] Government Members may shake their heads, but how can this House be expected to vote on something so fundamental to the future of our country without that analysis?
I suspect that a point on which the hon. Lady and I could agree is that there is probably no level of analysis that is g ing to change her vote and her mind. As a former Treasury Minister, I am always aware —as I am sure the Chancellor himself would recognise—that it is indeed difficult to model a deal that was only done on Thursday, which cannot anticipate what changes the new EU Commission under new leadership will make, which does not set out what changes the UK will make in response to that, and which cannot second-guess what changes will happen in the wider world economy that will clearly have an impact on such an economic model.
The Secretary of State represents North East Cambridgeshire and is a member of the Conservative and Unionist party. I am a member of the Democratic Unionist party. A Unionist in Strangford at this moment in time is a second-class citizen by comparison with a Unionist in North East Cambridgeshire. Can the Secretary of State tell me why the Unionist people in Northern Ireland—my children, my grandchildren and their birthright—will be secondary to Unionists anywhere else across the United Kingdom? Does he not understand the angst, fear and annoyance of Unionists in Northern Ireland? We have been treated as second-class citizens in this deal and, as I see it, our opinion means nothing.
Members from across the House who have seen the assiduous nature of hon. Gentleman, particularly in Adjournment debates, will know that his constituents never get a second-class service from him. In the deal that the Prime Minister has negotiated, he has tried to operate in the same spirit that I know the hon. Gentleman does by ensuring that Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom customs union and leaves whole and entire. As a consequence, the hon. Gentleman’s constituents, like mine in North East Cambridgeshire, will benefit from the great trade deals that I know the Secretary of State for International Trade intends to negotiate.
The aim of amendment (a) is clear. The emperor has no clothes; it is to stop us leaving the European Union at any cost. The European Research Group met this morning. Normally, our meetings are private, but in the circumstances, there were three things that I thought I could share with the House. First, the officers overwhelmingly recommended backing the Prime Minister’s deal. Secondly, the ERG overwhelmingly recommended the same and no member of the ERG spoke against it. Thirdly, and most importantly, we agreed that those who vote for the deal vote for the Bill. If the deal is passed today, we will faithfully vote the Bill through to the end, so that we can leave the European Union. You have our word.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his support, which, coming from someone who opposed the previous deal, is a reflection of the fact that this is a deal for everyone—a deal for the 52 and for the 48; a deal for Northern Ireland and for Cambridgeshire. This is a deal that benefits the United Kingdom—in particular, by enabling us to move forward and, above all, take back control of our fisheries.
Obviously, Northern Ireland is getting preferential treatment. Although it has not brought the DUP on board, Northern Ireland is getting special access to the single market and the Government have promised more money to Northern Ireland, yet Scotland is being left high and dry. Can the Secretary of State confirm that Scottish Tory Members did not ask for any concessions for Scotland—that they got no concessions and are just Lobby fodder?
I can tell the hon. Gentleman very clearly what the Scottish Conservative MPs secured, which is control of our fishing policy—something that he and other Members would give back to Brussels.
Let me make some progress, then I will take further interventions.
By contrast with the efforts of the Prime Minister—who was told that a deal was impossible and that neither the backstop nor one word of the withdrawal agreement could be amended—the Leader of the Opposition appears to have rejected the deal before he has even read it. This is an Opposition who cannot see further than opposition for opposition’s sake.
The shadow Brexit Secretary, the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), will always, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, have read the detail. He has been in post throughout the three years, but during that time has used a wide range of arguments to support his case. He said in July 2018:
“We respect the result of the…referendum”,
and he recognised that we are leaving the European Union, but he now says that
“any outcome…must be subject to a referendum and we would campaign for remain”.
He said that Labour’s concerns were never about the withdrawal agreement or the backstop;
“They were about the Political Declaration”.
That is what he put on Twitter on 17 October this year, yet he used to stand in this Chamber and object to the withdrawal agreement because it had not changed. At the time of the third meaningful vote, which was purely on the withdrawal agreement and not the political declaration, he still objected to the withdrawal agreement. In 2018, he said that Labour could not support a withdrawal agreement without
“a mechanism for universal exit”,
which is exactly what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has secured through the vote of consent for the Northern Ireland Assembly, but the shadow Secretary of State now says that the issue is no longer about the withdrawal agreement; it is instead about the political declaration.
For much of this debate, Labour has been for being a participant in the EU customs union, yet we have heard from a senior member of the Labour party that its real position is 100% remain. As one media report alleged this week, during the cross-party talks, Labour even rejected a copy-and-paste of its own proposal, describing it as “unacceptable”.
Some in government have cautioned against listening to experts during this debate, but it is clear from business experts and the Bank of England’s Governor—
The Secretary of State and I were in the same room at the time; he knows very well that that is not true—the idea that I would not know our own proposal. He knows that; he was there. Withdraw it!
