Emma Reynolds – 2019 Speech on the Withdrawal Agreement

Below is the text of the speech made by Emma Reynolds, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton North East, on 12 March 2019.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson). We might go through different Division Lobbies tonight, but I share her priority for safeguarding our constituents’ jobs and livelihoods. That is what is driving my decision to vote against the motion tonight, and I want to set out three reasons why I will be doing that. First, for many of us on the Opposition Benches, the package that the Prime Minister has brought back from Strasbourg at the eleventh hour totally misses the point. Our concerns about her deal have nothing to do with the Northern Irish backstop. In these debates about exiting the European Union, right hon. and hon. Members have expressed concerns about the economy and trade three times more often than concerns about the backstop.

This last-minute deal, which really has not changed much, is just the latest chapter in the Tory party’s Brexit divisions and melodrama. When the Prime Minister says that she is listening to Parliament, she is actually listening to hard-line Tory Brexiteers and her confidence and supply partners, the DUP. When she says that she is acting in the national interest, she is actually putting her party’s interests above the prosperity of our constituents. She encourages us to come together, but she has done little to reach out across the House to appeal to Labour Members and other Opposition MPs. When it comes to the deal tonight, this is the first time that I can remember in British history that a PM and Chancellor have recommended a course of action that, according to their own economic analysis, will make people worse off and our economy smaller. The people did not vote in the 2016 referendum to be poorer, and I cannot in all conscience vote for a deal that makes my constituents poorer and the country less safe.

Secondly, as the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) said in his eloquent contribution, the Government have not levelled with people about the trade-offs and hard choices that should be made on Brexit. For example, Brexiteers claimed that trade deals with the US, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand will boost our prosperity, but there is not a shred of evidence that those trade deals—even if agreed quickly and in our favour, on which the International Trade Secretary is not exactly doing a great job—would result in more jobs and investment than we would lose if we loosen our ties with the EU, which is our most important market and the destination of most of our exports. That is why it was so foolish of the Prime Minister to make leaving the customs union and the ​single market her red lines from the word go. If only she had dropped those red lines, she may have managed to build true cross-party consensus for an alternative deal.

The irony of today’s debate is that it is all about reassuring hard-line Brexiteers that the UK will be able to pull out of the backstop, which is in essence about the UK leaving the customs union. However, just-in-time manufacturers in the food, automotive and aerospace industries, which employ tens of thousands of people across the country and thousands in my constituency, have stressed time and again the importance of frictionless trade and the customs union with the EU and of avoiding no deal. Supermarkets have warned that a no-deal scenario and any delays at the border would put food prices up, and the car and aerospace industries have warned that delays at the border will destroy just-in time manufacturing. Indeed, because of the threat of no deal we have seen companies big and small already taking decisions to put investments on hold. We have had bad news from Nissan in Sunderland and terrible news about Honda, and BMW has said that no deal would lead it to shift production elsewhere. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) said, the car industry should be the jewel in the crown of our economy, but the Government’s irresponsible actions are putting that at risk.

Thirdly, I am not prepared to vote for a blindfold Brexit. The political declaration is vague and non-binding. We were told by Tory Brexiteers a couple of years ago that the trade agreement with the EU would be the “easiest in human history” but as Ivan Rogers, the UK’s former permanent representative to the EU, so eloquently put it only the other day:

“We cannot live in glorious isolation. Talk to the Swiss and to the Norwegians—they live in a permanent state of negotiation with the EU.”

To those who say that we should vote for the deal tonight so that we can get things over and done with and move on because people are fed up, I say that boredom is not a good reason for taking an important decision about the future of our country. The negotiations will go for years and years and years.

I hope that the deal is defeated tonight, and I hope that we then vote against no deal tomorrow. It would be the height of irresponsibility. We have heard the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) and the hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Andrea Jenkyns) actually recommending a no-deal Brexit, which would be catastrophic for jobs, livelihoods and the wider economy, but do not take that from me; take it from Jaguar Land Rover and from businesses up and down the country.

Mary Robinson – 2019 Speech on the Withdrawal Agreement

Below is the text of the speech made by Mary Robinson, the Conservative MP for Cheadle, in the House of Commons on 12 March 2019.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bury South (Mr Lewis).

Throughout the negotiation process I have always believed that the result of the referendum must be delivered. It is simply not enough to say that we respect the result of the people’s vote on 23 June 2016 and then ignore it. In that referendum the British people instructed the Government to leave the European Union, and the agreement that the Prime Minister has negotiated implements that vote effectively, ending the free movement of people, stopping the vast annual payments from the UK to the EU, and freeing the UK from the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy.​
I personally voted to remain, and have always been conscious of the fact that a majority of my constituents—57.3%—voted to remain, while recognising and remembering that over 40%, a significant minority, voted to leave. One of the problems with the entire withdrawal process is that without compromising no side—whether leave or remain, for no deal or for a second referendum—would have been entirely and perfectly happy with terms of the deal whatever agreement the Prime Minister had brought back from Brussels. However, the referendum presented voters with an unambiguous choice to remain in the EU or to leave, and the consequences of either decision were conveyed to the electorate extensively.

