There have been 70 exchanges between John Bercow and Department for Exiting the European Union
|Thu 24th October 2019||Checks on Goods: Northern Ireland and Great Britain||22 interactions (166 words)|
|Mon 21st October 2019||European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and Extension Letter||17 interactions (242 words)|
|Sat 19th October 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) Acts||169 interactions (6,140 words)|
|Mon 7th October 2019||Withdrawal Agreement: Proposed Changes||15 interactions (127 words)|
|Thu 26th September 2019||Compliance with the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019||11 interactions (117 words)|
|Thu 5th September 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||11 interactions (61 words)|
|Wed 4th September 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill||20 interactions (153 words)|
|Wed 4th September 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill||2 interactions (24 words)|
|Thu 27th June 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||7 interactions (56 words)|
|Tue 18th June 2019||EU/British Citizens’ Rights||9 interactions (182 words)|
|Wed 12th June 2019||Leaving the EU: Business of the House||23 interactions (382 words)|
|Thu 16th May 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||6 interactions (99 words)|
|Mon 8th April 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill||12 interactions (222 words)|
|Thu 4th April 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||14 interactions (86 words)|
|Wed 3rd April 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill||49 interactions (1,555 words)|
|Wed 3rd April 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill||19 interactions (503 words)|
|Mon 1st April 2019||EU: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Motions)||59 interactions (2,851 words)|
|Mon 1st April 2019||EU: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Votes)||41 interactions (1,118 words)|
|Wed 27th March 2019||EU: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Motions)||48 interactions (2,739 words)|
|Wed 27th March 2019||EU Exit Day Amendment||35 interactions (491 words)|
|Wed 27th March 2019||EU: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Votes)||71 interactions (3,536 words)|
|Mon 25th March 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) Act||46 interactions (2,035 words)|
|Fri 22nd March 2019||European Council: Article 50 Extension||10 interactions (242 words)|
|Wed 20th March 2019||EU Withdrawal Joint Committee: Oversight||33 interactions (502 words)|
|Wed 20th March 2019||Article 50 Extension||26 interactions (738 words)|
|Mon 18th March 2019||Article 50 Extension Procedure||22 interactions (317 words)|
|Thu 14th March 2019||UK’s Withdrawal from the European Union||101 interactions (3,064 words)|
|Mon 11th March 2019||EU Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Changes||16 interactions (492 words)|
|Thu 28th February 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||17 interactions (103 words)|
|Wed 27th February 2019||UK’s Withdrawal from the EU||49 interactions (795 words)|
|Thu 14th February 2019||UK’s Withdrawal from the EU||44 interactions (1,080 words)|
|Thu 24th January 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||22 interactions (218 words)|
|Mon 7th January 2019||EU Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Changes||3 interactions (14 words)|
|Tue 11th December 2018||European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018: Statutory Obligations on Ministers||11 interactions (150 words)|
|Mon 10th December 2018||EU Exit: Article 50||23 interactions (357 words)|
|Mon 10th December 2018||Points of Order||49 interactions (2,565 words)|
|Thu 6th December 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||25 interactions (166 words)|
|Thu 25th October 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||32 interactions (456 words)|
|Mon 22nd October 2018||Leaving the EU: Meaningful Vote||14 interactions (124 words)|
|Tue 9th October 2018||EU Exit Negotiations||9 interactions (96 words)|
|Tue 4th September 2018||Brexit Negotiations and No Deal Contingency Planning||3 interactions (14 words)|
|Tue 24th July 2018||EU Withdrawal Agreement: Legislation||7 interactions (85 words)|
|Thu 19th July 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||29 interactions (294 words)|
|Wed 18th July 2018||Future Relationship Between the UK and the EU||13 interactions (142 words)|
|Thu 12th July 2018||EU: Future Relationship White Paper||30 interactions (1,144 words)|
|Wed 20th June 2018||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||45 interactions (497 words)|
|Thu 14th June 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||22 interactions (187 words)|
|Tue 12th June 2018||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||83 interactions (1,483 words)|
|Thu 3rd May 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||13 interactions (83 words)|
|Thu 15th March 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||16 interactions (113 words)|
|Mon 26th February 2018||Department for Exiting the European Union||5 interactions (77 words)|
|Thu 1st February 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||19 interactions (145 words)|
|Wed 31st January 2018||Government’s EU Exit Analysis||6 interactions (245 words)|
|Tue 30th January 2018||Leaving the EU: Economic Analysis||22 interactions (695 words)|
|Mon 29th January 2018||Leaving the EU: Implementation||17 interactions (124 words)|
|Wed 17th January 2018||Points of Order||10 interactions (654 words)|
|Wed 17th January 2018||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||65 interactions (7,915 words)|
|Thu 14th December 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||26 interactions (285 words)|
|Tue 5th December 2017||EU Exit Negotiations||34 interactions (355 words)|
|Tue 28th November 2017||Leaving the EU: Sectoral Impact Assessments||9 interactions (177 words)|
|Mon 13th November 2017||EU Exit Negotiations||14 interactions (69 words)|
|Tue 7th November 2017||Exiting the EU: Sectoral Analysis||10 interactions (257 words)|
|Thu 2nd November 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||22 interactions (160 words)|
|Wed 1st November 2017||Exiting the EU: Sectoral Impact Assessments||32 interactions (1,554 words)|
|Thu 26th October 2017||Leaving the EU: Parliamentary Vote||22 interactions (428 words)|
|Tue 17th October 2017||EU Exit Negotiations||15 interactions (204 words)|
|Thu 7th September 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||28 interactions (213 words)|
|Thu 7th September 2017||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||30 interactions (223 words)|
|Tue 5th September 2017||EU Exit Negotiations||7 interactions (59 words)|
|Mon 26th June 2017||Brexit and Foreign Affairs||6 interactions (71 words)|
The why is very clear—why a deal is important for the island of Ireland, and for Northern Ireland specifically—but may I say to the Secretary of State that that is not the case with the how and the what? Given the lack of absolute clarity from Government Ministers and indeed from HMRC, if the Government are serious about trying to sell this proposal to the communities of Northern Ireland, they are doomed to failure. May I urge that the Secretary of State, the Northern Ireland Secretary, the Prime Minister and the head of HMRC get together pretty quickly? In oral evidence yesterday, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland referred to clauses of the Bill being brought forward. The communities need to see those in a timely fashion. We actually need to see draft documents about what these requirements would be. They are causing huge concern in Northern Ireland, and the Secretary of State will not be able to sell the deal unless within the next few days we have the clarity that will assuage very legitimate concerns.
My hon. Friend, as the Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, raises an important point about what reassurance can be given through the withdrawal agreement Bill to colleagues across the House to address some of these issues. I stand ready to discuss that with him, as I have offered to do with the shadow spokesman and others in the House, subject to the withdrawal agreement Bill proceeding, during its passage.
I remind the Chair of the Select Committee—of course he is very aware of this—that operationally these are issues that apply at the end of the implementation period, not when the withdrawal agreement is ratified, so there will be time for much more consultation with businesses in Northern Ireland to address the very legitimate questions that have been raised. Although it sometimes feels a bit longer, it was only last Thursday that the agreement was reached with the EU, and of course there are questions about what are often quite complex and technical arrangements pertaining to customs. Those are legitimate questions, and I stand ready to discuss them with businesses in Northern Ireland and also with my hon. Friend.