If hon. Members will give me a moment, the shadow Secretary of State and I have always conducted our debates in the House with great courtesy, so in that spirit, of course I withdraw that. That is a good illustration of what today’s debate is really about. We could get into the detail of whether we are presenting something aligned to what he has previously said and whether the sense is the same, but today is about this House and the country coming together and moving on from these debates and the talks, although the real issue in the talks was some people’s desire for a second referendum, rather than a desire to get into the detail of how we could resolve the issues.
This is at least the seventh opportunity the House has had to avoid a harmful no deal. There were three occasions relating to the former Prime Minister’s deal; there was the European Free Trade Association; there was Norway; and there was the customs union. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be folly to let this final opportunity to avoid a damaging crash-out slip through our fingers?
I know that my hon. Friend speaks for his constituents, and for businesses across the country, who recognise that now is the time to support this deal and for the House to move on.
We will find out if the Secretary of State made the right decision in giving way. I have a genuine question.
Yes. I am asking for a friend. If the Letwin amendment is passed and the Bill comes in next week and is agreed to before 31 October, we will leave on 31 October, but if the Letwin amendment is not passed and the Bill comes forward next week but is not agreed to by 31 October, we will leave with no deal—yes or no?
I say yes to this: to proceed, we need to comply with section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. That is the argument that the right hon. Gentleman and many others have repeatedly made. If we are to deliver that and avoid any further delay, it is important that we defeat amendment (a).
The Secretary of State says that the deal is about moving on. One of the real obstacles that prevented us from moving on was the backstop. I resigned from the Government and a party position in November over the backstop. Can he confirm that what we have now completely gets rid of the backstop and is about moving on?
I can very much confirm that. The Prime Minister was told that the backstop could not be removed, but its removal is exactly what he has achieved. He was told that was impossible, but he has delivered.
I am listening very carefully to the debate about the timing. Is it not clear that if the Letwin amendment is defeated and we make a decision today that is actually complying with—not subverting, but complying with—the Benn-Burt Act by bringing forward a deal and winning that vote, yes, we will have to get the legislation through this House quickly, and that will probably mean sitting for long days and probably long nights, but we can get it done? However, if the amendment passes and there is an extension, my guess is that that legislation will go on and on, and we will never leave. The right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) is absolutely right: if we want to get this done, vote against the Letwin amendment, for the motion today and get the legislation through by the end of October—and get Brexit done.
As a former Government Chief Whip, my right hon. Friend is absolutely right on the process that applies. The other issue that is sometimes forgotten is that our friends and colleagues in Europe do not want any further delay and do not want to see any extension, but want to see us get on.
I will give way one further time, and then I will move on.
My right hon. Friend does not want to answer the question from the right hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey), so I will. If the Letwin amendment passes, and the Government bring forward the Bill at the start of next week and that Bill passes before 31 October, we will leave on 31 October without a delay. If the Letwin amendment fails, and the Government bring forward the Bill and some people in the ERG, such as the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron), suddenly discover that they prefer the idea of a no-deal Brexit and the Bill fails, we will leave on 31 October with no deal.
The problem with the hon. Gentleman’s argument is that it is at odds with the argument put forward by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), who says that we need to pass this amendment to have more scrutiny and delay and to take much longer, yet the hon. Gentleman says that we need the amendment to be able to leave on —[Interruption.]
I will come to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I call Mr John Baron.
I do not usually do this, but given that there was a very factual error in the comment just made by an Opposition Member, may I say, just for the record, that I have never been a member of the ERG and I am not a member of the ERG?
That is a matter of extraordinary interest in the House and possibly across the nation—I say that to the hon. Gentleman in the friendliest spirit—but it is not a matter for adjudication by the Chair. However, the hon. Gentleman has advertised his non-membership of the ERG, and I hope he feels better for it.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is entirely mistaken and cannot have been listening to what I said when I intervened on him. I am in entire agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), who asked him the question, because that must be the position. The intention behind the Letwin amendment is to secure that insurance policy—nothing more, nothing less.
I say, mainly for the benefit of those observing our proceedings who are not Members of the House, that in common with the overwhelming majority of purported points of order, that was not a point of order. However, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has put his point on the record, and he, too, will doubtless go about his business with an additional glint in his eye and spring in his step as a consequence.
The problem with the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s argument is that it is at odds with what he says about section 13. Each time it is a different argument, but the purpose is always the same, and that is to delay any resolution, to stop this House moving forward and to stop us getting Brexit done.
There are many in this House who have said repeatedly in debates that their principal concern is avoiding a no-deal exit. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green), on the Prime Minister’s statement, made that point. Today is the opportunity for all Members of this House to demonstrate that they want to avoid a no-deal exit, to support this deal and to get Brexit done. This is a deal that takes back control of our money, borders and laws. It gives the people of Northern Ireland the freedom to choose their future. It allows the whole United Kingdom to benefit from our trade deals, and it ensures that we move forward as one complete Union of the United Kingdom.
