There have been 16 exchanges between John Baron and Department for Exiting the European Union
|Sat 19th October 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) Acts||16 interactions (256 words)|
|Wed 12th June 2019||Leaving the EU: Business of the House||3 interactions (126 words)|
|Wed 3rd April 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill||13 interactions (548 words)|
|Mon 1st April 2019||EU: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Motions)||3 interactions (171 words)|
|Wed 27th March 2019||EU: Withdrawal and Future Relationship (Motions)||18 interactions (1,219 words)|
|Wed 20th March 2019||No-deal EU Exit Preparations (Urgent Question)||12 interactions (509 words)|
|Wed 27th February 2019||UK’s Withdrawal from the EU||27 interactions (1,285 words)|
|Thu 14th February 2019||UK’s Withdrawal from the EU||13 interactions (238 words)|
|Tue 24th July 2018||EU Withdrawal Agreement: Legislation||3 interactions (96 words)|
|Wed 18th July 2018||Future Relationship Between the UK and the EU||15 interactions (1,188 words)|
|Thu 12th July 2018||EU: Future Relationship White Paper||3 interactions (133 words)|
|Wed 20th June 2018||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||15 interactions (111 words)|
|Tue 12th June 2018||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||3 interactions (50 words)|
|Wed 20th December 2017||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||19 interactions (210 words)|
|Tue 5th December 2017||EU Exit Negotiations||3 interactions (76 words)|
|Tue 7th November 2017||Exiting the EU: Sectoral Analysis||3 interactions (56 words)|
As Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend speaks with great authority on this issue. I know that he in particular will have recognised the importance of the fact that the whole of the United Kingdom will benefit from our future trade deals around the world, with every part of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, leaving, as the Prime Minister said in his statement, whole and entire.
My hon. Friend is right to talk of the opportunity for trade deals that Brexit unlocks. We start from a position of great understanding of the respective economies—a big part of a trade deal is usually negotiating that understanding at the start—and we can seize the opportunities of those trade deals around the world. That is exactly why we need to move forward.
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The problem with the hon. Gentleman’s argument is that it is at odds with the argument put forward by the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), who says that we need to pass this amendment to have more scrutiny and delay and to take much longer, yet the hon. Gentleman says that we need the amendment to be able to leave on —[Interruption.]
That is a matter of extraordinary interest in the House and possibly across the nation—I say that to the hon. Gentleman in the friendliest spirit—but it is not a matter for adjudication by the Chair. However, the hon. Gentleman has advertised his non-membership of the ERG, and I hope he feels better for it.
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I have given way many, many times. I am going to make some progress, and then I will give way again.
Of the two possible outcomes, one is this deregulated free trade agreement which in the end, whatever people say, will drive us away from the European economic model towards a different economic model. We will look back on this as a turning point in our history of much greater significance than whether this deal technically gets over the line tonight. The other possible outcome, which has been put to me in interventions, is that there is no deal at the end of the transition period, and that has to be significantly addressed. I know that some colleagues are tempted to vote for the deal because they believe that it prevents or removes the possibility of crashing out on World Trade Organisation terms. It does not. Under the previous deal, if the future relationship was not ready by the end of the transition, the backstop kicked in, which prevented WTO terms. That has gone. This is a trapdoor to no deal.
Let me quote the words of the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron). I hope that I do so accurately, but if I do not, he will correct me. What I understood him to say was this:
“The reason I am inclined to vote for this one”
“is very simple… if the trade talks are not successful…then we could leave on no-deal terms.”
Of course, if I was not taking so many interventions, I would conclude my remarks with more alacrity. However, I accept the right hon. Lady’s request.
We were told last time that the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Act 2019 had to be passed in a day in an unprecedented manner to stop no deal. Yet, Lord Pannick, when debating the measure, said that
“the restrictions on the Prime Minister’s powers...may cause a no-deal exit”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 8 April 2019; Vol. 797, c. 405.]
That was the premise of the amendments tabled by Lord Pannick and others. The ultimate irony is that, first, we had a situation whereby emergency legislation passed in haste had the opposite effect to what was intended, and secondly, we were told that, to stop something unconstitutional, we needed to embrace parliamentary procedure that the constitutional experts said was unconstitutional.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I pray in aid the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin). I always listen intently to him because he is a very experienced senior Member of the House. When the previous emergency legislation was passed, he said:
“We have been driven to this only in an extreme emergency”.—[Official Report, 27 March 2019; Vol. 657, c. 342.]
That related to timing. Yet is difficult to say that there is “an extreme emergency” if the next Prime Minister is the candidate that my right hon. Friend supports.
The truth is that we have been trying to squeeze into a few days a process of consensus building that should have taken two years. It should have started a long time ago. That is why I think it so important to ensure that, just at the point at which we are trying to come together and build some consensus, we do not tumble off the edge of a cliff and end up doing unfair damage to our constituents.
I think the hon. Gentleman is talking about the assessments of the impact on confidence that were made immediately after the referendum. Those were very different from the assessments of the impact of, for instance, World Trade Organisation tariffs, which are very practical, because it is clear what the impact will be on numbers, or on border capacity if customs checks are necessary. Those practical measures have not yet come into being, and I hope that they will not, because frictionless trade is important to our constituencies.
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Needless to say, I strongly disagree with my hon. Friend. The people voted to leave the structure of the economic union, and they wanted to slam the door closed. They wanted a clean break. They were not thinking about our future relationship; they said, “We’ve had enough of the existing relationship.”
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend.
They made that decision to leave, and they expected us to leave—they certainly expected us to be leaving in a lot less than three years. It has been suggested that if we go back and rerun the referendum, people will change their mind because of the economic arguments and so on. The reality is very different. We should recognise, as I recall the Attorney General saying on one of his outings in the House on this issue, that this has now come down to a political decision, and the political decision should follow the result of the referendum. There would be an enormous backlash against not just the party in power but the political classes if we are not seen to walk through the door before us marked “exit.”
I urge the House to vote against Second Reading and to continue the battle. If we end up with no deal, so be it.
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I will not give way because I have been told that I have only three minutes.
There are huge further concerns about a no deal, crossing everything from security to medicines, fissile materials and pharmaceuticals. We often hear from Conservative Members that, somehow, crashing out of the EU would make it easier for us to make trade deals. If other countries are considering whether we are a potentially trustworthy partner, would they really want to conduct a trade deal with a partner that has crashed out of the EU and has presumably not even paid its divorce bill? I think it would make us look incredibly untrustworthy.
Finally, let us not have all this stuff about there being some kind of stitch-up to prevent us from leaving the EU. Conservative Members cannot possibly say what was in the minds of those who voted leave nearly three years ago. What we do know is that, in fact, those who voted leave represented 37% of the electorate, it was nearly three years ago and a no deal was not on the ballot paper. How on earth can we take such far-reaching action, which would cause so much damage to our constituents and our environment, on the basis of little over a third of the electorate nearly three years ago?
At the very least, this has to go back to the people. We cannot possibly pretend to be acting in their name unless we have the courtesy to go back and check that this is what they meant. Frankly, from everything I know from speaking to people across the country, they did not mean for the amount of devastation and destruction that would be caused to this country by crashing out of the EU with no deal, which is why this Bill is so important.
