I thought it would be useful for the House to be brought up to date on the working of my Department after the referendum of 23 June. Our instructions from the British people are clear. Britain is leaving the European Union. The mandate for that course is overwhelming. The referendum of 23 June delivered a bigger vote for Brexit than that won by any UK Government in history. It is a national mandate, and this Government are determined to deliver it in the national interest.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that there will be no attempt to stay in the EU by the back door; no attempt to delay, frustrate or thwart the will of the British people; and no attempt to engineer a second referendum because some people did not like the first answer. The people have spoken in a referendum offered to them by this Government and confirmed by Parliament —by all of us, on both sides of the argument—and we must all respect it. That is a simple matter of democratic politics.
Naturally, people want to know what Brexit will mean. Simply, it means leaving the European Union, so we will decide on our borders, our laws and the taxpayer’s money. It means getting the best deal for Britain: one that is unique to Britain and not an off-the-shelf solution. This must mean controls on the numbers of people who come to Britain from Europe, but also a positive outcome for those who wish to trade in goods and services. This is an historic and positive moment for our nation. Brexit is not about making the best of a bad job; it is about seizing a huge and exciting opportunity that will flow from a new place for Britain in the world. There will be new freedoms, new opportunities and new horizons for our country. We can get the right trade policy for the UK. We can create a more dynamic economy, a beacon for free trade across the world. We want to make sure our regulatory environment helps, rather than hinders, businesses and workers. We can create an immigration system that allows us to control numbers and encourage the brightest and best to come to this country.
I want to be clear to our European friends and allies that we do not see Brexit as ending our relationship with Europe; it is about starting a new one. We want to maintain or even strengthen our co-operation on security and defence. It is in the interests of both the UK and the European Union that we have the freest possible trading relationship. We want a strong European Union, succeeding economically and politically, working with Britain in many areas of common interest, so we should all approach the negotiations to come about our exit with a sense of mutual respect and co-operation.
I know the House will want to be updated about the work of the Department. It is a privilege to have been asked to lead it by the Prime Minister. The challenge we face is exciting and considerable. It will require significant expertise and a consistent approach. Negotiating with the EU has to be got right, and we are going to take the time to get it right. We will strive to build national consensus around our approach.
We start from a position of economic strength. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, there will be challenges ahead, but our economy is robust, thanks in no small part to the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr Osborne). The latest data suggest our manufacturing and service industries and consumer confidence are all strong, contrary to some of the earlier predictions. Businesses are putting their faith and their money into this country. Over the summer, SoftBank, GlaxoSmithKline and Siemens all confirmed that they will make major investments in the UK. Countries, including Australia, have already made clear their desire to proceed quickly with a new trade deal for the UK. As other nations see advantages to them, I am confident that they will want to prioritise deals with the UK, too. But we are not complacent. Our task is to build on this success and strength and to negotiate a deal for exiting the European Union that is in the interests of the entire nation.
As I have already indicated, securing a deal that is in our national interest does not and must not mean turning our back on Europe. To do so would not be in our interests, nor Europe’s, so we will work hard to help to establish a future relationship between the EU and the UK that is dynamic, constructive and healthy. We want a steadfast and successful European Union after we depart.
As we proceed, we will be guided by some clear principles. First, as I have said, we wish to build national consensus around our position. Secondly, we will always put the national interest first. We will always act in good faith towards our European partners. Thirdly, wherever possible, we will try to minimise any uncertainty that change will inevitably bring. Fourthly, and crucially, by the end of this process we will have left the European Union and put the sovereignty and supremacy of this Parliament beyond doubt.
The first formal step in the process of leaving the European Union is to invoke article 50, which will start two years of negotiations. Let me briefly update the House on how the machinery of government will support our efforts and on the next steps we will take. First, on responsibilities, the Prime Minister will lead the UK’s exit negotiations and be supported on a day-to-day basis by my Department. We will work closely with all Government Departments to develop our objectives and to negotiate new relationships with the EU and the rest of the world. Supporting me is a first-class ministerial team and some of the brightest and best in Whitehall, who want to engage in this national endeavour. The Department now has over 180 staff in London, plus the expertise of over 120 officials in Brussels. We are still growing rapidly, with first-class support from other Departments.
As to the next steps, the Department’s task is clear. We are undertaking two broad areas of work. First, given that we are determined to build national consensus, we will listen and talk to as many organisations, companies and institutions as possible—from large plcs to small businesses, and from the devolved Administrations to councils, local government associations and major metropolitan bodies.
We are already fully engaged with the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure a UK-wide approach to our negotiations. The Prime Minister met the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland in July. Last week, I visited Northern Ireland for meetings with its political leaders, where I reiterated our determination that there will be no return to the hard borders of the past. I will visit Scotland and Wales soon.
My ministerial colleagues and I have also discussed the next steps with a range of organisations. My first meeting was with the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, followed by key business groups, representatives of the universities and the charitable sector, and farming and fisheries organisations. But that is just the start. In the weeks ahead, we will speak to as many other firms, organisations and bodies as possible—research institutes, regional and national groups, and businesses up and down the country—to establish their priorities and the opportunities for the whole of the UK. As part of that exercise I can announce that we will be holding roundtables with stakeholders in a series of sectors, to ensure that all views are reflected in our analysis of the options for the UK. [Interruption.]
Order. Will the right hon. Gentleman resume his seat for just a moment? There is quite a lot of unseemly and, dare I say it, somewhat unstatesmanlike noise from a sedentary position. Someone was muttering, “Too long!” It is not too long at all. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly in order. Let me remind the House that it has always been my practice to facilitate the fullest and most extensive interrogation of the relevant Minister, and that will happen today. Everyone will have his or her opportunity. But it would be a good thing if people would listen respectfully. If they can manage a beaming countenance reminiscent of that of the Foreign Secretary that will be a bonus, but it is not obligatory.
Those roundtables will include stakeholders from the broadcast, aviation, energy, financial services and automotive sectors, and others.
I will also engage with EU member states. I am beginning with a visit to Dublin this week. I am working particularly closely with the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Trade, who have been meeting counterparts in Washington, Brussels and Delhi, and in the capitals of other EU states. While we do that, my officials, supported by officials across Government, are carrying out programme of sectoral analysis and regulatory analysis, which will identify the key factors for some 50 sectors of British business. It is extremely important that the House understands that. We are building a detailed understanding of how the withdrawal from the EU will affect domestic policies, to seize opportunities and ensure a smooth process of exit.
