Theresa May – 2019 Speech on Brexit to House of Commons

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, to the House of Commons on 12 February 2019.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the Government’s ongoing work to secure a Brexit deal that honours our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland, commands the support of Parliament and can be negotiated with the EU.

On 29th January, this House gave me a clear mandate and sent an unequivocal message to the European Union. Last week, I took that message to Brussels.

I met President Juncker, President Tusk, and the President of European Parliament, Antonio Tajani – and I told them clearly what Parliament wanted in order to unite behind a Withdrawal Agreement: namely, legally binding changes to the backstop.

And I explained to them the three ways in which this can be achieved.

First, the backstop could be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Yesterday, my Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union met with Michel Barnier to discuss the ideas put forward by the Alternative Arrangements Working Group comprised of a number of my Hon and Rt Hon Friends.

I am grateful to that group for their work and we are continuing to explore their ideas.

Second, there could be a legally-binding time limit to the existing backstop.

Or third, there could be a legally-binding unilateral exit clause to that backstop.

Given both sides agree we do not ever want to use the backstop, and that if we did it would be temporary, we believe it is reasonable to ask for legally binding changes to this effect.

Mr Speaker, as expected, President Juncker maintained the EU’s position that they will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement.

And I set out the UK’s position, strengthened by the mandate that this House gave me, that this House needs to see legally-binding changes to the backstop and that can be achieved by changes to the Withdrawal Agreement.

We both agreed that our teams should hold further talks to find a way forward, and he and I will meet again before the end of February to take stock of those discussions.

So our work continues. The Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster are today in Strasbourg and last week the Attorney General was in Dublin to meet his Irish counterpart.

And following my own visits to Brussels, Northern Ireland and Ireland last week, I welcomed the Prime Minister of Malta to Downing Street yesterday and I will be speaking to other EU 27 leaders today and throughout the week.

The Right Honourable Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, shares the concerns of this House on the backstop. I welcome his willingness to sit down and talk to me and I look forward to continuing our discussions.

Indeed, Government Ministers will be meeting with members of his team tomorrow.

I think there are a number of areas where the whole House should be able to come together.

In particular, I believe we have a shared determination across this House not to allow the UK leaving the EU to mean any lowering of standards in relation to workers’ rights, environmental protections or health and safety.

I have met Trade Unions and with members from across the House, and my Rt Hon Friend the Business Secretary is leading work to ensure that we fully address all concerns about these vital issues.

We have already made legally-binding commitments to no regression in these areas if we were to enter the backstop – and we are prepared to consider legislating to give these commitments force in UK law.

And in the interests of building support across the House, we are also prepared to commit to asking Parliament whether it wishes to follow suit whenever the EU changes its standards in these areas. And of course we don’t need to automatically follow EU standards in order to lead the way – as we have done in the past under both Conservative and Labour Governments.

The UK has a proud tradition of leading the way in workers’ rights, whilst maintaining a flexible labour market that has helped deliver an employment rate almost 6 percentage points above the EU average.

Successive governments of all parties have put in place standards that exceed the minimums set by the EU.

A Labour government gave British workers annual leave and paid maternity leave entitlements well above that required by the European Union.

A Conservative-led government went further than the EU by giving all employees the right to request flexible working. And I was proud to be the Minister for Women and Equalities to introduce shared parental leave so that both parents are able to take on caring responsibilities for their child – something no EU regulation provides for.

When it comes to workers’ rights this Parliament has set a higher standard before and I believe will do so in the future.

Indeed we already have plans to repeal the so-called Swedish derogation, which allows employers to pay their agency workers less, and we are committed to enforcing holiday pay for the most vulnerable workers.

Not just protecting workers’ rights, but extending them.

As I set out in my statement two weeks ago, the House also agrees that Parliament must have a much stronger and clearer role in the next phase of the negotiations.

Because the Political Declaration cannot be legally binding and in some areas provides for a spectrum of outcomes – some Members are understandably concerned that they cannot be sure precisely what future relationship it would lead to.

By following through on our commitments and giving Parliament that bigger say in the mandate for the next phase, we are determined to address those concerns.

The Secretary of State has written to all Members of the Exiting the EU Committee seeking their view on engaging Parliament in this next phase of negotiations.

And we are also reaching out beyond this House to engage more deeply with businesses, civil society and trade unions.

Everyone in this House knows that the vote for Brexit was not just about changing our relationship with the EU, but changing how things work at home, especially for those in communities who feel they have been left behind.

Addressing this and widening opportunities is the mission of this Government that I set out on my first day as Prime Minister, and I will continue to work with Members across the House to do everything we can to help build a country that works for everyone.

But, Mr Speaker, one area where the Rt Hon Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and I do not agree is on his suggestion that the UK should remain a member of the EU Customs Union.

I would gently point out that the House of Commons has already voted against this. And in any case, membership of the Customs Union would be a less desirable outcome than that which is provided for in the Political Declaration.

That would deliver no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors, and no checks on rules of origin.

But crucially, it would also provide for the development of an independent trade policy for the UK that would allow us to strike our own trade deals around the world, something the Labour Party once supported.

On Thursday, as I promised in the House last month, we will bring forward an amendable motion.

This will seek to reaffirm the support of the House for the amended motion from 29th January – namely to support the Government in seeking changes to the backstop and to recognise that negotiations are ongoing.

Having secured an agreement with the European Union for further talks, we now need some time to complete that process.

When we achieve the progress we need, we will bring forward another meaningful vote.

But if the Government has not secured a majority in this House in favour of a Withdrawal Agreement and a Political Declaration, then the Government will on Tuesday 26 February make a statement and table an amendable motion relating to the statement; and a Minister will move that motion on Wednesday 27 February, thereby enabling the House to vote on it, and on any amendments to it, on that day.

Mr Speaker, as well as making clear what is needed to change in the Withdrawal Agreement, the House has also reconfirmed its view that it does not want to leave the EU without a deal.

The government agrees. But opposing no deal is not enough to stop it.

We must agree a deal that this House can support. And that is what I am working to achieve.

I’ve spoken before about the damage that would be done to public faith in our democracy if this House were to ignore the result of the 2016 referendum.

In Northern Ireland last week, I heard again the importance of securing a Withdrawal Agreement that works for all the people of this United Kingdom.

In Belfast I met not just with politicians but with leaders of civil society and business from across the community.

Following this House’s rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement, many people in Northern Ireland are worried about what the current uncertainty will mean for them.

In this House we often focus on the practical challenges posed by the border in Northern Ireland.

But for many people in Northern Ireland, what looms larger is the fear that the seamless border between Ireland and Northern Ireland that helped make the progress which has followed the Belfast Agreement possible might be disrupted.

We must not let that happen and we shall not let that happen.

The talks are at a crucial stage. We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this House requires and deliver Brexit on time.

By getting the changes we need to the backstop; by protecting and enhancing workers’ rights and environmental protections; and by enhancing the role of Parliament in the next phase of negotiations I believe we can reach a deal that this House can support.

We can deliver for the people and the communities that voted for change two and half years ago – and whose voices for too long have not been heard.

We can honour the result of the referendum.

And we can set this country on course for the bright future that every part of this United Kingdom deserves.

That is this Government’s mission. We shall not stint in our efforts to fulfil it.

And I commend this statement to the House.

Theresa May – 2019 Speech in Belfast

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in Belfast on 5 February 2019.

I’m pleased to be back in Belfast today, with under 8 weeks to go until the UK leaves the EU I recognise that this is a crucial time for Northern Ireland. And ensuring that the unique needs of this part of the UK are met has been one of my chief priorities ever since I became Prime Minister.

Any border that weaves its way through farms and villages, bisects hundreds of roads and lanes, and which is crossed and re-crossed by thousands of people every day would pose a logistical challenge in the context of Brexit.

But when you add to those geographical factors Northern Ireland’s complex history, the different traditions and identities that make up its community, and the long path to peace that the people of Northern Ireland have walked over the last forty years – the challenge is even greater.

Over the last two and half years, we have come a long way towards a solution that works for Northern Ireland and Ireland.

We have agreed mutual protections for citizens’ rights, the maintenance of our common travel area, and set a framework for our future relationship that ensures tariff and quota-free trade and protects our close co-operation on security and law enforcement.

But the UK Parliament rejected the Withdrawal Agreement because of their concerns about the backstop – the legal protocol to prevent no hard border in the event our future relationship is not in place at the end of the implementation period.

I know that many people in Northern Ireland, and indeed across this island, are worried about what Parliament’s rejection of the withdrawal deal means for them.

So I am here today to affirm my commitment, and that of the United Kingdom Government, to all of the people of Northern Ireland, of every background and tradition.

To affirm my commitment to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, to its successors the St Andrew’s Agreement and the Stormont House Agreement, and to the principles they enshrine – which is absolute.

And to affirm my commitment to delivering a Brexit that ensures no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland – which is unshakable.

I was 12 when the Troubles began and 41 when the Belfast Agreement was reached; for all my adult life, Northern Ireland has been a central political issue.

The progress of the last few decades – from the Troubles to ceasefire; from ceasefire to political agreement; and from agreement to active participation by unionists and nationalists in institutions that enjoy cross-community support – has been a massive achievement and a landmark in the history of these islands.

From the moment I became Prime Minister of the UK, I knew that one of my most profound responsibilities was to serve the interests of the people of Northern Ireland by doing all I could to protect and sustain that progress.

Successive UK and Irish Governments have played their parts, often working together in close co-operation.

But it has been the political parties in Northern Ireland – the UUP and the SDLP, the DUP, Sinn Fein, and the Alliance – it has been civil society groups like WAVE and Healing Through Remembering – and above all it has been the people of Northern Ireland who have achieved by far the most.

Violence has not been eliminated. But it has been reduced to levels that would once have seemed impossible to imagine.

Divisions remain entrenched in some communities. But many people, including those from the younger generations, are more and more interested in putting aside those divisions to build a shared future.

Thanks to greater political stability, Northern Ireland is now a leading destination for inward investment, with over 900 international businesses investing in its economic success.

Employment is at a near-record high and unemployment at a near-record low.