The short answer to the right hon. Gentleman is that the House has agreed to the process that has unfolded, and therefore it is entirely procedurally proper for the judgment I have made to be made, and that is the judgment that I have made. The right hon. Gentleman will have noted the view expressed in the debates last week, and let me say in terms that are very clear—he may not approve of them, but they are clear—that the purpose of this discrete exercise, as I think is understood by colleagues across the House, is to try to identify whether there is potential consensus among Members for an approach to the departure from and the future relationship with the European Union. It is in that spirit and in the knowledge that it is wholly impossible, colleagues, to satisfy everybody, that I have sought conscientiously to discharge my obligations to the House by making a judicious selection. That is what I have done, that I readily defend to the House and that I will continue to proclaim to be the right and prudent course in circumstances that were not of my choosing, but with which, as Chair, I am confronted.
I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for the very reasonable tones in which, as usual, he expresses it. He and I have known each other for a long time, and I have the highest regard for the integrity of the hon. Gentleman. I am happy, although not obliged, to provide an answer to each of his two points. I say I am not obliged not in my interests, but because the House has long understood and asserted the obligation of the Chair to make these judgments and expected that the Chair would not provide an explanation, but that the House—having vested in the Chair the responsibility—would accept the judgment. However, I am happy in this case to respond to his two points.
First, in relation to the hon. Gentleman’s motion appertaining to the backstop, he makes his own point in his own way. I have to make a judgment about what I think is reasonable going forward. In this debate, colleagues, we are not acting alone; we are acting in a negotiation with the European Union. The point that the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about is expressed in this motion for the first time, but it has been aired repeatedly—I do not say that critically, but as a matter of fact—since the publication in November of the withdrawal agreement. Repeated commitments have been made to seek a re-examination of that point by the Union, and it has become clear over a period of months that that re-examination is not offered by the Union. It may or may not feature in the future, but in terms of trying to broker progress now I did not think it would be the most sensible motion to choose at this time. I put it no more strongly than that.
Secondly, in relation to the so-called no-deal motion, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me—and, frankly, even if he will not—I am going to replay to him his own point in my support rather than his. Somewhat exasperated—well, quizzical—that I had not selected his motion, he said, “But Mr Speaker, leaving without a deal on 12 April is the legal default.” He is right: it is precisely because it is the default position in law that having it on the Order Paper is, in my view, a rhetorical assertion. It is a statement of fact, and it does not in my judgment require debate. The second point on that motion is that in looking at it—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster) can chunter from a sedentary position in evident disapproval of the thrust of the argument that I am developing if he so wishes, but it does not detract from the fact that I am making the point I am making. He does not like it: I do, and we will have to leave it there.
The simple fact of the matter is that that motion, voted on last week, as the beady eye of the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) testifies he realises, was rejected by 400 votes to 160. A significant number of Members did not vote, but even if every Member who did not vote on that motion last week were to vote in favour of it this week, it still would not pass. I see my duty as being to try to advance matters. Whatever people think about this issue and whatever side of the argument they sit, they all think, “Can we not make some progress?” It is in pursuit of progress that I have made the disinterested—I use that old-fashioned but valid term—judgment that I have made to try to serve the House.
I totally understand that it will not please everyone, but it happens to be my view, it is an honest one, and it is my best judgment.
I shall not respond to that disorderly heckle.
However, if that were to happen—what I have just counselled should not—the vote would not be counted. As with deferred Divisions, Members may not hand in forms on behalf of other Members. Each Member must hand in his or her own form. Members with proxy votes in operation will need to get their nominated proxy to hand in their form. A short note is being made available in the Vote Office confirming these arrangements.
I will announce the results in the Chamber as soon as they are ready, which will certainly not be before the conclusion of proceedings on the statutory instrument relating to exit day. The results of the votes will be published in the same way as deferred Divisions: on the CommonsVotes website and app, and in Hansard, showing how each hon. Member voted on each motion.
Colleagues, last Monday—18 March—I made a statement to the House explaining the standard which would have to be reached for me to allow another so-called meaningful vote under the statutory framework provided in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. I cited page 387 of “Erskine May” and concluded that a proposition which is the same, or substantially the same, may not be brought forward again during the same parliamentary Session. This Monday—25 March—in the course of answering questions following her statement, the Prime Minister accepted this constraint, saying:
“I am very clear about the strictures that Mr Speaker gave when he made his statement last week, and were we to bring forward a further motion to this House, we would of course ensure that it met the requirements he made.”—[Official Report, 25 March 2019; Vol. 657, c. 32.]
I understand that the Government may be thinking of bringing meaningful vote 3 before the House either tomorrow, or even on Friday, if the House opts to sit that day. Therefore, in order that there should be no misunderstanding, I wish to make it clear that I do expect the Government to meet the test of change. They should not seek to circumvent my ruling by means of tabling either a “notwithstanding” motion or a paving motion. The Table Office has been instructed that no such motions will be accepted.
I very much look forward, colleagues, to today’s debate and votes, which give the House the chance to start the process of positively indicating what it wants. To move the first motion, I call the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron).
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following motions:
Motion (D)—Common market 2.0—
That this House—
(1) directs Her Majesty’s Government to— renegotiate the framework for the future relationship laid before the House on Monday 11 March 2019 with the title ‘Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom’ to provide that, on the conclusion of the Implementation Period and no later than 31 December 2020, the United Kingdom shall—
(a) accede to the European Free Trade Association (Efta) having negotiated a derogation from Article 56(3) of the Efta Agreement to allow UK participation in a comprehensive customs arrangement with the European Union,
(b) enter the Efta Pillar of the European Economic Area and thereby render operational the United Kingdom’s continuing status as a party to the European Economic Area Agreement and continuing participation in the Single Market,
(c) enter a comprehensive customs arrangement including a common external tariff at least until alternative arrangements that maintain frictionless trade with the European Union and no hard border on the island of Ireland have been agreed with the European Union,
(d) conclude an agreement with the European Union, which in accordance with Article 2 of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland of the Withdrawal Agreement supersedes the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in full;
(e) develop and bring to this House proposals for full and fair enforcement of the rule that EEA migrants must be “genuinely seeking work” and have “sufficient resources not to become a burden on the UK’s social assistance system”, in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006;
(2) resolves to make support for the forthcoming European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill conditional upon the inclusion of provisions for a Political Declaration revised in accordance with the provisions of this motion to be the legally binding negotiating mandate for Her Majesty’s Government in the forthcoming negotiation of the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Motion (H)—EFTA and EEA—
That this House recognises the democratic duty of Parliament to respect the result of the 2016 referendum whilst securing an orderly departure from the EU that preserves the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; notes that the UK is a signatory to the treaty establishing the European Economic Area and has not given notice to leave the EEA as is required under Article 127 of that agreement; further notes that the UK was a founding member of the European Free Trade Association in 1960 and therefore call on the Government to (a) assert its existing rights as a signatory to the EEA, (b) take necessary steps to make our rights and obligations as an EEA member operable on an emergency basis through the domestic courts, (c) apply to re-join EFTA at the earliest opportunity to make the EEA agreement operable on a sustainable basis and (d) decline to enter a customs union with the EU but seek agreement on new protocols relating to the Northern Ireland border and agri-food trade.
Motion (J)—Customs union—
That this House instructs the Government to:
(1) ensure that any Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration negotiated with the EU must include, as a minimum, a commitment to negotiate a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU;
(2) enshrine this objective in primary legislation.