We rightly place our focus on a strong economy, but the vote was not just about economics. The referendum result brought to the surface of political debate people’s sense of identity as well as their concerns about immigration, free trade and the EU’s democratic deficit. However, events over the past few months have shown that the political discourse is frozen, and that is what we need to deal with. Many of us have been waiting for that decisive moment when we can have clarity on the future direction of travel. In my view, this withdrawal agreement provides the clarity that we need to move to the next stage of the negotiations—the implementation period—and to lay the foundations for a comprehensive free trade agreement with our European partners. The implementation period will provide Governments, businesses and people on both sides of the channel with the time to put in place the new infrastructure that will be integral to the arrangements that the Prime Minister has recently secured.

I am one of the 27. No, not the EU27, but the 27 Members of Parliament representing Greater Manchester constituencies. I am therefore particularly interested in gaining the certainty that we need and in continuing the growth of our northern economy. There is nothing that businesses fear more than uncertainty. They need to know the direction of economic travel so that they can plan for future investments. That is hugely important for my constituency, for Greater Manchester and for the economy of the north of England.

The Government’s commitment to the northern powerhouse is translating into record levels of investment across the region and, most importantly, into jobs. Greater Manchester’s local industrial strategy reinforces the region’s ambition to establish the country’s first Tech Nation hub, and a report from Ernst & Young reveals that Manchester has been ranked as the best performing city outside London for attracting foreign direct investment projects, with a 17% increase in projects since 2017. The digital sector is the leading sector influencing those figures. Many companies are now comparing Manchester to California’s silicon valley, because of the huge expansion of Manchester’s tech hub. Further evidence of the city’s confidence in this sector is Amazon’s decision to open a new office in the centre of Manchester, creating 600 digital jobs.

However, we can continue this success only by laying the foundations for an orderly, smooth Brexit. This agreement provides the basis on which we can leave while giving people and businesses the certainty that they need. I understand that some people in Cheadle and elsewhere in the north, as well as some colleagues here in the House, want to reject this deal in the hope that that will force either a no-deal Brexit or a second referendum leading to the UK remaining in the EU. ​Both cannot be winners, however; both cannot be right at the same time. For any hon. Member who genuinely does not wish to stop Brexit, this is the best and only deal. The EU has made it clear that it will not change the terms of the agreement. Whatever our views on the nature of the future relationship, that relationship can be negotiated only when a withdrawal agreement has been passed. This is the only withdrawal agreement. If we do not agree to this motion today, we risk having no Brexit at all. I am backing this agreement to take us out of the European Union into a more global future, and I am anticipating a positive, optimistic future for our country.

Ivan Lewis – 2019 Speech on the Withdrawal Agreement

Below is the text of the speech made  by Ivan Lewis, the Independent MP for Bury South, in the House of Commons on 12 March 2019.

Public dissatisfaction with this place has never been greater. It is true that, when the country is so divided on Brexit, it was always going to be the toughest of challenges to earn public confidence and respect, but the failure of leadership in both the major political parties, coupled with the rigid ideological dogma of some Members, has made the situation far worse than it needed to be. Party and dogma have sadly been put ahead of country.

I have been consistent throughout. I believe that the result of the referendum has to be respected. A belief in the central importance of democracy and the dire consequences for progressive politics if we were to ignore or attempt to subvert the result mean that we must leave. Holding a second referendum would, irrespective of its result, fuel a dangerous right-wing populism in our politics that would be likely to lead to long-term ​right-wing Governments in this country. However, the basis on which we leave and engage with the EU in future is all-important. It will shape our destiny for a generation. It must protect our economy, the standard of living of our constituents and our security. We also have a solemn duty to preserve the United Kingdom, which should only ever change through explicit public consent, and to protect the peace in Northern Ireland, which remains fragile—we should never forget that.

The deal we are being asked to support tonight was overwhelmingly rejected back in January largely, but not exclusively, because of the Northern Ireland backstop. The Brady amendment passed by this House gave the Government a clear instruction that the backstop must be replaced in the withdrawal agreement by alternative arrangements; this has not happened. Some propose a time limit; this has not happened. Others wanted us to be able to unilaterally leave the backstop if negotiations fail; again, this has not happened. So none of the conditions laid down by the vast majority of the original deal’s opponents has been met, and this has been starkly underlined by the Attorney General’s legal advice of this morning.