The referendum result was a clear sign that the majority of the British people want to see Parliament’s sovereignty strengthened, and so throughout the process Parliament will be regularly informed, updated and engaged.
Finally, we are determined to ensure that people have as much stability and certainty as possible in the period leading up to our departure from the EU. Until we leave the European Union, we must respect the laws and the obligations that membership requires of us. We also want to ensure certainty when it comes to public funding. The Chancellor has confirmed that structural and investment fund projects signed before the autumn statement and research and innovation projects financed by the European Commission by money granted before we leave the EU will be underwritten by the Treasury after we leave. Agriculture is a vital part of the economy and the Government will match the current level of annual payments that the sector receives through the direct payments scheme until 2020, again providing certainty.
The Prime Minister has been clear that she is determined to protect the status of EU nationals already living in the UK. The only circumstances in which that would not be possible would be if the rights of British citizens in EU member states were not protected in return, something that I frankly find very hard to imagine.
I am confident that together we will be able to deliver on what the country asked us to do through the referendum. I am greatly encouraged by the national mood. Most of those I have met who wanted to remain have accepted the result and now want to make a success of the course Britain has chosen. Indeed, organisations and individuals I have met already who had backed the remain campaign now want to be engaged in the process of exit and in identifying the positive changes that will flow from it as well as the challenges. I want us all to come together as one nation to get the best deal for Britain.
In conclusion, we are confident of negotiating a new position that will mean this country flourishing outside the European Union while keeping EU members as friends, allies and trading partners. We leave the European Union but we will not—[Interruption.]
Order. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) is an aspiring statesman. His aspiration may be a little way from fulfilment. I want to hear the Secretary of State’s peroration.
It is an aspiration of very long standing, Mr Speaker.
In conclusion, we are confident of negotiating a position that will mean this country flourishing outside the EU, keeping its members as our friends, our allies and our trading partners. We will leave the European Union but will not turn our back on Europe. We will embrace the opportunities and freedoms that will open up for Britain. We will deliver on the national mandate for Brexit, and we will deliver it in the national interest.
I welcome the Secretary of State to his new role. It is eight years since his last appearance at the Dispatch Box. Back then, I believe his last words were: “You have to answer.” Let us hope that he gives us some answers today.
I welcome the attitude he has expressed today that he will be talking and listening to everyone. May I give him some advice? Perhaps he should start by putting a telephone number on his website. It has been a little difficult tracking his Department down, so it would be nice if he could begin by giving that out later, along with some of the answers that we would expect. The spin before today’s statement was so much promise. We heard that we would hear what the Government’s strategy for Brexit is, but instead we have not heard a strategy or a thought-out plan. It has been more empty platitudes from a Government who continue to make it up as they go along.
Last night, the Prime Minister, who was on a plane, seemingly told us what she was not going to do—it seems that we will not have a points-based immigration system, any extra money for the NHS or a reduction in VAT on fuel—but we have not been told what the Government will do. When will they tell us how they will deliver, for example, free trade for British businesses while imposing immigration controls, let alone how they will address the red lines that Labour has demanded on the protection of workers’ rights and guarantees for EU citizens?
The Secretary of State says that he wants to present a positive vision of Britain post-Brexit, but unless he can tell us what deal the Government are working towards, how they plan to achieve it and whether other member states will accept it, his positive vision is just a pipe dream. It is just rhetoric.
May I remind the Secretary of State of what he said two months ago? He said:
“The negotiating strategy has to be properly designed, and there is some serious consultation to be done first…This is one of the reasons for taking a little time before triggering Article 50.”
We absolutely should take a little time before triggering article 50, but where is the negotiating strategy and what serious consultation has taken place with other member states? In the absence of either, why are the Government pushing ahead with article 50? What has happened since July? What is the plan?
May I remind the House what the Foreign Affairs Committee said in July about the previous Government? It said:
“The previous Government’s considered view not to instruct key Departments…to plan for the possibility”
of a leave vote “amounted to gross negligence.” What do we say about the current Government when, two months later, we are no further forward? Surely all we can say is this: when it comes to planning for Brexit, they have gone from gross negligence to rank incompetence. We see the warnings to Britain from Japan and others at the G20, and we see investment from companies like Nissan put under threat. It is British workers who will pay the price for the Government’s incompetence.
This morning, the Japanese ambassador, speaking on the “Today” programme, said something that was as honest as it was deadly. He said: “The problem that we see is not to have a very well thought through consideration before you start negotiation.” He is absolutely right. Are the Government rushing to start negotiation? Yes. Do they have a well thought-out plan for that negotiation? No.
The Secretary of State has won plaudits in the past for his principled stand on issues such as parliamentary sovereignty—indeed, he talked about the importance of parliamentary sovereignty today—democratic rights and the rule of law, so surely he cannot think it right that article 50 should be triggered by royal prerogative. As his friend and mine, the former Attorney General the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), said:
“The idea that a government could take a decision of such massive importance…without parliamentary approval seems to me to be extremely far-fetched.”
Well, I do not think it is far-fetched; I think it is just plain wrong. And I think that if the Secretary of State was still on the Back Benches, he would agree with me.
When there is no evidence of sound planning by the Government, no detail on the deal they want to strike, no strategy for achieving that deal or the reasons for pushing it through, Parliament must have more of a say. We must have more than simply a say: we must have a vote.
I thank the hon. Lady for her welcome. As I suspect is very common when people enter the Cabinet, I have received a very large number of congratulatory emails and telegrams. The best one was the shortest. It said, “Many congratulations, I now believe in the resurrection.” Let me deal with the measures she has raised.
The hon. Lady and the Labour party accuse us of rank incompetence—the Labour party! The Prime Minister, on her trip to China, described her approach to complex problems—this is certainly a complex problem. Her approach is to collect the data, analyse it, make a judgment, make a decision and implement it. The Labour party clearly does it the other way around. The Americans have a phrase for the way the Labour party approaches these things—not looking at the problem, not looking at the issue, not looking at the data. They call it “load, fire, aim”. That may be very appropriate for the circular firing squad that is the Labour party, but it is not appropriate to running things in the national interest.
The hon. Lady mentioned the points-based immigration system. What the Prime Minister said in China was very clear. She wants a results-based immigration system that delivers an outcome the British people voted for. That is what she will be delivering at the end of this.
The hon. Lady mentioned the Japanese ambassador. From memory, the Japanese ambassador this morning said something to the effect that he had not met a company that did not think Britain was the best place in Europe to have its business—not one. He also said that he admired the Prime Minister’s approach to the negotiation. The hon. Lady should pick her quotes a little more carefully.