And that transformation is reflected in the image that Northern Ireland projects to the rest of the world today.

It is no longer one of violence, but of dynamism and success.

And the decisive moment in that transformation was the Belfast Agreement in 1998.

Its success was in allowing people of different traditions to feel that those traditions and their identities were respected, and that they could work together to build a successful future for all the people of Northern Ireland.

It enshrined the principle that it is the ‘birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose.’

And it enshrined the consent principle: that it will always and only be for the people of Northern Ireland to decide what their constitutional future should be – and that the UK Government is solemnly committed to supporting and implementing their democratic wishes.

These principles are the bedrock of peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

And they will forever be honoured by the United Kingdom Government.

A fundamental belief in the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is part of my political heritage as a Conservative and Unionist – and that will never change.

But the Unionism I believe in is one that respects absolutely the central importance of Irish identity to those people in Northern Ireland who claim it.

And the United Kingdom I stand for is an open and tolerant union of nations and people.

A country where every religion, every peaceful and democratic creed, has a place and every man and woman is equal before the law, treated with respect and has the opportunity to get on and succeed.

Indeed, that Union can only ever be secure and prosper if it is built on that respect and acceptance of difference and diversity.

Because the Belfast Agreement is not just the bedrock of stability here in Northern Ireland, its principles are fundamental to the security and success of the whole United Kingdom.

Our absolute commitment to those principles has informed and directed my approach to Brexit – from my first speeches as Prime Minister to my first meetings with the Taoiseach.

And in December 2017, in the Joint Report we agreed with the EU, we committed to protect the 1998 agreement ‘in all its parts…and to the totality of the relationships set out in it.’

…‘to the avoidance of a hard border, including any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls’

…and ‘to preserving the integrity of the UK internal market and Northern Ireland’s place within it.’

These were commitments made in good faith.

Our preferred approach has always been to deliver them through the Future Relationship.

But I accepted the need for an insurance policy or bridging arrangement to guarantee no hard border if the Future Relationship was not in place in time.

And that such a policy had to deliver legal certainty – through what is called a legally operative text – so it would give people and businesses on both sides of the border clarity and confidence over how these commitments would be fulfilled.

That is why I agreed to the backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement.

And unlike the original European Commission proposal, it did not impose a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Many people, businesses, farming organisations and voluntary groups in Northern Ireland agreed with me. They spoke out in support of the Withdrawal Agreement and they defended the backstop.

I know that wasn’t an easy thing to do and I am grateful to them for doing so.

I fought hard to make the case for the deal as it stands. I believed it could command a majority in the House of Commons.

But I have had to face up to the fact that in its current form it cannot. And the need for changes to the backstop is the key issue.

While there were those in Northern Ireland who spoke in favour of it, it is also true that the backstop is not supported by the two main Unionist parties here.

And this also influenced MPs in England, Scotland and Wales in voting against the deal.

I can only deliver on the commitments we have made if I can get a deal through the UK Parliament.

And meetings with MPs across the House showed that I can only get a deal through Parliament if legal changes are made to the backstop.

And that is why the UK Government – and a majority of MPs from across the House of Commons – supported the amendment from Sir Graham Brady last week.

It reaffirms our desire to leave with a deal and our commitment to no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

And as Sir Graham himself set out, it would mean replacing the backstop with another arrangement which avoids a hard border or making legally binding changes to the backstop to introduce a time limit or create an exit mechanism.

I know that the prospect of changing the backstop and re-opening the Withdrawal Agreement creates real anxieties here in Northern Ireland and in Ireland. Because it is here that the consequences of whatever is agreed will most be felt.

I recognise, too, that the majority of voters in Northern Ireland voted to remain.

And that many will feel that once again decisions taken in Westminster are having a profound – and in many cases unwanted – impact in Northern Ireland and Ireland.

So I am determined to work towards a solution that can command broader support from across the community in Northern Ireland.

As we do so, there are a number of commitments that will underpin our approach and which must be part of any alternative arrangements that we seek to negotiate with the EU and pass through the UK Parliament.

First, we stand by our commitment in the Joint Report that there will be no hard border, including any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls.

And this means people on either side of that border will be able to live their lives as they do now.

I have spoken to people in places like Fermanagh who remember the customs border posts, approved roads and security installations of the not-so distant past.

I have spoken to businesses who have supply chains that cross between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

I understand how thousands of people move back and forth between Northern Ireland and Ireland every day – to go to work, to visit family, even to do their shopping.

I understand what a hard border would mean – not just in terms of the disruption at the border itself, but in terms of trade for the whole island.

The Belfast Agreement delivers “just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities.” And for many a seamless border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is integral to delivering this.

And I know this has been the cornerstone around which the community in Northern Ireland has come together to deliver peace and prosperity.

And I will not do anything to put that at risk.

So while I have said that technology could play a part, and that we will look at alternative arrangements, these must be ones that can be made to work for the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland.

Second, neither will I compromise on my promise to protect Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK.

When the European Commission proposed a version of the backstop which involved creating a customs border in the Irish Sea, I successfully resisted it.

And I have ruled out any return to such a suggestion.

This would not only damage the integrity of the UK’s internal market which is so vital to businesses across the UK – and not least here in Northern Ireland.

It would also ignore the very real concerns of many people about being cut off from the rest of the UK.

Furthermore, we will also ensure there will be no new regulatory barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK without Northern Ireland’s institutions having their say.

Third, there will be full protection for all existing cross-border co-operation.

Many areas of cooperation have been identified – both those formally set out by the North South Ministerial Council such as cooperation on health and transport, or keeping the island of Ireland disease-free for animals and plants…

…and informal areas of co-operation such as a single integrated electricity market that supplies power to everyone.

Every area of existing cross-border co-operation must be respected.

If these are ever to change in the future, it will be a matter for Belfast and Dublin in accordance with the three-stranded approach, not as a consequence of our EU exit.

Fourth, we will uphold the rights enshrined in the Belfast Agreement for all the people of Northern Ireland, right across the whole community.

This includes upholding commitments around mutual respect, religious liberties, equality of opportunity, tolerance and rights.

I know that there are some in the nationalist community in particular who worry that some of their existing rights could be eroded when the UK leaves the EU.

So we have already enshrined in the Withdrawal Agreement a legal guarantee of no diminution of equality and rights.

There have also been serious concerns raised about how UK immigration rules treat citizens here exercising their rights under the Agreement to be Irish.

The birth right to identify and be accepted as British, Irish or both, and to hold both British and Irish citizenship is absolutely central to the Agreement.

But I know that in some cases recently, people have encountered difficulties in securing their rights as Irish citizens to bring in family members. I understand the serious concerns that have been raised.

So I have asked the Home Secretary, working closely with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to review these issues urgently to deliver a long term solution consistent with the letter and spirit of the Belfast Agreement.

Without a devolved Government – and with only unionists represented in the House of Commons – it is more important than ever that we uphold our duty to ensure all voices in Northern Ireland are heard.

I take that very seriously indeed and the UK Government will always work in the interests of the whole community.

So tomorrow I will be sitting down with the political parties to discuss the way forward and ensure that we can deliver for all the people of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland does not have to rely on the Irish Government or the European Union to prevent a return to borders of the past.

The UK government will not let that happen. I will not let that happen.

At the same time, we must continue to support all efforts that can lead towards the restoration of Northern Ireland’s political institutions.

And the UK Government is absolutely committed to ensuring that when an Executive is restored it will have real influence to speak for all the people of Northern Ireland as we shape the UK’s future relationship with the European Union.

As we work to address the unique challenges that Brexit poses to Northern Ireland, so I also want to ensure that we continue to maintain – and indeed enhance – the strongest possible bilateral partnership between the UK and Ireland.

I have said many times that I want to see a new, deep and special partnership between the UK and the 27 Member States of the European Union.

But our relationship with Ireland is deeper than our relationship with any of the other 27.

It is uniquely rooted in ties of family, history and geography.

The recent past has been a moment of reflection in the UK and Ireland as we have commemorated the centenary of a series of key events in our shared history.

Ireland remembered the centenary of the Easter Rising in an inclusive manner which promoted a greater understanding of our often troubled history.

While our two countries remembered together the shared sacrifice of so many who fought side by side in the First World War.

The ceremony at Messines in 2017, attended by HRH the Duke of Cambridge and former Taoiseach Enda Kenny was particularly poignant, as it remembered the soldiers of the 16th Irish and 36th Ulster Division who both played a key role in the Allied victory in that battle.

Today those ties of family and friendship between our countries are more important than they have ever been.

And I believe there is a yearning in the hearts of all the peoples of these islands for a close and trusting relationship between all of us, and an absolute horror that we should take even a single step backwards in the progress we have collectively achieved.

So I want to work closely with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Irish Government, as so many of our predecessors have before, to strengthen the bilateral relationship we have built.

And this can and should take many forms.

We already have the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference, and regular Summits between UK and Irish politicians. But as we leave the European Union, we will need to establish new ways of coming together to develop further our unique relationship.

For example, the Irish Government has suggested annual meetings where the Prime Minister and Taoiseach, together with senior Ministerial colleagues, come together to discuss the big issues of the day.

We will also want to strengthen our economic relationship and have already together identified areas like construction and smart cities as ripe for enhanced collaboration.

And both the UK and the Irish Governments have already made clear that we would support the tantalising possibility of a joint UK and Ireland World Cup Bid for 2030, should our respective football associations choose to pursue this.

We also want to find creative ways of enhancing the links between all our peoples – and in particular, to build the links between our young people.

I know there is a sense that many British people do not know enough, or understand enough, about the complexity of the long relationship between the UK and Ireland. And a sense that some Irish people are less familiar with the forces and motivations that help to shape views in the UK.

So as part of these new ways of coming together, I would like to us to look in particular at opportunities for our young people to discuss these issues and others in a structured way and to reflect on their vision for our future relationship.

I know this is a concerning time for many people here in Northern Ireland.

But we will find a way to deliver Brexit that honours our commitments to Northern Ireland…

…that commands broad support across the communities in Northern Ireland…

…and that secures a majority in the Westminster Parliament, which is the best way to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland.

