Below is the full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in the emergency Brexit debate.
Mr Speaker, I beg to move, that this House has considered the Prime Minister’s unprecedented decision not to proceed with the final two days of debate and the meaningful vote despite the House’s Order of Tuesday 4 December 2018 and her failure to allow this House to express its view on the government’s deal or her proposed negotiating objectives without the agreement of this House.
Mr Speaker, I have had the privilege of serving in this House for 35 years and I’ve had strong disagreements over policy with every Prime Minister in that time. But I have never in all those 35 years witnessed such an abject mess as this Prime Minister has made of these crucial Brexit negotiations and in presenting her deal to this House.
Every Prime Minister loses votes and gets things wrong. But yesterday the Prime Minister demeaned her office by unilaterally taking her discredited deal off the table and running away rather than face the verdict of this House.
There’s nothing wrong with standing by your principles but this deal is not one of principle and she’s not even prepared to stand by it. Yesterday Mr Speaker they didn’t even have the decency to allow this House a vote on withdrawing the business.
She let down all MPs and the people we represent on both sides of this House, the overwhelming majority of whom know that this deal is dead and want to get on with putting a realistic solution in place.
However, Mr Speaker, I want to thank those Conservative MPs who boldly stood up yesterday to secure this debate the Hon members for Totnes, for Wellingborough, for Stone, for Rayleigh & Wickford, for Putney, for Beaconsfield, for Broxtowe, for Morley & Outwood, for Nuneaton.
This is no longer a functioning government and the Prime Minister must admit her deal is dead. Her shambolic negotiations have ended in failure and she no longer has the authority to negotiate for Britain when she doesn’t even have the authority of her own party.
Parliament may not have had the chance to vote down her deal, but as she herself has admitted, if she had put it before this House it would have been defeated by a significant margin.
She has no authority to go to Europe and negotiate when she can’t even command a majority in this House. She’s wasted £100,000 of public money in just seven days on Facebook adverts trying and failing to sell to the public her dog’s dinner of a Brexit deal.
In the days when she and I served on local councils, council leaders would have been surcharged for wasting public money like that. She has failed to convince this House, failed to convince the public and she now seems doomed to fail to convince the European Union to accept any meaningful changes.
She cancelled her own cabinet meeting this morning – presumably she’s not even sure if she commands a majority there anymore? And who can blame them? About a dozen of them were sent into the TV and radio studios to deny the Prime Minister would pull the vote shortly before she phoned to tell them she was pulling the vote.
The Northern Ireland Secretary was quoted saying: “the UK must move on with Brexit or risk being riven with division”, shortly before the Prime Minister decided not to move on with Brexit. This is the same Prime Minister who said hers was the best deal and the only deal.
So what is she doing today in Europe? This runaway Prime Minister is not even seeking to renegotiate, she confirmed she is seeking only ‘reassurances’. Our Prime Minister is traipsing around the continent in pursuit of warm words. It’s the unspeakable in pursuit of the unwritten; a waste of time and a waste of public money.
Because of her own unworkable red lines the European Commission says it will not renegotiate with her and the Prime Minister concedes she is not negotiating either, so what on earth is she doing in Europe today?
But worse than that, it shows that yet again the Prime Minister is not listening. It is not only the backstop that is a problem for members. Many will not vote for a blindfold Brexit on the basis of a 26 page wish-list; that fails to guarantee the “frictionless trade” that the Prime Minister promised; that fails to maintain our membership of vital agencies and programmes; that fails to ensure our rights and protections will keep pace; that fails to provide for a comprehensive customs union with a UK say.
And on that latter point, I welcome that a former Brexit minister, Lord Bridges, for his endorsement of a permanent customs union saying, “It could be the basis for a parliamentary consensus”.
Yesterday, following her statement she failed to answer a single one of my questions, so last night I wrote to her with the leaders of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. We set out five questions to the Prime Minister. Sadly she’s not here to answer them.
Therefore, Mr Speaker, when she returns from her farcical foray – stage-managed sojourn abroad – I hope the Prime Minister will reply promptly to the five opposition parties who wrote to her.
Because while she sends our country into Brexit-induced paralysis… The coming winter threatens to deepen the crisis in our NHS. Homelessness and rough sleeping continue their unrelenting rise. The local government funding settlement is delayed meaning our hard-hit councils can’t start budgeting for next year, and neither can the police facing rising violent crime because their funding settlement is delayed too. Another Government contractor is at risk and thousands of jobs too, as Interserve teeters on the brink of collapse.
And all the while the economy is slowing, high streets are in crisis shares are tumbling and the pound is plummeting. This isn’t strong and stable government, it’s weak leadership from a weak Prime Minister.
Mr Speaker, if she comes back with nothing more than warm words then she must immediately put her deal before this House, no more delays, no more tricks, let Parliament take back control. If not, then she must go. We cannot tolerate delay any longer.
With a legally enshrined exit date of 29 March 2019 just over 100 days away, we cannot allow this shambles to endure and neither can we risk falling into ‘no deal’. We will work across this House to prevent any further damage to our economy to our international standing and to our democracy. So I say to the government benches opposite, let parliament have its say on this shabby deal and let parliament take back control.