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The hon. Gentleman asks some legitimate questions, but I think he finished with an unfair suggestion. The Prime Minister was always told that he would not be able to renegotiate a deal or replace the backstop, and that he could not change a word of the withdrawal agreement, but he achieved those things and deserves to be commended for doing so.
The hon. Gentleman started by saying that the Prime Minister had one job, but when Members passed the Benn legislation, many of them were saying that the Prime Minister’s job was avoiding no deal. By voting against the withdrawal agreement and the programme motion, the hon. Gentleman has made no deal much more likely.
The clear message that I get from businesses in Scotland —certainly those that I speak to, alongside my hon. Friends—is that they want the clarity and certainty of a deal, and to move forward. They want one step of changes through the implementation period, not two. That is why so many businesses across Scotland want us to get on with this. Fishing communities in particular want us to take control of our independent coastal waters once again.
When the hon. Gentleman referred to eBay, I was not sure whether he was talking about my comments or those of another Secretary of State, but if he was asking whether I have commented on that issue, no, I have not. Another Cabinet member might have made such comments, and I will be happy to clarify that. The impact of no deal, and the ongoing uncertainty of not resolving this issue, is clearly having a negative impact on business. Even business leaders who supported the remain campaign, such as Sir Stuart Rose, are now saying, “Let’s get this done. Let’s get Brexit done. Let’s get on to the future trade agreement and move the country forward.” I hope that the hon. Gentleman will think again and enable the programme motion to go through.
What proportion of goods from non-EU countries are currently subject to physical checks on entering the UK and the Republic of Ireland?
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It will be for the Joint Committee to determine to what extent there is a material risk of any leakage to the integrity of the single market. I think the example the right hon. Gentleman raises is not the sort of size of trade that I would expect to be a risk to the integrity of the single market. The rules say that no VAT would apply if that catch from the vessel was for use by consumers in Northern Ireland. His question, quite rightly, related to some of that catch then going into the EU and going into the EU single market. As is the norm, if goods go into the EU single market then VAT would apply—[Interruption.] But not automatically. It would be for the Joint Committee to determine to what extent it is a significant issue. Perhaps another example would be where food goes to Northern Ireland but goes into ready meals. Then it would be within scope. If it goes to Northern Ireland and is consumed in a restaurant in Northern Ireland, it would not. That is the sort of issue the Joint Committee will get into.
In no way dispelling the fears of the Unionist community, of which I would consider myself one, may I quote what the House of Commons Library says on this matter:
“there are currently checks on animal products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain including physical checks on livestock”?
While there is the potential for those to increase under this agreement, the agreement is not establishing a principle in that respect—that principle is already established.
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My hon. Friend is right. In some ways I can go further and better than that, in that the text actually requires both sides to work to minimise the concern to which he has referred. So I would not see it so much as requiring to put leverage on the EU. I think there is a common interest in minimising this, because the text requires it and because, as I said in my response to the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the EU is incentivised to minimise the impact to ensure that the arrangements gain the consent of the Assembly in Northern Ireland.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
“We could not support any deal that creates a border of any kind in the Irish Sea and undermines the Union or leads to Northern Ireland having a different relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK, beyond what currently exists.”
Those are not my words, but the words of the former Secretary of State for Scotland and Ruth Davidson, the recently resigned leader of the Scottish Conservative party—an intervention that was described at the time by an unnamed Scottish Conservative spokesperson as “an article of faith” for the Scottish Conservatives. Can the Secretary of State tell the House: when did the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party lose its faith?
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My hon. Friend raises an important point. He will fully understand that as a Minister of the Crown it is not for me, on behalf of the Chancellor, to make fiscal commitments of that sort at this stage. However, my hon. Friend is opening up a wider discussion. As part of the new deal for Northern Ireland, as part of restoring the Executive, and as part of the Joint Committee looking at how we can reduce the impact of any administrative processes, it is important to understand what the concerns are and what the Government can do to mitigate them.
The raft of contradictory statements by senior members of the Government has caused nothing but confusion and anxiety for businesses over the past 24 hours. Given that the Prime Minister does not even seem to understand or be able to be straight about the impact of the Brexit proposals on the future of £18 billion- worth of trade within our own country, why on earth would anyone trust him to negotiate our future trading relationships with the EU or the rest of the world?
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I am happy to write to my hon. Friend to see what further clarity can be provided, but I refer to the answer I gave a moment ago. These issues will apply at the end of the implementation period, as opposed to when the withdrawal agreement is ratified.
I have recently returned to the House after two weeks’ paternity leave following the birth of my beautiful son—[Interruption.] Even better, I have returned to find that the Prime Minister secured a wonderful Brexit deal, which I look forward to voting for—
Arthur, Mr Speaker.
Can my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State reassure me that he will now crack on and get the legislation through so that we can get Brexit done and not still be talking about this when Arthur is old enough to drive?
There may have been delays in getting Brexit delivered, but I am delighted that Arthur has been delivered, and I am sure I speak for the whole House in offering our congratulations and wishing him every success for the future.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to suggest that there is huge frustration up and down the country, not only among our constituents but among the businesses that want an end to the uncertainty. They want to see a deal reached, and they recognise that it is in the country’s interests to leave in a smooth and orderly way. They see that the Prime Minister has agreed a deal that has been brought to the House, and it is now for the House to pass the legislation to enable us to move forward and get on to the other priorities that we want to do.
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I very much agree with my hon. Friend, and I am grateful to him for supporting the deal. This is Parliament’s letter, but as he says, the reality is that any extension would require the agreement of all 27 member states, which is outside Parliament’s control.
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I very much agree. I do not think the Prime Minister’s view will come as a surprise to colleagues in Europe, as he has been clear from day one that he wanted a deal, despite many voices in this House suggesting otherwise, and that it is in the country’s interests to leave on 31 October. That remains his commitment, and it is exactly what the Government are committed to doing.
As well as the unsigned letter that the Prime Minister refused even to grace with his name, he sent another letter, signed in his own name, saying, in effect, “Dear Donald, please ignore the first letter I’ve sent you. I sent it only to comply with an Act of Parliament.” If the purpose of that second letter was not to deliberately attempt to frustrate an Act of this Parliament, what on earth was the second letter for?
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I had not planned on speaking, but I just wanted to make a clear point that “Match of the Day” trumps anything else as far as I am concerned every time. Will my right hon. Friend explain something to me? It finally appears to be the Opposition’s position, although I am never clear whether that will change next week, that they want to have a second referendum. Will he explain what anybody could say to the British public when they say, “We didn’t trust you last time. Now you have to trust us that we will trust you again on a second referendum.” How could they possibly believe or trust British politicians again?
Perhaps we could have a similar tradition for the remaining duration of the rugby world cup, to which many Members from across the House would enjoy applying that maxim. My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct on the Opposition’s position. I appreciate that they have moved a lot and frequently, but if I take the position set out on Sunday by the shadow Brexit Secretary, the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), it clearly was for a second referendum. That is odd, given that they do not trust the people with the first referendum. The question that the Leader of the Opposition is not answering and needs to answer is: how long does he expect the primary legislation to take? How long does he expect the question testing from the Electoral Commission to take? How long does he expect the operational preparations to take? How long does he expect the regulated campaign period to be for? If his position is to have a second referendum, we need answers to those questions, because he risks leaving this Parliament in paralysis because he is not answering how long he wants to delay Brexit for?