Let me come to the hon. Lady’s central point, if there was a point in what she had to say. She talked about article 50. Before we entered on to this course, the referendum Bill went through this House. It was voted for 6:1 in this House, and she voted for it. What did the Bill say? It was presented by the then Foreign Secretary, who said that we were giving the British people the right to make the decision—it was not advice or consultation. What she is trying to wrap up in a pseudo-democratic masquerade is the most anti-democratic proposal I have heard for some time. She wants to deny the will of the British people and up with that we will not put.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s return to the Front Bench. As someone who recently left it—voluntarily, I have to tell him—I unreservedly welcome him. I also welcome his incredibly optimistic tone on the whole idea of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and forging a new relationship with the rest of the world.
On the specifics of the statement—[Interruption.] The one specific is that we are leaving the European Union. On that specific, I wonder if I might press my right hon. Friend. In the media today, we have had a certain amount of speculation on the detail in terms of controlling our borders. Will he confirm that, in leaving the European Union, the No. 1 thing that is absolutely not negotiable is that the United Kingdom will take control of its borders and the laws relevant to that and that that is not negotiable in any other deal?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his question, and I would say two things. First, the referendum provided the biggest mandate ever given to a British Government, and the question of immigration clearly played a large part. Secondly, the Prime Minister has made it very plain that the current state of immigration cannot go on and that we will bring it to an end as part of this process.
I welcome the Secretary of State to his new position and congratulate him on it. I want to ask him, “Was that it?” The Secretary of State has had all summer, and it has to be said that it is a mark of an irresponsible Government, just as it was a mark of an irresponsible leave campaign, that we know nothing more about the phrase “Brexit means Brexit”. That creates huge levels of uncertainty for our universities and our research institutions, which need some certainty beyond 2020; For food and drink producers; and for EU nationals who have made this country their home and deserve much better. What reassurances can the Secretary of State give them, because he has given them precious little from his statement today?
The actions of this Government stand in stark contrast to those of the Scottish Government, who have reached out to EU nationals and set out a clear action, including setting up an expert group; who have provided £100 million- worth of economic stimulus, with more to come tomorrow and a programme for government. The Secretary of State was responsible for a leave campaign that had no plans—zero, zilch. That is in stark contrast to the 670-page White Paper that the Scottish Government produced ahead of the independence referendum. Does the right hon. Gentleman regret not having any more plans, especially now that the Prime Minister is slapping down some of the leave campaign’s ideas and the Foreign Secretary is referring to access to the single market? Does the Secretary of State regret that blank piece of paper?
I am tempted to say “Is that it?” too. The simple truth is this. The hon. Gentleman talks about a 670-page White Paper for the Scottish independence referendum, which I remind him they lost—and they would still lose today. After the Brexit referendum, what did we see? Do the Scottish people want another referendum? No, they do not. Would they vote to leave? No, they would not. That is all I need to say to the hon. Gentleman.
I understand my right hon. Friend’s difficulties, and I congratulate him on not rushing anything. I encourage him and his colleagues to take as long as they possibly can to work out a policy. I look forward to hearing from him again when the Government have found something they can agree on that indicates what Brexit actually means. Meanwhile, on a more positive note, I do not recall my right hon. Friend taking part in any of the ill-informed and sometimes prejudiced attacks on immigrants and foreigners living and working in this country. Does he agree with me that, although some anti-foreigner rhetoric might have added a few votes that might have tilted the leave campaign into gaining a majority, the majority of the public are not hostile to other Europeans living and working in this country, so long as they respect our laws and our customs? Will he confirm that the Government will not needlessly sacrifice our access to a free market of 500 million people or our trade and economic co-operation with our European allies just to demonstrate that we are turning away from this country foreigners whom employers wish to employ to fill skills shortages or as a result of the unwillingness of English people to fill vacancies in various parts of our economy?
My right hon. and learned Friend and I have debated this matter probably for nearly 30 years. Let me say this on the issue of anti-foreigner rhetoric. I agree entirely that the sort of unpleasantness that has sometimes arisen is to be wholly condemned—I repeat, wholly condemned. I certainly join my right hon. and learned Friend in condemning that rhetoric.
However, my right hon. and learned Friend then moved on to the issue of immigration. I do not think that when people are concerned about immigration, it is necessarily xenophobia. Economic, social and other pressures lead to people’s concern about the issue. Nor do I think that it is a simple trade-off. I do not think that an immigration control system that suits our country is necessarily one that will preclude a good trade relationship with the European Union. Trade relationships are beneficial to both sides, and we should not need to make a policy purchase in order to secure such a relationship. So, while I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend’s original proposal, I do not agree with his conclusion.
As the Secretary of State will know, the business of his Department will be the most important issue that has faced our country for decades, and it is hugely important that we secure the best deal for Britain outside the European Union. No one expects him to have worked out all the answers yet, but we do expect him to be able to set out the outline of some kind of plan, and today we have heard nothing of that sort.
Let me ask the Secretary of State just one specific question. Has his Department even considered what the home affairs issues will be in the negotiations, and has he decided whether or not Britain will be staying in Europol? That decision will have to be made this year, not in many years to come. Has he decided whether we will be in Europol, yes or no?
The right hon. Lady was an eminent member of the Cabinet, and, indeed, an eminent Front-Bench Member and shadow Home Secretary. I therefore take her question extremely seriously, as she does this issue. The simple answer is that the whole justice and home affairs stream is being assessed even as we speak, and the aim is to preserve the relationship with the European Union on security matters as best we can. The right hon. Lady will recall that last year a decision was made which laid aside about 100 measures that we did not want to be part of, but kept some others, including the European arrest warrant and one or two others—controversially, as she will remember. So yes, of course we are across that, and of course we are aiming to maintain it. That is the answer.
I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on his return to the Government Front Bench after an unfortunate hiatus of some 20 years. Is it not absolutely clear that he has both the skills and the experience that are required for the extremely difficult job that lies ahead? Surely the whole House will wish him every success as he charts those extremely difficult shoals.
I must admit that I did not hear the question—and, flattering as it was, I do not intend to pay a fee for it either.
We learned more of substance from the Prime Minister’s briefing of journalists in China than we heard in those 15 minutes of talk about stakeholders and round tables. Will the Secretary of State please confirm that the points-based immigration system, the cut in VAT on fuel, and the £350 million extra every week for the NHS—the three main promises of the leave campaign—now lie in tatters?