Motion (K)—Labour’s alternative plan—
That this House requires Ministers to:
(a) negotiate changes to the draft Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration so as to secure:
(i) a permanent customs union with the EU;
(ii) close alignment with the single market underpinned by shared institutions and obligations;
(iii) dynamic alignment on rights and protections;
(iv) commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, including in areas such as the environment, education, and industrial regulation;
(v) agreement on the detail of future security arrangements, including access to the European Arrest Warrant and vital shared databases; and
(b) introduce primary legislation to give statutory status to the objectives set out in paragraph (a).
Motion (L)—Revocation to avoid no deal—
If, on the day before the end of the penultimate House of Commons sitting day before exit day, no Act of Parliament has been passed for the purposes of section 13(1)(d) of the Withdrawal Act, Her Majesty’s Government must immediately put a motion to the House asking it to approve ‘No Deal’ and, if the House does not give its approval, Her Majesty’s Government must ensure that the notice given to the European Council under Article 50, of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the European Union, is revoked in accordance with United Kingdom and European Union law.
Motion (M)—Confirmatory public vote—
That this House will not allow in this Parliament the implementation and ratification of any withdrawal agreement and any framework for the future relationship unless and until they have been approved by the people of the United Kingdom in a confirmatory public vote.
Motion (O)—Contingent preferential arrangements—
That this House directs that in case the UK is unable to implement a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, Her Majesty’s Government shall seek to agree immediately and preferentially with the EU:
(a) a trade agreement and/or joint notification of trade preference covering 100 per cent of goods traded between the UK and EU under which no tariffs or quantitative restrictions will be applied between the parties and full cumulation of rules of origin which shall apply for a period of up to two years after the UK leaves the EU notwithstanding that these arrangements may be superseded or extended by further mutual agreement;
(b) a standstill period of mutual recognition of standards and conformity assessment for up to two years in which the UK will ensure compliance in the UK with the EU legislative acquis as adopted in Retained EU law under the EU Withdrawal Act on the day the UK leaves the EU notwithstanding that these arrangements may be superseded or extended by further mutual agreement;
(c) a customs arrangement consisting of advanced trade facilitation measures that enables and makes full and widespread use of simplified and subsidised procedures to perform customs and regulatory declarations and associated control processes away from UK/EU borders; and
(d) make provision for the payment of sums to the European Union in amounts equivalent to the UK’s current net annual financial contribution to the EU for up to two years in respect of the above agreements and arrangements.
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No, no—I have already called the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay and he has started to speak. In any case, I am on my feet, so the hon. Gentleman should not rise to his feet while I am on mine. Somebody as concerned with procedure as the hon. Gentleman might usefully become acquainted with that important procedural fact.
I was just going to appeal to colleagues—and I think the intervention has helped me to do so—to leave the Chamber quickly and quietly so that we can proceed with the debate and each contributor enjoys the respectful attention of the House which he or she deserves.
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene. Let me take a moment to remind the House and in particular the hon. Gentleman that Northern Ireland has not had a Government since January 2017. We have no Ministers in Northern Ireland. The head of the Northern Ireland civil service has warned as recently as the beginning of this month of the “grave” consequences for Northern Ireland if we were to leave without a deal. Does the hon. Gentleman have any respect at all for the head of the civil service in Northern Ireland or indeed for the people of Northern Ireland?
Before the hon. Gentleman responds, it might be helpful to the House if I explain that no fewer than 47 Members are seeking to contribute to the debate from the Back Benches, plus three Front Benchers, with a very constrained timetable. Speeches of more than about five minutes will render it impossible for everybody else. The hon. Gentleman did not know that when I called him, although he could have reckoned with the likelihood of substantial demand. Economy is of the essence.
I thank my hon. Friend for his urgent question and congratulate him on securing your approval for it, Mr Speaker.
The Government have always been clear that leaving the European Union without a deal is not an outcome that we want. Last week, Parliament voted against leaving with no deal, signalling a clear majority against such an outcome. However, the legal default is that the UK will leave the EU without a deal unless an alternative is agreed; any agreed extension would not change that. A longer extension would also entail holding European Parliament elections in the UK. As the Prime Minister stated in her letter to Donald Tusk, we
“do not believe that it would be in either of our interests”—
the UK’s or the EU’s—
“for the UK to hold European Parliament elections.”
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Thank you, Mr Speaker; I apologise to my hon. Friend.
The Government have undertaken significant action to prepare for a potential no-deal scenario. We have published 450 pieces of no-deal communications since October 2018, including information on reciprocal healthcare arrangements with the EU, on driving in the EU after exit, and even on how to take a pet abroad. We have contacted 150,000 businesses that trade with the EU to help them to get ready for no-deal customs procedures. We have held meetings, briefings and events with stakeholders across the economy, including around 300 engagements in the past month alone. We have responded to stakeholder feedback to make sure that communications are clear by updating approximately 1,300 pieces of gov.uk content based on their input.
More than 11,000 people are working on EU exit policy and programmes across the Government. We have launched a public information campaign, which includes information on gov.uk, to help citizens and businesses to prepare for leaving the European Union. TV adverts started today and radio, press and outdoor poster advertising are ongoing. Furthermore, the Treasury has provided £4.2 billion for EU exit preparations, including preparations for a no-deal scenario, and £480 million has been allocated to the Home Office to ensure that it is fully prepared.
Getting ready for this scenario depends on action not only from the Government, but from a range of third parties, including businesses, individual citizens and the European Union itself. Despite Government mitigation, the impact of a no-deal scenario is expected to be significant in a number of areas. Leaving the European Union with no deal is the legal default until Parliament passes a deal or agrees on an alternative. We are focused on achieving that, but until it has been achieved, we will continue to prepare for no deal and we advise businesses to do the same.
I found it interesting that my hon. Friend was barracked by Opposition Members for pointing out how strong our country’s economy was. I would have thought they would be proud of that.
I hope that in my opening answer I gave the House a sense of how much preparation the Government have done since August 2016, although preparations have of course been ramped up in the last few months. I will list a handful of points: more than 550 no-deal communications have been sent out since August 2018; we have had 300 stake- holder engagements since February; we have been signing international agreements with our trading partners and rolling over others; 11,000 people are working on EU exit policy and programmes across Government; a number of IT programmes are ready to go should we need to activate them; and we have published the HMRC partnership pack containing more than 100 pages of guidance for businesses on process and procedures at the border in a no-deal scenario. The Government have been preparing assiduously and quietly behind the scenes for no deal, but we want to get a deal over the line; that is the most important thing for us.
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Order. I think that the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) is concerned, but the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) is back in the Chamber. I do not think that I need to dwell on the matter. Suffice it to say that there can, in extremis, be a reason why someone has—very, very, very briefly—to leave the Chamber. When the call of nature sounds, that person cannot pretend to be deaf. I do not say that in a pejorative spirit; I simply mean that one cannot pretend not to be aware of the immediate requirement.
I was trying to signal as much in a somewhat more tactful and seemly manner, but the hon. Gentleman has now blurted out the truth, and the nation is aware of what was his requirement. As he has now returned to the Chamber, he can beetle back to his seat and listen to the remainder of the exchanges.