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.
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.]
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.
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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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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Because the Labour party and other Opposition parties would never countenance it, and I do not think the Government would either. [Interruption.]
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?
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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 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.
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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.]
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.
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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.
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.
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The dishonesty and lies of Vote Leave brought the country to vote for Brexit in the first place —[Interruption.]
Today, the House will be listening to our voices, Mr Speaker. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might catch your eye later on.
The dishonesty and lies of Vote Leave brought this country to vote for Brexit in the first place. The Prime Minister and many in his Cabinet should be ashamed of that. They have torn their country, their Parliament and their own party apart. This is the beginning of the end of their precious Union and their distorted Etonian vision for society. Scotland will not be ignored any more. The deal must be stopped and binned today.
Whether or not the deal passes today, the Government need an extension. The deal is devastating for Scotland. We will not vote for it, and we call for the extension period to be used for an election, so that we can get rid of this rotten Tory Government out of Downing Street. Scottish National party MPs are here to do our job—to stand stronger for Scotland. Those from all parties who ever want to lay claim to representing the voices and interests of the people of Scotland cannot support this deal. They cannot inflict economic and social harm on our society.
We have heard myth after myth from the Prime Minister and his cronies, but the facts are clear. The European Union accounts for 56% of the UK’s exports and 65% of imports, either through the EU directly or through other countries with which the EU has trade arrangements. The direct value of EU trade is more than triple the value of US trade. The Brexit Secretary even said that the EU was the UK’s most important partner.
There are 100,000 jobs in Scotland at risk. Our fishermen, farmers and crofters will all be disadvantaged by this deal. As the Scottish Seafood Association put it, this could “switch the lights off” for a small exporter:
“Five separate certificates all have to be done on October 31. For a small exporter that is possibly trying to sell 30 kilos of top quality langoustines to a restaurant in Paris, switch the lights off, that restaurant owner is going to go and buy his lovely langoustines somewhere else.”
Those are not my words; that is from the Scottish Seafood Association. I hope that people in Scotland can see that those on the Government Front Bench are laughing. People’s livelihoods are at risk and the Government Front Benchers think it is funny. They should be utterly, utterly ashamed of themselves.
The Scottish National party will not stand by and let this Government rip apart our economy and our country’s future. We are Europeans and Scotland is a European nation. Members from all parties should unite with the SNP and bring this Government down. A general election is now the best way to stop this Prime Minister and stop this dangerous Brexit.
Let me say that anyone, any single Member here, who backs the Tory Prime Minister and his cheating Vote Leave campaign this afternoon by shafting Scotland will never, not ever, be forgiven by the people of Scotland. Overnight, we saw the reports, the rumours and the whispers. Will the Labour party really allow its Members of Parliament to vote for this catastrophic Brexit deal? Let me remind the Labour party what the TUC said:
“This deal would be a disaster for working people. It would hammer the economy, cost jobs and sell workers’ rights down the river. Boris Johnson has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May. All MPs should vote against it.”
Those are the words of the TUC. Let me ask this: why has the Leader of the Opposition not yet guaranteed that all Labour MPs will vote with the Scottish National party this afternoon against this deal? It is a deal that would be devastating for Scotland, ripping us out of the EU against our will, terminating our rights of freedom of movement, and threatening jobs, living standards, our public services and the economy. Is the leader of the Labour party really willing to allow any members of his party to write a blank cheque for this Tory Prime Minister to deliver Brexit? Not a single member of the Labour party should be voting for a deal that delivers a race to the bottom on workers’ rights and on environmental standards and that paves the way for dismantling our precious NHS. It would be absolutely staggering that, with a no-deal threat on the table, any Labour MP could even think about voting for this toxic deal. Labour must not be the handmaidens of a Tory Brexit, which we know will cost thousands of jobs and harm people’s livelihoods.
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I thank the right hon. Lady. We were colleagues together in Committee, and, as she knows, I am fond of her—[Interruption].
I simply say to the right hon. Lady that I would trust the European Union with workers’ rights before I would trust this Conservative Government.
The Opposition must stop the excuses and finally act by backing the SNP tonight to reject this damaging deal, secure an extension and call an election, so that we can bring this Tory Government down and stop Brexit.
Meanwhile, Scottish Tory MPs are prepared to vote for a deal that they previously pledged they would not back. That is simple irresponsibility and moral cowardice. I say to the Scottish Tories: you are serving the death knell on the Union by voting for this deal. Independence is coming, and we will take our place as a proud European nation. What a shift in time, Mr Speaker, from what Ruth Davidson said in 2014, which was:
“No means we stay in, we are members of the European Union.”
The people of Scotland now know more than ever that they can never, not ever, trust a Tory. We already know that, despite promise after promise—[Interruption.]
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Perhaps if Members settled down, we could get through this and their voices might be heard.
Despite promise after promise made by the Scottish Tories to protect our fishermen, we already know that the backstop loophole in the deal threatens to be devastating for the Scottish fishing sector. Under the proposed deal—[Interruption.] It might help if the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Ross Thomson) listened, rather than trying to shout from the Bar of the House. This is about fishermen’s livelihoods, which the Scottish Tories falsely claim to protect. Under the proposed deal, Scottish fish exports to the European Union face being hit by damaging tariffs. Any move that could see Scottish vessels registered in Northern Ireland land their catch there and then have it moved to the Republic of Ireland for processing to escape those duties would pose a huge danger to Scotland’s fishing ports and wider processing industry. That is the reality of what the Tories are threatening to do to our fishing industry. This would directly threaten thousands of jobs, and could make the sector among the hardest hit by Brexit in the whole of Scotland—Scottish fishing sold out by the Conservatives yet again. That is the stark reality, as opposed to the bluster of a UK Tory Government who once again treat Scotland as an afterthought. Well, we in the SNP will not stand for it.
I warn Members who march through the Lobby with the Government this afternoon that selling Scotland out by backing this deal will be the final nail in the coffin for the Union. While the UK drags Scotland out of the EU against our will, and this Tory Government downgrade our devolution settlement and destroy our rights, in Scotland the SNP are looking proudly at our record. We are ambitious for our nation, and not this Prime Minister, not the Leader of the Opposition and not any leader of the Liberal Democrats—not anyone—will stand in our way. The Scottish people are sovereign and they should have the choice to determine their own future.
This year, Scotland is marking the 20th anniversary of devolution—the establishment of our Scottish Parliament. The first speech that was made in the new Scottish Parliament in May 1999 was by my good friend Winifred Ewing. At the time she made that speech, she was of course also the Mother of the European Parliament, having served there since 1979. Winnie expressed the hope that the Scottish Parliament would try to follow the more consensual style of the European Parliament and other European Parliaments, rather than the more confrontational approach that we have witnessed again here today in Westminster. In our actions today, we are trying to stay true to that advice.