In securing the new deal, the Prime Minister observed with his EU colleagues that a failure by them to listen to this Parliament, and in particular its decision on the backstop, would indeed be a failure of statecraft. They have listened; they have acted; and they have reached a new deal with the Prime Minister. It would now be a failure of this Parliament not to approve this deal and to fail to respond to that flexibility from EU leaders as required.
Order. Before I call the shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, I will hear a point of order from the hon. Member for Redcar (Anna Turley).
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would be grateful for your advice. I was shocked to hear the Secretary of State mention the name of Mo Mowlam in his introductory remarks. Mo Mowlam said that the EU contributed to the Northern Ireland peace process and that it was crucial in underpinning dialogue and cross-community contacts. She emphasised the precariousness of the process and the need for continued “substantial” support from the European Union. May I seek your advice, Mr Speaker, on how we can seek to defend her legacy when it is abused in such a way?
As the hon. Lady knows, I recognise the sincerity with which she speaks, and the constituency basis, of which I hope colleagues are conscious, that motivates her to defend the legacy of Mo Mowlam. As she also knows, she has successfully found her own salvation through that bogus, but sincere, point of order. Her point is on the record, and it can be studied by colleagues in the House and by people outside.
Today, we meet on a Saturday for the first time in 37 years, with huge decisions before us this afternoon. Those decisions are not just about whether this deal gets over the line, and getting Brexit done, but about what it means for our country. There has been a lot of attention on how the deal operates in Northern Ireland, and rightly so, but that should not be allowed to mask the political project that is driving this deal. That is why Labour has focused on the political declaration, and any examination of the detail of that political declaration reveals its true purpose and the intent of the deal.
No customs union—that strikes at the heart of our manufacturing sector. Once in the doldrums, decimated by Prime Minister Thatcher—[Interruption.] Mr Speaker, my dad was a toolmaker. He worked in a factory all his life in manufacturing, and we lived through those doldrums. That is why when I go to a factory or plant I am proud, for myself and for my father, when I see manufacturing through the just-in-time process and the revival that has gone on in parts of manufacturing. Go to any of those manufacturing plants, and the management and unions speak with one voice: “Do not take us out of the customs union.” This deal does just that, and it will do huge damage to manufacturing.
What of services? Nothing in this deal is different from that of the previous Prime Minister—the weakest of weak deals for services, which make up 80% of our economy. What the deal does is clear: it rips up our close trading relationship with the EU, and the price will be paid in damage to our economy and in job losses. Anyone doubting that should look at the words that have been stripped out of the deal put forward by the previous Prime Minister. Put the text side by side and ask some difficult questions.
Paragraph 20 used to read:
“The Parties envisage having a trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible, with a view to facilitating the ease of legitimate trade.”
The words “as close as possible” have been stripped out. Why?
Now it is said that we want “as close as possible”. Now it is said that there are all sorts of assurances, but between the text as it was under the previous Prime Minister and the text before us today, the words
“a trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible”
have been taken out and that is not an accident.
At the heart of this is the question of destination: not an abstract of moving on today, but the impact of a deal on everyday life in towns like mine. The Government should stop selling this sell-out deal to us as if this is the decision today. For all the talk of a deal of Norway plus and Canada plus plus, the Government are presenting us with Britain minus: minus protections, minus opportunities, minus prospects. If the Government are confident in the deal, they should put it to a final say. Now the deal is through the gate and people know more than they did, they should have a say on whether this is what they want. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that a final say is the only way through this mess?
I do agree, but I really want to press this point. As I say, this is not just about getting a deal over the line. That is not the end of it. It is what we are getting over the line and what it means for our country. I invite the Secretary of State to intervene on me. Why were the words “as close as possible” taken out of the text? If the Government’s aspiration is to be as close as possible, why take the words out? [Interruption.] Nothing.
Let us again go through the exercise of laying the two texts alongside each other. The words about alignment are all but gone. A deliberate decision has been taken to take out the aspiration of a trading relationship that is as close as possible and a deliberate decision has been taken to take out all the words about alignment. That is not an accident. That is not a typo. That is a deeply political decision that tells us everything about the direction of travel under this deal.
Does that not go precisely to the heart of why those of us on the Labour Benches will not be able to vote for this deal? We are hearing from our colleagues in the trade union movement, who represent millions of workers including those who work in manufacturing, that this deal will be damaging for the future of jobs and livelihoods. How can we trust the Tories on workers’ rights when, throughout the whole time I was a trade union officer and throughout the whole time I have been a Member of Parliament, this Government have reduced working people’s rights?
I am grateful for that intervention.
I will make one more point and then I will give way. I just want to reinforce my point and then I will pause.
Not only have the aspiration for “as close as possible” and the references to alignment been taken out, but the new text removes the backstop as the basis of the future relationship—not the backstop in its own right, but as the basis for the future relationship. That is very important because it means that the starting point for the next stage is a baseline FTA with no safety net for workplace rights, consumer rights and environmental standards. They have gone from the binding legal withdrawal agreement altogether. They are found—I will come back to them—in the political declaration. They have gone out of the binding agreement and into the political declaration.