As we do so, I hope we can also take steps to move towards the restoration of devolution – so that politicians in Northern Ireland can get back to work on the issues that matter to the people they represent.

For ultimately, the measure of this moment in Northern Ireland’s history must be more than whether we avoid a return to the challenges of the past.

It must be how, together, we move forwards to shape the opportunities of the future.

As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, it is a profound honour and duty to play my part in shaping that future…

…and to do my utmost to support the peace, prosperity and progress that can give the people of Northern Ireland, the brightest future for generations.

Theresa May – 2019 Statement to the House of Commons on Brexit

Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 29 January 2019.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

A fortnight ago, this House clearly rejected the proposed Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration with just 202 Members voting in favour.

Tonight a majority of Honourable Members have said they would support a deal with changes to the backstop. Combined with measures to address concerns over Parliament’s role in the negotiation of the future relationship and commitments on workers’ rights, in law where need be, it is now clear that there is a route that can secure a substantial and sustainable majority in this House for leaving the EU with a deal.

We will now take this mandate forward and seek to obtain legally binding changes to the Withdrawal Agreement that deal with concerns on the backstop while guaranteeing no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. My colleagues and I will talk to the EU about how we address the House’s views.

As I said this afternoon, there is limited appetite for such a change in the EU and negotiating it will not be easy. But in contrast to a fortnight ago, this House has made it clear what it needs to approve a Withdrawal Agreement.

Many Honourable Members have said that the continuing protection of workers’ rights after Brexit is something that needs to be strengthened, and my Right Honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business will intensify our work with Honourable Members from across the House and the trade unions this week.

And my Right Honourable friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union will do the same on how we engage this House further in our approach to negotiating our future partnership with the EU.

As well as making clear what changes it needs to approve the Withdrawal agreement, the House has also reconfirmed its view that it does not want to leave the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement and Future Framework.

I agree that we should not leave without a deal. However, simply opposing no deal is not enough to stop it.

The Government will now redouble its efforts to get a deal that this House can support and to that end I want to invite my Right Honourable Friend the Member for Meriden, the Honourable Member for Birmingham Erdington, and all those that tabled amendments in opposition to No Deal to discuss how we can deliver that by securing a deal.

In light of the defeat of the Right Honourable Member the Leader of the Opposition’s amendment I again invite him to take up my offer of the meeting to see if we can find a way forward.

Mr Speaker, if this House can come together we can deliver the decision the British people took in June 2016, restore faith in our democracy and get on with building a country that works for everyone.

And as Prime Minister I will work with Members across this House to do just that.

Theresa May – 2019 Speech at Burns Supper

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, at a Burns Supper gathering at 10, Downing Street on 21 January 2019.

It is great to be able to welcome you here to Downing Street this evening for Burns Supper, this is the second one I have had the pleasure of hosting.

This house of course, has been the home of Prime Ministers of Great Britain and then of the United Kingdom since 1732, 25 years after the Acts of Union that created that single kingdom of Great Britain. So from the start, this house has been symbolic of that union.

It is important to me in everything we do here, and indeed in everything we do as a government, that we reflect the fact that the United Kingdom is a union of four nations. Our country has great diversity within it and we rightly celebrate that diversity. What we actually do in coming together is combine to make something greater than the sum of its parts and it is something that is unique and inspiring.

Of course, Scotland is an absolutely integral part of our United Kingdom – economically, socially and culturally.

Tonight of course in Robert Burns, we are celebrating a Scottish and British cultural icon, one of the finest poets in any language. It is a chance to celebrate a great poet, a great nation and an enduring union. Have a really good evening.

Theresa May – 2019 Statement on Brexit

Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, to the House of Commons on 21 January 2019.

Mr Speaker, I am sure the whole House will join me in condemning Saturday’s car bomb attack in Londonderry – and paying tribute to the bravery of the Northern Ireland Police and the local community who helped to ensure that everyone got to safety.

This House stands together with the people of Northern Ireland in ensuring that we never go back to the violence and terror of the past.

Mr Speaker, turning to Brexit, following last week’s vote it is clear that the Government’s approach had to change.

And it has.

Having established the confidence of Parliament in this government I have listened to colleagues across parliament from different parties and with different views.

Last week I met the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the Westminster leaders of the DUP, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, and backbench members from both sides of this House.

My Right Honourable Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster also had a number of such meetings.

The Government has approached these meetings in a constructive spirit, without preconditions, and I am pleased that everyone we met with took the same approach.

I regret that the Right Honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has not chosen to take part so far. I hope he will reflect on that decision.

Given the importance of this issue we should all be prepared to work together to find a way forward. And my Ministerial colleagues and I will continue with further meetings this week.

Let me set out the six key issues which have been at the centre of the talks to date.

The first two relate to the process for moving forwards.

First, there is widespread concern about the possibility of the UK leaving without a deal.

And there are those on both sides of the House who want the Government to rule this out.

But we need to be honest with the British people about what that means.

The right way to rule out No Deal is for this House to approve a deal with the European Union.

That is what this Government is seeking to achieve.

The only other guaranteed way to avoid a No Deal Brexit is to revoke Article 50 – which would mean staying in the EU.

Mr Speaker, there are others who think that what we need is more time, so they say we should extend Article 50 to give longer for Parliament to debate how we should leave and what a deal should look like.

This is not ruling out no deal, but simply deferring the point of decision.

And the EU are very unlikely simply to agree to extend Article 50 without a plan for how we are going approve a deal.

So when people say “rule out No Deal” the consequences of what they are actually saying are that if we in Parliament can’t approve a deal we should revoke Article 50.

Mr Speaker, I believe this would go against the referendum result and I do not believe that is a course of action that we should take, or which this House should support.

Second, all the Opposition parties that have engaged so far – and some backbenchers – have expressed their support for a Second Referendum.

I have set out many times my deep concerns about returning to the British people for a Second Referendum. Our duty is to implement the decision of the first one.

I fear a Second Referendum would set a difficult precedent that could have significant implications for how we handle referendums in this country – not least, strengthening the hand of those campaigning to break up our United Kingdom.

It would require an extension of Article 50. We would very likely have to return a new set of MEPs to the European Parliament in May.

And I also believe that there has not yet been enough recognition of the way that a Second Referendum could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.

Mr Speaker, we do not know what the Rt Hon Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, thinks about this, because he has not engaged.

But I know there are Members who have already indicated that they wish to test the support of the House for this path.

I do not believe there is a majority for a Second Referendum.

And if I am right, then just as the Government is having to think again about its approach going forwards, then so too do those Members who believe this is the answer.

The remaining issues raised in the discussions relate to the substance of the deal – and on these points I believe we can make progress.

Members of this House, predominantly but not only on the Government benches and the DUP, continue to express their concern on the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop.

All of us agree that as we leave the European Union, we must fully respect the Belfast Agreement and not allow the creation of a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland – nor indeed a border down the Irish Sea.

And I want to be absolutely clear, in the light of media stories this morning, this Government will not reopen the Belfast Agreement. I have never even considered doing so – and neither would I.

With regard to the backstop, despite the changes we have previously agreed, there remain two core issues: the fear that we could be trapped in it permanently; and concerns over its potential impact on our Union if Northern Ireland is treated differently from the rest of the UK.

So I will be talking further this week to colleagues – including in the DUP – to consider how we might meet our obligations to the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland in a way that can command the greatest possible support in the House.

And I will then take the conclusions of those discussion back to the EU.

From other parts of this house concerns have also been raised over the Political Declaration.

In particular, these have focused on a wish for further precision around the future relationship.

The Political Declaration will provide the basis for developing our detailed negotiating mandate for the future.

And this new phase of negotiations will be different in a number of ways. It will cover a far broader range of issues in greater depth, and so will require us to build a negotiating team that draws on the widest expertise available – from trade negotiators to security experts and specialists in data and financial services.

And as we develop our mandate across each of these areas I want to provide reassurance to the House.

Given the breadth of the negotiations we will seek input from a wide range of voices from outside Government.

That must include ensuring Parliament has a proper say, and fuller involvement, in these decisions.

It is Government’s responsibility to negotiate, but it is also my responsibility to listen to the legitimate concerns of colleagues, both those who voted Leave and who voted Remain, in shaping our negotiating mandate for our future partnership with the EU.

So the Government will consult this House on its negotiating mandate, to ensure that Members have the chance to make their views known, and that we harness the knowledge of all Select Committees, across the full range of expertise needed for this next phase negotiations – from security to trade.

This will also strengthen the Government’s hand in the negotiations, giving the EU confidence about our position and avoiding leaving the bulk of Parliamentary debate to a point when we are under huge time pressure to ratify.

I know that to date Parliament has not felt it has enough visibility of the Government’s position as it has been developed and negotiated. It has sought documents through Humble Addresses, but that mechanism cannot take into account the fact that some information when made public could weaken the UK’s negotiating hand.

So as the negotiations progress, we will also look to deliver confidential committee sessions that can ensure Parliament has the most up-to-date information, while not undermining the negotiations.

And we will regularly update the House – in particular before the six monthly review points with the EU foreseen in the agreement.

While it will always be for Her Majesty’s Government to negotiate for the whole of the UK, we are also committed to giving the Devolved Administrations an enhanced role in the next phase, respecting their competence and vital interests in these negotiations.

I hope to meet both first Ministers in the course of this week and will use the opportunity to discuss this further with them. We will also look for further ways to engage elected representatives from Northern Ireland and regional representatives in England.

Finally, we will reach out beyond this House and engage more deeply with businesses, civil society and trade unions.

Fifth, Hon Members from across the House have raised strong views that our exit from the EU should not lead to a reduction in our social and environmental standards – and in particular workers’ rights.

So I will ensure that we provide Parliament with a guarantee that not only will we not erode protections for workers’ rights and the environment but we will ensure this country leads the way.

To that end my Rt Hon Friend the Business Secretary indicated the Government’s support for the proposed amendment to the meaningful vote put down by the Hon Member for Bassetlaw – including that Parliament should be able to consider any changes made by the EU in these areas in future.