Although there remains uncertainty over whether the proposed deal will pass, what is absolutely clear is that it would take us out of the European Union, out of the single market and out of the customs union against the overwhelming democratic will of the people of Scotland. Scotland did not vote for Brexit in any form and, unlike others, the SNP will not vote for Brexit in any form. Scotland has been shafted, sidelined, silenced and ignored by this UK Government, and it cannot be ignored today. I urge Members not to stand by and allow this Prime Minister to drag us into an economic abyss, because I warn the House that it is clearer than ever that the best future for Scotland is one as an equal, independent, European nation. That is a choice that the SNP is determined to ensure is given to the people of Scotland, and those who vote against Scotland’s interests this afternoon should be aware that they are ending the Union. Scotland is not for leaving Europe. We will become an independent nation. My message to Europe is: leave a light on for Scotland.
When I arrived at the House of Commons this morning, I saw the message, “Good day for May”. I thought that perhaps consensus had come across the whole House and that it had already been decided that this deal would be supported by the House tonight. Unfortunately, my view on that was premature—although I think only premature—because, happily for England, it was a reference to Jonny May having scored the first two tries in our victory against Australia.
I hope the whole House will forgive me if I say that, standing here, I have a distinct sense of déjà vu. But today’s vote is an important one—
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I hoped I would never be driven, in these long debates on Brexit, finally to deciding what my opinion is on the choice between a no deal and a bad deal. I regret to say that when my right hon. Friend the previous Prime Minister put forward the proposition before, I had considerable doubts about her belief that no deal was better than a bad deal. Those doubts have increased, because what we have before us now is undoubtedly a bad deal. I think it is a very bad deal. It is wholly inferior to the deal that was negotiated by my right hon. Friend the former Prime Minister, for which I, too, voted three times, like the hon. Member for Hove (Peter Kyle). We cannot be accused of taking part in this debate seeking to block Brexit and repudiate the wishes of the British public, and all the rubbish that the more fanatic Brexiteers and their followers frequently hail at us. But now the choice is very real.
This is a very bad deal, for reasons that I will not dilate on, but others have. I actually have considerable sympathy with the Members from Northern Ireland: the independent Unionist, with whom I almost always agree, and the Democratic Unionists. This is a most peculiar constitutional position that they are being put in as Members of the United Kingdom. I would very much rather that we did not have this situation of a border down the Irish sea, because there is absolutely no doubt that there is quite a clear customs and regulatory border being envisaged down the Irish sea.
It has to be said that the effect is to save the all-Irish economy from the near calamity that a total no deal would have resulted in. I have no idea how anybody would have operated a no-deal situation across the border, and I thought these weird propositions of a customs border somewhere in Northern Ireland but not on the border had little or no chance of working. Although the Irish at least have the economic consolation that they will sail on through the transition period as they are now, I am extremely worried that the purpose of going to negotiate this convoluted arrangement over Ireland was so that the economy of Britain could be taken out of the customs union and the single market straightaway. If that holds after the transition period, I think it will have the most damaging effects on our economic future, for all the reasons that other people have given in the earlier and lengthy speeches we have heard.
Therefore, it is all to be played for in the transition period. I actually do not believe that a good free trade agreement, a good agreement on security and fighting international crime, and agreements on the licensing of medicines and the possible arrangements with the European Medicines Agency—all the things spelled out—are likely to be achieved by the end of next year. The Canada deal, which a lot of Brexiteers like to hold up as a model, took about nine years to put in place, and I wish that we were prepared to contemplate a more realistic timescale.
Meanwhile, the votes today, and the process of the next week or two, must get us through the necessary steps to put in place a withdrawal agreement, so that we have a transition period in which to hold full negotiations about our ultimate destination. All my votes in this House have been to ensure that the calamity of leaving with no deal on 31 October, or whenever, was never allowed to happen. For that reason, we should support this deal, but I cannot understand the Government’s resistance to saying that we should legislate before we abandon the protection of the Benn Act and decide that we do not need an extension.
The Government say that we can take for granted the details and getting the votes, but none of us are sure whether there is a majority for this Government and the present deal at all. If the Government can maintain a majority throughout all the legislation I shall be very reassured, but I would like to wait to see that they can—
The Democratic Unionist party has been supportive throughout the process of delivering on the result of the referendum of the British people, and we have defied and opposed the procedural chicanery and political machinations that have gone on in this place to try to undermine that result. The irony is that today, which should be a day of rejoicing for us because the Prime Minister has come back with a deal, we find that Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland alone, will be left within the clutches of the European Union, by being a de facto member of a customs union and tied to European regulations.
The Government have put forward two defences for their position. The first is that there will be no border down the Irish sea—there is no border down the Irish sea. But let us look at the facts. As a result of the customs arrangements, every good that is exported from GB to Northern Ireland will be subject to a customs declaration. Movements will be subject to checks. Unless it can be proved that the goods are not going outside Northern Ireland, duty will be paid. Only once it has been proved that the goods are not leaving Northern Ireland will that duty be paid back. On top of that, all the regulations of the European Union will be imposed on Northern Ireland. If anybody tells me that that does not represent an economic customs legal border—a hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom—I do not know what a hard border looks like.
During debates in this House, I have heard it said that if an extra camera were to be placed on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, or if one additional piece of paper had to be signed, that would be a break in the Good Friday agreement because it would represent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. On the one hand we can have all those checks between Northern Ireland and GB, and that does not count as a hard border, yet on the other, one camera on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic does count as a hard border. That shows how false the argument put forward by the Government is that they have not accepted a hard border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. What are the implications of that? First, it means that we are cut off from the country to which we belong and, secondly, that our economic relationship with our biggest market will be damaged.
The second argument put forward by the Minister today is that we can get out of this—we can vote against it. But in Northern Ireland there is a mechanism for dealing with sensitive issues. It is enshrined in an internationally binding agreement. That mechanism, because of the sensitive nature of politics in Northern Ireland, states that any controversial issue has to be decided by a cross-community vote. That part of the Belfast agreement, which is so sacrosanct in this House and to those who negotiated it, has now been torn out.
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That is the irony. We have to avoid having an Assembly because the voting mechanism of the Belfast agreement must be adhered to, but when it comes to getting out of this arrangement, which has severe consequences for Northern Ireland, the Belfast agreement mechanism does not have to be adhered to. Either we avoid a hard border or we have a hard border. Either we adhere to the Belfast agreement or we do not adhere to the Belfast agreement. The agreement the Government have signed turns all those things on their head, and that is why we will oppose it.
I am sure hon. Members across the House who have defended their constituency interests, whether the fishing industry in Scotland and Cornwall or the rights of workers in their own constituencies, will understand why we will not give in to this agreement. We believe it will cause damage to our part of the United Kingdom and lead to the focus of attention away from London towards Dublin. Let us not forget that we will be tied in to an arrangement where the laws for Northern Ireland will be made in Brussels. The British Government will have no input. The Stormont Government will have no input. So where will the focus of attention be for industry, lobby groups and politicians in Northern Ireland? Dublin. We will move towards a united Ireland.
I was asked what the DUP would do in relation to the Letwin amendment. All I can say is this: we would be failing in our duty if we do not use every strategy available to try to get guarantees, changes and alterations that will safeguard the interests of the United Kingdom, the interests of our constituents and the interests that we represent.
I was planning to be brief anyway, Mr Speaker. I campaigned to leave, but at every stage of the campaign, I argued that we should leave on good terms with our friends and neighbours and leave with a deal. I supported the previous Prime Minister in what she sought to achieve, and I pay tribute to this Prime Minister for what he has done in bringing forward a deal. After a year of turbulence in this place, when we have not really come near to finding anything a majority in this House can agree on, it is absolutely clear today that we are much closer than we have been to something that this Parliament is willing to give its support to. I pay tribute to the Prime Minister for achieving that and strongly urge the House to unite behind this agreement.
