All 1 Boris Johnson contributions to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020

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Fri 20th Dec 2019
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading: House of Commons & Money resolution: House of Commons & Programme motion: House of Commons & Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons & 2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & Money resolution & Money resolution: House of Commons & Programme motion & Programme motion: House of Commons & Ways and Means resolution & Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons & 2nd reading & Programme motion & Money resolution & Ways and Means resolution

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill Debate

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Department: Cabinet Office

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Boris Johnson Excerpts
2nd reading: House of Commons & Money resolution: House of Commons & Programme motion: House of Commons & Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons & 2nd reading & Money resolution & Programme motion & Ways and Means resolution
Friday 20th December 2019

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I also beg that we come together, as a new Parliament, to break the deadlock and, finally, to get Brexit done. Now is the moment, as we leave the European Union, to reunite our country, and allow the warmth and natural affection we all share for our European neighbours to find renewed expression in one great new national project of building a deep, special and democratically accountable partnership with those nations we are proud to call our closest friends. Because this Bill, and this juncture in our national story, must not be seen as a victory for one party over another or one faction over another; this is the time when we move on and discard the old labels of “leave” and “remain”. In fact, the very words seem tired to me as I speak them—as defunct as “big-enders” and “little-enders” or as “Montagues” and “Capulets” at the end of the play. Now is the time to act together as one reinvigorated nation, one United Kingdom, filled with renewed confidence in our national destiny and determined, at last, to take advantage of the opportunities that now lie before us. The whole purpose of our withdrawal agreement is to set this in motion and avoid any further delay.

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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In the hope that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to have any further delay, I give way to him.

Jonathan Edwards Portrait Jonathan Edwards
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The Bill contains provisions not to extend the transition phase—phase 2 of Brexit. Is there not a danger of that strengthening the hand of the European Union in those negotiations? Why has the Prime Minister boxed himself into a corner?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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On the contrary, I think that most people would agree that this strengthens our negotiating position; if we have learnt anything from the experience of the last three years, it is that drift and dither means more acrimony and anguish. There would be nothing more dangerous for the new future that we want to build than allowing the permanent possibility of extending—

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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--- Later in debate ---
Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I think I am coming to the point that hon. Members wish to discuss. There would be nothing more dangerous than extending the implementation period, in a torture that, as we all remember, came to resemble Lucy snatching away Charlie Brown’s football or Prometheus chained to the Tartarian crag, his liver pecked out by an eagle and then growing back, as hon. Members on both sides of the House will recall, only to be pecked out again, with the cycle repeated forever. This Bill, unlike Opposition Members, learns the emphatic lesson of the last Parliament and rejects any further delay. It ensures that we depart from the EU on 31 January, and at that point Brexit will be done—it will be over. The sorry story of the last three and a half years will be at an end and we will be able to move forward together. The Bill ensures that the implementation period must end on 31 December next year, with no possibility of an extension, and it paves the way for a new agreement on our future relationship with our European neighbours, based on an ambitious free trade agreement—

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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No, I will not give way. This will be with no alignment on EU rules, but instead with control of our own laws, and close and friendly relations. This vision of the United Kingdom’s independence, a vision that inspires so many, is now, if this new Parliament allows, only hours from our grasp. The oven is on. It is set at gas mark 4; we can have this done by lunchtime—or a late lunchtime. The new deal that I negotiated with our European friends will restore our great institutions to their rightful place as the supreme instruments of British self-governance. Once again, this House will be the only assembly able to legislate for this United Kingdom, and British courts will be the sole arbiters of those laws, and above them all will be the sovereign British people, masters of their own fate, controlling their own borders, laws, money and trade.

Throughout our new immigration system, we will not only welcome those with talent, but go out of our way to attract people of ability, regardless of nationality or background. We are able to do this only because the freedoms offered by leaving the EU allow us, once again, to control overall numbers and bear down on unskilled immigration with our new points-based system.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
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Will the Prime Minister give way?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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If the hon. and learned Lady is against control of immigration, I would like to hear her explain why.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
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The Prime Minister has spoken about welcoming people to these islands. Clause 37 of his Bill removes the Government’s existing obligations with regard to unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the European Union who want to join their family members in the United Kingdom. Lord Dubs has described this removal of a right as “mean-spirited and nasty”. Can the Prime Minister tell me why he is making this mean-spirited and nasty move?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I am afraid that the hon. and learned Lady has totally misunderstood, or possibly misrepresented, the purpose of what we are doing here. We remain proud of our work in receiving unaccompanied children. We will continue to support fully the purpose and spirit of the Dubs amendment, but this is not the place—in this Bill—to do so. The Government remain absolutely committed to doing so.

Among the many other advantages of this deal is, of course, the fact that we will be able to sign free trade deals with the booming markets of the world, a power that no British government have enjoyed for the past 46 years. We will cast off the common agricultural policy, which has too often frustrated and overburdened our farmers. We will release our fishermen from the tangled driftnets of arcane quota systems.