As I have said, I believe we do have a duty to implement the referendum result and leave the EU, and I will only support a minimum extension to article 50 which would ensure that we were not obliged to participate in European elections. Therefore, I will be willing to consider supporting this agreement, for all its perfections, if only the Government were willing to be clear about their aspirations for our future relationship. For the sake of trade, jobs and living standards, that has to include a customs arrangement of some kind with the EU. That could, but need not, be membership of the customs union itself. Not only is that the best way of securing economic stability, but it would guarantee that the backstop is consigned to the dustbin of history. The best means of achieving this is Common Market 2.0, with the UK moving into the EFTA pillar of the EEA and joining a comprehensive arrangement with the EU, maintaining a common external tariff with frictionless trade and no hard border in Ireland. We would seek to maintain the closest possible economic relationship with the EU without the political integration which the majority in this country opposed very clearly in the referendum.

The time has come to put this, along with other potential solutions, to the House so we can indicate where a majority can be secured. We know what the majority are against; the time has come for the majority in this place, free from the constraints of party Whips, to make it clear what they are for. That would truly be acting in the national interest.

Imran Hussain – 2019 Speech on the Withdrawal Agreement

Below is the text of the speech made by Imran Hussain, the Labour MP for Bradford East, in the House of Commons on 12 March 2019.

I declare straight away that I have never climbed mountains—there is time for me yet to get into it—but it is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb). Time is short, so I will try to be brief and will not take any interventions, because many hon. Members are yet to speak and it would be unfair, in such an important debate, for Members to be reduced to a time limit of two to three minutes—so, my apologies.

I echo many of the serious concerns that Opposition Members have raised about the Prime Minister’s deal or no deal, and the hugely negative impact that those scenarios will have on our communities, where a Tory Brexit will be devastating. The Prime Minister’s legal guarantee changes nothing. While we have heard lots of debate and emphasis on that today, quite rightly, I wish to concentrate my contribution on the human impact that is at play.

I will start by looking at my home town and constituency of Bradford, and the destruction that ideological Tory policies and the Government’s austerity cuts have brought upon our communities in Bradford in the last decade. We see rampant poverty gripping the city, with more than half the children living in my constituency in poverty according to the End Child Poverty campaign, ​and with not a week going by that I do not have a worried parent in my constituency advice surgery telling me how they are struggling even to clothe or feed their children because of the desperate poverty that they live in. We see poor educational attainment, with far too many children leaving school without enough GCSEs and far too many unable to go university. We see abysmally low wages, with people in Bradford paid less than the national average, or even the regional average.

We see insecure jobs and more and more people forced to take on zero-hours contract roles that do not pay the bills and do not offer the protection that they need. We see cuts to local government funding that have crushed advice centres, libraries, community halls and other services that people rely on and that are vital to the fabric of community life. We see an underfunded NHS, with our hospitals creaking as they are forced to do more with less, and staff underappreciated and underpaid. We see uncertain futures, with no hope of tomorrow being better than today and no bright future for our children.

Do I think that the Prime Minister’s deal or no deal is the right choice and that it will offer people in Bradford a better future? Not at all, because let me be clear: it is the Prime Minister and this Tory Government who have left us in such a state, because it is their austerity that is driving Bradford into the ground, not the EU. We were promised by the leave campaign that everything would be fantastic—that there would be millions more for the NHS, that the economy would be fine and that wages would be higher—but the stark reality is that those promises have failed to materialise and that a Tory Brexit will only devastate our communities further.

A Tory Brexit will help the Government to strip away workers’ rights—rights we have fought hard for and depend upon—and allow them to continue their relentless pursuit of deregulation to make it easier for people to lose their jobs, their holidays and their representation. It will grind down our economy in Bradford and Yorkshire, which exported £9.7 billion of goods—goods that create thousands of jobs but depend on free and unhindered access to the continent—to the EU in 2017. It will hit wages and the pockets of working people as the economy shrinks, jobs are lost and even food prices rise. It will allow the Government to continue their ideological austerity drive, with money set aside for the regions by the EU not coming back to the north but being spent in the south and the Tory shires. Ultimately, it will worsen poverty, as rights are watered down, jobs are lost, wages shrink and austerity continues.

People in Bradford have suffered for years under this Tory Government, who have enacted ideologically driven policies and forced poverty on our communities, so why should they trust a Tory Brexit? A Tory Brexit is not the answer for people in Bradford, and nor is a Tory Government, full stop. I cannot support an outcome that would leave people in Bradford worse off. I cannot allow our communities to be dragged further into the spiral of deprivation, social injustice and poverty.

George Howarth – 2019 Speech on the Withdrawal Agreement

Below is the text of the speech made by George Howarth, the Labour MP for Knowsley, to the House of Commons on 12 March 2019.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah). He made a thoughtful, fluent and principled speech and I commend him for doing so.

Back in January when we were debating this matter, I said that the Government had no majority, no authority, and no longer served any useful purpose. If that was debatable in January, it is now an absolute certainty. I am afraid that the debate we are having only reflects the mess that the Government have got themselves into on this issue.