Mr Rt Hon Friend and others will work with members across the House, businesses and Trade Unions, to develop proposals that give effect to this amendment, including looking at legislation where necessary.

Sixth, and crucially, a number of Members have made powerful representations about the anxieties facing EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU who are waiting to have their status confirmed.

We have already committed to ensuring that EU citizens in the UK will be able to stay, and to continue to access in-country benefits and services on broadly the same terms as now, in both a deal and a no deal scenario.

Indeed, the next phase of testing of the scheme for EU nationals to confirm their status has launched today.

And having listened to concerns from Members – and organisations like the “The 3 Million” group – I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on 30th March, the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay. And anyone who has or will apply during the pilot phase will have their fee reimbursed. More details about how this will work will be made available in due course.

Some EU Member States have similarly guaranteed the rights of British nationals in a No Deal scenario – and we will step up our efforts to ensure that they all do so.

Mr Speaker, let me briefly set out the process for the days ahead.

In addition to this statement, today I will lay a Written Ministerial Statement, as required under section 13(4 and 5) of the EU Withdrawal Act – and table a motion in neutral terms on this statement, as required by section 13(6).

This motion will be amendable and will be debated and voted on in this House on 29th January.

And I will provide a further update to the House during that debate.

To be clear, this is not a re-run of the vote to ratify the agreement we have reached with the European Union, but the fulfilment of the process following the House’s decision to reject that motion.

Mr Speaker, the process of engagement is ongoing.

In the next few days, my ministerial colleagues and I will continue to meet with Members on all sides of the House, and with representatives of the trades unions, business groups, civil society and others as we try to find the broadest possible consensus on a way forward.

Whilst I will disappoint those colleagues that hope to secure a second referendum, I do not believe that there is a majority in this house for such a path.

And whilst I want to deliver a deal with the EU, I cannot support the only other way in which to take No Deal off the table, which is to revoke article 50.

So my focus continues to be on what is needed to secure the support of this House in favour of a Brexit Deal with the EU.

My sense so far is that three key changes are needed.

First, we will be more flexible, open and inclusive in the future in how we engage Parliament in our approach to negotiating our future partnership with the European Union.

Second, we will embed the strongest possible protections on workers’ rights and the environment.

And third, we will work to identify how we can ensure that our commitment to no hard border in Northern Ireland and Ireland can be delivered in a way that commands the support of this House, and the European Union.

In doing so, we will honour the mandate of the British people and leave the European Union in a way which benefits every part of our United Kingdom and every citizen of our country.

And I commend this Statement to the House.

Theresa May – 2019 Statement at Downing Street

Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, at Downing Street on 16 January 2019.

This evening the Government has won the confidence of Parliament.

This now gives us all the opportunity to focus on finding a way forward on Brexit.

I understand that to people getting on with their lives, away from Westminster, the events of the past 24 hours will have been unsettling.

Overwhelmingly, the British people want us to get on with delivering Brexit, and also address the other important issues they care about.

But the deal which I have worked to agree with the European Union was rejected by MPs, and by a large margin.

I believe it is my duty to deliver on the British people’s instruction to leave the European Union. And I intend to do so.

So now MPs have made clear what they don’t want, we must all work constructively together to set out what Parliament does want.

That’s why I am inviting MPs from all parties to come together to find a way forward.

One that both delivers on the referendum and can command the support of Parliament.

This is now the time to put self-interest aside.

I have just held constructive meetings with the leader of the Liberal Democrats, and the Westminster leaders of the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

From tomorrow, meetings will be taking place between senior Government representatives, including myself, and groups of MPs who represent the widest possible range of views from across Parliament – including our confidence and supply partners the Democratic Unionist Party.

It will not be an easy task, but MPs know they have a duty to act in the national interest, reach a consensus and get this done.

In a historic vote in 2016 the country decided to leave the EU.

In 2017 80% of people voted for Parties that stood on manifestos promising to respect that result.

Now, over two and a half years later, it’s time for us to come together, put the national interest first – and deliver on the referendum.

Theresa May – 2019 Response to Vote of No Confidence Motion

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in response to the No Confidence vote held in the House of Commons on 16 January 2019.

Last night, the House rejected the deal the Government have negotiated with the European Union. Today, it is asked a simpler question: should the next step be a general election? I believe that is the worst thing we could do: it would deepen division when we need unity, it would bring chaos when we need certainty, and it would bring delay when we need to move forward. So I believe the House should reject this motion.

At this crucial moment in our nation’s history, a general election is simply not in the national interest. Parliament decided to put the question of our membership of the European Union to the people. Parliament promised to abide by the result. Parliament invoked article 50 to trigger the process. And now Parliament must finish the job. That is what the British people expect of us and, as I find when speaking to my constituents and to voters right across the country, that is what they demand. But a general election would mean the opposite. Far from helping Parliament finish the job and fulfil our promise to the people of the United Kingdom, it would mean extending article 50 and delaying Brexit, for who knows how long.

Pete Wishart

The Prime Minister has lost a quarter of her Cabinet and 117 of her Back Benchers want her gone. She has experienced the biggest defeat in parliamentary history. What shred of credibility have her Government got left? For goodness’ sake Prime Minister, won’t you just go?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman might not have noticed that we are debating a vote of no confidence in the Government, so he has his opportunity to express his opinion in that vote.

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con)

As someone who was defeated last night by only 230 votes, may I encourage the Prime Minister to KBO and never tire of reminding the country that our good economic and one-nation record will be put at risk by a very extreme left-wing and high-taxation party?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I shall speak about this later in my speech, but it is over the years since 2010, with Conservatives in government, that we have been able to turn the economy around, ensure that jobs are provided for people and give people a better future.

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con)

I totally agree with the Prime Minister that a general election would solve nothing—it is merely a tactical device used by the Opposition to cause chaos—but does she agree with me that we also need to rule out a second referendum on our membership of the EU, which would be highly divisive and would not resolve the issues we currently face?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that a general election would cause the sort of delay that I have just been talking about. He is also right in that we had a referendum in 2016, and I believe it is incumbent on this Parliament to deliver on the result of that referendum and to deliver Brexit. As regards those issues, the choices we face as a country will not change after four or five weeks of campaigning for a general election, and there is no indication that an election would solve the dilemma that we now face. Not only that, but there is no guarantee that an election would deliver a parliamentary majority for any single course of action.

Mr Francois

I thank the Prime Minister for giving way; unlike some, she is clearly not afraid to debate. It is not exactly a secret that on European policy, she and I have not seen entirely eye to eye—

Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con)

She’s taller than you. [Laughter.]

Mr Francois

So is everybody else!

It is possible that the Prime Minister and I will continue to disagree, but I am Conservative first and last, and I know opportunism when I see it, so when the bells ring the whole European Research Group will walk through the Lobby with her to vote this nonsense down.

The Prime Minister

I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention. I note what he said and I am happy to carry on discussing with him the different views we have had on the European issue. It is absolutely clear that what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is trying to do is not going to help to resolve the issue of ensuring that we deliver on Brexit for the British people.

Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)

In 2017, the Prime Minister went to the country and asked for a mandate; she lost her majority. Last night, she asked the House to back her deal; she saw the biggest Government defeat in a vote in the history of this House. She said last night that she wanted to open up dialogue with the whole House, yet she has refused to open up that dialogue with Labour’s Front Benchers. Does she agree that it looks like a strategy more to divide and conquer than to bring this House and the country together and work out how we move forward?

The Prime Minister

I said last night that we would be having discussions across the House. There are many different opinions in the House on the issue of how to deliver Brexit; indeed, there are some views in the House on how not to deliver Brexit. I believe that we should deliver Brexit for the people. I made it clear that, should the Leader of the Opposition table a motion of no confidence, the first priority would be to debate that motion. I am confident that the Government will retain the confidence of the House. When that happens, I shall set out the further steps that we will take on discussions with Members from across the House.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister

If Members will just be a little patient, I have taken a number of interventions, so I will make a little progress. I will be generous in taking interventions; I think Members know from the number of hours that I have spent in the House answering questions that I am not afraid to answer questions from Members.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman had listened to what I said—it does help sometimes.

We do not even know what position the Labour party would take on Brexit in an election. It is barely 18 months since this country—

David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con)

On that point, will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

If my hon. Friend would just allow me one moment.

It is barely 18 months since this country last went to the polls, in an election in which well over 80% of voters—almost 27 million people—backed parties whose manifestos promised to deliver Brexit. That is what the Government intend to do and that is what is in the national interest, not the disruption, delay and expense of a fourth national poll in less than four years.

David Morris

Does the Prime Minister agree that if the Leader of the Opposition himself wrote on a note exactly what he wanted, passed it to the Prime Minister and she adopted it, he would still vote against it?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, because of course the position that the Leader of the Opposition took was that however good a deal for the United Kingdom the Government brought back, he would vote against it, and however bad a deal the EU offered, he would vote for it. He has no real national interest in getting the right answer for our country.

Stephen Doughty

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is absolutely right to call for a general election today, because it is not only the Government’s record on Brexit that is at stake tonight. Let me ask the Prime Minister a direct question: is she really saying that her record on policing and crime is one that she is willing to stand on? We have seen more than 20,000 police officers cut since 2010, we see rising crime and rising knife crime, and we see money being diverted, instead of paying for police, to paying for a no-deal Brexit that nobody in this House wants to see happen.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman talks about paying for police; of course, we made more money available to police forces, and what did the Labour party do? Labour voted against that. [Interruption.] Yes, that is what Labour did—voted against it.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister

I will make a little more progress, then take some more interventions.

Last night the House spoke clearly, and I heard the message that it sent. I heard the concerns of my colleagues and those from across the House, and I understand them. As I told the House last night and have just repeated, if the Government secure the confidence of this House, my first priority will be to hold meetings with my colleagues, with our confidence and supply partners the Democratic Unionist party, and with senior parliamentarians from across the House, but our principles are clear: a deal that delivers a smooth and orderly exit, protecting our Union, giving us control of our borders, laws and money and allowing us to operate an independent trade policy. These are what deliver on the will of the British people.

Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP)

I tried this with the Prime Minister earlier during Question Time, and I am going to give her one more chance: which of the red lines that she set, which caused her defeat last night, is she willing to compromise on to get the agreement through?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised to hear that I will give him the same answer as I have just given in my comments. I point out to him that the key thing that this House and this Parliament need to do is to deliver Brexit for the British people. That is what we need to do. We need to deliver a Brexit that respects and reflects the vote that was taken in the 2016 referendum.

Stewart Malcolm McDonald

I am trying to be helpful to the Prime Minister, believe it or not, but this is pure robotic fantasy. It is her deal that has to change, and her deal is a product of the red lines, so when she has that meeting with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), which of the red lines is she willing to give up on?

The Prime Minister

I repeat that we will approach the discussions in a constructive spirit. We want to hear from the House the detail of what it wants to see, such that we can secure the House’s support for a deal.

Mr Bob Seely (Isle of Wight) (Con)

I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way, unlike the Leader of the Opposition. Does she share my concerns that too many people in this House are trying to scupper the mandate given to us by the British people? For centuries, this House has taken arbitrary power from kings, queens, peers and grandees and put that power in this House for the public good, but it appears that we are now becoming an arbitrary power that is removing the mandate that we gave to the British people. Will my right hon. Friend fight to deliver on that mandate and to protect and preserve our democracy?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend puts his point very powerfully indeed. This Parliament voted to ask the British people, and to say to them, “It is your decision.” It was not to say, “Tell us what you think and we might decide afterwards whether we like it.” It was, “It is your decision, and we will act on that decision.”

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister

I will just make a little more progress.

That is what we want to do: deliver on the will of the British people. As I have said, I will approach the meetings in a constructive spirit, focusing on ideas that are negotiable and have sufficient support in this House. The aim is to identify what would be required to secure the backing of the House.

Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab)

On that point—

The Prime Minister

I will make a little more progress. I have already been generous with interventions.

If those talks bear fruit, as I said earlier in Prime Minister’s questions, then be in no doubt that I will go back to Brussels and communicate them clearly to the European Union, and that is what Members asked for. The leader of the SNP MPs said that we should have talks with all the leaders of the Opposition parties and work together in all our interests. The Chairman of the Brexit Committee said that if the deal was defeated, “I would like to think that she would take a bold step—that she would reach out across the House to look for a consensus.” That is exactly what I propose to do. It would be a little strange for the Opposition to vote against that approach later today and in favour of a general election, as that would make that process of reaching out across Parliament impossible.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab) rose—

The Prime Minister

I will give way to the hon. Lady, as she has risen several times.

Ms Angela Eagle

I thank the Prime Minister for her generosity in giving way. With all due respect to her she has come to the House today, after suffering a very, very large defeat indeed, with the same lines and she is making the same assertions as she was making before the vote—it is as if the vote never happened. Her Downing Street spokesperson said that any discussions would have to start and proceed from the red lines that she herself established. Does she not realise, in all honesty, that the time has come for her to show some flexibility on those red lines and get us into a genuine discussion rather than just repeating the lines that we have heard for the past five months ad nauseam?

The Prime Minister

What I am doing is setting out what the British people voted for in the referendum in 2016, and it is our duty as a Parliament to deliver on that.

Mr Dhesi rose—

The Prime Minister

Again, I will just make a little progress.

I know that to serve in Government is a unique privilege. The people of this country put their trust in you and, in return, you have the opportunity to make this country a better place for them.

Maggie Throup (Erewash) (Con)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

The Prime Minister

In a moment.

When I became Prime Minister that is what I pledged to do. Yes, to deliver Brexit, but also to govern on the side of working people, right across the country, for whom life is harder than it should be and to build on the progress that has been made since 2010.

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)

I thank the Prime Minister for giving way. The problem is that she seems to be talking as if she lost by 30 votes yesterday and not 230. Her refusal even to consider changing any of her red lines, when the EU, the Irish Government and others made it clear that the deal that she got was dependent on those red lines, is making this impossible. May I ask her to clarify this: is she saying that she will rule out, in any circumstances, a customs union?

The Prime Minister

What I want to see is what the British people voted for—[Interruption.] No, this is very important. They voted for an end to free movement; they voted for an independent trade policy; and they voted to end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. It is incumbent on this Parliament to ensure that we deliver on that.

Mr Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con) rose—

Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con) rose—

The Prime Minister

I give way.

Mr Clarke rose—

The Prime Minister

If the Father of the House would allow me, I did say to my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) that I would take him first.

Kevin Hollinrake

I thank the Prime Minister for giving way. She is being criticised for setting and sticking to red lines, but do not those red lines simply represent the promises that were made before the referendum?

The Prime Minister

That is the point that I have been making and repeating. When people voted to leave, they voted for certain things. They voted to ensure that we could have that independent trade policy and that we would end free movement, for example, and it is our duty to ensure that we deliver on those things.

Mr Kenneth Clarke

I have asked many people throughout this why they voted on one side or the other in the referendum, and I have got a very wide range of replies. I have to say, though, that no one has ever told me that they voted to leave in order that we could leave the customs union, or that they wanted us to erect trade barriers between ourselves and the rest of the Europe. As the Prime Minister is as committed to this as I am, I entirely support her aim of keeping open borders between ourselves and the rest of Europe. Is it not the case that there is nowhere in the world where two developed countries in any populated area are able to have an open border unless they have some form of customs union?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. and learned Friend refers to the fact that, obviously, there were various reasons why people voted to leave the European Union, but when they were doing so they did vote to ensure that we continue to have a good trading relationship with our nearest neighbours in the European Union and also to improve our trading relationships with others around the world. That is what we were searching for and that is what was in the political declaration for the future. That package was not voted through this House last night. I now will talk to parliamentarians across the House to determine where we can secure the support of the House.

Although delivering Brexit is an important and key element of government, it is also important that we build on the progress made since 2010 and lead this country towards the brighter, fairer, more prosperous future that it deserves.

Mr Dhesi rose—

Mr Paul Sweeney (Glasgow North East) (Lab/Co-op) rose—

Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD) rose—

The Prime Minister

I will make some progress before I take any further interventions.

I believe that this Government have a record to be proud of—a record that demonstrates that our policies and principles are more than words. In 2010, we inherited the gravest of economic situations: a recession in which almost three quarters of a million jobs were lost; a budget deficit of £1 borrowed for every £4 spent; and a welfare system that did not reward work. But in the nine years since, thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of the British people, we have turned this country around. Our economy is growing; the deficit is down by four fifths; the national debt has begun its first sustained fall for a generation; and the financial burden left for our children and grandchildren is shrinking by the day. That is a record to be proud of.

Mr Dhesi

I thank the Prime Minister for allowing me to intervene. Under her leadership, this Government have become the first in British history to be found in contempt of Parliament, and the first in British history to lose by more than 200 votes on a primary policy matter. Homelessness has spiralled out of control, the use of food banks has risen exponentially, and much more besides. Surely it is now time to act with humility and to do the right and honourable thing: resign and call a general election.

The Prime Minister

May I say again that the whole point of this debate today is to determine whether this House has confidence in the Government or thinks that there should be a general election?

I say that our record is one that we should be proud of, but I know that that is not enough. A strong economy alone is no good, unless we use it to build a fairer society: one where, whoever you are, wherever you live, and at every stage of your life, you know that the Government are on your side; where growing up you will get the best possible education, not because your parents can afford to pay for it but because that is what every local school provides; where your parents have a secure job that pays a decent wage and where they get to keep more of the money they earn each month; where, when you finish school, you know that you can go to university, whether or not your parents went, or you can have an apprenticeship; where, when you want to buy your first home, enough houses are being built so that you can afford to get a foot on the housing ladder; where, when you want to get married, it does not matter whether you fall in love with someone of the same sex or opposite; where, when you have children of your own, you will be able to rely on our world-class NHS; where both parents can share their leave to look after their baby and where, when they are ready to go back to work, the Government will help with the costs of childcare; and where, when you have worked hard all your life, you will get a good pension and security and dignity in your old age. That is what this Government are delivering.

Wera Hobhouse

I thank the Prime Minister for giving way. I acknowledge that she wants to paint a good picture of her Government, but is it not true that, precisely because so many people were unhappy, they also voted for Brexit? Is it not the case that we need to clarify with the British people what exactly they voted for? We need to put a precise deal in front of them, and not just make a general assumption about why people voted for Brexit. People also voted for Brexit because they were genuinely unhappy with the state of this country, so is it not the case that we now need to put a precise Brexit deal in front of the people so that everyone can say that, actually, Brexit will make a difference?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Lady might recall that I made exactly that point when I became Prime Minister—that there were various reasons that people voted for Brexit, but that some people wanted a change in the way in which politics delivered for them. They felt that politicians were not listening to them, which is precisely why it is so important that we listen to and deliver on the result of the referendum for the people of this country—and this Government are delivering in a whole range of ways.

Nigel Huddleston (Mid Worcestershire) (Con)

I appreciate the positive, confident and optimistic picture of the future of the UK painted by the Prime Minister. What a contrast with the Leader of the Opposition, who takes every opportunity to talk Britain down. How on earth can somebody claim that they aspire to be Prime Minister if they have such utter lack of confidence in Britain and the British people?

The Prime Minister

Absolutely. Anybody who wants to be Prime Minister should believe in this country and in the talents of our people; that is so important.

Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane) (Con)

I know that there is so little time to get in all the achievements—[Laughter.] Colleagues may laugh, but it is this Government who are taking the environment more seriously than any other Government. We are putting sustainability first, and that is more important even than Brexit, because if we did not have a healthy environment—our record on this is second to none, including measures on microbeads, ancient woodland protection, the clean air strategy and more—we would be lost.

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend, who has set out an area on which this Government have been taking important action. I commend the work that she has done and the work of my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary in this area. We are leading the way on the environment in a number of ways.

Mr Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)

I am very grateful to the Prime Minister; she is giving way considerably more than the Leader of the Opposition did. She has just mentioned the stewardship of the NHS under her leadership. Would she like to remind the Leader of the Opposition that it is this Government who have just pledged, through the NHS long-term plan, 50% per annum more funding than he pledged at the last general election?