The task of my Department is to deliver on three things. The British people, in the referendum, voted for the return to Parliament of control of our laws, control of our money, and control of our borders, and that is what my Department will bring about. What happens then is down to the Government and Parliament.
Let me deal with just one issue that the right hon. Gentleman raised: the points-based immigration system. What the Prime Minister said in China was very clear. Her concern was that a points-based system was too open-ended and did not actually control the number of people coming to the United Kingdom, and she therefore wanted something that sounded as if it would be more rigorous, not less.
As 47 countries have free trade agreements with the EU without accepting any EU control over migration in their countries or making any contributions to the EU, will my right hon. Friend confirm that taking back control cannot be negotiated with the French, the Germans and the others: we take back control of those matters and we negotiate, if they wish, over trade? Will he further confirm that the French and German Governments have indicated not at all that they wish to impose any tariffs on their very profitable trade with us, because they do not believe in self-harm?
That last point goes to the heart of the question. Free trade is not something that is a gift from one country to another; it is something that is mutually beneficial. I fully expect that when we come to do our negotiations with the EU we will see it recognising that France, Germany—in fact, every single country—has a manufacturing surplus delivered to us, whereas we, typically, have a service surplus the other way. I expect that we will both gain from the free trade agreement that comes out of that negotiation.
I welcome the Secretary of State to his place. I also welcome today’s statement and the visit he made recently to Northern Ireland, when he met the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and others. Can he reassure us that, as we seek to move forward and make a success of Brexit for the whole of the United Kingdom, which is what the British people in their entirety have voted for—all parts of it—[Interruption.] As a result of this national vote—all members of the United Kingdom had an equal vote and voted overwhelmingly to come out of the European Union—can the Secretary of State make it clear that he will work closely with Ministers in Northern Ireland? Will he also make it clear that that work will not just be at ministerial level, but that officials in his Department will work very closely with officials in the Executive Office, the Department of Finance and Personnel and the Department for the Economy and others, to ensure we make a success of this project?
I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that that is already happening. Officials in my Department and other Whitehall Departments are working with officials in the Northern Ireland Office to proceed on what will actually be one of the more difficult elements of the negotiation, because we do have to deal with the issue of the border, keeping it open and not returning to the recent past. I also agree in some depth with his statement that this is a national decision—that the whole British nation, the whole United Kingdom nation, has decided on this. Whilst we will seek—I look at the Scottish nationalist Benches when I am saying this—to meet and protect the interests of every part of the UK, that does not mean any part of it will have a veto on this, least of all for partisan reasons.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his responsibilities and further welcome his agreement to appear before the Foreign Affairs Committee next week in order to provide further follow-up to this statement. Does he share my assessment that there is a key foreign affairs, security and defence interest for our 27 EU partners in finding continuing engagement with the UK after Brexit?
My hon. Friend the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee is right, and this is fundamental to one of the points I was making in my earlier remarks. There are very strong security, foreign affairs, foreign policy and environmental relationships, and a whole series of other relationships, that will continue to apply long after we have left the EU, to the benefit of both the EU and the UK.
I warmly welcome the Secretary of State to his new position and I know that millions of Labour voters and supporters across the country who voted to leave will be pleased that there is someone in this position who genuinely wants to get out of the EU. Will he confirm that there is a real difference between wanting to be members of the single market and wanting to have access to the single market, and that some of the remainers should learn that?
The hon. Lady is right, and of course access to the single market is not really up for grabs; it is there for everybody and, frankly, there are many countries outside the EU that do a better job of exporting to the single market than we do, even without a trade arrangement. So of course we want to have access to the single market and we do not need to be a member of it to do that. Indeed being a member of it is what has caused some of the problems of sovereignty that drove this referendum.
Congratulations to my right hon. Friend on his appointment. Will he confirm that the vote to leave requires the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972, and will the Government bring in a Bill to achieve that as soon as is reasonably possible?
The aspects of the European Communities Act 1972 that are required to be repealed and the aspects of the acquis communautaire that need to be carried into British law are an important joint set of issues that have to be decided. Once we have got to the point of deciding what we need to do in that regard, we will come back to the House at the first possible opportunity.
But do we not need more specifics from the Secretary of State? For example, do we not need to know that we can build new relationships without having to wait until the divorce proceedings have finished? Jean-Claude Juncker said this weekend that he did not like the idea of our negotiating trade arrangements, but would it not leave us in limbo if we could not do so? It is essential that we have the ability to get on with building these new relationships now. That means dealing with the Brexit issue while at the same time, in parallel, ensuring that we can forge those new relationships. Those two things have to happen together, not one after the other. How is the Secretary of State going to achieve that?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Indeed, the suggestion from the Commission that it is somehow illegal for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade to go and talk to Ministers in India, Canada, Australia or wherever he is going next is somewhat ridiculous. The only thing the Commission can say in legal terms is that we cannot bring an agreement into force until after we leave, and that is perfectly fair and proper. That is what the laws of the European Union are. The hon. Gentleman can take it as read that we are looking to ensure the fastest possible transition to the opportunities I mentioned after Brexit concludes. Similarly, on the other front, there have been suggestions that we cannot talk about the trade arrangement with Europe until the article 50 process has concluded and we are outside the European Union. That, too, is nonsense. I have looked carefully at several different versions of article 50 in different languages, and they all refer to the parallel negotiations that will need to take place, so the hon. Gentleman can take it as read on both those counts that he is right and that we are pursuing the matter.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment and wish him well in his historic task. Many industries and everyday activities depend on European regulation, but there is some uncertainty being stirred up about the future of the law. Further to his reply to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), can he confirm that the Government are going about establishing the entire corpus of European law and all the detail of the acquis communautaire, following the path set by countries such as India and Australia when they took on full independence and converted the whole of British law into their national law and then, in subsequent years, repealed, filleted or improved upon it?
My right hon. Friend makes a good point. This is one of the reasons that the process is taking some time. The legal interactions of certain elements of the acquis communautaire and British law are not straightforward. My starting position was that we would put them all into the law and take it from there, but it does not quite work like that. That is why this is taking a little while, but my right hon. Friend can be sure that my legal section and the Whitehall lawyers are on that issue as we speak and will come up with conclusions as quickly as they can. When they do so, I will tell the House what their conclusion is.
Scottish fishing communities were due to receive more than €100 million of European maritime and fisheries fund support between now and 2023. The Secretary of State has committed to supporting our agricultural communities by guaranteeing that CAP funding will be matched until 2020. Will he make a similar commitment today to our fishing communities to honour the maritime and fisheries funding that has been allocated in the current round?