While we listen to the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s confession entitled, “Why I wish I voted for the previous deal,” could he actually share with the House his honest assessment? Unless a deal says, “We will remain in the European Union and there will be no changes,” he will find false tests and artificially high hurdles that preclude him from voting for anything that does not ignore the referendum result.
That is just utter nonsense. Let me answer that directly: I have stood at this Dispatch Box and pressed amendments on the customs union time and again, and Government Members have voted against them. We have put forward the basis for a deal and we voted for it on the Opposition side of the House, so that intervention is just nonsense.
It is obvious where this ends: either with an FTA that significantly weakens rights, standards and protections, or in no deal and WTO terms at the end of the transition.
I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for focusing attention on manufacturing. Is it his assessment that this deal would lead to new rules of origin checks and other red tape on UK manufacturers exporting to the EU?
Yes, and anybody who has read the text knows it, because it is absolutely clear that there will have to be those checks.
Let me make one broader point that was made to me by manufacturers—this is not me speaking; it is what they have said to me. I will not name the company, but people from one of our major motor manufacturers said to me, “We don’t think that we would ever be able to take advantage of any new trade agreements, because we could never prove that 50% of our components come from the UK, and that is one of the rules.” That was their concern—[Interruption.] I will make this point, because it is really powerful and if people have not grasped this, they do not know what they are voting for. They said to me, “Our components come from across the EU and at the moment, we can show that 50% of them satisfy the rule to take advantage of the trade agreements that the EU has struck.” Their position is that they could never satisfy that requirement if the area is shrunk to the UK and therefore, their point to me was not that they are against new trade agreements—businesses are not—but that they will not be able to take advantage of them. That is what they said to me.
The thing that puzzles me is this: I hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman setting out strong objections to the strategy that this Government have pursued, yet, had the Labour party agreed to hold a general election when it was first mooted, that election would be over by now, and if Labour had persuaded the country, there would be a Labour Prime Minister at the Dispatch Box. What is it about the Labour party’s position that it is not willing to put to the country?
I think I said this in the debate last week, but I will say it again: I am not going to vote for a general election until I know that no deal is off the table and we have an extension. It is as simple as that.
I have really agonised this week over whether to support this deal, and it has been profoundly difficult. Does the shadow Secretary of State share my concern with regard to Northern Ireland that by disturbing the careful balance within the Good Friday agreement between the two communities, we run the risk of inflaming Unionist opinion in potentially a very dangerous way, just, in a sense, as the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) made clear in his intervention?
I am concerned about the position in Northern Ireland, and the Secretary of State quoted me on this earlier. It is true that I and the Labour party had reservations about the backstop—I am not sure that there were many people who did not have reservations about it—but on analysis, we thought that it was right for Northern Ireland and therefore, we focused our attention on the political declaration. I criticised it; I said what I thought was wrong with it. I was critical, for example, of the fact that it did not hardwire dynamic alignment of workplace rights, but ultimately, we thought that upholding the Good Friday agreement was more important and more significant.
I will also say this, because again, it is very important to read the small print: while it is true that the current deal says that Northern Ireland remains, as it were, in the UK’s customs territory, it goes on to explain that for goods going into Northern Ireland, the only ones that escape going effectively into the EU’s customs union are those that are at no risk of going beyond Northern Ireland and are not going into manufacturing, so the volume of goods that cross the border that truly are treated as if Northern Ireland is in the customs union is only that small category. The burden of proving that is on the person who is exporting. Can the Secretary of State, or anybody, explain how that can operate without very careful and extensive checks?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making a powerful speech. He makes a good point about the backstop, because it was indeed a backstop: it was there in the last event, as it were. Does he agree that this is a new agreement, especially in relation to Northern Ireland? This is not a backstop; this is their future, and essentially it is in perpetuity. He is providing careful analysis to the House— I can see right hon. and hon. Members understanding and listening—but frankly the danger is that we will be bounced into a decision today with terrible consequences for our Union and our country.
I agree. I will develop that point in a moment, but I will take a further intervention first.
The former Prime Minister used to say that no deal was better than a bad deal. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman share my concern that the current Prime Minister has just let it slip that this deal, heroically, manages to be both? It is a bad deal with a back door to no deal if no extension to the transition is agreed at the end of next year.
I agree, and that is a point that I will develop. In recognition of the previous Prime Minister, although she said that, I always felt that she had a profound sense of public duty, that she properly recognised the real risks of no deal, and that ultimately she would not have taken us there. I do not have that trust in the current Prime Minister.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend explore further the customs checks issue? If a lorry leaves Dumfries or north Wales for Northern Ireland, and its ultimate destination is the Republic of Ireland, where and when will the customs checks take place?