I want to be brief so I will not repeat a lot of the things that have already been said. I just want to make a couple of remarks about where the public are at and where they were at the beginning of this process, which leads on to the debate about whether a consensus is possible. I do not mean this in any critical way, but the right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) called for consensus, the hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Andrea Jenkyns) called for consensus, and—in a slightly different way—the hon. Member for East Surrey ​just made a plea for a kind of consensus. The difficulty is that they all mean something entirely different. The right hon. Member for Loughborough means a consensus around the Prime Minister’s deal, the hon. Member for East Surrey wants a pause so that we can think about whether other options could be considered, and the hon. Member for Morley and Outwood basically wants us to come out without a deal. In each case, there is no possible basis for consensus.

When we started this process, I noticed that there were three different strands of opinion in my constituency, and Knowsley is not unique in that. The first strand was made up of people who voted to leave and wanted to leave on any basis it was possible to achieve, including without any kind of a deal. Secondly, there were those who agreed more with me than with anybody else, who felt that we had made a historic mistake in voting to leave in the referendum and were looking for a way to reverse that process. Finally, there was a group of people in the middle who simply wanted to get on with it, although they were not specific about what it was they wanted to get on with, other than the fact that they wanted to leave the European Union—and the Prime Minister has built her entire negotiating strategy around that one group.

The difficulty is that that one group, which is also reflected in this House, cannot definitely be said to be on one side or the other when it comes to any specific deal. Yes, these people want to leave, but they do not necessarily want to leave on any terms put in front of them, and they certainly do not want to be part of a deal that makes them, their families and their communities worse off. The problem is that any solution has to involve a strategy that brings at least two of those three groups along with it, but I am afraid to say that what the Prime Minister is offering at the moment does not bring any one of those groups along fully, as we will see reflected in the Division Lobby tonight.

It would be reasonable to challenge me on what I think should happen. All I can say is that at the beginning of this process, after we triggered article 50, I would have voted for a deal that I thought would not do too much damage to my constituents; that is where I started from. Frankly, I am now at the point where I will vote, if I get the opportunity over the coming days, for no deal because I think that it would be disastrous for my constituency and our country. [Hon. Members: “Against no deal.”] Sorry, I will vote against no deal; that was a Freudian slip. I will also vote for a second referendum if the opportunity arises, and I will certainly vote for the extension of article 50. We have to get somewhere with this. If we do not, the only option left will be to say to the people, “Is this what you really want?” And we are rapidly reaching a point where that is probably the only option left.

Geoffrey Cox – 2019 Statement on the Withdrawal Agreement

Below is the text of the statement made by Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, in the House of Commons on 12 March 2019.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about my legal opinion on the joint instrument and unilateral declaration concerning the withdrawal agreement published last night.

Last week, I confirmed I would publish my

“legal opinion on any document that is produced and negotiated with the Union.”—[Official Report, 7 March 2019; Vol. 655, c. 1112.]

That has now been laid before the House. This statement summarises the instruments and my opinion of their legal effect.

Last night in Strasbourg, the Prime Minister secured legally binding changes that strengthen and improve the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration. The Government laid three new documents reflecting those changes in the House: first, a joint legally binding instrument on the withdrawal agreement and the protocol on Northern Ireland; secondly, a unilateral declaration by the United Kingdom in relation to the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol; and thirdly, a joint statement to supplement the political declaration. The legal opinion I have provided to the House today focuses on the first two of those documents, which relate to the functioning of the backstop and the efforts of the parties that will be required to supersede it.

Let me say frankly what, in my opinion, these documents do not do. They are not about a situation where, despite the parties properly fulfilling the duties of good faith and best endeavours, they cannot reach an agreement on a future relationship. Such an event, in my opinion, is highly unlikely to occur, and it is in the interests of both the United Kingdom and the European Union to agree a future relationship as quickly as possible. Let me make it clear, however, that were such a situation to occur, the legal risk, as I set it out in my letter of 13 November, remains unchanged. The question for the House is whether in the light of these improvements, as a political judgment, it should now enter into those arrangements.

Let me move on to what the documents do achieve. As I set out in my opinion, the joint instrument puts the commitments in the letter from Presidents Tusk and Juncker of 14 January 2019 into a legally binding form, and provides, in addition, useful clarifications, amplifications of existing obligations, and some new obligations. The instrument confirms that the European Union cannot pursue an objective of trying to trap the UK in the backstop indefinitely. It makes explicit that that would constitute bad faith, which would be the basis of a formal dispute before an arbitration tribunal. That means, ultimately, that the protocol could be suspended if the European Union continued to breach its obligations.

The joint instrument also reflects the United Kingdom’s and the Union’s commitment to work to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020, including as set out in the withdrawal agreement. Those commitments include establishing

“immediately following the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, a negotiating track for replacing the customs and regulatory alignment in goods elements of the protocol with alternative arrangements.”

If an agreement has not been concluded within one year of the UK’s withdrawal, efforts must be redoubled.