Sadly, I did not make that commitment. The Chancellor made the commitment and—[Interruption.] With great respect, it is not for me to make commitments on behalf of the Treasury. We will place in the Library a copy of the letter in which the Chancellor laid out the underpinning of the CAP, structural and science funds and so on. He made it clear that that was effectively his decision until the autumn statement. I will report to him what the hon. Lady said so that he is at least aware of her concerns before that statement.
A legitimate concern of many remain voters, and one which many of us on the leave side can well understand, is that an unduly long period of uncertainty while negotiations are ongoing would be damaging to the British economy. Will my right hon. Friend therefore confirm that it will be his priority to complete the process as soon as possible, that the two-year limit set down in article 50 is an arbitrary maximum, not a necessary minimum, and that most countries that have obtained independence or left a political union—India, Canada and Australia or the Czech Republic and Slovakia—have done so in far less than two years?
I defer to my right hon. Friend’s knowledge of the history of those other countries. The Prime Minister has said that we will not trigger article 50 until the new year. The reason is not unnecessary delay or the wasting of time; it is to ensure that we get all the decisions absolutely right. Mr right hon. Friend has heard over the past few minutes about some of the complexities involved in the acquis communautaire alone. We will trigger article 50 as soon as is reasonably possible. I would rather be a month late and get it right than be a month early and get it wrong. We will do it as expeditiously as possible. The Prime Minister has said clearly that she thinks the British people expect us to get on with it.
Unravelling 40 years of close co-operation within the European Union with now 27 nation states is, as the right hon. Gentleman is learning if he did not know before, a complex issue. Does he intend to give the House some ongoing view of how that is going? Will he provide some assurance on issues such as workers’ rights? Will we keep the principle of equal pay for work of equal value? Will the EU laws that guarantee our pension payments as though they are deferred wages still be recognised by this House?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the sovereignty of Parliament. Will he give this Parliament more of a say on the deal that is done? Do his Government intend to give the British people a say on the deal when it is finally done?
I will start by saying that we got our instructions from the British people to do this in the first place, but the hon. Lady raises some serious issues. My views on the importance of parliamentary accountability have not changed just because I have moved forward four Benches. I still believe that we should be as open with Parliament as possible while in negotiations. For example, I am appearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee in a week or two’s time, which is an undertaking that I made some time ago, and I am doing the same with the relevant House of Lords Committee.
As for employment rights, a large component of the people who voted to leave the European Union could be characterised as the British industrial working class. It is no part of my brief to undermine their rights—full stop.
I welcome the Secretary of State to his new role. He is absolutely right that we must respect the result of 23 June and that people want further controls on immigration and do not have confidence in our previous immigration policy. I do not know whether it was deliberate, but two words seemed to be missing from his statement: single market. The heart of the matter, about which we will be arguing over the coming months and years, is the balance between access to the single market and the freedom of people to come to this country. When will the Government set out their view on that fundamental point?
I am afraid that I start from a disagreement with my right hon. Friend; the simple truth is that, as I said earlier, the negotiation over free trade with the European Union will be to the benefit of both sides—it will be beneficial to us and to the European countries. The question of immigration and the control of immigration is a very high priority for this Government, as the Prime Minister has made plain on many occasions. I do not agree with the fundamental tenet of my right hon. Friend’s question; I do not think that that is a natural, necessary trade-off. The negotiation has to be very much about what is to the mutual benefit of this country and the European Union—full stop.
Forty-five Japanese companies operate in Wales, supporting some 6,000 jobs, mainly in tech and manufacturing. Manufacturing alone is worth £9 billion to the Welsh economy. What assurances can the Secretary of State give those workers and those companies that Wales-Japan relations and the Welsh economy will not be harmed by Brexit?
It is the same assurance I give to all manufacturing operations in the United Kingdom: the aim of this negotiation is to deliver the best trade opportunity that we can. That includes getting the best arrangement with the European market and exploiting the best arrangements with other, non-European markets. I will make a point to the hon. Gentleman on manufacturing alone: the quantity of exports we make to the European Union is exceeded by the exports we make to those countries with which we have no free trade agreement at all. Once we get a free trade agreement, or many free trade agreements, as the Secretary of State for International Trade will do—I shall not steal his thunder—we will not see downsides; we will see opportunities.
A most exotic delicacy in the House, Mr Michael Gove.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his long overdue return to ministerial office. In the seven short weeks he has been in office, alongside our new Foreign Secretary and our new Secretary of State for International Trade, we have seen a record increase in service industries growth, a record increase in manufacturing industry growth and a 3.3% increase in motor car sales. We have also seen the Speaker of the US Congress, the Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister of New Zealand all pressing for free trade deals with this country, while the Deputy Chancellor of Germany has acknowledged that the EU-US trade deal is dead in the water. Does that not confirm that the 17 million people in this country who voted to leave the European Union know a darned sight more about economics than the members of the International Monetary Fund, the OECD and the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and all these other soi-disant “experts” who have oeuf on their face?
My right hon. Friend is not known for understating his case, but I would point out that it was 17.5 million people who made that judgment. He is right: much of the gloom and doom and fearmongering that went on before the referendum has been proven to be wrong. That said, I would not be quite so unalloyed in my optimism as he is, because of course we are in a world where there are a lot of economic pressures. That is why the meetings in China are taking place now. He makes his point brilliantly, as always, and I agree with its main thrust, but let us not get too optimistic before we close the deal.
The Secretary of State said that he wants to have the supremacy of this Parliament. If we are a sovereign, supreme Parliament, why is this Parliament not going to have the decision as to when we trigger article 50?
We did—it was called the referendum Act, which was passed by a ratio of 6:1 in this Parliament.
First, may I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his complete and abysmal failure over a 10-year period to avoid high office? It is a great pleasure to see him in his place. May I also reassure him that as somebody who supported the remain campaign, I see it as my absolute duty to support the Government in giving effect to the public desire to leave the European Union, including supporting the Government in their implementation of article 50? He rightly pointed out that the matter is legally extremely complex. It also concerns, as he rightly said, the acquis communautaire, which is about the conferring of private legal rights on individuals in this country which have the force of statute. I have to say to my right hon. Friend that the idea that those should simply be revoked by our exit without parliamentary approval troubles me very much and appears to me to be an abdication of the responsibility of this House. I accept that in many cases they have been created by Henry VIII clauses, which was the unsatisfactory nature of the EU, but what we will now do if we cannot scrutinise them before article 50 is invoked is allow the Government to dispose of private property rights, including intellectual property as an example, by decree. That troubles me very much, and I ask him to use his ingenuity to find ways of resolving this particular dilemma.