There have to be checks, and they have to be done at the border with England, Scotland and Wales, or Northern Ireland—there is no getting away from that. The argument that the Prime Minister tried to deploy earlier that he is not putting a border in the Irish sea is just wrong—it is absolutely wrong. Any goods that do not fall within the restricted category of goods proven not to be going any further than Northern Ireland and not to be going into manufacturing will be subject to checks, because that is the test written into the deal.
Ultimately, the bottom line is the future of people’s livelihoods. Never mind our emotional passions about being or not being in the European Union; what are the implications for workers and their jobs? Ford is leaving Bridgend, where it has 1,700 jobs—with 12,000 jobs across the south Wales economy—because it was worried about a no-deal Brexit. I have looked at this text, and there is a real risk that this is the end of just-in-time manufacturing in the whole UK. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree?
I do, and I am deeply concerned, because I am proud of our manufacturing base and the revival that it has gone through.
I have taken a lot of interventions and will take more later, but first I will make some progress.
It is important that we work through not just the technicalities of the deal, but where it leads us politically, because this is about the direction of travel for our country. If we go to a bare FTA, which is what it would mean, the Government’s own estimates show that there will be a loss of approximately 6.7% to growth in GDP over 15 years, and every region and nation will be poorer for it. The Prime Minister’s letter of 19 August to Donald Tusk made it clear that from the Government’s point of view and his own, the point of our exit is to allow the UK to diverge from the rights and standards of the EU. Let’s nail this one: you do not need that if you want to go up and have better standards. We do not have to break the rule to bring in better standards—we can do that under the existing rule—so anybody who wants to change the rule is not doing it to have the freedom to bring in better standards, because they do not need to change the rule for that; the only reason to diverge is to go down. That is why, on this question of divergence, it is very important to focus on the level playing field protections. As I say, those have been taken out of what is legally binding and put into the political declaration, and they apply in full only until the end of the transition period in 2020.
It is obvious where the Government are going. They want a licence to deregulate and diverge. I know they will disavow that, I know they want the deal through, and I know they will say, “Never. Of course not”, but it is obvious where it leads. Once we have diverged and moved out of alignment with the EU, trade will become more difficult. The EU will no longer be seen as our priority in trade and the gaze will go elsewhere to make up for it. Once we move out of alignment, we will not move back, and the further we move out, the harder it will be to trade with the EU27, and once that happens, we will have broken the economic model we have been operating under for decades, and we will start to look elsewhere—across to the United States.
Our gaze will shift to the United States, and that is a different economic model. It is not just another country; it is a different economic model, a deregulated model. In the US, the holiday entitlement is 10 days. Many contracts at work are called contracts “at will”. Hugely powerful corporate bodies have far more power than the workforce. This is not a technical decision about the EU but a political direction of travel that takes us to a different economic mode—one of deregulation and low standards, where the balance between the workforce and corporate bodies is far worse.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that this is a project and ideology for the right by the hard right? It does not get Brexit done. We should be thinking about our children’s future. We need to put this back to the people. We need to listen to all those people, to the hundreds and thousands marching out there today, to those young people, and give them a say in their future.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about workers’ rights. The EU entitlement for holiday pay is four weeks. In the UK, it is 5.6 weeks. If we wanted to reduce that entitlement and to reduce standards, why would we not have done that already?
Because the Labour party and other Opposition parties would never countenance it, and I do not think the Government would either. [Interruption.]
Order. Mr Hughes, you are a most eccentric denizen of the House. The shadow Secretary of State for Brexit is not conducting a private conversation with you. Calm yourself!
The Conservatives have luxuriated in telling us that the Benn Act undermined their negotiations by forcing them into preventing no deal from being on the table if we left on 31 October, but the Prime Minister has said that he has negotiated a “great deal” with that restriction in place, so what possible argument can they have for not agreeing that we cannot leave at the end of the next phase of negotiations with no deal, at the end of 2020? Why would they not accept that restriction, given that they negotiated what the Prime Minister calls a great deal?
I have never accepted the proposition that insuring the country against no deal undermines the negotiations. I remind Members that at no point in the two years of the negotiating window that closed on 29 March did the House take no deal off the table. The entire negotiations were carried out with the risk of no deal. The previous Prime Minister brought back a deal, and half her own side would not vote for it.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is being very generous in giving way. May I take him up on the very philosophical and logical argument that he is now trying to make? The argument from the Opposition Dispatch Box seems to be that the Opposition must have the European Union to protect them on workers’ rights because there is almost likely to be a permanent Conservative Government that will threaten those workers’ rights. Why do Labour Members not have the courage to say that they would fight an election, would make the case for stronger workers’ rights and would win that election, which would be democracy in action rather than someone else protecting them?
Of course we would, but the point is this, and it has not been answered by any of these interventions. Since the current rule allows you to have higher standards, why do you write into the deal that you want to diverge?