The Prime Minister

That is absolutely right. The biggest cash boost to the NHS in its history and a long-term plan that ensures its sustainability for the future—that is being delivered not by a Labour party, but by the Conservatives in government.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister

If hon. and right hon. Members will forgive me, I am conscious that the time is getting on.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) indicated assent.

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) is encouraging me not to take so many interventions and to get on with my speech.

We are building a country that works for everyone, but there is much more to do, including: investing in our industrial strategy so that we are creating the jobs of the future in all parts of our country, not just London and the south-east; delivering our long-term plan for the NHS, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne) has just referred, so that our most precious institution is equipped for the future; tackling the lingering injustices that for too long have blighted the lives of too many people, including women being paid less than men, mental health not being treated with the same seriousness and resource as physical health, a criminal justice system that has poorer outcomes if you are black than if you are white, and an education system that has left white working-class boys as less likely to go to university than anyone else. These are issues that we need to tackle, and the mission of this Government will not stop.

This is a Government building a country that is more prosperous, a country that is fairer and a country that works for everyone. With the confidence of this House, we will go on delivering for Britain, driven by a passionate belief in doing what is right for our country and right for our people, acting not in self-interest but in the national interest. That is the simple mission that has underpinned our approach to the Brexit negotiations.

As we enter the next stage of that process, I have made it clear that I want to engage with colleagues across the House. The question now is whether the Labour leadership will rise to the occasion, but I fear the answer is no. As the Labour leader himself has indicated, Brexit is the biggest issue that the House and the country have faced for generations. It demands responsible leadership and pragmatic statesmanship from senior politicians. The Leader of the Opposition, as yet, has shown neither. His failure to set out a clear and consistent alternative solution to the Brexit question is the third reason that this House should comprehensively reject this motion.

The shadow Brexit Secretary has described Labour’s position on Brexit as one of “constructive ambiguity”. I think that the shadow Trade Secretary called it something slightly more succinct but definitely not parliamentary, and I therefore cannot repeat it. I call it not being straight with the British people. For more than two years, the Leader of the Opposition has been either unable or unwilling to share anything other than vague aspirations, empty slogans and ideas with no grounding in reality. When the President of the European Commission said that Labour’s Brexit ambitions would be impossible for the European Commission to agree to, the right hon. Gentleman simply shrugged and said, “That’s his view. I have a different view.”

Last night, just for a moment, I thought the Leader of the Opposition might surprise us all, because he told this House that it was not enough to vote against the withdrawal agreement and that

“we also have to be for something.”—[Official Report, 15 January 2019; Vol. 652, c. 1109.]

Surely that was the moment. That was the point at which, after months of demanding that I stand aside and make way for him, he was going to reveal his alternative. We waited, but nothing came.

The Leader of the Opposition still faces both ways on whether Labour would keep freedom of movement, and he will not even be drawn on the most basic point of all. In PMQs, I referred to the fact that on Sunday, when challenged as to whether he would campaign to leave the European Union if there were a general election, he refused to answer that question five times, and he has refused to answer that question in response to Members of this House today. The Government have no doubts about our position. Under this Government, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union and we will respect the decision of the people.

Chris Philp

The Prime Minister is quite right to point out the yawning chasm at the heart of Labour’s policy, but the problem is that she also said that we need to come up with a constructive alternative. Speaking to colleagues around the House, it strikes me powerfully that there is one element of the currently proposed deal that, if changed, would make it much more likely to pass: the backstop. Would the Prime Minister therefore consider contacting European Commission officials in the coming days and over the weekend to ask them to make legally binding changes to that backstop, which would mean that the deal would then have a very good chance of passing this House?

The Prime Minister

The purpose of the various discussions that we are going to have is to identify the issues that will secure the support of this House, and I will take those issues to the European Parliament.

Peter Kyle

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, and then I am going to make progress so that others can speak in this debate.

Peter Kyle

I am extremely grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way; she has been generous. She has talked about engagement with this House and yesterday she referred to this House as the “fulcrum of our democracy.” May I gently point out that she is the Prime Minister who went to the Supreme Court to stop her having engagement with this House, and that the vote that we had yesterday was on the back of an amendment that she voted against? She talks about engagement with this House, but we have experienced nothing but hostility from the Prime Minister. Going forward, will she put her words into action? If not, she does not deserve to have the job in the first place.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman has been present on many occasions when I have come to listen to and answer questions from the House. In fact, from October through to December, that amounted to a whole 24 hours spent answering questions in this House.

Vital though Brexit is, there is much more to being the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. That is, after all, the job to which the Leader of the Opposition aspires.

Anna Soubry

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

If my right hon. Friend will bear with me, I will make some progress, as I understand that a significant number of Members have put in to speak.

By putting forward this motion, the Leader of the Opposition is asking this House to accept that he could be the next Prime Minister. How would he have faced some of the big challenges that I have faced as Prime Minister over the last two and a half years? When Russia launched a chemical attack on the streets of Salisbury, I worked with our allies to degrade Russian intelligence capabilities and hold those responsible to account. His contribution was to suggest that we ask Russia to double-check the findings of our own scientists. When the Syrian regime used chemical weapons to murder innocent men, women and children in Douma, I stood with our allies to uphold the international consensus that the use of chemical weapons should not be tolerated. He wanted to give an effective veto on action to President Putin and the Russian Government—the very Government who were supporting the Syrian regime.

The leader of the party of Attlee called for the dismantling of NATO. The leader of the party of Bevan says that Britain should unilaterally disarm herself and cross our fingers that others follow suit. The leader of the party that helped to deliver the Belfast agreement invited IRA terrorists into this Parliament just weeks after their colleagues had murdered a Member of this House. His leadership of the Labour party has been a betrayal of everything that party has stood for, a betrayal of the vast majority of his MPs and a betrayal of millions of decent and patriotic Labour voters. I look across the House and see Back-Bench Members who have spent years serving their country in office in a Labour Government, but I fear that today, it is simply not the party that many of its own MPs joined.

If we want to see what the Leader of the Opposition would do to our country, we can do no better than look at what he has done to his party. Before he became Labour leader, nobody could have imagined that a party which had fought so hard against discrimination could become the banner under which racists and bigots whose world view is dominated by a hatred of Jews could gather, but that is exactly what has happened under his leadership. British Jewish families who have lived here for generations are asking themselves where they should go if he ever becomes Prime Minister; that is what has happened under his leadership. A Jewish Labour MP had to hire a bodyguard to attend her own party conference, under the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman. What he has done to his party is a national tragedy. What he would do to our country would be a national calamity.

Anna Soubry

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for being so generous and engaging in a debate. As ever, she could teach a few people lessons on that. The hon. Member for Hove (Peter Kyle) made a very important point. While the Prime Minister has been very generous in coming to this place and answering questions, the complaint is that we have been excluded in a meaningful way at the outset from helping to determine the principles upon which a Brexit deal should be negotiated.

In seeking to be true to our oath and promises to our constituents and voting for things against our own Government, many of us have been threatened with deselection or received threats against our safety and even death threats. I know how seriously the Prime Minister takes that, and I thank her for her kindness in the note she sent me last week. Will she now make it clear to those listening to this that it would be wrong for anybody—this applies also to Opposition Members, given the wise observations she has just made about the state of the Labour party—to be intimidated or bullied in any way simply for coming here and being true to what they believe in and what they believe is in the national interest?

The Prime Minister

What my right hon. Friend experienced last week was appalling. I understand that she has experienced other incidents more recently. I absolutely agree; everybody in this House holds their opinions and views with passion and commitment, and everybody in this House should be able to express those views with passion and commitment and not feel that they will be subject to intimidation, harassment or bullying. That is very important, and I am sure that that sentiment commands approval across the whole House. Once again, I am sorry for the experiences my right hon. Friend has gone through.

Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman, and then I will conclude.

Liam Byrne

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way. She must recognise that she has built a cage of red lines, which produced a deal that was overwhelmingly rejected by this House. We rejected the deal because we rejected the cage. This afternoon, she has yielded nothing about how any one of those red lines will change. If she is not prepared to change, how on earth can we in this House continue to place a shred of confidence in her?

The Prime Minister

The point I made last night and have repeatedly made today is that I will be talking to people across this House—to my own colleagues, to the DUP and to other parties, as there are different groups of people in this House who have different views on this issue—to find what will secure the confidence and support of this House for the way in which we deliver Brexit.

It was serendipitous that I allowed the right hon. Gentleman to intervene just at the point at which I was going to say that if the Leader of the Opposition wins his vote tonight, what he would attempt to do is damage our country and wreck our economy. Of course, it was the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) who left that note saying, “There’s no money left” after the last Labour Government.

Liam Byrne

I was naive to honour a Treasury tradition that went back to Churchill with a text that is pretty much the same, but I was proud to be part of a team that stopped a recession becoming a depression. This is the Government who—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker

Order. Stop trying to shout other Members down. Calm yourselves.

Liam Byrne

The Prime Minister was a member of the party that backed Labour’s spending plans up to late 2009, and she has presided over a Government who have doubled the size of the national debt.

The Prime Minister

We did see what was happening in terms of the financial crisis and its impact, but the Labour party in government had failed to take the steps to ensure that the country was in a position to deal with those issues.

What would we see if Labour won the vote tonight? It would wreck our economy, spread division and undermine our national security. As I said earlier, on the biggest question of our times, the Leader of the Opposition provides no answers, no way forward and nothing but evasion, contradiction and political games. This House cannot and must not allow it.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab)

Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister

I am about to conclude, so I will not take any more interventions.

We are living through a historic moment in our nation’s history. Following a referendum that divided our nation in half, we dearly need to bring our country back together. Last night’s vote showed that we have a long way to go, but I do not believe that a general election is the path to doing that, and I do not believe that a Government led by the Leader of the Opposition is the path to doing that either. We must find the answer among ourselves in this House, and, with the confidence of the House, this Government will lead that process.

This is the Government who have already delivered record employment, put more money in the pockets of ordinary working people and given the NHS the biggest cash boost it has ever received from any Government of any colour. This is the Government who are fighting the burning injustices of poverty, inequality and discrimination, which for too long have blighted the lives of too many of our people. This is the Government who are building a country that works for everyone.

