I am sure the Tánaiste will agree that over the last two and a half years, since the British public took a decision to leave the European Union without any blueprint laid down as to what that meant, an inordinately long time has been spent on the intractable issue of the withdrawal agreement and its implications. We should always remind ourselves that the withdrawal treaty is the end of the beginning. It is no substitute for a full, mature relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union. In the meantime, relationships on all fronts have been damaged as a result of Brexit - North-South relations and the UK-Ireland relationship and there has been polarisation in the North.
The incoherence of British politics has exacerbated the situation, with the failure of the British Parliament to lay out a coherent blueprint as to what it wants. I believe the British Prime Minister has demonstrated good faith in terms of upholding the Good Friday Agreement and avoiding a hard border. The documentation published last evening reflects that, as does the withdrawal agreement itself. It is important to point out, and I am sure the Tánaiste will agree, that a no-deal Brexit would be devastating for the United Kingdom, Ireland and the European Union and must be avoided. Its impact on livelihoods and businesses, particularly the agrifood industry, would be very damaging. Given the crisis in our beef industry, a no-deal Brexit, if it were to happen, would essentially wipe out the sector.
A no-deal Brexit would also represent a monumental failure of politics on all sides. That is why it was important to compromise and agree to some changes. Taken together, the documentation agreed yesterday, namely, the joint instrument and the unilateral declaration concerning the withdrawal agreement, represents movement on the European Union side. It potentially allows the UK to wriggle out of the withdrawal agreement, albeit in a convoluted and long legal journey. The legal opinion of the United Kingdom's Attorney General is worth reading in full. He makes the point that there is new material and new legal obligations on the EU in terms of the speed at which negotiations should be concluded and that the risk is reduced on the UK side.
However, a legal opinion is one thing, a political decision is another. This is a fundamentally political issue, with which the British Parliament has to grapple. I will not speculate on that. The question I want to ask the Tánaiste is this. In the event of the agreement being rejected, what happens next in terms of developments? Does the Tánaiste agree that yesterday's agreement marks a significant development from December's agreement? In the event of a negative vote in the House of Commons this evening, does the Government support an extension to facilitate further reflection? Is the Tánaiste of the view that every effort must be made to avoid a no-deal Brexit?