When Labour was in government, we legislated to go beyond European minimums many times, which included granting 6 million workers an extra eight days’ paid leave. For much of the time we were doing that, it was being vociferously opposed by the Conservative Opposition, and particularly by the present Prime Minister, who built his journalistic career on attacking measures of that kind.
The point that my right hon. and learned Friend is making is correct. This is not just about the legislation that we pass here; it is about the common rule book that gives us market access across the European Union. The Prime Minister cannot promise a deregulatory future to the European Research Group and a regulatory future to the Labour party.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who has made the point very carefully and ably.
I have given way many, many times. I am going to make some progress, and then I will give way again.
Of the two possible outcomes, one is this deregulated free trade agreement which in the end, whatever people say, will drive us away from the European economic model towards a different economic model. We will look back on this as a turning point in our history of much greater significance than whether this deal technically gets over the line tonight. The other possible outcome, which has been put to me in interventions, is that there is no deal at the end of the transition period, and that has to be significantly addressed. I know that some colleagues are tempted to vote for the deal because they believe that it prevents or removes the possibility of crashing out on World Trade Organisation terms. It does not. Under the previous deal, if the future relationship was not ready by the end of the transition, the backstop kicked in, which prevented WTO terms. That has gone. This is a trapdoor to no deal.
Let me quote the words of the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron). I hope that I do so accurately, but if I do not, he will correct me. What I understood him to say was this:
“The reason I am inclined to vote for this one”
“is very simple… if the trade talks are not successful…then we could leave on no-deal terms.”
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, because I said that I would.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right with the quote, but he has been very selective and taken it out of context, because I continued to make the point that it is a commercial reality that leaving no deal on the table in any negotiations makes a good and fair trade deal more likely. That is something I, and the vast majority of colleagues in this place, actually want. We want a free trade agreement agreed with the EU by December 2020, and my firm belief—I am not alone here—is that by scrapping the previous backstop, we stand more chance of achieving it.
I ask the hon. Gentleman to put his full quote in the Library for the delectation of colleagues.
I am genuinely grateful for that intervention, which I wanted to take, but the fact remains that the hon. Gentleman is right when he says that if the trade deals
“are not successful… then we could leave on no-deal terms.”
Before we rush into the Lobbies, let us explore what that means.
The decision on extending transition, under this deal, needs to be taken by the end of July next year. That is eight months away. It is very hard to see how any Government could negotiate a completed future relationship within such a short timeframe, particularly a Government who want to diverge. The Prime Minister brushed this away earlier by saying, “Well, we’re aligned.” That is true, and if he wanted to stay aligned he could probably do a trade deal a lot more quickly, but this Prime Minister and this Government want to diverge. So, the idea that this does not lead to a no-deal Brexit is wrong, and nobody should vote for this deal on the basis that it is the way to ensure that we do not leave at the end of 2020 on WTO terms.
I am going to make a little more progress, then I will give way.
Today, the Prime Minister dangles prospects of workers’ rights and indicates amendments he might be inclined to take down the line—promises, promises. I know these are really important issues for—
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?
I will make this point and then I will give way.
I know how important these issues are to many Members on the Opposition Benches, particularly the question of workplace rights, environmental rights and consumer standards. I remind all Members of this House that not a single trade union supports this deal. I urge everyone in the House to reflect on the likelihood of this Prime Minister keeping his promises.
This point has been made, but I am going to make it again. Last November, the Prime Minister told the DUP conference, in terms, that
“regulatory checks and even customs controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland”
“fabric of the Union”.
He went on to say that
“no British Conservative government could or should sign up to any such arrangement”.
What does this deal do? It puts checks and controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It creates a customs border in the Irish sea. It does precisely what the Prime Minister told the DUP last November he would not do—typical of this Prime Minister. So, those who are considering today putting their trust in this Prime Minister need to reflect on how he has treated his supply and confidence partners—promise, then burn. I ask how anybody could trust any promise he is now making.
This deal not only rules out the customs union; it rules out a single market relationship, which affects service sector jobs, alongside the manufacturing jobs. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, it is going to be a bonfire of labour standards and environmental standards. Does he agree that this is a Trojan horse for a no-deal Brexit? That is why our colleagues on this side of the House must vote it down, as must others who believe in the national interest.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will have heard the Prime Minister make a commitment to me and this House that he would legislate, if necessary, to ensure that workers’ rights in this country could not be inferior to those in the European Union. On the question of trust and confidence, if such legislation were pursued in parallel with the withdrawal agreement Bill, or in that Bill, so that they could be decided together, surely that would give him the confidence he requires.
I am grateful for that intervention. The point is this: the Prime Minister said that no British Conservative Government could or should sign up to any such arrangement, but now it is said that he could sign up to it. That is exactly why we should not trust that. It is why we should support amendment (a). [Interruption.] It is an important intervention, and I take it seriously. That is why amendment (a) is so important, because it gives the House an opportunity to know precisely what the commitment is and what words will go into the legislation.