It is a pleasure to hear from my right hon. and learned Friend and long-term friend, but he is over-interpreting what I have said, I think. Article 50 is the beginning of this process; it is not the end. I know there will be many opportunities for this House to scrutinise what we are about to do after article 50 takes place, but it would be somewhat futile to do so before we start the negotiations, as some of those negotiations will have a direct impact on the very rights that he is talking about. He can take it from me that I did not spend all those years on the Back Benches defending those rights to give them up now.
Does the Secretary of State agree that it would be a good idea to try to find some way of maintaining a form of co-operation on foreign policy after we leave the European Union, because even after exit we will still very much be part of Europe, and there are a great number of challenges around the world on which we will have to continue to work with our European neighbours?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The tradition of this country in maintaining strong effective alliances generally for good in the world at large is one that I fully expect will continue. Indeed, one aspect of the picture of the future that I see is that Britain will continue to be a good global citizen, as it always has been. Co-operation on foreign policy is very much a part of that.
May I add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend; it is good to see him back in his natural habitat at the Dispatch Box. Businesses in the UK are concerned not just about access to the single market, but about other matters. A unitary patent and the proposed new Unified Patent Court has been eagerly anticipated by businesses, which currently have to file for separate patents in separate countries at great cost. The UK was due to ratify that later this year alongside Germany and one other country. Will my right hon. Friend give businesses the undertaking that the UK will ratify this agreement before the end of this year and that we will continue to play a full part so that British businesses benefit from being able to be part of a larger unified patent authority?
For as long as we are a member of the European Union, which by the sounds of it will be at least two years, we will meet all our obligations and we will take our responsibilities extremely seriously, including the one that my right hon. Friend has outlined.
May I gently ask the Secretary of State to face the House? Sometimes his answers are not fully heard. They are heard by the person at whom he is looking, but not by the House.
All I can do is plead inexperience.
Yes! I call Mr Frank Field.
May I congratulate the Secretary of State on his return to the Front Bench and, on behalf of all those Labour constituencies that voted to leave, thank him for his statement and for making the control of our borders the cornerstone of any renegotiation? May I take him back to the question from the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood)? Given Europe’s huge trade surplus with us, how does the Secretary of State think that power position will play out when we are talking about membership of or access to the single market?
It is early days to forecast the negotiation, but the right hon. Gentleman is right—there is a large trade surplus. The one that was cited time and again during the referendum campaign, which I do not want to revisit, was the surplus in cars from Germany alone, for example. With countries of the European Union facing economic difficulties, I do not think they will want to create problems for themselves by creating bilateral arrangements that hurt them, so the way I think it will play out is that over the period concerned—probably a couple of years or so—people will start to focus on what their own national interest is. My experience of the European Union is that the Commission makes a great deal of public statements, but at the end of the day the national interest of individual countries decides the outcome.
Can the Secretary of State confirm that as the UK will want to be able to negotiate new trade deals with the rest of the world and has created a Department for that very purpose, it will not be able to remain a member of the customs union?
I am pleased to be asked a question by my right hon. Friend. I spent the weekend reading his draft for Open Europe. I did not agree with everything in it, but, as always with him, what he has to say was insightful and wise. I recommend that people read pages 10, 11 and 12 if they do not have a lot of time.
My right hon. Friend has a good point on the customs union. Membership of a customs union puts restrictions of varying degrees on what countries can do outside. It would put restrictions on what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade is doing, so we have to look at the matter carefully. There is a range of different types of customs union, but that is exactly the sort of decision that we will resolve before we trigger article 50.
Last week the Secretary of State visited Northern Ireland, where he met political and business leaders, and this week he will visit Dublin. Although it is true that the desire for a continued open border in Ireland is shared by many, does he recognise that maintaining an open border in Ireland will require agreements between Dublin, London, Belfast and Brussels? What steps has he taken to ensure that such an agreement will be possible?
It will primarily require an agreement between London, Belfast and Dublin. Brussels will have a say in some respects, but it is down to us. When I was in Northern Ireland last week, everybody was absolutely clear—all sides, with no political divide and no division of any sort—on the need for an open border and the need to avoid a return to the days of the hard border. There are other open borders, which we will be studying. One of them is Norway/Sweden, but it is not identical. Of course, there was an open border before either of us was a member of the European Union, and we had the common travel area before we were members of the European Union, so there are ways to deal with the issue. Some of them may be technological and some may be political. We and, I think, the Irish Government and all the political parties in Belfast are committed to making sure that it happens.
I, too, welcome my right hon. Friend to his place on the Front Bench, and I, too, accept the verdict of the British people—some 52% of whom voted for us to leave the European Union. Yesterday the Japanese Government produced a 15-page document, very unusually, being very bold about their assessment of the grave dangers, as they see it, of Brexit. They laid it out in some detail. Of course, there are many who would argue that if we retain our membership of the single market, we can allay their fears, especially in relation to the financial services sector and the automotive sector. With great respect to my right hon. Friend, I think we need some clarity now about where we see our membership of the single market. Is he saying that this Government are prepared to abandon that membership of the single market?
I am saying that this Government are looking at every option, but the simple truth is that if a requirement of membership is giving up control of our borders, then I think that makes that very improbable. What we are looking for, in the words of the Prime Minister, is a “unique solution” that matches the fact that we are one of the largest trading countries in the world, and also a very large market for very large parts of very important industries in the European Union. I find it very difficult to believe that over the course of the next couple of years or so we will not be able to find an outcome that satisfies not just our own industries but those sponsored by Japan as well.
A significant reason why my constituency voted to leave was immigration and free movement of labour, so may I ask the Secretary of State whether, at the end of this process, under no circumstances will free movement of labour be allowed? He said that the Government will bring the current rate of immigration to an end. What does that mean?
I was, virtually verbatim, quoting the Prime Minister, who said in terms that free movement as it is now cannot go on.
My constituency voted more decisively than the country for Brexit, so my constituents will welcome the Prime Minister’s and the Secretary of State’s clear view that we are going to leave and do so decisively. However, businesses in my constituency will also want to get the right result for their exports, so they will welcome the thoughtful and careful approach set out by the Secretary of State. I urge him to continue that careful approach to make sure that we get this right, not rush to make decisions, as Labour Front Benchers want us to, when we are in danger of then not getting the right deal for my constituents and for the country as a whole.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. I promise him that I will take no lessons in organisation from the Labour party.
