The special sitting of the House of Commons today, ‘Super Saturday’, has begun. Speaker Bercow has selected the Letwin amendment, which if passed would require a further Brexit delay to be sought by 11pm tonight, whether MPs approve the deal or not. (He has also selected the Kyle-Wilson amendment to the second motion on no deal.)
If Letwin is passed, according to ‘No10 source’, Boris Johnson will pull the main vote on the deal – because it would no longer be ‘meaningful’. There is some debate over whether this is actually possible. But the plan appears to be that the government would send whips home and boycott the vote on the amendment motion.
The Prime Minister has delivered his statement, which he has said himself was part of an effort not to be “unnecessarily adversarial”. Johnson highlighted concerns over workers’ rights and protections, claiming that nobody wants to lower standards, and said the NHS “will not be on the table” in future trade talks.
Jeremy Corbyn, in response, has claimed: “These benches will not be duped.” He has described the deal as “sell out” and said voting for it today “won’t end Brexit” and “won’t deliver certainty”. He reiterated his support for another referendum and argued that Johnson could not be trusted.
Below is the full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the PM statement on a Brexit deal.
Mr Speaker, I want to thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of his statement. He has re-negotiated the Withdrawal Agreement and made it even worse. He has re-negotiated the Political Declaration and made it even worse.
We are having a debate today on a text for which there is no economic impact assessment and no accompanying legal advice. This government has sought to avoid scrutiny throughout this process and yesterday evening made empty promises on workers’ rights and the environment.
The same government that spent the last few weeks negotiating in secret to remove from the Withdrawal Agreement legally-binding commitments on workers’ rights and the environment.
This government cannot be trusted and these benches will not be duped. Neither will the government’s own workers.
The head of the civil service union Prospect met yesterday with the Rt Hon Member for Surrey Heath. He said: “I asked for reassurances that the government would not diverge on workers’ rights after Brexit. He could not give me those assurances”.
And as for the much-hyped “world-leading Environment Bill”, the legally-binding targets will not be enforceable until 2037. For this Government, the climate emergency can always wait.
Mr Speaker, this deal risks people’s jobs, rights at work, our environment and our NHS. We must be honest about what this deal means for our manufacturing industry and people’s jobs.
Not only does it reduce access to the market of our biggest trade partner it leaves us without a customs union, which will damage industries across this country from Nissan in Sunderland and Heinz in Wigan to Airbus in Broughton and Jaguar Land Rover in Birmingham.
Thousands of British jobs depend on a strong manufacturing sector, and a strong manufacturing sector needs markets through fluid supply chains across the EU. A vote for this deal would be a vote to cut manufacturing jobs.
This deal would inevitably lead to a Trump trade deal, forcing the UK to diverge from the highest standards and expose our families to chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef.
The deal fails to enshrine the principle that we keep pace with the EU on environmental standards and protections, putting at risk our current rules, from air pollution standards to chemical safety – all at a time when we face a climate emergency.
And as for workers’ rights, we cannot simply give this government a blank cheque. Mr Speaker, you don’t have to take my word for all of this. Listen to the TUC’s Frances O’Grady, who says: “This deal would be a disaster for working people. It would hammer the economy, cost jobs and sell workers’ rights down the river.”
Listen to Make UK, representing British manufacturers, who say: “Commitments to the closest possible trading relationship in goods have gone.” Under this deal, “differences in regulation between the UK and the EU will add cost and bureaucracy… Our companies will face a lack of clarity inhibiting investment and planning.”
Listen to the Green Alliance think-tank who said the deal amounted to “a very sad Brexit read, from a climate perspective”. The message is clear. This deal is not good for jobs, damaging for industry and a threat to our environment and natural world.
It is not a good deal for our country and future generations who will feel the impact. It should be voted down.
I totally understand the frustration and the fatigue across the country and in this House. But we simply cannot vote for a deal that is even worse than the one this House rejected 3 times.
The government’s own economic analysis shows this deal would make the poorest regions even poorer. And could cost each person in this country over £2,000 per year. If we vote for a deal that makes our constituents poorer, we will not be forgiven.
Mr Speaker, the government is claiming that if we support their deal it will get Brexit done and even that backing them today is the only way to stop a no deal. Nonsense. Supporting the government this afternoon would merely fire the starting pistol in a race to the bottom.
And if anyone had any doubts about this, we only have to listen to what their own Hon members have been saying. Like the one who yesterday let the cat out of the bag, saying members should back this deal as it “means we can leave on no deal” by 2020.
So can the Prime Minister confirm whether this is the case, and that if a Free Trade Agreement has not been done it would mean Britain falling on to WTO terms by December next year, with only Northern Ireland having preferential access to the EU market?
No wonder the Foreign Secretary has said that this represents, and I quote: “a cracking deal for Northern Ireland” – they would retain frictionless access to the single market.
It does beg the question Mr Speaker, why can’t the rest of the UK get a cracking deal by maintaining access to the single market? The Taoiseach said, it “allows the all-Ireland economy to continue to develop and one which protects the European single market”.
Some members of this House do welcome an all-Ireland economy, but I didn’t think that included a government of the Conservative & Unionist Party. The Prime Minister declared in the summer: “Under no circumstances will I allow the EU or anyone else to create any kind of division down the Irish Sea.” You cannot trust a word he says.
Mr Speaker, voting for a deal today won’t end Brexit. It won’t deliver certainty and the people should have the final say. Labour is not prepared to sell-out the communities we represent. We are not prepared to sell out their future. And we will not back this sell-out deal. This is about our communities now and our future generations.