I want to talk specifically about the amendment from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), and I want everyone on both sides of the House to think about this. I know him well—he has his reasons for tabling it—but the consequence of it is that this House, at a moment when the nation is watching us to see what decision we will take about the deal that has been brought back from Brussels, may decline to form an opinion. That is the consequence of passing the amendment—that we will not decide today whether we support the deal.
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I have always set out wanting to agree a deal with the EU that delivers the outcome of the referendum within the terms of the 2017 manifesto that I stood on. I have fought against an undemocratic no deal and always voted for a deal. In fact, I have voted for a deal more times than the Prime Minister. I have even voted for a deal more times than the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the Transport Secretary and the Environment Secretary—combined. Despite this, I have had the Whip removed, and those who voted down deal after deal have been rewarded with jobs in the Cabinet.
I would like to support this deal as well, but the Government have been sending mixed messages. While Ministers at the Dispatch Box say they want a deal, anonymous No. 10 sources insist that they will break the law and deliver no deal. Owing to this and the Government’s Janus-like ability to face in both directions, I cannot support the Government without assurances. Those assurances come in the form of the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin). This would ensure that the Government and the members of my former party stuck to their promises. It would also ensure that there was enough time to scrutinise the withdrawal agreement Bill, which is likely to be a mammoth piece of legislation.
The House might notice that I am saying little about the content of the deal. I was always taught, “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.” Suffice it to say that it is substantially worse than the deal negotiated by the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). Perhaps this deal’s sole merit is to cast her redoubtable negotiating efforts in a more positive light. It is a great shame that Opposition Members did not vote for that deal.
The Foreign Secretary let the cat out of the bag yesterday when he said that it was a “cracking deal” for Northern Ireland because it will keep
“frictionless access to the single market.”
My residents and businesses in Cheshire would like that frictionless access to the single market. If it is such a great deal for Northern Ireland, why cannot my constituents have it, too?
I will back the deal, subject to the reassurance of the amendment, but I do not like the deal. Given the choice between a dodgy deal and remain, I suspect many constituents would opt for the latter. As such, if I get an opportunity to vote on an amendment in respect of a people’s vote, I will vote for that, too.
On 26 June 2016, we had a referendum, which in effect was a snapshot on a single day. A distorted photograph was obtained. It was distorted by false images. It was distorted by fibs on a bus and by fake promises of getting an easy, quick deal that would convey all the benefits of free trade that our country has enjoyed for so many years as a member of the European Union. It was created by preying on people’s fears and fuelling their prejudices at the same time.
Three and a half years later, we now at least have some clarity. On two occasions, the Government have negotiated a deal with the European Union. Like the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach), I think this a bad deal for all the good reasons given by so many right hon. and hon. Members.
This place remains divided. The answer is not yet another general election. The last one did not help us by solving anything, because it could not. The only way to solve this matter is to get it back to where, in effect, it began: to the people. We should put the deal to a confirmatory referendum. People are entitled to change their minds as the evidence changes, and they now see with clarity what Brexit is all about. Surely our young people who were not able to vote in 2016 must have the right to play a part and determine their own futures, given that so many of them will be affected by Brexit.
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Please forgive me for not giving way; we are extremely pushed for time.
What does this deal mean for business? I will put it simply; for business, for our industries and for our manufacturing, it reduces access to the market of our biggest trading partner, threatening jobs up and down our country at a time when more investment is needed, not less. There is no economic impact assessment and no accompanying legal advice—funny that; I wonder why. According to The Guardian, Britain is on course to sacrifice as much as £130 billion in lost GDP growth over the next 15 years if the Brexit deal goes ahead.
Industry has been clear that it needs market access. It needs a customs union to keep vital supply chains flowing, but this deal sells them out. With no barrier-free access and no customs union, it puts the fantasy of chasing damaging trade deals with Donald Trump over the needs of our country. Again, the House does not have to take my word for it. Make UK, which represents British manufacturing, is clear that
“commitments to the closest possible trading relationship in goods have gone”
and that the deal
“will add cost and bureaucracy and our companies will face a lack of clarity inhibiting investment and planning.”
Even the CBI added that the
“deal remains inadequate on services”
and that it has
“serious concerns about the direction of the future UK-EU relationship.”
This is a bad deal for industry, a bad deal for manufacturing and, more importantly, a bad deal for jobs.
Let us look at what the deal will mean for the environment. Let us see what green groups are saying about it. Greener UK, for example, has raised—[Interruption.]
Greener UK has raised huge concerns, saying that
“environmental safeguards are absent from the new withdrawal agreement”
and that the Government’s toothless Environment Bill
“provides neither an enforcement body with independence… nor a commitment to non-regression in domestic law.”
All this is coming at a time when we face a climate crisis across the world, and it is simply unacceptable.
The Government are asking us to trust them on all these issues without, quite tellingly, setting out any detail or legislation today. The Prime Minister says that nobody in his Government wants to reduce rights or standards, but that is a remarkable statement, especially when looking at their track record. How can we trust them?—[Interruption.] Government Members can cheer all they like, but how can we trust a Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy who made it clear that, for small businesses, she envisages
“no regulation whatsoever—no minimum wage, no maternity or paternity rights, no unfair dismissal rights, no pension rights”?—[Official Report, 10 May 2012; Vol. 545, c. 209.]
How can we trust a Foreign Secretary who wrote a pamphlet called “Escaping the Straitjacket” that outlined his plans to cut workers’ rights and regulations? How can we trust a Prime Minister who said the UK should scrap the social chapter and claimed that the current
“weight of employment regulation is… backbreaking”?
The answer is that we cannot trust them. If their intentions were to maintain current standards, why have they slashed every level playing field commitment in the withdrawal agreement?
We are about to make history and, in the final moments before we enter the Lobbies, MPs will consider the weight placed upon their shoulders. Is this deal right for their communities, industries and future generations? No, it is not. Agreeing this deal will not get Brexit done; instead, it will sell out our country and sell out our communities, leaving us open to an onslaught of deregulation and a reduction of rights that will put jobs at risk. That is something no Labour MP, nor any other MP worried about protecting their community, could ever support.
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I will not give way, but I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s persistence. [Interruption.]
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
Every party and every voice in this House will have equal weight and equal value in the discussion on our future economic partnership, making sure that we can deliver a Brexit deal that delivers for the 52% and for the 48%. That is our intention.
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Our first duty to our constituents and our country is to keep our promises. This House said that we would honour that referendum mandate. The time has come. The question that all of us must answer when we return to our constituencies is: did you vote to end the deadlock? Did you vote to end the division of these days? Did you vote to bring the country together? I know that Members across the House will support the Government this afternoon, to do just that.
I beg to move that the Question now be put.
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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am very grateful to you, the House of Commons staff, and everybody who has put themselves out and given up their time for the debate today. It has been a very important debate, and an exceptional moment for our country and our Parliament. Alas, the opportunity for a meaningful vote has effectively been passed up, because the meaningful vote has been voided of meaning, but I wish the House to know that I am not daunted or dismayed by this result. It became likely once it was obvious that the amendment from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) was going to remain on the Order Paper. I continue in the very strong belief that the best thing for the UK and the whole of Europe is for us to leave with this new deal on 31 October.