I place rather more faith in this House than the hon. Gentleman would appear to do, because I do not think there is any appetite in Parliament for what he described as a “slash-and-burn approach” to standards.
We believe that our deal is the right one for this country and no better one is available on the table. I also believe, as do the Government, that leaving with our deal is better than leaving without a deal.
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I genuinely do not fear that, because what I am finding increasingly in my conversations with politicians in different parts of Europe is that they want this issue sorted out. Frankly, they have politics of their own. They have important decisions to make on a range of subjects: the future of the eurozone; the negotiation of a multi-annual financial framework without a UK contribution; the tensions that exist between some of the central European and western European powers within the EU; and the continuing problem of the very large-scale movement of people from Africa into southern Europe. It would be a mistake for hon. Members to think that the leaders of the other 27 countries spend every waking hour thinking and worrying about Brexit matters.
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I thank the right hon. Lady for that clarification. The amendment standing in my name and that of my colleagues will be pressed to a vote, because we think that as the clock ticks we cannot wait for another two weeks. We have been waiting for “another couple of weeks” or for “another few days” for months and years now. This House needs to take a bit of responsibility for the situation in which we have been left, for which posterity and history will judge us.
On the way that history will judge us, let me talk about the human element of this. I do not want to embarrass the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa), but I am going to say a few kinds words about him. Three years ago, in Prime Minister’s questions, he asked the Prime Minister not to make him vote against his parents’ interests. We back his amendment about EU citizens, which he has rightly tabled. We back him, and we think he is doing a brave and decent thing. I note the remarks made by former colleagues of his such as Lord Duncan of Springbank about how valuable they thought it was working for him. I hope I have not damaged his future political prospects too much by saying that, but I remark on the decency of what he is trying to do, his own personal situation and the bravery of what he has done today.
What I find incredibly striking is that we have a Government where collective responsibility is breaking down, where a Prime Minister remarks that she does not want a Cabinet full of yes-men because she cannot get collective responsibility and where Ministers have been able to say whatever they like, regardless of what Government policy is, yet you end up sacking a member of Government for agreeing with you. What kind of situation are we in? This is an extraordinary set of circumstances in which the Prime Minister fails to sack Cabinet members for disagreeing with her publicly but sacks a member of the Government whom she has agreed with, whom the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster agreed with at the Dispatch Box, although he is not in his place at the moment, and whom the Home Secretary found himself in agreement with this morning. That is an extraordinary state of affairs. Do not worry; I am sure that the hon. Member for South Leicestershire will return to disagreeing with us on other occasions, but I salute what he has done today and the way in which he has conducted himself, with a common decency that we too rarely see in this Brexit debate.
We get told about “Project Fear”, but it is not that when it is a matter of fact. One in three businesses are planning to relocate some of their operations and one in 10 have done so. The UK is seen as a bad choice for investment. The global chief investment officer at UBS Wealth Management has said:
“The consensus among those investors is that the UK is uninvestable at this point”.
That is not good for anybody. We also have a decline in our public services, where we are seeing a dramatic decline of 87% in the number of applications from European economic area nationals for UK registration, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council. That is a crucial public service, where EU nationals fill gaps in the workplace to provide it. So much damage is being done by this threat of a no-deal. Our amendment is a simple one and I hope that Members will back it, because it is straightforward and it will help to take this away.
I find that this is the extraordinary thing. The hon. Gentleman knows I have huge respect for him—he and I served on the Foreign Affairs Committee together—but he is telling us that we cannot trust the Government’s figures. Who can we trust any more if we cannot trust his own Government? Who can we trust when we are trying to make a judgment? Who can we trust when we are trying to make judgments about the future? We know that this is having a real impact, and I am going to come on to deal with some of this shortly. We are almost three years on from the EU referendum and I am not even entirely sure why we are doing this at the moment. I have just been reading that, apparently, Poundland is going to be doing burgundy and blue passport covers, and we could all have a choice—they will be a pound a go. Perhaps if the Government decide to buy one for everybody in the UK, we can all have our own choice and it will save us a lot of hassle and be a lot cheaper than crashing out of the European Union.
Let us not lose sight of the gross irresponsibility that has led us to this point. We have a minority Government who are failing to be a minority Government. Other European legislatures manage it, and the Scottish Government manage it. It is not always easy; it is difficult—
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As the hon. Gentleman is busy lecturing Scots and Scotland, I hope he will reflect on this point—that in Scotland today the EU is far more popular among the people, by about 18 percentage points, than the United Kingdom. He should bear that in mind the next time he wants to lecture Scotland.
Two days ago, the hon. Gentleman told this House that the United Kingdom already trades on WTO terms with everybody outside the European Union, and the Prime Minister had to correct him. If somebody who led the campaign to have an EU referendum still does not know about the trade deals that we have as part of the EU, what chance have the other 60 million people in these islands got?
We need to begin by acknowledging that we have made a little bit of progress. Yesterday the Prime Minister finally acknowledged that there is no support in the House of Commons for leaving with no deal. It was interesting that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was in most difficulty in his contribution when he was trying to avoid answering questions about how the Government will vote if we get to that point. I will make a prediction to ease his pain: if we do get to that point, I think the Government will vote against us leaving with no deal. How could they do anything other than that given the document released yesterday, which predicts £13 billion of cost to British businesses? For what? To fill in customs declarations, with no benefit to their trade whatsoever. It also predicts rising food prices and delays at the ports. At the moment, French customs officials say, “Go on, go on,” but the moment they put their hands up and say, “Arrêtez”—“Stop”—the chaos will begin.
At the industrial coalition meeting to which the right hon. Member for Meriden (Dame Caroline Spelman) referred, the most striking moment for those of us who were there was when representatives of two major parts of manufacturing industry said simply, “If there’s a no-deal Brexit, it will be catastrophic for us.” The thing I always find it hard to understand is why people who do not run things and make things for a living think they know better about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit than people who do.
The other truth that has finally hit home—I hope the Government understand it—is that it does not matter when we are asked to vote against a no-deal Brexit. We will do it in March, we will do it in June and we will do it in October of whatever year, because the House will not allow that to happen.
If the Prime Minister’s deal is defeated when it comes back, there will be an extension to article 50, and the question that has not really been addressed yet is: for what purpose will we use the time? The amendments that probably will not be pressed to a vote today will be very important in the weeks to come, because they will provide us with the means to answer that question.
I think that only three options will face us in those circumstances. The first is to try to reach a consensus on a different kind of Brexit deal. The second is again to extend article 50, to enable us to negotiate the future partnership. The third, if we remain deadlocked, is to take the question back to the British people. None of them will be easy–there are no benefits to the British economy from Brexit. I will turn to each of those options.
The first—Norway plus or Common Market 2.0—would at least minimise the damage to our economy. It would represent a painful compromise for many people, but it would be a much better way forward than the Prime Minister’s deal. Do I think that she will ever agree to it? Sadly not, because she has shown herself to be completely inflexible.
The second option, which is really the obvious thing to do, is to go to the EU and say, “Why don’t we negotiate the future relationship now and extend article 50 for that purpose?” The House refuses to vote for the Prime Minister’s deal because each of us, for different reasons, says that we do not know what the future will look like, and therefore we are not prepared to take this enormous step of leaving the European Union on the basis of a prospectus that is completely vague and uncertain. How do we answer that question? We negotiate the future partnership.