As we leave the European Union, we must raise our sights to the kind of country we want to be—a nation that can respond to a call from its people for change; a nation that can build a better future for every one of its people; and a nation that knows that moderation and pragmatism are not dirty words, but how we work together to improve people’s lives. That is our mission. That is what we are doing, and, with the backing of the House, it is what we will continue to do. I am proud of what we have achieved so far, and I am determined that the work will go on. In that, I know that we have the confidence of the country. We now ask for the confidence of this House. Reject this motion.

Theresa May – 2019 Statement in House of Commons After Losing Brexit Vote

Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 15 January 2019 after losing a key Brexit vote.

Mr Speaker, the House has spoken and the Government will listen.

It is clear that the House does not support this deal. But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support. Nothing about how – or even if – it intends to honour the decision the British people took in a referendum Parliament decided to hold.

People, particularly EU citizens who have made their home here and UK citizens living in the EU, deserve clarity on these questions as soon as possible. Those whose jobs rely on our trade with the EU need that clarity. So with your permission Mr Speaker I would like to set out briefly how the Government intends to proceed.

First, we need to confirm whether this Government still enjoys the confidence of the House. I believe that it does, but given the scale and importance of tonight’s vote it is right that others have the chance to test that question if they wish to do so. I can therefore confirm that if the Official Opposition table a confidence motion this evening in the form required by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, the Government will make time to debate that motion tomorrow. And if, as happened before Christmas, the Official Opposition decline to do so, we will – on this occasion – consider making time tomorrow to debate any motion in the form required from the other opposition parties, should they put one forward.

Second, if the House confirms its confidence in this Government I will then hold meetings with my colleagues, our Confidence & Supply partner the DUP and senior Parliamentarians from across the House to identify what would be required to secure the backing of the House. The Government will approach these meetings in a constructive spirit, but given the urgent need to make progress, we must focus on ideas that are genuinely negotiable and have sufficient support in this House. Third, if these meetings yield such ideas, the Government will then explore them with the European Union.

Mr Speaker I want to end by offering two reassurances.

The first is to those who fear that the Government’s strategy is to run down the clock to 29th March. That is not our strategy. I have always believed that the best way forward is to leave in an orderly way with a good deal and have devoted much of the last two years negotiating such a deal. As you confirmed Mr Speaker, the amendment to the business motion tabled last week by my Right Honourable and Learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield is not legally binding, but the Government respects the will of the House. We will therefore make a statement about the way forward and table an amendable motion by Monday.

The second reassurance is to the British people, who voted to leave the European Union in the referendum two and a half years ago. I became Prime Minister immediately after that referendum. I believe it is my duty to deliver on their instruction and I intend to do so.

Mr Speaker every day that passes without this issue being resolved means more uncertainty, more bitterness and more rancour. The Government has heard what the House has said tonight, but I ask Members on all sides of the House to listen to the British people, who want this issue settled, and to work with the Government to do just that.

Theresa May – 2019 Brexit Statement in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 14 January 2019.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House on the further assurances and clarifications we have received from the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

As a proud Unionist, I share the concerns of Members who want to ensure that in leaving the European Union we do not undermine the strength of our own union in the UK.

That is why when the EU tried to insist on a Protocol that would carve out Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK’s customs territory, I said no.

And I secured instead a UK-wide temporary customs arrangement – avoiding both a hard border on the island of Ireland and a customs border down the Irish Sea.

I also negotiated substantial commitments in the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration to do everything possible to prevent the backstop ever being needed – and to ensure that if it were, it would be a temporary arrangement.

But listening to the debate before Christmas it was clear that we needed to go further.

So I returned to Brussels to faithfully and firmly reflect the concerns of this House.

The conclusions of December’s Council went further in addressing our concerns.

They included reaffirming the EU’s determination to work speedily to establish by 31st December 2020 alternative arrangements so that the backstop will not need to be triggered.

They underlined that if the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered it would indeed apply temporarily.

They committed that in such an event, the EU would use their best endeavours to continue to negotiate and conclude as soon as possible a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop.

And they gave a new assurance that negotiations on the Future Relationship could start immediately after the UK’s withdrawal.

Since the Council and throughout the Christmas and New Year period I have spoken to a number of European leaders and there have been further discussions with the EU to seek further assurances alongside the Council conclusions.

And today I have published the outcome of these further discussions with an exchange of letters between the UK Government and the Presidents of the European Commission and European Council.

The letter from President Tusk confirms what I said in the House before Christmas – namely that the assurances in the European Council conclusions have legal standing in the EU.

Mr Speaker, my Rt Hon Friend the Attorney General has also written to me today confirming that in the light of the joint response from the Presidents of the European Council and the Commission, these conclusions “would have legal force in international law”, and setting out his opinion – “reinforced” by today’s letter – “that the balance of risks favours the conclusion that it is unlikely that the EU will wish to rely on the implementation of the backstop provisions.”

And further, that it is therefore his judgement that “the current draft Withdrawal Agreement now represents the only politically practicable and available means of securing our exit from the European Union.”

Mr Speaker, I know that some Members would ideally like a unilateral exit mechanism or a hard time limit to the backstop.

I have explained this to the EU and tested these points in negotiations.

But the EU would not agree to this, because they fear that such a provision could allow the UK to leave the backstop at any time without any other arrangements in place and require a hard border to be erected between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

I have been very clear with them that this is not something we would ever countenance – that the UK is steadfast in its commitment to the Belfast Agreement and would never allow a return to a hard border.

But it is not enough simply to say this. Both sides also need to take steps to avoid a hard border when the UK is outside of the EU.

Failing to do so would place businesses on the island of Ireland in an impossible position having to choose between costly new checks and procedures that would disrupt their supply chains or breaking the law.

So we have the backstop as a last resort.

But both the Taoiseach and I have said consistently that the best way to avoid a hard border is through the future relationship – that is the sustainable solution. And that neither of us want to use the backstop.

So since the Council we have been looking at commitments that would ensure we get our future relationship or alternative arrangements in place by the end of the Implementation Period, so that there will be no need to enter the backstop and no need for any fear that there will be a hard border.

And that is why in the first of the further assurances they have provided today, the EU has committed to begin exploratory talks on the detailed legal provisions of the future relationship as soon as this Parliament has approved the deal and the Withdrawal Agreement has been signed. And they have been explicit that this can happen immediately after this House votes through the agreement.

If this House approved the deal tomorrow, it would give us almost two years to complete the next phase of the negotiations. And, of course, we will have the option to extend the Implementation Period if further time were needed for either one or two years. It is my absolute conviction that we can turn the Political Declaration into legal text in that time, avoiding the need for the backstop altogether.

The letters also make clear that these talks should give “particular urgency to discussion of ideas, including the use of all available facilitative arrangements and technologies, for replacing the backstop with permanent arrangements.”

And further that those arrangements “are not required to replicate the backstop provisions in any respect.” So contrary to the fears of some Hon. Members, the EU will not simply insist that the backstop is the only way to avoid a hard border. They have agreed to discuss technological solutions and any alternative means of delivering on this objective – and to get on with this as a priority in the next phase of negotiations.

Second, the EU has now committed to a fast track process to bring our future trade deal into force once it has been agreed. If there is any delay in ratification, the Commission has now said they will recommend provisionally applying the relevant parts of the agreement so that we would not need to enter the backstop.

Such a provisional application process saved four years on the EU-Korea deal and it would prevent any delays in ratification by other EU Member State parliaments from delaying our deal coming into force.

Third, the EU has provided absolute clarity on the explicit linkage between the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, and made that link clear in the way the documents are presented.

I know some colleagues are worried about an imbalance between the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration because the EU cannot reach a legal agreement with us on the future relationship until we are a third country.

But the link between them means the commitments of one cannot be banked without the commitments of the other – and the EU have been clear that they come as a package.

Bad faith by either side in negotiating the legal instruments that will deliver the future relationship laid out in the Political Declaration would be a breach of their legal obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement.

Fourth, the exchange of letters confirms that the UK can unilaterally deliver all of the commitments we made last week to safeguard the interests of the people and businesses of Northern Ireland and their position in our precious union.

For it gives clear answers to address some questions that have been raised since the deal was reached…

…that the deal means no change to the arrangements which underpin north-south cooperation in the Belfast Agreement…

…that Stormont will have a lock on any new laws the EU proposes should be added to the backstop…

…and that the UK can give a restored Northern Ireland Executive a seat at the table on the joint committee overseeing the deal.

Mr Speaker, President Juncker says explicitly in his letter that the backstop “would represent a suboptimal trading relationship for both sides.”

We have spoken at length about why we want to avoid the backstop. But it is not in the EU’s interests either.

For this backstop gives the UK tariff-free access to the EU’s market.

And it does so with no free movement of people, no financial contribution, no requirement to follow most of the level playing field rules and no need to allow EU boats any access to our waters for fishing.

Furthermore, under these arrangements, UK authorities in Northern Ireland would clear goods for release into the EU Single Market with no further checks or controls.

This is unprecedented and means the EU relying on the UK for the functioning of its own market.

So the EU will not want this backstop to come into force – and the exchange of letters today makes clear that if it did, they would do all they could to bring it to an end as quickly as possible.

Nevertheless, Mr Speaker, I fully understand that these new assurances still will not go as far as some would like.

I recognise that some Members wanted to see changes to the Withdrawal Agreement: a unilateral exit mechanism from the backstop, an end date or rejecting the backstop altogether – although it should be said that this would have risked other EU Member States attempting to row back on the significant wins we have already achieved such as on control over our waters or the sovereignty of Gibraltar.

But the simple truth is this: the EU was not prepared to agree to this.

And rejecting the backstop altogether means no deal.

Whatever version of the Future Relationship you might want to see – from Norway to Canada to any number of variations – all of them require a Withdrawal Agreement and any Withdrawal Agreement will contain the backstop.

And that is not going to change however the House votes tomorrow.