In my view, as a matter of law, the provisions relating to the timing of the efforts to be made in resolving withdrawal agreements make time of the essence in the negotiation of a subsequent agreement. A doctrine with which the lawyers in the House will be familiar is of legal relevance. In my opinion, the provisions of the joint instrument extend beyond mere interpretation of the withdrawal agreement, and represent materially new legal obligations and commitments which enhance its existing terms.

Let me now turn to the unilateral declaration. It records the United Kingdom’s position that, if it were not possible to conclude a subsequent agreement to replace the protocol because of a breach by the Union of its duty of good faith, it would be entitled to take measures to disapply the provisions of the protocol in accordance with the withdrawal agreement’s dispute resolution procedures and article 20, to which I have referred. There is no doubt, in my view, that the clarifications and amplified obligations contained in the joint statement and the unilateral declaration provide a substantive and binding reinforcement of the legal rights available to the UK in the event that the Union were to fail in its duties of good faith and best endeavours.

I have in this statement, and in the letter that I have published today, set out, frankly and candidly, my view of the legal effect of the new instruments that the Government have agreed with the Union. However, the matters of law affecting withdrawal can only inform what is essentially a political decision that each of us must make. This is a question not of the lawfulness of the Government’s action but of the prudence, as a matter of policy and political judgment, of entering into an international agreement on the terms proposed.

David Lidington – 2019 Speech on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by David Lidington, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in the House of Commons on 11 March 2019.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the government’s negotiations to leave the European Union.

Can I start Mr Speaker with an apology to you and to the Hon Gentleman for Holborn and St Pancras and to the SNP spokesman that we’ve not tonight been able to follow the usual courtesies that I would have wanted to do and give them advance notice. The reason for this as Honourable members who’ve been following the TV coverage will know, is that negotiations are still taking place in Strasbourg, and I think anybody who has taken part in EU business on behalf of this or any previous government will know that it is far from unusual for deadlines to be stretched or for talks to be going on late.

I would emphasise to the House Mr Speaker that the intention of my Rt Hon Friend the Prime Minister is to secure a deal that works for the national interest of our country and she will persist in those negotiations until she is satisfied that that is what has been achieved.

I can Mr Speaker, provide the House with an update tonight on what has been agreed so far and clearly the government will update the House at the earliest opportunity tomorrow should there be an outcome to the continuing talks in Strasbourg, that will have an impact on tomorrow’s debate.

Legally-binding changes

This evening in Strasbourg the Prime Minister and my Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU has secured legally-binding changes that strengthen and improve the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration.

This House spoke clearly on 29 January when it voted in favour of honouring the decision of the British people and leaving the EU with a deal that works for the UK.

The primary issue of concern then was the Northern Ireland backstop. This House needed legally-binding changes. And today, that is what the PM and the Secretary of State have achieved.

Tonight, we will be laying two new documents in the House. A joint, legally-binding instrument on the Withdrawal Agreement and Protocol on Northern Ireland, and a joint statement to supplement the Political Declaration.

The first provides confirmation that the EU cannot try to trap the UK in the backstop indefinitely and that doing so would be an explicit breach of the legally binding commitments both sides have agreed.

And if, contrary to all expectations, the EU were to act with that intention, the UK could use this acceptance of what could constitute an explicit breach as the basis for a formal dispute through independent arbitration that such a breach had occurred – ultimately suspending the Protocol if the EU continued to breach its obligations.

On top of this, the joint instrument also reflects the UK’s and the EU’s commitment to work to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements by December 2020 – setting out explicitly that these arrangements do not need to replicate the provisions of the backstop in any respect. By including this commitment in the joint instrument this provision on alternative arrangements will be legally binding.

And I hope too that the legally binding commitment that the alternative arrangements do not need to replicate the backstop in any respect will go some way to reassure hon members that the backstop does not predetermine our future relationship with the EU should be.

The joint instrument also puts the commitments set out by Presidents Juncker and Tusk in January onto a legally binding footing: underlining the meaning of best endeavours; stressing the need for negotiations on the future relationship to be taken forward urgently; and confirming the assurances we made to the people of Northern Ireland – for example providing a UK lock on any new EU laws being added to the backstop.

The second is a joint statement supplementing the Political Declaration which outlines a number of commitments by the UK and EU to enhance and expedite the process of negotiating and bringing into force the future relationship, for example it makes reference to the possibility of provisional application of such future agreement, and it sets out in detail how the specific negotiating track on alternative arrangements will operate.

As I said, Mr Speaker, negotiations are continuing and the government will provide an update to the House at the earliest opportunity should there be further changes.

I would also completely understand that Honourable and Rt Hon members on all sides of the House will want to have the opportunity to study the documents in detail and to analyse their import. And clearly, there will be the opportunity at the debate scheduled tomorrow for members to question the Prime Minister and other Ministers and to seek answers to those questions.

It is also the case that as he said during Law Officers’ oral questions last week, my Rt Hon and Learned friend the Attorney General has given a commitment from this dispatch box to publish his legal assessment and that will, of course, be available to all members in good time before the debate.