I am not prepared, I am afraid—nor are the vast majority on the Opposition Benches—to take the Prime Minister’s word. There is more than enough evidence that his word does not mean anything and cannot be trusted.
I was one of those who worked in industry in Coventry during the period of the Thatcher Government when, as my right hon. and learned Friend, like his father, will know, every week we saw thousands of jobs lost in the motor car industry. Big companies such as Jaguar Land Rover are very worried about the industry’s future, bearing in mind that they will have certain things to prove and that if they cannot, they will have to pay tariffs, which could affect jobs and so on. If anyone wants to know why the Opposition are suspicious of any Government in relation to trade union rights, they have only to look at the Government’s Trade Union Act 2016, under a previous Prime Minister. They will see exactly what the Government have in mind.
I am grateful for that intervention, which reinforces the point. Manufacturing, which had been on its knees, has now revived, at least in part. Why would anybody, whichever way they voted, want to take an axe to it? I will never understand that.
I will make some progress and then give way again. [Interruption.] I have given way so much. I will give way again. I do need to make some progress so that others can get in.
I turn briefly to amendment (a) in the name of the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin). I thank him and colleagues across the House for the cross-party work they have done in recent months. The amendment, which is genuinely cross-party, is in that spirit. It makes it clear that this House will not be bounced into supporting what is a very bad deal without a proper chance to scrutinise it. It would allow the House to ensure that the legal text is acceptable and provide time to seek changes in the passage of implementing legislation. It would ensure that the Benn Act can be applied.
May I say this? The amendment does not cause delay, because that exercise will have to be gone through anyway. It is not a vote to delay; it is a vote to get on with looking at the next stage, which will have to be looked at. What it does provide is an insurance policy against signing up to a deal that is not what it seems, with the risk of a no-deal Brexit to boot.
The deal before the House is a thoroughly bad deal. It is a bad deal for jobs, rights and living standards. It is a bad deal for the future direction of the country. It will put us on a path to an entirely different economy and society: one of deregulation and divergence. It will end in either a bare bones free trade agreement or no deal in eight months. It stands against everything that the labour and trade movement stands for—[Interruption.]
Order. We do not need people, in a rather juvenile fashion, calling out. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will give way if and when he wants to give way, as was true of the Secretary of State. Notwithstanding the notably generous-spirited instincts of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), I am not aware of the shadow Brexit Secretary having asked him to be his mentor.
If we pass this deal today, it will be a long way back for the communities we represent. I urge all Members to reject it.
I beg to move amendment (a), in motion 1, leave out from “with a deal,” to end and add
“this House has considered the matter but withholds approval unless and until implementing legislation is passed.”
Amendment (a) has been tabled in my name and those of many other right hon. and hon. Members, and I do not need to detain the House for long. The purpose of the amendment, as has been said in several interventions and speeches, is to keep in place the insurance policy provided by the Benn Act that prevents us from automatically crashing out if no deal is in place by 31 October.
When the Prime Minister brings his implementing legislation to this House next week, I will vote for it, but we all know that the votes on that legislation, throughout its passage, will be tight. The Prime Minister has a strategy—I fully accept that, and I accept that it is rational in its own terms—and it is that he wants to be able to say to any waverers, “It is my deal or no deal. Vote for the implementing legislation, or we crash out.” I understand that strategy, but we cannot be sure that such a threat would work.
Will my right hon. Friend give way?
I will not, if my right hon. Friend will forgive me, because I am going to be so brief that I will not take interventions.
Despite my support for the Prime Minister’s deal, I do not believe that it is responsible to put the nation at risk by making that threat. I am moving this amendment to ensure that whichever way any future votes may go—today, next week or the week after—we can be secure in the knowledge that the UK will have requested an extension tonight which, if granted, can be used if and to the extent necessary, and only to the extent necessary, to prevent a no-deal exit.
It is a considerable pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), and I commend him for his amendment and for his contribution this afternoon.
We heard, “An equal partner within the Union, and a nation within the European Union,” but the broken promises of 2014 from this Government and the Better Together campaign could not be starker than they are today. Scotland has been totally and utterly shafted by this Prime Minister and this Tory Government. Scotland is the only part of the United Kingdom where democratic rights are not being respected. England voted leave, Wales voted leave, and Northern Ireland gets to remain in the EU single market and customs union—a special arrangement to protect its interests and people. Scotland, however, has been ignored. Scotland is being dragged out of the European Union against its will.
Sixty-two per cent. of Scotland voted to remain, yet this Tory Government and this Brexit fanatic Prime Minister have ignored Scotland’s wishes and interests by bringing forward a deal that will weaken our economy. The Scottish National party categorically rejects this appalling Brexit deal, and we will vote it down today. Not only would it be devastating for Scotland, dragging us out of the European Union, the single market and the customs union against our will, but it is clear that the right-wing Brexiteers have been assured by senior Tory Ministers that backing this deal could lead to a no-deal crash out if trade talks fail next year.
