“Mr Speaker, may I join you in thanking all staff of the House of Commons for all the work they did over the weekend to ensure that our electronic systems are safe? I would be grateful if you passed that message on to staff.
I thank the Prime Minister for the advance copy of her statement. Sixty-eight days ago, the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street and asked the country to give her a strong mandate to negotiate Brexit. She offered little by way of strategy or plan, but more by way of hollow soundbites and grandstanding. For the past six months, the Prime Minister has stuck to her mantra—
“no deal is better than a bad deal”—
and continued with her threat to turn Britain into an offshore tax haven aimed at undercutting the European Union by ripping up regulation, hacking back public services and leading a race to the bottom in pay and conditions. Well, the British people saw through that rhetoric and the threats and, instead of giving the Prime Minister the mandate she wanted, they rejected in large numbers the deregulated low-wage future that the Conservative party has in mind for this country.
The Prime Minister wanted a landslide and she lost her majority. Now, her mandate is in tatters, but she still insists she is the best person to get a good deal for Britain, and incredibly believes that she is the best person to strike a deal with the very people she spent the past six months threatening and hectoring. The truth is that this country needs a new approach to Brexit that a Tory Government simply cannot deliver. They are taking Britain down a reckless path, prepared to put jobs and living standards at risk just for the Prime Minister to maintain support within her party and to keep her Government in office.
The cracks are already beginning to appear. While some in the Conservative party want to move towards Labour’s approach to Brexit, at least in terms of protecting jobs, trade and the economy, the hard-right voices in her Cabinet and on her Back Benches, are still determined to force Britain over a cliff edge. The Prime Minister needs to ignore them; she needs now to listen. So I ask her, as she has promised to restore supremacy to this Parliament, will she now be more transparent and involve it properly in the Brexit negotiation process? Will she now finally rule out the possibility of no deal being a viable option for the country? [Interruption.] The choice is hers.
The Prime Minister went to Brussels last week to make what she described as a “generous offer” to EU nationals in this country. The truth is that it is too little, too late. That could and should have been done a year ago when Labour put that very proposal to the House of Commons. By making an offer only after negotiations have begun, the Prime Minister has dragged the issue of citizens and families deep into the complex and delicate negotiations of our future trade relations with the European Union, which she herself has been willing to say may result in failure.
This is not a generous offer. This is confirmation that the Government are prepared to use people as bargaining chips. So can the Prime Minister now confirm what will happen to her offer to nationals in this country if no deal is reached? What happens to the rights of family reunion that EU citizens are currently entitled to? Does the Prime Minister envisage that the five-year period that EU nationals must accumulate here in Britain will be the same for British citizens who want to retain the right to live in other parts of the European Union? Were these proposals drawn up to take into account the impact on our public services, especially the national health service, where there is already great concern over falling numbers of nurses and doctors?”