Owen Paterson Portrait Mr Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con)
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I offer my heartiest congratulations to my right hon. Friend. No communities will be more keen to get control back than fishing communities. Will he guarantee that we will not make the mistake of the 1970s and allow the allocation of fishing resources to be a bargaining chip in the treaty negotiations? Will he guarantee that we will become a normal independent maritime nation and conduct negotiations on an annual basis for reciprocal deals to mutual advantage?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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My right hon. Friend perfectly understands what we need to do to restore to this country the advantages of its spectacular marine wealth, and that is exactly what we will do, once we become an independent coastal state. I remind the House and Opposition Members that one party in this House of Commons is committed to not just reversing the will of the people, but handing back control of Scotland’s outstanding marine wealth to Brussels, and that is the Scottish National party—that is what they would do. I look forward to hearing them explain why they continue to support this abject policy and abject surrender.

Under this Bill, this House also regains the authority to set the highest possible standards, and we will take advantage of these new freedoms to legislate in parallel on the environment, and on workers’ and consumers’ rights. I reject the inexplicable fear—

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I give way, with pleasure, as I think the hon. Lady may want to talk about this inexplicable fear.

Lisa Nandy Portrait Lisa Nandy
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The Prime Minister is right to say that he has won a mandate to get Brexit done, but what he has not earned is the right to shoehorn into this legislation measures that are a direct attack on some of the most vulnerable children in the world. If he thinks that people in towns such as mine, who believe that we should deliver Brexit, want to see us turn our back on decency, tolerance, kindness, warmth and empathy, he is wrong. Will he take these measures about child refugees out of this Bill?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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I understand where the hon. Lady is coming from but, like the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), she is wrong on this point. We remain absolutely committed to ensuring that this country will continue to receive unaccompanied children. We have led Europe and received thousands already—this country has a proud record—and we will continue to do so.

I thought that the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) was going to say that this House would be unable to legislate or regulate on the environment in a way that is superior to the European Union, but that is what we will now be able to do. I reject the idea that our proceedings must somehow be overseen and invigilated by the EU and measured against its benchmarks. The very essence of the opportunity of Brexit is that we will no longer outsource these decisions; with renewed national self-confidence, we will take them ourselves and answer to those who sent us here. It was this Parliament, and this country, that led the whole of Europe and the world in passing the Factory Acts and the clean air Acts of the 19th century, which improved industrial working conditions by law.

This House should never doubt its ability to pioneer standards for the fourth industrial revolution, just as we did for the first.

That epoch-making transformation, as with all the pivotal achievements of British history, reflected the combined national genius of every corner of this United Kingdom. In this new era, our success will once again be achieved as one nation. This new deal in the Bill ensures that the United Kingdom will leave the EU whole and entire, with an unwavering dedication to Northern Ireland’s place in our Union.

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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On that point, I will happily give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Gavin Robinson Portrait Gavin Robinson
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I am grateful to the Prime Minister for taking my intervention—I almost thought we had fallen out. He knows that he now has the strength from the election to deliver Brexit. He also knows that we want to deliver Brexit, but we want to do so as one nation, so I am glad that that phraseology is being re-injected into the debate. However, he needs to understand the concerns about the customs arrangements for Northern Ireland, the tariff differentials and the potential for checks, and he needs to understand the concerns we share because we want to ensure that we leave as one nation. We are not going to resolve those issues today, but will he commit to proper, thorough and detailed reconsideration, using the strength that he has to deliver for the entirety of this country?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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Of course, I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman raises, but let me remind him that the deal commits to unfettered access, but in all parts of the UK. It respects the territorial integrity of the UK, and it ensures that Northern Ireland is part of the UK customs territory and would therefore benefit immediately from any of our new free trade deals as soon as they are in force.

Let me remind the House that the special provisions applying to Northern Ireland, which ensure a very important thing—that there is no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland—are subject to the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Unless the Assembly specifically withholds its consent, and unless it insists on continuing with this approach, then those arrangements would automatically lapse into full alignment with the rest of the UK. I believe that these arrangements serve the interests of Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole. It is a great deal for our whole country.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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No, I will not give way.

We must now begin building our future relationship with the EU. Our aim is to provide a close friendship between sovereign equals, to promote our common interests, inspired by pride in our European heritage and civilisation. Clause 3 of the political declaration invokes that spirit, establishing

“the parameters of an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership”

rooted in our shared “history and ideals” and

“standing together against threats to rights and values from without or within”.

I am absolutely determined that this great project will be the project not of one Government or one party, but of the British nation as a whole, so Parliament will be kept fully informed of the progress of these negotiations.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)
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Will the Prime Minister give way?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
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No. We should be fortified by a renewed sense of confidence. [Interruption.] In all fairness, I think that I have given way quite a few times.

The policy of the Liberal Democrats is now to have another referendum. They have abandoned revoke and now want another referendum. When they have worked out their policy, I will give way.

We should be fortified by a renewed sense of confidence that while our democratic institutions have been tested as never before, if this House comes together now to support the Bill, as I hope it will, history will record that the first act of this new Parliament, in its earliest days, was to break the ice floes and find a new passage through to unsuspected oceans of opportunity. So now is the moment to come together and write a new and exciting chapter in our national story, to forge a new partnership with our European friends, to stand tall in the world and to begin the healing for which the people of this country yearn. And it is in that spirit of unity that I commend this Bill to the House.