May I press the Secretary of State on the issue raised by the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry)? Japanese companies employ 140,000 people in the UK, and the Japanese Government say that these companies need to maintain tariff-free trade, consistency of regulation between the UK and the EU, passporting rights for financial services, and continued access to EU workers. In order to minimise uncertainty for these vital companies and their employees, is the Secretary of State going to prioritise any of those criteria? If not, which ones will he pursue?
I have already made this pretty plain. All the issues that the hon. Lady names, such as passporting and access to markets, are being looked at and evaluated in terms of where the real risks are. Let me take passporting as an example. I have consulted a number of people in the City on passporting, and I get very different views. The City is not a single business but a sort of ecosystem of businesses, and one gets different views from each of them. Some of them have different solutions too, such as “brass plate” arrangements and so on. We have to assess all that before we decide exactly how we organise the strategy. It is pretty straightforward. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) pointed out, it is straightforward, but it is complex to calculate and complex to work out, and we will do that.
I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on securing his position. I appreciate what he said about taking time to get this right and building a national consensus, because it is right, regardless of how we all voted, that we must make a success of it. Is he sufficiently confident that there is clear delineation between the interests of his Department, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Department for International Trade to make sure that there is no conflict of interest between them so that due credit can be given for the success of negotiations as they go on? In terms of parliamentary scrutiny, does he envisage himself coming before a Select Committee based on his own Department alone or some other arrangement, and if so, when?
On that last point, when I was still on the Back Benches it would have been very dangerous for any Secretary of State to try to tell Back Benchers how to organise their Select Committees. I would certainly not have accepted it then and I will not fall into that trap now. On the question of relationships with the Foreign Office and the Department for International Trade, we have very clear purposes. Mine is effectively one of support for the Prime Minister, who is the leader of this exercise. The Department for International Trade has the task of exploiting the enormous opportunity this creates and the Foreign Office, as my right hon. Friend will well know from his own experience, has plenty on its plate too but will also act in a sympathetic and supportive way to establish all the relationships and build all the alliances that will deliver a positive outcome at the end of these two years.
I, too, congratulate the Secretary of State on his appointment. In March, the Secretary of State for Scotland stated:
“Our access to the single market of 500 million people reduces costs for Scottish businesses by removing barriers to an export market, currently worth around £11.6 billion.”
What evaluation has the Secretary of State made of the impact of exiting the UK on the Scottish economy?
It is a pleasure to hear from the hon. Lady, my old ally on other subjects. We have not yet done that calculation, but we will. She crystallises rather well the task we have to do in the next few months—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) is now trying to give me organisational advice; I suggest she focus on her own party first and worry about us next. The hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh) is absolutely right. That impact is exactly the sort of thing we have to assess and we will assess it, and will do it carefully. I intend to deliver on our undertaking that we will ensure that this outcome serves all parts of the United Kingdom.
I was very grateful that my right hon. Friend appeared to accept the principle that when we repeal the European Communities Act we should transpose EU law into UK law. Given that EU law currently applies in the UK, does he accept that any complexity that might be apparent today would apply whether or not we repealed that Act, since that body of law applies? Will he therefore be very careful that paid advisers—perhaps paid by the day—do not introduce complexity in order to extend their fees?
I know that there has been a great revolution in employment law, but I do not think that any of my civil servants are paid by the day. I take my hon. Friend’s point, and we will make sure that we consult widely and do not rely on a single source. This is part of the issue: on so many of the legal and technical issues we deal with, we get different sets of advice from different components of the same industry. The same is true here. That is what we will do; we will resolve it properly before we act.
I campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU, but I accept the outcome of the referendum and the views of the majority of my constituents. The Secretary of State has always, from the Back Benches and the Front Bench, defended parliamentary sovereignty, and that is why I am struggling to understand why he is seeking to deny Members of this House an opportunity to feed in the views of their constituents on the Government’s negotiating strategy before the triggering of article 50. That would not be to stop the triggering of article 50, which I will vote for, but to help shape that negotiating strategy.
I think that the hon. Lady is misinterpreting what has been said. What we are saying is that there is no point in having a vote in the House on article 50, because all it can do is stop the instruction that the British people have already given us. That is not to say that we will not have debate after debate or that I will not appear before Select Committee after Select Committee. Indeed, I am of course accessible to everybody in this House, from all parties. I do not see that as a barrier to her bringing forward the concerns of her constituents. Indeed, I strongly encourage her to do so as soon as possible.
May I join the chorus welcoming the Secretary of State to his post, and also welcome the Prime Minister’s statement about Britain becoming a global leader on free trade? May I urge him to follow the example of Japan and, indeed, every other non-European member of the G20 in engaging in free trade deals and negotiations, which is never to give up national control over immigration or, indeed, pay a fee?
My hon. Friend, who is an old friend of mine, is exactly right. The most successful countries in the world in establishing free trade deals—this might surprise Members—are places such as Chile and South Korea. They never, ever give up anything other than access to their own market in exchange for a free trade deal. Not one of them gives up money or immigration rights.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the British people made a decision on 23 June and we should respect it. I will certainly not be arguing for another referendum. We now need to make the best of the negotiations. He will, however, know that there is uncertainty, certainly in the north-east of England, about the future of EU structural funds. Can he give a guarantee that, once we come out of the EU, those funds will be replaced by the Government?
I cannot speak for a future Government—as the hon. Gentleman well knows, that will be beyond the next election—but I promised the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) that we will put in the Library the Chancellor’s letter underwriting many of the structural funds, research grants and common agricultural policy funds that are already in place. It would be better if he looked at that carefully, rather than rely on my rather inaccurate estimate.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his new post, although its precise title is not the stuff of my dreams. Nevertheless, this is a new dawn and a new day and he has a job to do. What has he done so far about the university sector, which is struggling with research and development issues and considering issues relating to the free movement of people and to the single market?
The Chancellor made some arrangements that helped underpin the current circumstances. The Student Loans Company has made some arrangements and I saw Universities UK myself the other day to find out what other concerns it has. We are pursuing those concerns, so I do not think that we can be accused of not paying proper attention to that sector. We are very conscious that it is a sensitive sector in these terms.
As for the title of my Department, I do not know whether my hon. Friend was the parliamentary wag who called it “Department X”, but thank you very much.
Following on from that question, 15% of our academics are EU citizens and we would like more. What is being done to give them long-term security?