I mean Hon members, Mr Speaker, say ‘when?’. Since my Rt Hon and Learned friend has just seen the outcome of the negotiations as they have concluded so far in Strasbourg, I think the House would expect that they would want the Attorney General to consider very carefully the implications of those documents, rather than rush an opinion out to meet the deadline for this statement this evening.

Forward process

Mr Speaker, this evening we shall table a motion that the House will debate tomorrow.

We have already published the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, and the other papers required of us under the European Union Withdrawal Act. And those will be supplemented by the documents I have drawn to the House’s acquaintance this evening.

Tomorrow the House will vote on this improved deal.

A good deal

Mr Speaker, I believe that the deal we have already secured represents a good deal for the whole country and delivers on the result of the referendum.

When I was knocking on doors during the referendum campaign, the message I very clearly got from the people who voted to leave the EU was that they wanted to take back control – particularly of our borders but also of our laws.

The deal ends free movement and allows us to deliver a skills-based immigration system; and it ends the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK.

Under the deal, we will also take back control of our money, no longer sending vast sums to the EU.

We will leave the Common Fisheries Policy and Common Agricultural Policy and take back control of our trade policy.

But I also found in 2016, Mr Speaker, that whether people voted to leave or to remain, they wanted us to have the deep and special partnership with the EU that our manifesto committed us to delivering.

The Political Declaration – the framework for the future relationship – allows for this.

The choice tomorrow

So in the Meaningful Vote tomorrow this House will face a fundamental choice. We said we would negotiate a good deal with the EU and I believe we have. And the EU has been clear that with the improvements that have been announced, which continue to be negotiated, this will be the only deal on the table.

And tomorrow there will be a fundamental choice: to vote for the improved deal or to plunge this country into a political crisis.

And if we vote for this improved deal we will both end the current uncertainty and have delivered Brexit.

This House was clear on the need for legally binding changes to the backstop. Today we have secured those changes.

Now is the time to come together, to back this improved Brexit deal, and to deliver on the instruction of the British people.

Liam Fox – 2019 Speech at Security and Policing Exhibition

Below is the text of the speech made by Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, on 5 March 2019.

I would like to welcome the many international delegations who are joining us at today’s Security and Policing Show – more than 40, I believe – as well as Mark Goldsack, my Department’s new Director of our Defence and Security Organisation.

And thank you to the Home Office’s Joint Resilience and Security Centre, and ADS for organising such a successful event yet again this year.

The UK’s security industry is one of the strongest and most innovative in the world. It is one of our most diverse sectors in terms of both capabilities and application.

You are experts in a wide-range of areas, including scanning, trace detection and anti-theft systems. We are one of the top three nations for cyber-security solutions globally. And we are renowned the world over for our expertise in securing public spaces, building on our experiences at London 2012 and elsewhere – thanks for your efforts.

Your innovation, design, heritage and expertise are second to none.

I sometimes get asked: “What does Britain actually make now?” I’ve no doubt many of you have heard the same thing. I have to point out that we export a huge variety of commodities. In the year to December 2018, we sold £33.3 billion-worth of cars, £24.7 billion of medicinal and pharmaceutical products, and £24.7 billion of mechanical power generator products-from aircraft engines to gas turbines, and from steam generators to nuclear reactors. So much for Britain not producing anything any more; we are actually experiencing a renaissance in manufacturing in this country.

At the Department for International Trade, we also get the little brother of that: “What does Britain actually export?” Again, I tell them that we have an excellent economic success story to tell. Between 2010 and 2018, exports have grown by 40.8%, around 5% per year on average, driven by an increase in services exports of 55.2%.

Exports of goods and services in the year to December 2018 were worth almost £630 billion.

In addition to our world-class goods exports, we are also the world’s second largest services exporter. In the year to September 2018, we sold some £82.4 billion-worth of business services, almost £61 billion of financial services and nearly £38 billion of travel services. Here, across the sectors, the UK has huge comparative advantage. Services account for almost half of all our exports-42.4% going to the EU and 57.6% to non-EU countries.

This sector is a great example of why such questions fail to understand our national success.

The statistics are clear. The United Kingdom is the world’s second-largest defence exporter; the third-largest aerospace exporter and a producer of 40% of the world’s small satellites.

At the Department of International Trade we have been doing our part to further strengthen that success, providing support to UK companies to help them get started and expand their footprint in global markets.

This year alone, the department has supported over 140 export wins.

For example, we have recently helped a Lincolnshire based security systems innovator, Concept Smoke Screen, to secure a £17.5 million contract to export anti-theft fogging systems to Brazil’s banking sector.

Or there is Herefordshire based Silent Sentinel, who have recently sold £2.5 million of surveillance equipment into Poland.

In terms of cyber we have exporters such as Garrison, developers of one of the world’s most secure commercial internet browsing technologies, who have recently secured major deals in Germany and the United States. It is success stories like these that underpin hundreds of thousands of high-skilled manufacturing jobs, allowing people to support their families right across the country.