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As the right hon. Lady knows, I have been sat in the Chamber for the vast majority of the debate, so I do not know about any such comments. The reason why I was so explicit in what I set out and in repeating what the Prime Minister said—and indeed why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was so clear in what he said—is that that is the Government position, and I hope that the right hon. Lady will take things in that spirit. Obviously, I do not know what other comments have been made, but I am happy to confirm the Prime Minister’s comments at the Dispatch Box.
In introducing amendment (a), in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) said that nothing has changed over the past two weeks, notwithstanding that several Members, including the right hon. Members for Leeds Central and for Birkenhead (Frank Field), contradicted him. The latter said he thinks there has been a change, but I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman was being too modest, because over the past two weeks something material has changed: the position of the Leader of the Opposition. Two weeks ago we thought he was honouring the referendum and honouring his manifesto commitment, whereas we now learn that he is committed to a second referendum.
The Leader of the Opposition started out with six tests, and he now wants five commitments. His five commitments relate to the political declaration, but he uses them to justify not voting for the withdrawal agreement, even though that withdrawal agreement includes protecting citizens’ rights, honouring our international obligations and protecting the Northern Ireland border, all of which he calls for. Indeed, he says he wants to be part of the single market but, at the same time, he wants not to be part of state aid rules or freedom of movement, which shows all the consistency we are familiar with from the Leader of the Opposition.
Amendment (k) expresses the SNP’s discontent with no deal, regardless of whether we extend article 50. I do not think we need a vote in this House to understand that the SNP is discontented—we can probably take that as read.
My right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) raised the issue of alternative arrangements, and I am happy to confirm that the UK and the EU have agreed to consider a joint work stream to develop alternative arrangements to ensure no hard border on the island of Ireland. We will also be setting up domestic structures to take advice from external experts, from businesses that trade with the EU and beyond, and from colleagues across the House. That will be supported by civil service resources and £20 million of Government funding. The work will be done in parallel, without prejudice to the ongoing negotiations.
My hon. Friend has exquisite timing, as I was just about to namecheck him. In addition to referring to the fact that we need to address the indefinite nature of the backstop, he spoke of the need for compromise. He reflected one of the themes of today’s debate, which is that, among those who voted remain and among those who voted leave, there is consensus in this House on recognising the importance of securing a deal. The best way to mitigate the risk of no deal is to have a deal. Indeed, as the Prime Minister frequently says at this Dispatch Box, the only way to avoid a no deal is either to revoke Brexit entirely, a betrayal of the votes of 17.4 million people, or to secure a deal.
We have listened to Members across the House, and we have listened to their concerns about no deal. We have clearly said to Members across the House that there will be a vote in this place on the issue of no deal. However, in securing a deal, which is our priority, we will protect the rights of EU citizens, along with the wishes of my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa), not only in the EU but in the UK, and we will do so in a way that delivers Brexit and delivers on the biggest vote in our country’s history. That is why I commend the approach set out in the motion.
Amendment proposed: (a), leave out from “House” to end and add:
(a) to negotiate with the EU for changes to the Political Declaration to secure:
i. a permanent and comprehensive customs union with the EU;
ii. close alignment with the single market underpinned by shared institutions and obligations;
iii. dynamic alignment on rights and protections;
iv. commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, including in areas such as the environment, education, and industrial regulation; and
v. unambiguous agreement on the detail of future security arrangements, including access to the European Arrest Warrant and vital shared databases; and
(b) to introduce primary legislation to give statutory effect to this negotiating mandate.”.—(Jeremy Corbyn.)
The short answer is that the House has said two different things. It passed by a big majority legislation on article 50, which many Members on both sides of the House voted for. It passed by a large margin legislation to say we are leaving the EU on 29 March, and put that date on the face of the withdrawal Bill. The House also voted by a large margin to give the people the decision through the referendum. Frankly, the legislation takes precedence over the motion to which the right hon. Gentleman refers. In essence, this issue was raised earlier in a point of order. I appreciate that he is making this point as an intervention, but it is the same point.
My hon. Friend, as a former member of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, knows all about holding his nerve. He is correct that Parliament needs to hold its nerve. We need to send a clear signal to those in the European Union with whom we are discussing these issues, who share our desire to have a deal and to deliver on our shared values, and who respect the fact that we are trading partners, and wish to get on with the future economic partnership and work together.
For the avoidance of doubt, I am happy to confirm that, because that is what the legislation says. The only way to avoid no deal—as the Prime Minister has repeatedly said, and as is backed up in legislation—is either to secure a deal on the terms that the Prime Minister has set out, with the mandate that the House gave her in response to the earlier motion, or to revoke article 50. The court case says that the only alternative would be to revoke, and revoking would be unconditional and unequivocal.
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I rise to support amendment (a) in my name and that of the Leader of the Opposition. The Secretary of State ended by saying that we have to “hold our nerve”, but he was all over the place this afternoon on all the important issues.
It is obvious—obvious—what the Prime Minister is up to. She is pretending to make progress while running down the clock: a non-update every other week to buy another two weeks of process, and inching ever closer to the 29 March deadline in 43 days’ time. We should not be fooled. Let us look at the history of recent months and set it against the exchanges today. The Prime Minister pulled the meaningful vote on 10 December, promising to seek further reassurances on the backstop. She feared a significant defeat, and it was obvious that the backstop was the problem way back then, as it had been through the autumn. That was 66 days ago, and there were then 109 days until 29 March.
I will in a minute.
And the Prime Minister returned with nothing—warm words in the margins of the EU summit in December, and a letter, coupled with a statement about Northern Ireland, that simply repeated already existing commitments. That is what she came back with. The meaningful vote was then put on 15 January, and it was lost heavily. That evening, the Prime Minister stood at the Dispatch Box and promised to explore ideas with the European Union, following cross-party talks on how to proceed. That was 30 days ago, and there were then 75 days until 29 March.
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I have sympathy with the point that we will need an extension to article 50 sooner or later, whether a deal goes through or not, and that the question is what is the right binding mechanism for doing that. We will support measures proposed by others on that issue in due course, and I will return to that point.
As for the Prime Minister taking us out of the EU on 29 March this year without a deal—we’ll see about that. I do not think that the majority in this House will countenance that; I think the majority in this House will do everything they can to prevent it. Having worked with the Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary and I was Director of Public Prosecutions, I know that she has a deep sense of duty. Deep down, I do not think that this Prime Minister will take us out of the EU without a deal on 29 March, and that is the basis on which we should be having this discussion.
My hon. Friend is right to raise that aspect of the arrangements. We are working closely with all the other arms of Whitehall, including the Department for International Trade, and we are ensuring that we have the right flexibility. The advantage of the implementation period in the White Paper is that it is finite, so that those who want to see an end to the eternal haggling with the EU and want some clarity about the end-state relationship will have that provided. During the implementation period, we will be free to negotiate and to conclude free trade deals with other countries beyond the continent.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If there is one thing that business says time and again it is that it wants certainty. It is the idea that, even if one’s objectives do not go quite right, one has something else there that can provide that certainty for the future. That “backstop” of customs union membership would have provided that much needed certainty.
