Shailesh Vara asks the Prime Minister about the UK leaving the Brexit backstop

4th December 2018

During the opening day of the debate on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, Shailesh Vara asks the Prime Minister why, since neither the EU, Ireland or the UK wish to use the backstop, the EU would not, as a sign of good faith, permit one additional line in the agreement to the effect that the UK could give three months' notice to leave the customs union.

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way—indeed, she is being very generous in giving way to a lot of people. We are told that the EU does not wish to exercise the backstop, Ireland does not wish to exercise it and certainly, the UK does not wish to exercise it. Is it not the case, therefore, that this is a matter not of renegotiating the withdrawal agreement, but of the European Union showing good will and good faith towards the United Kingdom by allowing us one additional line in the withdrawal agreement? This could be words to the effect that in the event of the backstop being triggered, the United Kingdom can, say, at three months’ notice, leave the customs union. To allow that one line would show enormous good faith and good will on the part of the EU, and nothing else.

I recognise the degree of concern that there is about this issue, and I will go on to speak about it further in my speech. The withdrawal agreement has been negotiated. It is clear from the European Union that this is the deal, and I just ask those colleagues who wish to reopen the withdrawal agreement to recognise that were it to be reopened, it would not simply be a question of what the United Kingdom then wanted to change; it would also be a question of enabling others to change elements of that withdrawal agreement. Given the rigorous fight that we had in the negotiations to ensure that there were certain elements that were in the interests of the United Kingdom, notably around fisheries and other issues, I caution hon. Members that not only has the EU made it clear that the withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened—we have agreed the deal and the deal is there—but it is not the one-way street that hon. Members would perhaps wish it to be.

Hansard