This sector plays a vital role in the UK’s prosperity: totalling some £4.8 billion of our exports – and it continues to grow.

But it also plays a wider role: creating the products and services which promote global stability in a very direct way, by sharing the means of security and policing with our friends and allies, and, in the final analysis, saving lives.

I am sure you don’t need me to tell you that we are at a pivotal time in British history. As we prepare to leave the European Union, Brexit is predictably consuming much of the Government’s attention – and a lot of our political bandwidth.

In terms of my department’s own responsibilities, our main priority is making sure that we transition the trade agreements the EU has with third countries, and that our trade regime works operationally on day one, in any scenario.

For the Government as a whole the priority is, of course, securing an agreement that the EU and the House of Commons can both agree to.

While I cannot tell you exactly what the outcome of those discussions will be, I can tell you that it is the Government’s firm intention for you to have continued access to European markets and supply chains, and to provide certainty for businesses and individuals as we move towards our future deep and special partnership with the EU.

But I would also like to highlight the fact that there is a world beyond Europe and there will be a time beyond Brexit.

While people often think of International Trade as a ‘Brexit department’, about 90% of our staff work on trade and investment promotion.

Around 130 of those are in the Defence and Security Organisation, our largest sector team by a wide margin, alongside a separate team for civil aerospace.

We recently launched our first ever space exports campaign. And we are making renewed efforts to focus on our cyber security sector, which is driving much of the growth in our exports.

Last April we launched a specific Cyber Security Export Strategy, based on the benefits of trade prosperity and our own national security, and I am glad to see so many representatives from companies in that area here this evening.

Some of you may also have been involved in the work we have been doing to develop a revised Security Exports Strategy, which we hope to publish soon.

It will set out our ambitions to support the industry, working in partnership with other departments, the Government’s innovation programmes and trade associations to provide greater levels of support to ensure that the UK’s exports in this important sector continue to grow.

This work, in turn, forms part of our wider Export Strategy that was published in August 2018. It is informed by extensive engagement with businesses and business organisations across all parts of the UK.

One of the things we identified in that Strategy was that the Government needed to concentrate our support on where we could make the most difference… … ensuring no viable export fails for lack of finance or insurance – through our world-class export credit agency UK Export Finance… … connecting businesses with local markets and addressing barriers to trade… … informing business about overseas markets, giving them the knowledge they need about local business cultures, regulations, or consumer needs – including the development of great.gov.uk as a one-stop advisory shop…

… and encouraging firms to export through targeted support and in setting up a network of Export Champions – businesses who have successfully exported, and have the credibility to mentor others to do the same.

No-one is better-placed than the Government to talk to other Governments – something that is important to many of you here.

Many of you count foreign Governments as key customers. Even more of you count the British Government as a key customer.

Many of you operate in heavily-regulated areas, where Government-to-Government conversations can make a real difference; helping to connect businesses, opening markets and unlocking opportunities overseas.

And I am delighted to be able to add to that support this evening. Just before speaking to you, I signed an agreement with Sir Kevin Tebbitt, the Chairman of RISC.

This document formalises the efforts we have made with RISC and the many trade bodies that they represent over the last year to strengthen our mutual support for the sector, and we will be setting out our plans for this in more detail in the forthcoming Security Export Strategy.

The Security sector is one of the most adaptable and responsive industries in our country: rising again and again to the challenges posed to our safety and security.

And it needs to be, given the ever-evolving nature of the security challenges we face: whether it be cyber security solutions to protect our data, innovative ways to manage crowded places, or in preventing disruption at large transport hubs.

But I am confident that it is this very adaptability and responsiveness which will underpin your future success and continue to drive our international exports.

The mission of my department – to build a future for the UK’s international trade that supports our prosperity, secures our stability and guarantees our security – is a vital one and it is complemented by the efforts of everyone in this room.

Britain stands on the brink of a new era in our trading history, continuing our close cooperation with our partners in European Union while reaching out to friends old and new in the wider world, from which 90% of global growth is expected to originate in the next five years.

Our mission is to open new markets, build new trade and investment opportunities and to use these to underpin the Government’s agenda for a truly Global Britain.

It is a vital mission: and it is one I very much look forward to advancing in partnership with this sector in the year to come. Thank you.

Theresa May – 2019 Statement in Strasbourg

Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in Strasbourg, France on 11 March 2019.

Last November, after two years of hard-fought negotiations, I agreed a Brexit deal with the EU that I passionately believe delivers on the decision taken by the British people to leave the European Union.

Over the last four months, I have made the case for that deal in Westminster and across the UK.

I stand by what that deal achieves for my country.

It means we regain control of our laws, by ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK.

Regain control of our borders, by ending free movement.

Regain control of our money, by ending vast annual payments to the EU.

The end of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy for British farmers and fishermen.

An independent trade policy.

And the deal sets us on course for a good future relationship with our friends and allies in the EU.