How can we describe the Government’s approach in the long-awaited White Paper? Well, “courageous” is the term that Sir Humphrey Appleby probably would have used. Others may describe it as fantasy. Nowhere else is that more obvious than in relation to what it describes as the facilitated customs arrangement. If we read through it, we see gobbledegook explanations that are so opaque that they could have been written by Sir Humphrey himself.
Just look at how the White Paper suggests we deal with imports from third countries arriving in the EU for onward transfer to the UK and vice versa. The Government say that the EU’s customs approach will be “mirrored” at the same time as we will be imposing our own tariffs and customs arrangements elsewhere. As far as I can see, this is entirely reliant on a non-existent track and trace system to verify origin and tariff application, but until that technology exists, we will need to check everything meticulously at the border to apply different tariffs and different rules to different things. Put together, that means that the UK is taking on a huge bureaucratic and systematic burden for every single item imported to, or transferring through, our ports and slowing down the movement of goods in the process and causing the very friction that we always say that we want to avoid. But now, after the last couple of days in this Chamber, the Government have managed to twist themselves into even more knots by kowtowing to the Brexit fanatics on their own Back Benches. Doing so has made the White Paper’s proposals, problematic as they were, even more unworkable.
Of course, we know that the motivation of at least some Conservative Members is to create a proposal so chaotic and so unreasonable that we crash out with no deal and fulfil some sort of long-held Eurosceptic fantasy project. That is why I do not believe that the Government’s suggested approach will work. Far better and far simpler to remain in a customs union with the European Union so that trade between the EU and the UK can be truly frictionless; so that there really is simplicity and maximum facilitation of goods arriving from third countries, with one easily understood set of external tariffs; so that there is no hard border on the island of Ireland; and so that we can continue to benefit from the trade deals that the EU has with 68 other countries, without having to renegotiate them.
We could have made the resolution of this whole thing a lot simpler if the Prime Minister had not said that single market membership was a red line in the first place. Were it not for the chaos and the confusion that the Government have created, we could, by now, be an awful lot further on than we are. That is why I urge the Government, even at this late stage, to listen to the voices of industry when they say that the only reliable way to achieve the frictionless trade that we need is to remain in a customs union with the European Union.
Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that the information that the Government sent out before the referendum was that even in the event of a leave vote, their intention was to remain in the single market? Is it not also the case that the Government won a majority on a manifesto that said they would stay in the single market, and then lost that majority on a manifesto that said they would leave it?
I welcome the Secretary of State to his new role—we wish him the best of British. He will know that my views and his diverge as much as is possible on this subject. Although I could point out that my views are closer to those of his constituents than his are, perhaps he can point out that his views are slightly closer to those of my constituents than mine are—such is the way things are working on Brexit.
I am confused by the contribution of the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron). There are clearly constituencies where every single person who spoke to him was raising the single market and customs union in the run-up to the EU referendum, whereas in my constituency every single person talking to me was speaking about immigration. I cannot recall someone saying during the referendum campaign, “I want to be out of the single market and customs union.” May I point out that if the European Union does not currently have a trade deal with India, that is because of our then Home Secretary—now our Prime Minister—rejecting the trade deal because it would have required issuing visas to Indians? He needs to look more carefully at some of the reasons why such things have not happened.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the number of migrants to the UK went up in 2017 compared with 2016 because there was growth in non-EU migration, which is something he omitted to point out in his comments.
I agree that there is clearly a difference between the treatment of EU citizens and migrants from outside the European Union, but the number of non-EU migrants has gone up, which has more than compensated for the numbers of EU citizens coming to the United Kingdom. I assume he welcomes that.
I see the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) is back in his place. The Conservative party was a pragmatic party, but I am afraid to say it is clearly no longer such. It is now very much a party driven by ideology. I suspect that is why he is as uncomfortable with it as he is.
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After the last couple of days, today’s debate has something of the feel of the morning after the night before. Indeed, it has been a sobering debate, reflecting the depth of the crisis that we are in. Two years on from the referendum, the Government are still unable to speak on behalf of the British people. The most important negotiations the country has faced since the second world war are being led by the most dysfunctional Government in living memory.
It does not have to be like this. The Prime Minister was right at Mansion House to say we had to face up to hard facts, but that meant facing down those in her party who put their ideological hostility to the EU before the interests of the country. If she had faced up to the facts two years ago—if she had said then that the country had voted to leave the EU but by a painfully close margin, and that it was a decision to depart but not to destroy our economy, and if she had said that we would leave the EU but remain in a customs union and close to the single market and the members of the agencies and partnerships we had built together—she could have secured a clear majority in this House and built a consensus in the country, which had been so bitterly divided by the referendum.
But she did not. Instead, she handed a veto to the European Research Group—the people who have sought to undermine not just herself at every step but every one of her predecessors. They are, as John Major commented recently, even more hard-line than those he faced. They are less than 10% of this House but are calling the shots. The tail is wagging the dog. They are demanding the red lines that have held us back—no single market, no customs union, no European Court of Justice, no agencies. To be fair to the Prime Minister, she put that proposition to the British people in last June’s general election. She sought a mandate for an extreme Brexit, but she did not get it. She went into that election with a majority and came out without one.
I remind the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron), who sought to misquote our manifesto, as others have done, that at that election we said:
“We will scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper”—
as we would this one—
“and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union – which are essential for maintaining industries, jobs and businesses”.
I will not, because I have answered the hon. Gentleman’s points and we cannot get into a detailed exchange.
The result of the Prime Minister’s approach has been paralysis, not simply on Brexit but on the other crises facing our country. The Government have neither the authority to deal with Brexit nor the ability to tackle the issues that led to it. There has been a dawning realisation from the Prime Minister that those early red lines were a mistake, but each time she tries to step over them, she has been hauled back by the extremists within her party.
At Chequers, it did seem that the Prime Minister was beginning to face up to the hard facts—to break free from the icy grip of the European Research Group. Not far enough, not soon enough, but tentative steps towards reality, towards a customs settlement and a regulatory alignment demanded by business—a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden)—and also necessary to resolve the issue of the Northern Ireland border.
Of course, the former Brexit Secretary was right when he endorsed Donald Trump's view that the plan would “kill” the prospect of a US-UK deal; and of course, it was just a starting point, not the end point of negotiations. It would inevitably involve further movement by the Government. Knowing that, the ERG tore it to shreds, and Monday night’s debacle was the last nail in the coffin. Rather than defeat the amendments—as they could have, overwhelmingly—the Government rolled over and accepted wrecking amendments that left their White Paper dead in the water. The Minister shakes his head, but if there was any doubt about its death, the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) laid it to rest today in what was, frankly, a chilling contribution.
While the Prime Minister turns on those in her own party who would welcome the Chequers plan, threatening them, she embraces those who would destroy her, and she continues to bring them into the Government. Having resigned, the hon. Member for Wycombe was succeeded as a Brexit Minister by his predecessor as chair of the ERG, the hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) —who, of course, joins another former chair, the hon. Member for Fareham (Suella Braverman). It is beginning to look as if there is a secondment scheme going on between the ERG and the Brexit ministerial team.
The entire approach of the White Paper is to ensure frictionless trade between the UK and the EU, and to minimise the risks that the right hon. Gentleman is concerned about. On referendums and second referendums, if the right hon. Gentleman had read the whole article, rather than a selective snippet, my point was that under the European Union Act 2011, which was passed by this House, there would always be ongoing and further opportunities for a referendum. What I did not do, which the right hon. Gentleman did, is stand up during debates on the European Union Referendum Act 2015, and say that we would all respect the outcome of a referendum, and then renege on that. That shows bad faith to the electorate.