To anticipate the questions that will come from the Opposition, I will not negotiate a delay with the EU; neither does the law compel me to. I will tell our friends and colleagues in the EU exactly what I have told everyone in the 88 days in which I have served as Prime Minister: further delay would be bad for this country, bad for our European Union, and bad for democracy. Next week, the Government will introduce the legislation needed for us to leave the EU with our new deal on 31 October, and I hope that our European Union colleagues and friends will not be attracted, as those on the Opposition Benches—or rather, I should say, the Opposition Front Bench—are, by delay; I do not think that they will be. Then, I hope that hon. Members, faced with a choice on our new deal for the UK and the European Union, will change their mind—because it was pretty close today—and support this deal in overwhelming numbers.
Since I became Prime Minister, I have said that we must get on, and get Brexit done on 31 October, so that this country can move on. That policy remains unchanged. No delays! I will continue to do all I can to get Brexit done on 31 October, and I continue to commend this excellent deal to the House.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I welcome today’s vote. Parliament has clearly spoken. [Interruption.]
I welcome today’s vote. It is an emphatic decision by this House, which has declined to back the Prime Minister’s deal today and clearly voted to stop a no-deal crash-out from the European Union. The Prime Minister must now comply with the law. He can no longer use the threat of a no-deal crash-out to blackmail Members to support his sell-out deal. Labour is not prepared to sell out the communities that we represent. We are not prepared to sell out their future, and we believe that ultimately the people must have the final say on Brexit, which actually only the Labour party is offering.
Today is an historic day for Parliament, because it has said that it will not be blackmailed by a Prime Minister who is apparently prepared, once again, to defy a law passed by this Parliament. I invite him to think very carefully about the remarks he just made about refusing, apparently, to apply for the extension that the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act requires him to do.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I think all of us in this House are aware of the responsibilities that we have. This is a crisis that we are in. I am thankful that the House has voted the way it has done on the amendment this afternoon. There is a clear expression from this House that we cannot crash out on 31 October.
Mr Speaker, I want to ask you what we can do to make sure that the Prime Minister respects the law of the land, that the Prime Minister respects the Benn Act and sends a letter to the European Council seeking that extension. I wonder what we can do to make sure that the Government do not bring forward a Bill until that extension, as they have been instructed, is delivered on? If there is any failure on the part of a Prime Minister who thinks he is above the law, well, Prime Minister, you will find yourself in court.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister’s deal was a bad deal, and the public deserve to have the final say—not just the hundreds of thousands who are marching outside, but the millions of people across our country. [Interruption.]
And the people who are outside this building right now will be heard, and they deserve the final say, along with millions across the country. The most urgent thing right now is that the Prime Minister complies with the law, and I ask your guidance. Would it be possible to suspend the sitting for a short time to allow the Prime Minister to go and send his letter, and come back and make a statement to the House to confirm that he has done so?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. First, let me say to the Prime Minister that I agreed with what he said at the end of his remarks, and I am absolutely certain that he will comply with the law. I say to friends and colleagues across the House who helped us to achieve this amendment, which I believe to be profoundly in the national interest, that I am grateful for that co-operation, but that our ways are now going to part. Many Conservative Members who co-operated in preventing a no-deal exit by helping to put in place the Benn Act and keeping it in place as an insurance policy today, will, when the Prime Minister brings forward a Bill to implement our withdrawal from the European Union to the House of Commons, now be voting for it. We will continue to vote for it and seek to ensure that it becomes law before 31 October. If it does become law, this country will leave on 31 October—a hope that I share with the Prime Minister—but it will do so on the basis of knowing that should anything go wrong, we will not crash out without a deal on that date.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. This decision will give further time for detailed consideration of the Bill when it comes forward, as well as an opportunity to consider whatever amendments come forward in detail. It has the effect of not approving the deal today, and we will examine all the details of the Bill, and all amendments, in light of our overriding concern about the constitutional and economic integrity of the Union. That is our priority. It will remain our priority in the days ahead, and that is the basis on which we will now proceed in a timely and sensible manner.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. There is much talk about the law of the land, but the law of the land as it stands at this moment in time is quite simple. Section 1 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 categorically states:
“The European Communities Act 1972 is repealed on exit day.”
That is 31 October—just in case anyone cannot read.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker—[Interruption.]
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I thank you for your indulgence. Viewers in Scotland are accustomed to the sight of the Tory Benches emptying when Members of Parliament who represent Scottish seats get up, and I very much look forward to seeing that in the SNP’s party political broadcasts in the soon-to-come general election.
My point is an important one. The Prime Minister has failed to secure approval of the withdrawal agreement today under the terms of the Benn Act. Under the law of the land he should be retreating to No.10 to pen a letter to the European Union, both under that Act and the undertakings—as so described by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union—that he gave to the Scottish Court. Fortunately, we are back in court on Monday morning. It will be possible then to secure the court’s assistance if the Prime Minister has flouted the law and the promises he gave to the court.
Mr Speaker, may I ask you this? Should Scotland’s supreme Court mandate you to sign the letter required by the Act on behalf of this Parliament, will you do so?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I welcome the vote on the amendment, because it shows that a majority of Members have stood up for more democracy, not less. They have stood up for more scrutiny, not less. They have also voted to rule out a disastrous no deal. I believe it will also give us a chance to let the people have a final say. Over 1 million of them are, right now, demanding that right outside this place. The Prime Minister has changed his own mind more times than we can possibly count, most recently on the border in the Irish sea. It cannot be right that the British people are the only ones who are not allowed to change their minds. I look forward to the opportunity that this vote affords us to come back to put whatever deal is in front of us to that confirmatory ballot.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Is there any power that you have to enable this House and the public to properly understand what the Prime Minister has just said to us? According to the law passed by this House, if a deal or no deal is not agreed, the Prime Minister is required to send a letter under the Benn Act today, 19 October. It may be my misunderstanding, Mr Speaker, but I have no idea, from what the Prime Minister said, whether he is actually going to write and sign that letter, or whether he is not going to do that. If he is not going to do it, that means he is not complying with the law that has been passed by the House of Commons. Any of our constituents who do not comply with the law face the consequences. Is there anything we can do to properly understand whether the Prime Minister intends to comply with the legislation and send the letter, or whether he is simply going to ignore it?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. In the light of today’s decision, I should like to inform the House that Monday’s business will now be a debate on a motion relating to section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and I shall make a further business statement on Monday.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I thank the Leader of the House for making it, and in response I would like to ask him, through you, Mr Speaker, why we are having a rerun of the vote. If that is not the case, could the Bill be published and debated in an orderly way? And how discourteous this is to Her Majesty the Queen, when we are still debating the Queen’s Speech. When are we likely to have the remaining days of the Queen’s Speech debate?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I too am grateful to the Leader of the House for announcing that additional piece of business on Monday. I share deeply the concerns of the right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) on these issues. What is happening to the Queen’s Speech? What will now happen to the debates and votes that were supposed to happen? We were supposed to conclude the Queen’s Speech debate by Wednesday.
