‘Labour MPs For a Deal’, a Caroline Flint-led parliamentary group, will seek today to bring back Theresa May’s final Brexit offer – the Withdrawal Agreement Bill that emerged from cross-party talks earlier this year – via a proposal being driven by Stephen Kinnock.
The ‘WAB’ was never put before parliament, as May was ousted as leader of the Conservative Party before she was able to put it to a vote. It included compromises pushed for by Labour, such as a workers’ rights bill and parliamentary time for a vote on a confirmatory referendum.
17 Labour MPs representing Leave seats have signed a statement explaining that they will try to amend the anti-no deal Benn Bill being considered by the House of Commons this afternoon because another delay “will leave most of the country banging their head against a brick wall”.
If their change to the legislation passed, which is deemed unlikely, it would require the Prime Minister to state that the reason for requesting an extension from the EU is to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
Below is the full text of the statement.
A further extension to the timetable to leave the EU will leave most of the country banging their head against a brick wall. Most people are fed up of talking and hearing about Brexit and just want the referendum result of 2016 to be honoured.
It is nearly 3 years since MPs voted to trigger article 50 to leave the EU but each time a deadline comes it passes with little being achieved to progress our departure. This time has to be different and it has to bring the country together.
Tomorrow afternoon (4 September) we will be tabling two amendments to Hilary Benn’s draft European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill 2019, which seek to ensure that any extension provided under the Bill is done so with the sole purpose of concluding a deal.
We are tabling these amendments as MPs who respect the result of the 2016 referendum, but who are determined that the best way to deliver on this result is for the UK to leave the EU with a deal in place that can guarantee our security and protect our economy.
Parliament is paralysed by its extremes. Those who are willing to entertain the prospect of no deal, and those for whom no Brexit deal, however comprehensive, will ever be acceptable. We do not agree with either camp. We need a deal.
These two amendments build upon the work that has already been completed by both the Government and the Opposition as part of the cross-party talks which concluded in May.
Labour’s Brexit spokesperson Sir Keir Starmer MP made clear in an interview on the Marr Show (Sunday 1st September 2019) that Labour only withdrew from the talks due to the inability of Prime Minister May being able to deliver her own party:
“We took a judgement call that some of the proposals that the Prime Minister put forward she would not be able to get through her own party. ….The talks broke down. The next week Theresa May stood at the dispatch box and said I’m going to bring forward the Withdrawal Bill and this will be in it, she spelt out some of what we had been talking about. By the end of that week the party had taken her out so our judgement call was that she could not deliver this.”
This clearly indicates that Labour was ready to compromise on a deal if the Prime Minister could deliver her party.
These talks agreed a customs union compromise with a binding vote on post Brexit customs arrangements – something that the House almost passed – a rarity In Parliament’s Brexit discussions:
- A commitment to having parliamentary time to allow for a vote at committee stage on whether the deal should be put to a second referendum.
- A workers rights Bill which would guarantee that employment rights in the UK will not lag behind those in the EU.
- A pledge that the UK will see no change in the level of environmental protection after Brexit
- A promise to seek as close to frictionless trade in goods with the EU as possible while outside the single market and ending free movement.
- An assurance to MPs that they have the final say on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
- And a promise that Northern Ireland will stay aligned with the rest of the UK on regulations and custom, even if the backstop does come into force.
Our first amendment makes clear that extending Article 50 should not be seen as an end in itself. Repeated delay offers no solution, beyond more uncertainty. We believe that any extension proposed by this Bill must be accompanied by a clear aim to pass a Brexit deal by 31 January at the latest.
Moreover, this extension should not distract from ongoing efforts to secure a deal, and our preference remains that we leave with a deal in place by 31 October 2019. Parliament must be prepared to sit all the hours and days necessary to achieve this.
The second amendment orders the Government to publish a copy of the draft Withdrawal Agreement Bill as it was available to Ministers on 21 May 2019, and which offers us a base to build on the strong compromise that were produced by the cross-party negotiations.
These amendments allow colleagues to rally around the opportunity to push forward with cross-party agreement. We all recognise that British politics desperately needs to rediscover the importance of the art of compromise.
Gloria De Piero