Below is the full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the Prime Minister’s latest Brexit statement.
I’ve lost count of the number of times the Prime Minister has come to this House to explain a further delay. They say history repeats itself first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. By the umpteenth time, it is grotesquely reckless. This is not dithering; it’s a deliberate strategy to run down the clock. The Prime Minister is promising to achieve something she knows is not achievable and is stringing people along.
So will she be straight with people: the Withdrawal Agreement is not being reopened; there is no attempt to get a unilateral exit on the backstop or a time limit.
In Sharm-El-Sheikh, the Prime Minister said: “A delay in this process doesn’t deliver a decision in Parliament; it doesn’t deliver a deal”. I can only assume she was being self-critical. She has so far promised a vote on her deal in December, January, February, and March and only managed to put it to a vote once – in January – when it was comprehensively defeated.
The Prime Minister continues to say that it is her deal or ‘no deal’. But this House has decisively rejected her deal and has clearly rejected ‘no deal’. It is the Prime Minister’s obstinacy that is blocking a resolution. So if the House confirms that opposition, then what is the Prime Minister’s plan B?
And I pay tribute to others across the House who are working on such solutions, whether that’s the proposal for commonly known as Norway Plus or other options. The Prime Minister has become quite the expert at kicking the can down the road, but the road is running out and the consequences of running down the clock are evident and real for industry and for people’s jobs.
For now the Prime Minister states the can has been kicked until the 12 March, but the EU cannot ratify any deal now until its Leaders Summit on 21 March. After all, Section 13 of the EU Withdrawal Act states that the final agreement is laid before this House before it can be voted on.
So can the Prime Minister confirm how can there be a vote in this House if the EU has not yet agreed any final text? Or is the Prime Minister now saying that there will be no changes to either the Withdrawal Agreement or to the Political Declaration, and so we will be voting again on the same documents?
Every delay every bit of badly made fudge just intensifies the uncertainty for industry, business, investment being held back, jobs being lost and more jobs being putting at risk. The real life consequences of the Prime Minister’s cynical tactics are being felt across the country. Factories relocating abroad, jobs being lost, investment being cancelled. Thousands of workers at sites across Britain’s towns and cities are hearing rumours and fearing the worst.
The responsibility for this lies exclusively with the Prime Minister and her Government’s shambolic handling of Brexit. Even now, with just one month to go before our legally enshrined exit date, the Prime Minister is not clear what she wants in renegotiations that have now dragged on since it became clear in December that her deal was not even backed by much of her own party, let alone Parliament or the country.
Labour has a credible plan that could bring the country back together, provide certainty for people and safeguard jobs and industry.
It is based around: a new customs union with the EU to protect our manufacturing industry; close alignment with the single market to protect our all trading sectors; and keeping pace with the best practice on workers’ rights, environmental protections and consumer safeguards – the people of Britain deserve nothing less.
The Prime Minister talks about giving commitments on future developments but that is way short of a commitment to dynamic alignment on rights and standards, when we know many on her frontbench see Brexit as an opportunity to rip vital protections.
In recent weeks I’ve been speaking to businesses, industry, organisations and trade unions. Last week along with Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary, my Rt Hon friend for Holborn & St Pancras, I travelled to Europe to meet with EU officials and leaders to discuss the crisis and explain Labour’s proposals. We left with no doubt: our proposals are workable and could be negotiated.
So tomorrow we will ask Parliament to vote on those proposals that are workable and negotiable, that back the demands of working people and of industry. I urge Hon members across this House to back that amendment to respect the result of the 2016 referendum and to safeguard jobs, investment and industry in this country. Labour accepts the result of the 2016 referendum but we believe in getting the terms of our exit right that’s why we believe in our alternative plan.
The Prime Minister’s botched deal provides no certainty or guarantees for the future and was comprehensively rejected by this House. We cannot risk our country’s industry and people’s livelihoods and so if it somehow does pass in some form at a later stage, we believe there must be a confirmatory public vote to see if people feel it is what they voted for.
A ‘no deal’ outcome would be disastrous and that’s why we committed to backing the amendment in the names of my Rt hon friend for Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford and the Rt hon member for West Dorset to rule out that reckless cliff edge Brexit.
The Prime Minister appears to be adopting that policy today. But until the Prime Minister is clear what alternative she would put forward in that circumstance, then she is continuing to run down the clock.
She promises a short extension, but for what? If the government wants a genuine renegotiation it should do so on terms that can win a majority of this House, on terms backed by businesses and unions and that are contained within Labour’s amendment, which I urge the whole House to back tomorrow.