I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns, and in my earlier remarks I addressed points about how in practice this House will retain scrutiny. Under the facilitated customs arrangement, up to 96% of UK goods trade is likely to pay the correct or no tariff at the border. I hope that that gives him a sense of the minimisation of disruption that we will achieve.
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, because it goes to the heart of the issue: If Parliament is given a vote on article 50, and if we do not like what the Prime Minister has brought back, we can have something much worse. Even a child could see that that is not an acceptable choice.
I am grateful for that intervention. I have always been curious about this tactic. What will happen at the end of the negotiations if there is no deal is that we will be pushed over a cliff. Volunteering to jump first has never appeared to me to be a great tactic.
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I beg to move manuscript amendment (b), to leave out from first “19P” to end.
I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for having enabled this amendment to be considered this afternoon by accepting my manuscript. It is a very odd and, I have to say, unsatisfactory aspect of the way in which our Parliament does its business that we frequently end up on ping-pong debating amendments that are irrelevant to what the House is really troubled about. I have to tell the House that, in order to get to this point, it has been necessary also to twist the rules of procedure in the other place, and I am immensely grateful to those peers who facilitated the manuscript amendment that was tabled there and that has enabled us to consider for the first time this afternoon the issue of the meaningful vote in relation to the Government’s view of what it should be and to the suggestion that has come from their lordships’ House. I should like to say here and now how deeply I object to the way in which their lordships are vilified for doing the job that we have asked them to do, which is to act as a revising Chamber and to send back to this House proposals for our consideration.
The issue, which has been highlighted by earlier speakers, is about the form that a meaningful vote should take. There are two options in front of the House. The House will recall that, when this matter first arose last week, the amendment that had come from the Lords included a mandatory element. That is constitutionally rather unusual. Indeed, I do not think that it has happened since the civil war in the 17th century, and I do not think that that ended very well. I seem to recall that it ended with Oliver Cromwell saying:
“Take away that fool’s bauble, the mace.”
Because of this, I considered it to be excessive. I apologise to the House that, in trying to produce something else very late at night last week, I probably did not draft it quite as well as I might have done. However, it led to a sensible discussion, prompted by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who had a number of us in her room and said she would do her best to meet the concerns we were expressing on there not being a meaningful vote on no deal.
Last Thursday, it looked as though we were going to reach an agreement based on exactly the terms of the Lords amendment that has come back to us, but at a very late stage, it was indicated to me that the Government did not feel able to proceed with that. I should like to emphasise that I make absolutely no criticism of those with whom I negotiated, who have behaved impeccably in this matter. Indeed, at the end of the day I have to accept that negotiations may sometimes founder at the last minute. However, this was unfortunate, from my point of view, and I will come back to that point in a moment.
Be that as it may, the Government’s tabled amendment was the one that we are being asked to accept today—the one that simply asks us to note and does not give us the opportunity of amending. Two arguments were put to me to justify that change when it occurred and in the negotiations that followed. The first was that there was concern about the justiciability of the amendment. The Standing Orders of the House cannot be impugned in any court outside of this high court of Parliament, but it is right to say that if one puts a reference to the Standing Orders into a statute, that can raise some interesting, if somewhat arcane, legal issues about the extent to which a challenge can be brought. My view is that I do not believe that the amendment, which is currently the Lords amendment that has come to us, is credibly open to challenge. For that matter, I happen to think that the Government amendment is also not credibly open to challenge either, although it is worth pointing out that it is as likely to be challenged or capable of being challenged as the other. I do not accept a differentiation between them.
The second argument was of a very different kind. It was said to me—this was picked up by the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman—that the Government had real concerns that this issue, which is one of detail, had acquired such a status with those with whom we were negotiating that it could undermine the Government’s negotiating position in trying to get the United Kingdom the best possible deal for leaving the EU. Now, I must say that I found that difficult to accept based on my own range of contacts and on how I thought that the EU is likely to work. However, it is not an issue that I, as a supporter of the Government, can entirely ignore.
I am very troubled about Brexit. It is well known in this House that I believe that we have made an historic mistake in voting to leave, but I am open minded as to what the best course of action should be and respectful of the decision of the electorate in the referendum result. I dislike very much the extent to which we can be fettered or pushed into frameworks of what we have or have not to accept in that negotiation but that is, if I may so, a reason why I should also give as much latitude to the concerns of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as she indicates to me that she might have.
No, I wish to conclude.
In those circumstances, there is an issue that I cannot ignore. As the House will have noticed this afternoon, a statement was sent by the Secretary of State that will become a written ministerial statement tomorrow. The first part of it deals with the position of the Speaker and, if I may put it like this, the piquancy of this is that having on the one hand said that an unamendable motion to note is an unamendable motion to note in a statute, the fact is that it really has absolutely no force at all. The reality is that it is part of the Standing Orders of this House, and it is not open to any interpretation in any court and, ultimately, it will be entirely your responsibility, Mr Speaker, to decide what can or should not be treated as a neutral terms motion. Actually, the statement highlights the fact that, although this debate has been about trying to provide assurance—not just in this House, but to many members of the public outside who are worried about the end of this process and what might happen—the truth is that the assurance does not lie in the words of the statute, except in so far as the statute is the word of the Government. The assurance lies in the hands of this House and, in the first part of the statement, in the power of the Speaker.
I then insisted that a second piece be put into the statement, which I will read out. If I may say so, this ought to be blindingly obvious, but it says:
“The Government recognises that it is open for Ministers and members of the House of Commons to table motions on and debate matters of concern and that, as is the convention, parliamentary time will be provided for this.”
If this House chooses to debate matters, including matters on which it may wish to have multiple motions, the reality is that if we wish to exert our power to do that, we can. In the circumstances that might follow a “no deal”, which would undoubtedly be one of the biggest political crises in modern British history, if the House wishes to speak with one voice, or indeed with multiple voices, the House has the power to do so.
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Yes, the hon. Gentleman is right, but if the Government were to concede to the amendment, as drafted in the Lords, for an amendable motion, the House must understand that the Government could ignore it. I can assure the House that it would not be enforceable in any court of law—[Interruption.] No, that really must be understood. It could not be enforceable in any court of law, because that would entirely undermine the rights and privileges of this place. It would be for us to enforce it. Of course, the ultimate sanction that this House has is a motion of no confidence but, short of that, there are other means by which the House can in fact bring its clear view to bear on the Government.
No, I will not.
In view of that acknowledgement, I must say that I weigh that and the clear words of this statement against what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has told me about her anxieties. My judgment—it is purely personal—is that if that is the issue, having finally obtained, with a little more difficulty than I would have wished, the obvious acknowledgement of the sovereignty of this place over the Executive in black and white language, I am prepared to accept the Government’s difficulty, support them and, in the circumstances, to accept the form of amendment that they want. I shall formally move my amendment at the end, because I do not want to deprive the House of the right to vote if it wishes. Members have the absolute right to disagree, but it seems to me that, with the acknowledgement having been properly made, I am content to go down that route.
No, I will not.