This is a huge discourtesy to the House. If the Leader of the House wanted a vote on this Government’s deal, he could have had it 20 minutes ago. That was the right time to do it. We deserve some sort of explanation as to why this is being brought back on Monday so quickly without any conversation or discussions across the usual channels and no discussions or debate with other parties in this House. He has to get back to his feet and explain a bit more about what he is intending and why he never took advantage of the opportunity to have a vote on this 20 minutes ago.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Should the Leader of the House not have sought to make an emergency business statement, if that was what his intention was, so that we could do what the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) have just done and asked questions of the right hon. Gentleman about his intentions regarding what happens to the rest of the important business that we have before us?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. In light of the Leader of the House’s very brief remarks, I wonder whether it has been made clear to you when the Second Reading of the Bill that the Prime Minister said would be introduced will take place, and which days next week we will have as the two days to complete our debates, and vote, on the Queen’s Speech.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a slightly odd situation. My question is really for the Leader of the House, but because he made a point of order rather than a business statement, I find myself having to put it to you—although of course he is very welcome to get to his feet and help us to clarify matters if he wants to. What a lot of us want to know about Monday is whether it is your understanding, as I have to phrase it, that the Government intend to bring back a motion to approve the agreement struck with the European Union under section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, or whether your understanding is that they intend to bring back the legislation implementing that agreement.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. As the Member who is meant to lead for the Scottish National party in the supposed Queen’s Speech debate on the NHS and trade deals, I simply need to know—like many hon. Members across the House—whether to prepare a speech. Work is planned for Monday and Tuesday, and I think it incredibly disrespectful that we simply do not know what we are doing on Monday.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it in order for the Government to put a motion before the House that is effectively defeated and then to re-table the exact same motion hoping for a different result, perhaps in anticipation of certain conversations happening over the weekend between the Prime Minister and people who voted one way, and perhaps on the basis of what appears in the Sunday papers? Is it in order to bring the same motion twice on consecutive days? Do we not have a duty to our constituents and to the country to let this matter rest?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am cognisant of your recent comments, but it seems to me that we had a business statement setting out what was going to happen next week in the normal way. That has now been altered on a point of order. I am not convinced that that was an appropriate point of order. If it was not, we have not received notice in this House of what will happen on Monday. Can the Government alter the business on Monday using a point of order, or should an invite not be made for an emergency motion that we could listen and respond to?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you clarify whether the Queen’s Speech amendments—I have one on free TV licences—will still be considered on Monday? Will there be space in the timetable to hear those amendments?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your clarification on a procedural point. Quite clearly, the Leader of the House is not going to bring forward a business statement, and it is clear from these proceedings that Members wish to question him. Is there provision in the Standing Orders to suspend the House or otherwise give you an opportunity to consider a request for an urgent question to the Leader of the House this afternoon in order that we might question him?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I have not been to the Table Office, but I understand that the Orders of the Day for Monday have been tabled and that they do not, in fact, include the Queen’s Speech debate for Monday. I am not sure whether the Leader of the House’s nod meant that we would be having a Queen’s Speech debate on Monday or that we would not be having a Queen’s Speech debate on Monday, because the Orders apparently include only debate on the withdrawal Act. Obviously, most of us have not had a chance to go to the Table Office and see the Order Paper. It would be very useful if you could somehow compel the Leader of the House to stand up and tell us whether that nod meant that we are having the Queen’s Speech debate on Monday or that we are not having the Queen’s Speech debate on Monday, because the details that have been placed in the Table Office appear to suggest that we are not.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that you worry unduly. There will be a full emergency business statement on Monday—that is part of what I was saying—so that people can have a full appreciation of what business there will be. I made my announcement on a point of order because the situation had arisen urgently, and it was important to make clear to the House straight away what would happen. However, as Members will know, statements are made very early in the day, and there will therefore be an opportunity for full understanding of how business will develop.
The Queen’s Speech debate will continue, but Monday will be as I set out in the point of order that I raised a few moments ago.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to what appeared to be a quasi-business statement from the Leader of the House, which was or was not about matters that the House may be discussing on Monday but of which we have not had proper notice—and there is no intervening day for a motion tabled today for discussion on Monday, which is the normal course of events—the suggestion that we should repeat the same debate on essentially the same matter, section 13(1)(b), is surely contrary to all our normal practices, whereby the Government of the day, if a matter has been disposed of, cannot repetitiously and vexatiously keep asking the same question until they receive the answer that they prefer.
I do not ask you to rule on this matter now, Mr Speaker, but I strongly urge you to take account of the fact that many of us would feel that it would be an abuse of the power of the Executive to come back on Monday and ask the same question again just because they did not get the answer that they wanted today.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to your response to the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Mr Leslie) and your statement that you will make a ruling on Monday, I am anxious that, if a section 13(1)(b) motion were to be tabled for the House to consider on Monday—which seems to me to be what we have just chosen to amend today—there should be an opportunity for an amendment, or amendments, to be tabled to it. Depending on whether the Government may table such a motion, could you indicate whether you would be willing to accept a manuscript amendment once we know what your ruling is on Monday?
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. There are two points that I want to put on record that may be worth considering when you are making your decision about whether this is an orderly proposal.
First, contrary to what one might assume, it is not the case—even if the Prime Minister has written his letter tonight, as I believe he now will and must—that this motion, which the Government have now put down, is in a substantially different context or would have a substantially different effect from the one which they tried today, but which the House rejected. The reason for that is that, in the Benn Act, we provided very specifically that if there is a validation by the House through an approval of the withdrawal agreement subsequent to the depositing of the letter with the EU, that letter can then automatically and immediately be withdrawn. So, what the Government are attempting in this motion to do is nothing more and nothing less than to repeat what would have been the effect of today, on Monday.
Secondly, I think it is important that the decision of the House today when it passed the amendment and subsequently passed the motion as amended was specifically that the House was withholding approval “unless and until” the legislative stages of implementation had occurred. This very clearly flies in the face of that, because it seeks the approval of the House without the legislative stages having been approved.
I understand entirely why the Government are trying to do this, because of course it would negate the whole effect of the amendment today, rather than moving us on to the Second Reading of the withdrawal implementation Bill, as I had hoped and expected, but I wanted to point those things out to you, Mr Speaker, because I think they are material when deciding whether it is orderly.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. The orders in the Table Office—[Interruption.] I am now not really sure whether I have a point of order to make, Mr Speaker. The orders in the Table Office make no mention of the Queen’s Speech whatsoever, so I assume that the Leader of the House meant that the Queen’s Speech debate will take place on other days. However, they do provide for a motion under the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 for up to 90 minutes. Therefore, if there are no urgent questions or statements on Monday, we will all be going home at 5 o’clock. Is there any way in which the Government can provide more time for a debate, given how heavily subscribed and how much interest there was today, and, for understandable reasons, how many Members were not able to be called? What provision is there for the Government to make more time available than just the statutory 90 minutes, if we are to have a meaningful vote on Monday?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise for not being in the Chamber earlier; I was watching on the television screens and heard what you said about the need to consider this matter carefully. I only became aware of it when I popped into the Table Office and saw that something had been thrown down by the Government, in a quite odd move. If the Government were in effect trying to put the same question again, is it not the case that they would be trying to avoid tabling the withdrawal Bill, which the Prime Minister indicated he would do? Of course, many Members of this House from all parts and with all views on Brexit wish to see that Bill so that they can adequately consider it, appropriate impact assessments can be undertaken, Committees such as the Exiting the European Union Committee, chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), can consider it, and amendments to it can be tabled. Does it not strike you, Mr Speaker, that this is an odd way to be proceeding, given the clear will of the House expressed today on a very clear question?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. You will be aware that, hitherto, a motion to regret in relation to the Gracious Speech had been tabled in the name of Leader of the Opposition and me about the future of the national health service that sought to exempt the national health service from a trade deal with the United States. The motion has provoked considerable support in the country among NHS staff and patient groups, many of whom were going to go to a lot of trouble to come to the House on Monday to lobby Members of Parliament ahead of that debate. Out of courtesy, can you tell the House what we should be saying to NHS campaigners about whether they should come here on Monday, because it looks like the Government are running scared of a debate on the NHS?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Do you think that this issue should be referred to the Procedure Committee? It always used to be a convention that we had decent notice of business. That convention has been in a sense undermined by, for example, the recent practice of debates following applications under Standing Order No. 24 taking place immediately after the application has been granted, rather than on the following day, which gives people notice. We have some dangerous precedents for business being changed at short notice to the detriment of Members of this House and to members of the public who might want to attend our proceedings. If the matter was referred to the Procedure Committee, it may be able to recommend some tightening of Standing Orders so that this sort of situation did not arise again.
