Thursday 15 November 2018 / 11:15 AM Brexit / Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn statement in the House of Commons

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Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, speaking in the House of Commons in response to Theresa May’s Brexit Statement, said:

I want to thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of her statement.

The Withdrawal Agreement and the Outline Political Declaration represent a huge and damaging failure and I will comment on both in turn.

After two years of bungled negotiations, the government has produced a botched deal that breaches the Prime Minister’s own red lines and does not meet our six tests.

The government is in chaos. Their deal risks leaving the country in an indefinite halfway house without a real say.

When even the Brexit Secretary who, theoretically at least, negotiated the deal says “I cannot support the proposed deal”, what faith does that give anyone else in this place or in the country?

The government simply cannot put to parliament this half-baked deal that both the Brexit Secretary and his predecessor have rejected.

No deal is not a real option and the government has not seriously prepared for it.

The government must publish its full legal advice, the Treasury a full economic impact assessment of the deal and the OBR an updated economic forecast.

The Withdrawal Agreement is a leap in the dark – an ill-defined deal by a never defined date.

There is no mention of the Prime Minister’s favoured term “implementation period” anywhere in 585 pages and no wonder, there is precious little new to implement spelt out in either the Agreement or the Political Declaration.

Article 3 of the Agreement states Transition can be extended to end by 31 December 20XX. Can the Prime Minister confirm this permits extension to be rolled on until 2099?

Can the Prime Minister confirm that if the UK government cannot agree a comprehensive future relationship by January 2021 – which few believe would be possible, and the last two years give us no confidence that this government can – then those negotiations would have to be put on hold? Because the focus would then inevitably shift from negotiations on the future relationship to negotiations on an extension to the transition period including further payments to the EU.

Article 132 sets this process out fairly clearly. So can the Prime Minister firstly tell the House how confident she is that a deal can be done by the end of 2020 and also confirm that if a new trade arrangement is not agreed by 31 December 2020 then Article 132 applies paying a huge financial contribution in order to extend the transition period if we are to avoid triggering the backstop, as the Prime Minister insists is her position.

On the backstop itself, should it come into force, there is no time limit or end point and if either party requests a review, and if there is no agreement, it goes to independent arbitration

The backstop locks Britain into a deal from which it cannot leave without the agreement of the EU.

In the backstop, restrictions on state aid are hard-wired with an arbitration mechanism but no such guarantees exist for workers’ rights.

Can the Prime Minister also confirm that the backstop applies separate regulatory rules to Northern Ireland creating a de facto border down the Irish Sea – as Northern Ireland would be subject to the Union Customs Code but not the rest of the UK?

This is despite the fact that the current Prime Minister said this is something “no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to.” Another of her red lines, breached.

In fact the list of EU measures that continue to apply “to the UK in respect of Northern Ireland” runs to 68 pages of the Agreement this affects VAT declarations and rules of origin checks.

And it is clear that the Prime Minister’s red line regarding the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice has been torn up.

By 2021 under the Prime Minister’s plan we will either be in a backstop or still in transition where we will continue to contribute to the EU budget and follow the rules overseen by the ECJ.

It is utterly far-fetched for the Prime Minister to say this plan means we take control over our laws, money and borders.

And after two years of negotiations all the government has really agreed is a vague 7 page ‘Outline of the Political Declaration’ which looks like a substantial dilution of the Prime Minister’s previously declared negotiating priorities.

There is only the scantest mention of workers’ rights, consumer rights or environmental protections.

No determination to achieve frictionless trade or even trade “as frictionless as possible.”

No ambition to negotiate a new comprehensive customs union that would protect trade, jobs and industry and so uncertainty continues for business.

That risks decisions for investment being deferred even further, costing jobs and living standards. And many companies may decide the lack of certainty means they will Brexit.

No clear plan to get a strong deal with the Single Market to ensure continued access to European markets in services, merely a vague commitment to go beyond the baseline of the WTO.

Both the First Ministers of Wales and Scotland made clear to the Prime Minister that participation in a customs union to protect the economy and jobs was essential.

Likewise, Mr Speaker there is no ambition to achieve continuation of the European-wide Arrest Warrant or equivalent and no clarity about our status within Europol, Eurojust or even the Galileo project.

And there is no clarity about any future immigration system between the UK and the EU and following the Windrush scandal many EU nationals here will have no confidence in this government to deliver a fair and efficient system.

The Brexit Secretary promised a “substantive document” so can the Prime Minister inform the House when that detailed framework agreement will be with us?

Mr Speaker, this is not the deal the country was promised and Parliament cannot and I believe will not accept a false choice between this bad deal and no deal.

People around the country will be feeling anxious this morning about the industries they work in, the jobs they hold and about the stability of this country.

The government must now withdraw this half-baked deal which it is clear does not have the backing of the Cabinet, this Parliament or the country.