A close economic partnership that is good for business.

Ongoing security co-operation to keep our peoples safe.

The deal honours the referendum result and is good for both the UK and the EU.

But there was a clear concern in Parliament over one issue in particular: the Northern Ireland backstop.

Having an insurance policy to guarantee that there will never be a hard border in Northern Ireland is absolutely right – it honours the UK’s solemn commitments in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

But if we ever have to use that insurance policy, it cannot become a permanent arrangement and it is not the template for our future relationship.

The deal that MPs voted on in January was not strong enough in making that clear – and legally binding changes were needed to set that right.

Today we have agreed them.

First, a joint instrument with comparable legal weight to the Withdrawal Agreement will guarantee that the EU cannot act with the intent of applying the backstop indefinitely.

If they do, it can be challenged through arbitration and if they are found to be in breach the UK can suspend the backstop.

The joint instrument also gives a legal commitment that whatever replaces the backstop does not need to replicate it.

And it entrenches in legally-binding form the commitments made in the exchange of letters with Presidents Tusk and Juncker in January.

Second, the UK and the EU have made a joint statement in relation to the Political Declaration.

It sets out a number of commitments to enhance and expedite the process of negotiating and bringing into force the future relationship.

And it makes a legal commitment that the UK and the EU will begin work immediately to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements by the end of December 2020.

There will be a specific negotiating track on alternative arrangements from the very start of the next phase of negotiations.

It will consider facilitations and technologies – both those currently ready and emerging.

The UK’s position will be informed by the three domestic groups announced last week – for technical experts, MPs, and business and trade unions.

Third, alongside the joint instrument on the Withdrawal Agreement, the United Kingdom Government will make a Unilateral Declaration that if the backstop comes into use and discussions on our future relationship break down so that there is no prospect of subsequent agreement, it is the position of the United Kingdom that there would be nothing to prevent the UK instigating measures that would ultimately dis-apply the backstop.

Unilateral Declarations are commonly used by states alongside the ratification of treaties.

The Attorney General will set out in legal analysis the meaning of the joint instrument and unilateral declaration to Parliament.

Tomorrow the House of Commons will debate the improved deal that these legal changes have created.

I will speak in more detail about them when I open that debate.

MPs were clear that legal changes were needed to the backstop.

Today we have secured legal changes.

Now is the time to come together, to back this improved Brexit deal, and to deliver on the instruction of the British people.

Theresa May – 2019 Speech Following Government Defeat on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 12 March 2019 following the Government’s defeat on Brexit.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker,

I profoundly regret the decision that this House has taken tonight.

I continue to believe that by far the best outcome is that the UK leaves the EU in an orderly fashion with a deal, and that the deal we have negotiated is the best and indeed the only deal available.

Mr Speaker, I would like to set out briefly how the Government means to proceed.

Two weeks ago, I made a series of commitments from this despatch box regarding the steps we would take in the event that this House rejected the deal on offer. I stand by those commitments in full.

Therefore, tonight we will table a motion for debate tomorrow to test whether the House supports leaving the European Union without a deal on 29 March.

The Leader of the House will shortly make an emergency business statement confirming the change to tomorrow’s business.

This is an issue of grave importance for the future of our country. Just like the referendum, there are strongly held and equally legitimate views on both sides.

For that reason, I can confirm that this will be a free vote on this side of the House.

I have personally struggled with this choice as I am sure many other Honourable Members will. I am passionate about delivering the result of the referendum. But I equally passionately believe that the best way to do that is to leave in an orderly way with a deal and I still believe there is a majority in the House for that course of action. And I am conscious also of my duties as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of the potential damage to the Union that leaving without a deal could do when one part of our country is without devolved governance.

I can therefore confirm that the motion will read:

That this House declines to approve leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework on the Future Relationship on 29 March 2019; and notes that leaving without a deal remains the default in UK and EU law unless this House and the EU ratify an agreement.

I will return to the House to open the debate tomorrow and to take interventions from Honourable Members. And to ensure the House is fully informed in making this historic decision, the Government will tomorrow publish information on essential policies which would need to be put in place if we were to leave without a deal. These will cover our approach to tariffs and the Northern Ireland border, among other matters.

If the House votes to leave without a deal on 29 March, it will be the policy of the Government to implement that decision.

If the House declines to approve leaving without a deal on 29 March, the Government will, following that vote, bring forward a motion on Thursday on whether Parliament wants to seek an extension to Article 50.

If the House votes for an extension, the Government will seek to agree that extension with the EU and bring forward the necessary legislation to change the exit date commensurate with that extension.

But let me be clear. Voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension does not solve the problems we face. The EU will want to know what use we mean to make of such an extension.

This House will have to answer that question. Does it wish to revoke Article 50? Does it want to hold a second referendum? Or does it want to leave with a deal but not this deal?

These are unenviable choices, but thanks to the decision the House has made this evening they must now be faced.