Below is the full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the Prime Minister’s latest Brexit statement.
Mr Speaker, I thank the Prime Minister for the advance copy of her statement. On Ukraine, as NATO has said, we need both sides to show restraint and de-escalate with international law adhered to including Russia allowing unhindered access to Ukraine’s ports on the sea of Azov.
We face an unprecedented situation, the Prime Minister has led us into a national crisis. And if any more evidence was needed of why we face this grave situation, the Prime Minister demonstrated it at last week’s Summit.
There were some warm words drafted and the Prime Minister even managed to negotiate those away to be replaced by words about preparing for ‘no deal’. Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister boasted, “I had a robust discussion with President Juncker”, but that cannot hide the cold reality that she achieved nothing.
Standing at that dispatch box last week, the Prime Minister said: “I have made some progress”. She has not. The Prime Minister said so herself, while still in Brussels, and I quote: “The EU is clear, as am I, that this is the deal”.
The European Commission has been categorical – “It will not be renegotiated. The EU Council has given the clarifications that were possible at this stage so no further meetings with the UK are foreseen.”
The deal is unchanged and not going to change. This House must get on with the vote and move on to consider the realistic alternatives. There can be no logical reason for this delay.
Except that in taking shambolic government to a new level, the Prime Minister no longer has the backing of her Cabinet. The International Trade Secretary has suggested that the Prime Minister’s deal no longer has the backing of the Cabinet.
It is worth quoting his words: “I think that it is very difficult to support the deal if we don’t get changes to the backstop. I don’t think it will get through, I’m not even sure if the Cabinet will agree for it to be put to the House of Commons.”
And so we had the spectacle of the last few days with numerous Cabinet members coming forward with their own alternatives – the International Trade Secretary suggested that a two year transition to no deal is an option; the Work and Pensions Secretary says the Government needs “to try something different” and build a consensus in Parliament; the Attorney General is reported as saying he wants her gone and for the deal to be renegotiated; while the International Development Secretary is allegedly liaising with the ERG to launch an alternative option.
Others are reportedly working on a second referendum, but if even Cabinet no longer backs the deal then who knows what the options would be? So can the Prime Minister answer:
- Does her deal still have the confidence of the Cabinet?
- Is Cabinet collective responsibility still in operation?
- Does it remain Government policy to avoid a ‘no deal’ outcome?
Mr Speaker, an unacceptable deal is on the table. No amendments have been secured, renegotiations have been rebuffed, not even mere reassurances have been offered and the Prime Minister’s shoddy deal no longer even has the backing of the Cabinet.
The Prime Minister ran away from putting her deal before Parliament because even her own Cabinet has doubts and she herself admits Parliament won’t back it. So we are left edging closer to the 29th March deadline without a deal and without even an agreed plan in Cabinet to get a deal.
The Prime Minister has cynically run down the clock trying to manoeuvre Parliament into a choice between two unacceptable outcomes: her deal and no deal.
The country, workers and businesses are increasingly anxious. The CBI said yesterday: “Uncertainty is throttling firms and threatening jobs not in the future but right now.” The British Chamber of Commerce has said: “There is no time to waste.”
A responsible Prime Minister would, for the good of the country, have put this deal before this house this week so we could move on from this Government’s disastrous negotiations.
This is a constitutional crisis and the Prime Minister is its architect, leading the most shambolic and chaotic government in modern British history. Even Cabinet no longer functions.
A Prime Minister whose authority has been lost. A Cabinet disintegrating into cliques and factions, and a Conservative Party so fundamentally split that it’s very existence is being discussed. It is clear that the Prime Minister has failed to renegotiate her deal, failed to get any meaningful reassurances. There is no excuse for any more dither or delay.
This Government has already become the first in British history to be held in contempt by Parliament. The debate on the meaningful vote was pulled at the last minute and the Prime Minister has now wasted five weeks having achieved nothing not a single word renegotiated not a single reassurance gained.
This last week has embodied the failure, chaos and indecision at the heart of this Government’s shambolic handling of Brexit. Today they have been dragged kicking and screaming to announce a date to re-start the debate.
But, Mr Speaker, it is disgraceful that a month has been wasted since we were due to vote on 11 December and there can be no further attempts to dodge accountability to Parliament.