Below is the full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s response to Theresa May’s latest Brexit statement outlining her ‘Plan B’.
Mr Speaker, I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of her statement. I join the Prime Minister in condemning the car bomb attack we have seen in Londonderry and commend the emergency services and local community for their response. The huge achievement of the Good Friday Agreement in reducing violence in Northern Ireland must never be taken for granted.
The government still appears not to have come to terms with the scale of the defeat in this House last week. The Prime Minister seems to going through the motions of accepting that result, but in reality is in deep denial. The logic of that decisive defeat is that the Prime Minister must change her red lines because her current deal is undeliverable. So can she be clear and explicit to the House: which of her red lines is she prepared to move on?
The Prime Minister’s invitations to talks have been exposed as a PR sham. Every opposition party politician came out of those meetings with the same response. Contrary to what the Prime Minister has just said, there was no flexibility; there were no negotiations; nothing had changed. But Mr Speaker, I welcome the commitment that the fee for EU citizens to apply for Settled Status will be waived.
Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister was fond of saying: “this is the best possible deal on the table, it is the only possible deal on offer”. But our EU negotiating partners are clear, and I quote: “Unanimously the European Council have always said that if the UK chooses to shift its red lines in the future… and to go beyond a simple free trade agreement, then the EU will be immediately ready to give a favourable response.”
This House voted to hold the referendum. It voted to trigger Article 50. There is a clear majority of this House to support a deal in principle and to respect the referendum result. But it requires the Prime Minister to face reality, and accept her deal has been comprehensively defeated.
Instead, we now understand the Prime Minister is going back to Europe to seek concessions on the backstop. Can I ask the Prime Minister, what is the difference between legal assurances and concessions? What makes her think that what she tried to renegotiate in December will succeed in January? This really does feel like Groundhog Day.
So the first thing she must do is recognise the clear majority in this House against leaving without a deal and to rule out ‘no deal’. Stop the colossal waste of public money planning for an outcome. Questions too must be asked of the Chancellor. He reassured businesses that ‘no deal’ would be ruled out by the Commons, yet he is sanctioning £4.2bn to be spent on an option he believes will be ruled out.
The Foreign Secretary last week said it was “very unrealistic” to believe that the House of Commons would not find a way to block ‘no deal’. Mr Speaker, can I ask the Prime Minister to meet first with her Chancellor and Foreign Secretary to see if they can convince her to do what is in her power and rule out ‘no deal’? If she will not do that now, will she confirm to the House that if an amendment passes that rules out ‘no deal’ she will implement that instruction?
The Prime Minister agreed the backstop because of her pledge to the people of Northern Ireland to avoid a hard border. But ‘no deal’ would mean a hard border in Ireland and break the Prime Minister’s commitment. Is she seriously willing to accept a hard border?
But today heralds the start of a democratic process, where this House will debate amendments that will determine how we navigate Brexit. Of course, the government tried to block us ever getting to this stage, they wanted to have no democratic scrutiny whatsoever.
Labour has set out and I believe there may be a majority in this House for such a proposal. For a new comprehensive customs union with the EU; a strong single market deal that delivers frictionless trade; and ensures no race to the bottom on workers’ rights.
We will, as we have said consistently from the beginning, back amendments that seek to rule out the disaster of ‘no deal’. And as we have said, we will not rule out the option of a public vote. So Mr Speaker, no more phoney talks. Parliament will debate and decide. And this time the government must listen.