While I am on my feet, it looks as though, from what the Leader of the House said in his point of order, a motion has been put down for Monday under section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, but it will not fall under section 1(1)(a) of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. The motions we debated today covered two different Acts and two different provisions, but I understand that the motion down for debate on Monday relates only to the 2018 Act, so it seems—I hope that you will be able to consider this over the weekend—that it cannot be regarded as the same issue that we dealt with today. I hope that you will be able to take such matters into account.
Yes. If you can put it that way, I am, and I can say that I first had the privilege of joining the Procedure Committee back in 1984, when it was graced with the presence of the right hon. Enoch Powell and many other distinguished Members of this place.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise if you have already made this clear, but is it your intention, perhaps as the first piece of business on Monday, to make a very clear statement on the process we have just heard, particularly if you consider it to be of a vexatious and repetitive nature? If it is appropriate, would you look kindly on an urgent question on this subject? Members have clearly expressed some very strong views about what the Government have just done.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I will be brief. Can you give me some guidance on how best I could register my disgust and disapproval of the behaviour of the Leader of the House in walking out as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) tried to respond to his point of order? This continues on from the behaviour of Conservative Members who, at every opportunity, barrack and shout down my group leader, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford). This should not be allowed to continue, and I would like to know what I can do to help it stop.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Could you clarify whether it would be in order for the Leader of the House to apologise to Back-Bench Members who were expecting some sort of explanation following today’s proceedings, and indeed to those who had been preparing to speak in Monday’s Queen’s Speech debate, and looking forward to it—they might be polishing their speeches as we speak—but who will now be unable to do so?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. When the Leader of the House was not making his business statement earlier, we had no suggestion of the timings of anything that might happen in Monday’s sitting. We presume that our proceedings will commence at 2.30 pm, but we have no idea as we are sitting today on Saturday. We are having to presume a lot of things. We are being left in the dark by a Government whose Leader of the House, frankly, is not sufficiently courteous to make a business statement. Could you please clarify the expected timings for Monday?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to register my concern about, effectively, the debate that we are now having, when most Members felt that business would have already finished and who, on a Saturday, had arranged to get back to their families and to other commitments. It is very clear to me that the Government knew that today’s vote could have only two outcomes: it was either going to succeed or it was going to fail. There was therefore no reason for the Government not to be transparent about their intentions for the following sitting day and how they will proceed following the outcome of today’s debate.
I really do feel that we have now spent a year with the previous Government and now this Government, unfortunately, seeking to override votes here. Only today the Prime Minister said that
“Parliament should be at the heart of decision making… I acknowledge that in the past we have perhaps not always acted in that spirit.”
I simply want to reflect that this has got to stop. This House cannot do its job if we have plans and debates sprung on us at the last minute. All that we are seeking to do is to scrutinise on behalf of our constituents, represent their concerns and play our role in trying to help make any Brexit deal the best possible deal that it can become. This is simply not the way for the House to be run. I hope that you can reflect on Members’ concerns as you reach a ruling.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to the point I made in my earlier point of order, in respect of which you kindly ruled that this matter should have been dealt with through an emergency business statement, I think we all, if we have been in the House long enough, recognise low-rent jiggery-pokery from the Government, which is what this actually amounts to. I understand that that is not something you could say, Mr Speaker—I notice your head movements, but it is not my duty to comment on people’s head movements in the House.
If the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) were seeking to table what we might call an insurance amendment ahead of Monday’s proceedings, just in case a ruling should occur that allowed the Government to proceed as they suggested through the rather irregular point of order from the Leader of the House earlier, and that insurance amendment was not tabled by the time we finished these points of order, would you be minded overall to accept such an amendment as a manuscript amendment, prior to our proceedings on Monday?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Have you had any indication from the Government about whether or not they intend to undertake and publish an economic impact analysis on the Brexit deal, in advance of bringing it before us again on Monday?
The Brexit Secretary, this morning, confirmed that the Government have not undertaken an economic impact analysis on the Prime Minister’s deal and have therefore not published it. Have you had any notice, Mr Speaker, about whether they intend to undertake and publish that analysis in advance of Monday, as they now have a few extra days before they bring it back to us?
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I welcome the remarks that you have made already in response to the other points of order. Can you tell us how we will know whether or not the Government have sent the letter to the European Council to comply with the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 by 11 o’clock tonight? Have they indicated whether they will lay it in the Library or put a copy on the gov.uk website, because otherwise we could be in the dark until Monday on whether this has even happened, and given the jiggery pokery, as has been described, that is going on, no doubt they would seek to hide from us whether this letter has, in fact, been sent, as required by the law.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. As there is just so much distrust of the Prime Minister and the signing of this letter, may I suggest, through your good offices, that this is done as publicly as possible? Now, the popular TV programme “Strictly Come Dancing” is on tonight, and I am pretty certain that Tess and Claudia would welcome the Prime Minister to the show and order that that letter be signed so that the whole nation could observe it.
I must say that although I am reaching out across the Floor, I have given up on reaching out to the right hon. Lady. There are many Opposition Members and there is still hope for people who will support a plan, but I suspect that under no circumstances will she support a plan, regardless of what we produce and what it says.
Last week, the Leader of the Opposition said that no self-respecting Labour MP could vote for the proposals, yet we are now being pressed on a confidential document, the production of which would undermine yet again our negotiating position. Does the Minister agree that to reveal the documents would make no deal more likely?
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I thank my right hon. Friend, and confirm that nothing has changed since his birthday—I think that that was what he was referring to. Apologies for not congratulating him at the time. My language was not nuanced in any way. We will be leaving on 31 October with a deal or without a deal.
May I ask about the political declaration, which is of as much concern to many of us as other elements of the withdrawal agreement? The former Prime Minister was quite right to say that if there is no deal, there is no deal on security. All the elements of security are shunted forward into the political declaration. I wonder where we are with extradition, because since the original version of the political declaration was signed, four major European countries have said that they will not on any terms extradite their nationals to the UK if we are no longer members of the European Union. Will that not pose a significant problem for us if we want people to face justice in this country?
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