And to those who think we should reject this deal in favour of no deal, because we cannot get every assurance we want…

…I ask what would a no deal Brexit do to strengthen the hand of those campaigning for Scottish independence – or indeed those demanding a border poll in Northern Ireland?

Surely this is the real threat to our Union.

Mr Speaker, with just 74 days until the 29th March the consequences of voting against this deal tomorrow are becoming ever clearer.

With no deal we would have: no Implementation Period, no security partnership, no guarantees for UK citizens overseas, and no certainty for businesses and workers like those I met in Stoke this morning. And we would see changes to everyday life in Northern Ireland that would put the future of our Union at risk.

And if, rather than leaving with no deal, this House blocked Brexit, that would be a subversion of our democracy, saying to the people we were elected to serve that we were unwilling to do what they had instructed.

So I say to Members on all sides of this House – whatever you may have previously concluded – over these next 24 hours, give this deal a second look.

No it is not perfect. And yes it is a compromise.

But when the history books are written, people will look at the decision of this House tomorrow and ask:

Did we deliver on the country’s vote to leave the European Union?

Did we safeguard our economy, our security and our Union? Or did we let the British people down?

I say we should deliver for the British people and get on with building a brighter future for our country by backing this deal tomorrow.

And I commend this Statement to the House.

Theresa May – 2019 Speech in Stoke-on-Trent on Brexit

Below is the text of the speech made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in Stoke-On-Trent on 14 January 2019.

Tomorrow, Members of Parliament will cast their votes on the Withdrawal Agreement on the terms of our departure from the European Union and the Political Declaration on our future relationship.

That vote in Westminster is a direct consequence of the votes that were cast by people here in Stoke, and in cities, towns and villages in every corner of the United Kingdom.

In June 2016, the British people were asked by MPs to take a decision: should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or should we leave?

In that campaign, both sides disagreed on many things, but on one thing they were united: what the British people decided, the politicians would implement.

In the run-up to the vote, the government sent a leaflet to every household making the case for remain. It stated very clearly: ‘This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.’

Those were the terms on which people cast their votes.

If a majority had backed remain, the UK would have continued as an EU member state.

No doubt the disagreements would have continued too, but the vast majority of people would have had no truck with an argument that we should leave the EU in spite of a vote to remain or that we should return to the question in another referendum.

On the rare occasions when Parliament puts a question to the British people directly we have always understood that their response carries a profound significance.

When the people of Wales voted by a margin of 0.3%, on a turnout of just over 50%, to endorse the creation of the Welsh Assembly, that result was accepted by Parliament.

Indeed we have never had a referendum in the United Kingdom that we have not honoured the result of.

Parliament understood this fact when it voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50.

And both major parties did so too when they stood on election manifestos in 2017 that pledged to honour the result of the referendum.

Yet, as we have seen over the last few weeks, there are some in Westminster who would wish to delay or even stop Brexit and who will use every device available to them to do so.

I ask them to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy.

The House of Commons did not say to the people of Scotland or Wales that despite voting in favour of a devolved legislature, Parliament knew better and would over-rule them. Or else force them to vote again.

What if we found ourselves in a situation where Parliament tried to take the UK out of the EU in opposition to a remain vote?

People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm.

We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum.

Ever since I reached an agreement with the EU on a Withdrawal Agreement and declaration on our future relationship I have argued that the consequences of Parliament rejecting it would be grave uncertainty – potentially leading to one of two outcomes.

Either a ‘no deal’ Brexit, that would cause turbulence for our economy, create barriers to security cooperation and disrupt people’s daily lives.

Or the risk of no Brexit at all – for the first time in our history failing to implement the outcome of a statutory referendum and letting the British people down.

These alternatives both remain in play if the deal is rejected.

There are differing views on the threat that a no deal exit poses.

I have always believed that while we could ultimately make a success of no deal, it would cause significant disruption in the short term and it would be far better to leave with a good deal.

Others in the House of Commons take a different view and regard no deal as the ultimate threat to be avoided at all costs.

To those people I say this: the only ways to guarantee we do not leave without a deal are: to abandon Brexit, betraying the vote of the British people; or to leave with a deal, and the only deal on the table is the one MPs will vote on tomorrow night.

You can take no deal off the table by voting for that deal. And if no deal is a bad as you believe it is, it would be the height of recklessness to do anything else.

But while no deal remains a serious risk, having observed events at Westminster over the last seven days, it is now my judgment that the more likely outcome is a paralysis in Parliament that risks there‪‪ being no Brexit.

That makes it even more important that MPs consider very carefully how they will vote ‪‪tomorrow night.

As I have said many times – the deal we have agreed is worthy of support for what it achieves for the British people.

Immigration policy back in the hands of people you elect – so we can build a system based around the skills people have to offer this country, not where they come from, and bring the overall numbers down. Sovereign control of our borders.

Decisions about how to spend the money you pay in taxes back under the control of people you elect – so we can spend the vast annual sums we send to Brussels as we chose, on priorities like our long-term plan for the NHS. Sovereign control of our money.

UK laws, not EU laws, governing this country – so the people you elect decide what the law of the land in our country is. Sovereign control of our laws.

Out of the Common Agricultural Policy – with our farmers supported by schemes we design to suit our own needs.

Out of the Common Fisheries Policy – so we decide who fishes in our waters and we can rebuild our fishing fleets for the future.

Retaking our seat at the World Trade Organisation, so we can strike trade deals around the world that work for British businesses and consumers.

The rights of valued EU citizens here guaranteed and reciprocal guarantees for UK citizens across Europe.

The partnerships between our police forces and security services, that protect us every day from threats that know no borders, sustained.

An implementation period that ensures our departure from the EU is smooth and orderly, protecting your jobs.

And yes a guarantee that the people of Northern Ireland can carry on living their lives just as they do now, whatever the future holds.

These are valuable prizes.

The deal honours the vote in the referendum by translating the people’s instruction into a detailed and practical plan for a better future.

No one else has put forward an alternative which does this.

Compare that outcome to the alternatives of no deal or no Brexit.

With no deal we would have: no implementation period, no security co-operation, no guarantees for UK citizens overseas, no certainty for businesses and workers here in Stoke and across the UK, and changes to everyday life in Northern Ireland that would put the future of our Union at risk.

And with no Brexit, as I have said, we would risk a subversion of the democratic process.

We would be sending a message from Westminster to communities like Stoke that your voices do not count.

The way to close-off both of these potential avenues of uncertainty is clear: it is for MPs to back the deal the government has negotiated and move our country forward into the bright future that awaits us.

I have always believed that there is a majority in the House of Commons for a smooth and orderly exit delivered by means of a withdrawal agreement.

That is why the government tabled the motion for the meaningful vote last month.

But it became clear that MPs’ concerns about one particular aspect of the deal – the backstop preventing a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland in the event that we cannot reach agreement on our new relationship before the end of the implementation period – meant that there was no prospect of winning the vote.

So I suspended the debate to allow time for further discussions with the EU to address those concerns.

Today I have published the outcome of those discussions in the form of letters between the UK government and the Presidents of the European Commission and European Council.

I listened very carefully to the concerns that MPs from all sides expressed, particularly the concerns of my fellow Unionists from Northern Ireland.

In my discussions with the EU we explored a number of the suggestions made by MPs, both about how the backstop would operate and for how long.

The EU have said throughout that they would not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement or reopen its text for alteration, and that remained the case throughout my discussions at the December European Council and since.

I also pursued in these discussions a proposal for a fixed date – with legal force – guaranteeing the point at which the future partnership would come into force. Because that is the way to bring an end to the backstop – by agreeing our new relationship.

The EU’s position was that – while they never want or expect the backstop to come into force – a legal time limit was not possible.

But while we did not achieve that, we have secured valuable new clarifications and assurances to put before the House of Commons, including on getting our future relationship in place rapidly, so that the backstop should never need to be used.

We now have a commitment from the EU that work on our new relationship can begin as soon as possible after the signing of the Withdrawal Agreement – in advance of the 29 March – and we have an explicit commitment that this new relationship does not need to replicate the backstop in any respect whatsoever.

We have agreement on a fast-track process to bring the free trade deal we will negotiate into force if there are any delays in member states ratifying it, making it even more likely that the backstop will never need to be used.

We now have absolute clarity on the explicit linkage between the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, putting beyond doubt that these come as a package.

And finally the EU have confirmed their acceptance that the UK can unilaterally deliver on all the commitments made in our Northern Ireland paper last week, including a Stormont lock on new EU laws being added to the backstop, and a seat at the table for a restored Northern Ireland Executive.

The legal standing of the significant conclusions of the December Council have been confirmed. If the backstop were ever triggered it would only be temporary and both sides would do all they could to bring it to an end as quickly as possible.

The letters published today have legal force and must be used to interpret the meaning of the Withdrawal Agreement, including in any future arbitration.

They make absolutely clear the backstop is not a threat or a trap.

I fully understand that the new legal and political assurances which are contained in the letters from Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker do not go as far as some MPs would like.

But I am convinced that MPs now have the clearest assurances that this is the best deal possible and that it is worthy of their support.

Two other areas of concern raised and reflected in amendments tabled to the meaningful vote were on the protection of workers’ rights and on environmental standards.

I could not have been clearer that far from wanting to see a reduction in our standards in these areas, the UK will instead continue to be a world leader.

We have committed to addressing these concerns and will work with MPs from across the House on how best to implement them, looking at legislation where necessary, to deliver the best possible results for workers across the UK.

This afternoon I will set out in greater detail to MPs what is contained in the correspondence I have published today and what it means for our withdrawal.

And tomorrow I will close the debate.

But as we start this crucial week in our country’s history let’s take a step back and remember both what is at stake and what we stand to gain by coming together behind this agreement.

Settle the question of our withdrawal and we can move on to forging our new relationship.

Back the deal tomorrow, and that work can ‪‪start on Wednesday.

Fail and we face the risk of leaving without a deal, or the even bigger risk of not leaving at all.

I think the British people are ready for us to move on.

To move beyond division and come together.

To move beyond uncertainty into a brighter future.

That is the chance that MPs of all parties will have ‪‪tomorrow night.

And for our country’s sake, I urge them to take it.

Thank you.