Priti calls for Backstop removal
Witham MP Priti Patel has called on the Prime Minister to negotiate the removal of the backstop and other changes to the Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union. Speaking during the House of Commons debate on the action the Government should take following the vote against the Withdrawal Agreement earlier this month, Priti stressed the importance of new legally binding text being agreed and the need for the UK to leave the EU on 29 March this year. Priti said:
“The British people were promised that we would leave the EU on 29 March this year and the Government must deliver on that commitment. This country needs to be prepared to leave the EU on WTO trading terms or with a more comprehensive agreement that is in the best interests of our country.”
“Earlier this month I voted against the proposed Withdrawal Agreement because the current draft is not in our national interest and threatened the break-up of our country. Since then, the Prime Minister has listened to the concerns which my colleagues and I have expressed and has now given a commitment to seek to renegotiate parts of the Withdrawal Agreement. I have been working with colleagues on both sides of the Referendum debate to put forward proposals to take our country forward and to strengthen the Government’s position. If the EU does not want to renegotiate or if insufficient changes are made, then we still need to make sure we are ready to leave the EU on 29 March and ready to seize the benefits and reap the opportunities of taking back control and being a free, independent and sovereign country.”
Copy of Priti’s speech:
29 January 2019
With two months to go until 29 March, it is hardly surprising that we are once again debating our withdrawal from the European Union. It is pretty obvious that we should be much further ahead in the process. Of course, the warning signs have been there for months, as all Members have said: from the minute the backstop went down to the Chequers agreement and the withdrawal agreement, which were of course not right for our country. I voted against the withdrawal agreement.
At this crucial time, we need leadership, which is why I welcome the Prime Minister’s very clear statement today. She should be commended for the way she handled strong questioning and rightly addressed many of the challenges relating to the withdrawal agreement. She should be particularly commended for reopening the negotiations on the withdrawal agreement. I would like to hear more from the Government about whether they have engaged in discussions and are preparing to hear from the European Commission whether it is prepared, willing and able to reopen the negotiations and get that legally binding change to the withdrawal agreement.
It is right that we now concentrate all efforts on delivering the referendum mandate. We cannot have more statements or glorified letters of assurances; we must get that clear, legally binding change to the text of the withdrawal agreement. When the negotiations are reopened, we need to ensure that the right people are engaged and involved in the process.
Does the right hon. Lady agree that yes, obviously, a legal textual change is now being sought, but that should not come as any surprise because the words of amendment (n) are already in paragraph 27 of the political agreement, of which Europe has been aware since November last year?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, which is why there is now an opportunity for us to land a clear commitment on the future relationship and on every aspect of the trading relationship, and to remove some of the ambiguity in the political declaration.
It is important to recognise—as I think all Members do—that Parliament must deliver on the referendum mandate, and we have the opportunity to do so. The Prime Minister was right to refer to Conservative colleagues who were on either side of the referendum argument but have put forward new proposals that seek to provide certainty and clarity. They seek to unite the country in getting that compromise, including by extending the key issues around implementation, replacing the backstop and supporting the future UK-EU free trade arrangement, as well as by seeking co-operation in security matters and guaranteeing citizens’ rights going forward.
I was reassured by the Prime Minister’s remarks today, which is why her hand should be strengthened when she goes back to Brussels. I have called for the Government to go back to Brussels again and again since I voted against the withdrawal agreement. We must leave on 29 March so that we can position ourselves as an outward-looking, global, free-trading country, and as a nation that is on that mission of economic and democratic renewal. I will support amendment (n).
We have to find the right degree of unity and compromise to strengthen the Government and the Prime Minister to go, as she herself stated today, back to Brussels to deliver for Britain.