Mr Philip Hammond contributions to the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019

Wed 4th September 2019 European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
5 interactions (883 words)

European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Mr Philip Hammond Excerpts
Wednesday 4th September 2019

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for Exiting the European Union
Mr Speaker Parliament Live - Hansard

Thank you. I think the House greatly enjoyed listening to the hon. Lady, and we wish her well. I call Mr Philip Hammond.

Mr Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Ind) Parliament Live - Hansard

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I want us to leave the European Union with a deal and I voted three times to leave the European Union with a deal. I regret the fact that it has become necessary for this Bill to be brought forward now, and it is necessary now for two reasons: first, because Parliament stands prorogued, so we will not have time potentially to bring Parliament back after my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has had the 30 days that he asked for, to see whether he has been successful in getting a deal; and, secondly, because members of the Government have speculated openly that the Government may not comply with legislation even if it is passed and we therefore need to allow time for not merely legislation but litigation as well.

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab) Hansard
4 Sep 2019, 1:29 p.m.

On that point, we have heard noises to that effect from certain members of the Government and Government sources. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, if this Bill is passed, it is very important that the Prime Minister adheres to its terms, because it is a fundamental duty of Government to uphold the rule of law?

Mr Hammond Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Sep 2019, 1:29 p.m.

I absolutely agree, but we have heard clearly that we cannot rule out the possibility that the Government will dispute the interpretation of the Bill and that there will be a need for litigation in the courts, to ensure that its effect is delivered.

We need to act because there is no mandate for a no-deal Brexit, and a no-deal Brexit will be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. I remind my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Front Bench that many of us who are now on the Back Benches have had the privilege of seeing the detailed analysis from within Government about the precise and damaging effects of such a no-deal Brexit.

We need to act for another reason. The Prime Minister repeats two statements. He says that he is sincerely trying to get a deal, and he says that we will leave on 31 October come what may, do or die. Regrettably, those two statements are incompatible. Even if the fantasy deal that the Prime Minister sets out, where the EU concedes to every demand of the United Kingdom and removes every one of its red lines, were agreed tomorrow, it would still not be possible to get through all the stages of process required, including passage through both Houses of this Parliament, by 31 October. So we had to act.

The right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) set out brilliantly the purposes of the Bill and how it works. Time is limited, so I do not intend to rehearse those arguments. I want simply to focus on two claims that are made against Conservative supporters of this Bill—or former Conservative supporters of this Bill—by the Government and seek to rebut them. Presumably these claims have been made as a justification for the mass purge that occurred last night.

The first claim is that, by removing the threat of no deal on 31 October, we are cutting the legs from under the Government in their negotiations with the EU. That is wrong. It is wrong because, actually, there is no negotiation going on with the EU. We have had confirmation from multiple sources across the European Union that nothing is happening, and confirmation from within Government that nothing is happening. The Government have declined to bring forward any proposals or serve any proposals on the European Union. It betrays a deep misunderstanding of the way European politics works. Yes, European politics is every bit as scrappy as British politics, but across the continent of Europe people who are sworn enemies and debate vigorously are used to having to make deals because, for the overwhelming majority of our colleagues in Europe, coalition Government is the norm. They have a different system from our adversarial system.

The EU has taken a remarkably consistent approach throughout these negotiations. On the format of the negotiations, on its mandate and on its commitment to transparency, it publishes everything openly. Nothing that we are doing here is going to undermine the Prime Minister’s ability to negotiate with the EU. The thing that will undermine it is his unwillingness to pursue a realistic negotiating objective. If he tried to achieve significant changes to the way the backstop works, that would be a major concession by the EU, but I do think that my right hon. Friend—as a new Prime Minister, leading a new Government—would stand at least a reasonable chance of getting a hearing and maybe succeeding. However, by setting the bar, as he has, at the total removal of the backstop, he has set the bar at a level that is impossible for the European Union to comply with.

The second claim that is made against us is that by supporting this Bill we are handing power to the Leader of the Opposition. I would sooner boil my head than hand power to the Leader of the Opposition. Most of us will have no truck with the concept of a vote of no confidence. The purpose of this Bill is to instruct this Government and this Administration how to conduct the UK’s future arrangements with the European Union. It is not an attempt to remove this Government and it is certainly not an attempt to hand power to the Leader of the Opposition. It is not we who are heightening the risk of a Government led by the Leader of the Opposition. It is my right hon. Friend by pursuing a course of action that, if unchallenged, can only lead to a no-deal Brexit.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
4 Sep 2019, 4:03 p.m.

I rise in support of the Bill. The Prime Minister has decided that the UK should leave the EU on 31 October with or without a deal. He says that he is making progress in talks with a view to getting a deal, but he is not. Chancellor Merkel says no proposals have been put forward by the Government. The Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland says no proposals have been put forward by the Government. Across the EU, everybody says no proposals have been put forward by the Government. Yesterday, the Government did not deny that they have not put forward proposals in these negotiations; they just dodged questions and refused to answer honest questions about whether there is any evidence of any progress in the talks.

The Government are convincing no one, and at Prime Minister’s questions today the Prime Minister tied himself completely in knots in suggesting that he had not put forward any proposals because this Bill might pass later this week. So for the last six weeks, he has not done anything in case a Bill he had not heard of gets Royal Assent sometime soon. Ridiculous! There is no progress, and there is no workable alternative on the table to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland. Indeed—this point has already been touched on—far from making progress on this crucial point, it was reported yesterday that the Government are seeking to backtrack, and to revisit the commitments to protect the all-Ireland economy, including the December joint report.