Anyone tempted to vote for this deal today needs to be warned that it is a blank cheque for the Vote Leave campaign that is now running the Tory Government to crash us out of the European Union on a no-deal basis at the end of the transition next year. The Prime Minister’s deal is not a deal at all. It is the gateway to a no-deal Brexit, taking us off the cliff edge not at the end of October, but at the end of 2020. Let me be clear that any Brexit would have disastrous implications for Scotland’s economy.
Although I agree with amendment (a) and the idea that it will stop a no deal, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, in this deal, we have no guarantee from the Prime Minister that he will avoid crashing out after the transition period? Any trade deal will take longer than a year to put together, as we know, so is this not really a death row deal? We will be crashing out in a year, which is why it is our duty to vote against it.
The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State were both given the opportunity to rule that out, and neither did. Colleagues right across the House who are tempted to vote for this deal today should take note, because there is a very real risk of a no-deal Brexit by the back door.
I will make some progress, as I know many colleagues wish to speak.
The viability of our economic future will be brought into question because of the damage the deal would do to investment, to population growth and to our key exports. All Brexit assessments show that the United Kingdom and Scotland will be poorer, no matter how we leave the European Union. If the Government disagree, why have they not done an economic impact assessment on their deal?
How are Members of Parliament supposed to debate and decide on the details of this deal when the Government have not provided a detailed analysis? It beggars belief that, on something so fundamental to all our citizens’ futures, there is no economic impact assessment.
The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that he and I come to this from very different perspectives. However, I believe we should be united on this issue today. This is not a good deal for Northern Ireland, and I plead with him not to suggest that what would be a bad deal for Northern Ireland should be a good deal for the people of Scotland. If this had applied to the people of Scotland, I would be voting against it for his sake and for his people’s sake. That is why I encourage him to vote against it for our sake.
We will certainly vote against it, because I do not believe this is a good deal—period.
How did the Prime Minister even sign up to a deal without understanding the impact on the economy? What a dereliction of duty. The truth is that the Prime Minister is not concerned about the economy and is not concerned about the facts. The Brexiteers did not care about facts during the referendum campaign, and it looks as if they are doing the same now.
The truth must hurt, because the truth is this: every version of Brexit will leave us worse off. It will continue to damage our relationship with the European Union, but it will not grant as much scope to develop relations with other countries. It is also clear that the heightened economic uncertainty has been forecast to reduce business investment by £1 billion in 2019, damaging our economy and leaving Scotland poorer.
I am mindful of these words:
“What a fool I was. I was only a puppet, and so was Ulster, and so was Ireland, in the political game that was to get the Conservative Party into power.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 14 December 1921; Vol. 48, c. 44.]
Although the DUP may be choking on the words of Carson, I am sure that my right hon. Friend, as a member and a leader of our political party, will remind the Government that Scotland will not be duped a second time.
My hon. Friend is correct. I say to the Conservatives and to those Conservative Members who are here, for now, from Scotland that if this deal goes through, and if it has the impact on Scotland of creating a competitive disadvantage, it is increasingly clear—we see it from the messages that are coming to us, even today—that people who voted no in our referendum in 2014 want Scotland’s right to choose. I make this guarantee: Scotland will become an independent nation, and in short order.
The House is faced with an impossible choice. This is like being asked to buy a house based on the estate agent’s details, which are designed to sell it, with no chance of looking inside or seeing any sort of contract. We spend about two months a year debating and scrutinising the Finance Bill, and that is for a one-year Budget for Britain. Is it not absolutely ridiculous that we cannot see even the Bill, let alone the economic impact assessment, before being allowed to make a decision?
Absolutely. Heaven knows what the term of the mortgage might be. Let me make it clear that I certainly will not be buying any house from this Prime Minister.
Brexit in any form will damage the branding, reputation and standing of Scottish produce, our civil society, our regulatory alignment to key markets, our commercial and political relationships abroad, and even recognition of skills and qualifications. Scotland relies on the skills and labour that the EU offers for its economic growth. Brexit will serve only to weaken our access to a vital labour market. Considering that Scotland’s native population is declining, we need more migration to our country, not less.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for finally giving way. What he is not telling the House is that every major business group in Scotland is encouraging us to support the deal today. The Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses, the National Farmers Union of Scotland and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation are all pleading with us to bring the uncertainty to an end by voting for this deal. Do not listen to SNP Members; they are not Scotland.
Order. We are grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but I remind the House that interventions must be brief. We need to expedite progress—subtle hint.
It is illuminating to hear such voices in the House, because I am afraid that the harsh reality is that many business and industry organisations in Scotland see the impact, and not just in Scotland but throughout the UK. The British Chambers of Commerce, the National Farmers Union, the food and beverage association and the Timber Trade Federation have all talked about the negative impact of the deal, but we never get the truth from the Scottish Conservatives.