Iain Duncan Smith calls on PM to tell EU to remove backstop restrictions from Brexit withdrawal agreement

10th December 2018

Following the Prime Minister’s statement on the Brexit withdrawal agreement, Iain Duncan Smith calls on the PM to commit to saying to the EU that they need to remove the backstop restrictions that take away power and control of the UK Parliament to decide the future of the UK.

I would like to focus my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the issue of the backstop, as it is critical to whatever she conducts with the European Union. Does she not agree that now that she has, in essence, suspended the remaining part of this debate, it is incumbent on her and the Government to go forward boldly to the EU and remind them that they have already said that no matter what arrangements would be in place there would be no hard border on the border of Ireland, and so have the Irish? Given that, will she now commit to going back to them to say that they need to reopen the withdrawal agreement, and to insert into it a commitment to open borders and take out those restrictions that would take away the power and control from this Parliament to decide its future?

I say two things to my right hon. Friend. He is right that the EU has been clear, as we have, about ensuring there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Actually, the EU has also been clear, as it is in the withdrawal agreement, about the temporary nature of the backstop. So he is right that we should go boldly back to the European Union on these issues. We have been rigorously and robustly debating with the EU on this, and achieved a number of changes to the withdrawal agreement in order to ensure that there could be that reassurance of the temporary nature of the backstop. However, it is now for me and this Government to go back to Europe, and to make the point that those assurances have not been sufficient for Members of this House. Nothing should be off the table, but everybody should be very clear that in calling for a reopening of the withdrawal agreement there are issues that would then be put back on the table, including the Northern Ireland-only customs territory.