If Lords amendment 19 is agreed to, it will be a recipe for the EU to try to get no deal so that we will have to go back from this Parliament, cap in hand, and ask for changes. What it really wants is for those changes to be staying in the single market, staying in the customs union, still having the European Court of Justice looking over us, still paying our money—more and more money—and reversing the decision. Whatever is said today, this is really about whether we believe in giving people the right to have their say. We said in the letter that went to everyone, which cost a huge amount of money:
“This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide.”
The hon. Gentleman is right that all the manifestos referred to honouring Brexit by leaving the customs union and the single market. Labour put it in a slightly more nuanced way, but, particularly in leave areas, people were told that we would be leaving the single market and the customs union.
This will be very important vote. As we have heard, it is absolutely crucial that we do not allow Lords amendment 19 to be carried. Today we must make a decision. We either support those 17.5 million people who voted to leave, or we say that we will allow people who really want to stop Brexit—by using procedural mechanisms, legal challenges and legal words—to put the whole thing in doubt. I am confident that, in the end, we will not allow the Lords—the unelected House of Lords, which is full of former EU commissioners and people who are funded by the European Union—to decide what we are going to do.
I agree with my hon. Friend.
The sector has said that World Trade Organisation rules and current EU third country tariff schedules will bring a 4.5% tariff on components and a 10% tariff on cars; I think we already knew that. We were also informed that Japanese and Ford motor manufacturing make the UK their base because of access to the EU market. There is a major statement and recommendation there: it will be devastating for motor manufacturing in the UK if we do not continue to have access to the EU markets.
We were also told that automotive is a high-volume, low-margin industry operating a just-in-time process. It was said that customs checks would add to administrative costs, delay production and shipments and create the need for increased working capital and that they would increase the cost of production in the UK. Concern was expressed about access to key engineering staff if higher immigration controls were in place, exacerbating skills shortages where a significant skills shortage already exists, with 5,000 job vacancies, especially in engineering design and production engineering.
No, I am going to carry on, because others need to get in.
Turning to the steel sector, I found what I already knew: Wales employs 5,000 people in the steel industry, and the knock-on effect on the steel industry in Port Talbot, Neath, Swansea, Ogmore and Bridgend will be devastating if those jobs are affected in the slightest. I did not waste my time going through all the Government nonsense again; I went straight to the sectoral views. The view of the steel sector was very blunt, just like the people who work in it, and I like that. It stated that policies and practices should remain as closely aligned to the EU as possible. Have I heard the Government promise that at any time during these debates? No.
The sectoral view asked that we retain the UK’s existing trade relationship through the EU’s free trade agreement and similar preferential trading agreements. I have seen no promise of that either. It said that this should be a priority over the negotiating of a new free trade agreement. It also said that if we are to minimise the disruption that Brexit will entail, it will be vital that UK trade policies and practices remain as closely aligned to the EU as possible. The sector would not be happy to learn about the bonfire of the vanities proposed under the Henry VIII clauses in the Bill. My local employers and workforce need to know in advance of our exit that the Government have taken into account the economic and financial impact on their lives, their jobs and the future of their children before modifying or abolishing anything.
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I will come to the US situation in a moment. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that the inward investment figures are massively inflated because of mergers and acquisitions data. When we consider the buy-outs of some of the large technology companies—[Interruption.] Well, I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman should necessarily interpret the stripping out of British ownership of such companies as a great British success. If he digs beneath the statistics, he might see a slightly different picture.
Our mythology about the UK’s potential to strike a great and bountiful set of trade deals if we could only rid ourselves of the shackles of the customs union is becoming a bit of a joke across the British economy.
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Absolutely. My hon. Friend makes his point well. The idea is that we should turn a blind eye to the trading arrangements we have with our nearest neighbours—50% of our markets—in pursuit, as an alternative or substitute, of some deal with far-flung countries a lot further away, but Australia accounts for 2% or 3% of our current trade and a deal with Australia will not offset many of these problems. It is not just the 50% that we have directly with our nearest neighbours. All those free trade agreements that the European Union has worked up and signed, to which we have been a party, over the past 40 years add up to a further 14% of our trade. So going on for two thirds of our trade is tied into the customs union process—36 bilateral free trade agreements with 63 different countries. How shall we ensure that they continue the day after we exit?
I will not give way; other Members want to speak.
The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade has said, “These can be grandfathered; they can be cut and pasted and we will just sort all those out,” and junior Ministers at the Department for International Trade have said in the past, “Those countries have all agreed to roll them over.” That is not the case. Maybe a bit of dialogue has begun, but those other countries might want to take the opportunity to reopen some of those long-standing agreements—who knows? The Minister will give us the answers when he winds up the debate.
I want to conclude my remarks because others want to speak. I simply want to make a final point about why the customs union is such a crucial issue, and why I urge my hon. Friends on the Front Bench and hon. Members across the House to think about the consequences of not staying in the customs union.
If this country ends up with hard borders again, there will be big consequences. Our ports could grind to a halt. Lorries will clog up our motorways, with, potentially, vast lorry parks near the ports. The expensive, wasteful spending on bureaucratic checks will hurt our industries, and we ought to be evaluating the economic impact of industries, potentially, gradually relocating elsewhere because it is easier to do business in a different jurisdiction. Think of the jobs lost, particularly in the manufacturing sector, if we get this wrong. Bear in mind that we will not have any say on what happens on the EU side of the border after this whole process. There is no guarantee about what happens at the other end of the channel tunnel or in Calais.
The reason I have pushed new clause 13 as I have, is to do with the austerity that we risk in this country for the next decade—a decade of Brexit austerity that will potentially befall many of our constituents because of the lost revenues. Unless we stay in the single market and the customs union, we will have that austerity on our conscience, and I urge hon. Members, especially all my hon. Friends, to think very seriously. We have to make sure we stay in the customs union.
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Perhaps my hon. Friend was not in the Chamber when I gave my assurance on this earlier. I am happy to repeat it. I can assure the House that we would use this power only in exceptional circumstances to extend the deadline for the shortest period possible, and that we cannot envisage the date being brought forward. I think that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained that earlier.
I refer the right hon. Lady to the speech that the Prime Minister made in Florence, because in it she dealt with—[Interruption.] Clearly, if Opposition Members cannot read, that is not a problem. I refer the right hon. Lady to that speech, because in it the Prime Minister made a very plain case for the sorts of divergence that we would see after we left. She said that there are areas in which we want to achieve the same outcomes, but by different regulatory methods. We want to maintain safety, food standards, animal welfare and employment rights, but we do not have to do that by exactly the same mechanism as everybody else. That is what regulatory alignment means.
My hon. Friend is right, and that was part of the text that we discussed yesterday. Of course there will be ups and downs and pressure points—that is what negotiations are like. I have to tell the House that yesterday it was not London but Brussels that forecast an instant outcome. We had said that Monday’s discussion was a “staging post”, and we want to get to the outcome by 15 December—full stop.
First and foremost, this criticism comes from a party that decided to leave the United Kingdom without determining what currency it would use. The sectoral analysis has been discussed with the devolved Administrations and the Joint Ministerial Committee, and we will give careful consideration, as and when information is released to the Select Committee, to how we share that information with the devolved Administrations. Once again, I reiterate that the information that we have does not comprise now, and never has done, quantitative forecasts of impact—not on sectors and not on any region.