The movements of academics—researchers in particular, I guess—in and out of British universities antedates entry to the European Union by a very long margin. Britain is a science superpower standing on our own two feet, and that will continue after we leave the EU.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment. May I remind him that the remain campaign was characterised by a campaign to spread fear and uncertainty about the future of this country? And they are still at it—oh yes, they are still at it—and they are trying to make this process as complicated and as protracted as possible in order to try to frustrate it. May I warn my right hon. Friend that it would be a mistake to try to agree everything about our new relationship with the European Union by the time we leave? Leaving the European Union is but a first step towards a new relationship with our European partners and the establishment of a new relationship with the rest of the world. What the business community, the country and, indeed, many in the European Union want is speed and certainty as quickly as possible.
I hope that my hon. Friend was not accusing me of being a member of the remain group. One of the things that I noticed over the summer as I pored over the vast tomes of papers that come with this job was the tendency to blame everything on Brexit, ranging from bank lay-offs to the state of the Italian bond market, which have nothing to do with Brexit. My hon. Friend is right about that, but the simple truth is that we have to get this right. We will do it as expeditiously as possible. We will not delay one day more than is necessary to do the job that we have to do, but it is a complicated and extensive relationship that we have to untangle, and we will do so in good time.
Two months ago, I asked the then Home Office Minister for urgent clarification on the status of the EU nationals resident in Britain, including the 36,000 EU nationals resident in the London borough of Westminster. They are people who are going about their jobs and setting up businesses, and they need confirmation of their status. I was told that that was going to be a priority. What does the Secretary of State mean by priority?
I will answer the question, but before I do, let me just say this. One of my concerns was that quite a lot of European Union citizens who are in Britain were being unnecessarily frightened by that argument. People should bear it in mind that leave to remain is pretty much automatic, if someone has a clean criminal record, after five years, and that is the case for citizenship after six years. This process is not going to happen for two years, so if someone has been here for three years already, they are in a pretty safe place.
Having said that, the Prime Minister and I have both said in terms that we want to provide a generous guarantee to European Union citizens who are already in this country. I am confident that that can be delivered as long as we get proper, civilised treatment for British citizens abroad—who are, after all, our responsibility too.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment. There could be nobody better for the job. In order to help the Opposition, who have badly lost touch with the working-class voters they once claimed to represent, will he agree that people voted to leave in the referendum because they wanted to control immigration, they wanted to stop handing over more than £10 billion a year net to the European Union and they wanted laws to be decided for this country in this House and not in Brussels? Will he therefore make a commitment that in his negotiation, the red lines for him will be full control over immigration, no contribution to the EU budget and that all laws will be decided in this House and none will be decided in the European Union? [Interruption.]
Somebody on the Front Bench muttered that I should be all right with that; I shall not say who. I demurred from—[Interruption.] I beg your pardon, Mr Speaker. I demurred from second-guessing our own negotiating position for six months in respect of the Labour party, and I am going to demur in this case. I will say this to my hon. Friend: the decision of the British people was, I think, first and foremost about control of our own destiny over and above anything else, and that is what we are seeking to return.
The Secretary of State is an immensely cerebral denizen of this House, and therefore there is no need for him at any time to imitate a turnstile. That is best avoided.
I also welcome the Secretary of State to his place, but may I say to him that many of us wanted rather more detail than a few more reheated old soundbites? We know the old slogan “Brexit means Brexit”, and what we got this afternoon was an essay on how waffle means waffle. May I commend to him the approach of the Japanese Government, who have not simply spent the last seven weeks setting up a Brexit commission, but gone to the lengths of reporting its results? I hope that that diligence and speed will inspire his work in his Department over the months to come.
I want to press the Secretary of State on his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle). He made a big play in his statement of his ambition, which I share, to restore parliamentary sovereignty. Will he therefore give this House a vote on the final package for Brexit, whenever and however it is finally negotiated?
First, on this issue of detail, the right hon. Gentleman should know well that we are not simply looking at the interests of a limited number of companies and a limited number of banks, which is obviously the issue for the Japanese Government. We are looking at the interests of a whole economy, so it will take just a touch longer. Given his prior experience, he should know that, and he should know it well.
In terms of the position with respect to parliamentary approval, I suspect that a great deal of things will be brought before the House during the course of the negotiation, not just at the end. There will be plenty of opportunity both to speak about them and to vote on them.
The very welcome appointment of my right hon. Friend, and indeed of the Foreign Secretary and the International Trade Secretary, certainly shows that the Prime Minister means what she says and that Brexit will really happen. However, some people on the losing side hope to sabotage the result of the referendum by delaying the process indefinitely. Is my right hon. Friend absolutely confident that, come what may, the UK will be outside the European Union well before the date of the next general election?
I have said very plainly that we will not trigger article 50 before the end of this year, but we will trigger it as expeditiously as possible. The article 50 process takes two years. Extending it takes unanimity among every other member of the European Union, and my right hon. Friend can make his own judgment about both the probability of that and the arithmetic that it delivers.
The people of Stoke-on-Trent voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union. I will therefore work tirelessly and do everything I can to make sure that we make the best efforts for and get the best deal from that exit. To help me and other Members on both sides of the House to do so, will the Secretary of State place in the House of Commons Library details of what is going on, what is being looked at and timetables, when they are available, rather than—dare I say it—the very generalised explanation he has given today? May I put in an early bid for him to meet north Staffordshire Members of Parliament from across the House to hear at first hand the issues of great concern to those who voted for exit, as well as to others, in our city and just outside it?
Let me say two things to the hon. Gentleman. One of them he did not ask about, but I am going to tell him anyway: I take this very seriously. When I talked about the British industrial working class voting for Brexit, it was his sort of seat I had in mind, and I take that very seriously. I take those votes, those people and their lives very seriously indeed, so I will see his group with the specific aim of identifying their concerns and worries about their futures and the prospects and opportunities that go with them.
To that end, I will also do what I can to make this process as open as possible. Let me say to the hon. Gentleman that this is a negotiation, and you do not play cards with all of them turned face up, as he will understand. Nevertheless, I will do what I can to make the process as open as possible. He said that what I have said today has been rather general, but I have been talking about the process. The Department has 180 people —it has quadrupled during August—and this is a fast-developing process. I mean it to be open, and I asked for a statement on the first day back so that the process can be open to everybody in the House. That is what we will do, and perhaps we will start with him.
May I welcome the Secretary of State to his position, not least because he headed up Conservative GO? Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of being made Secretary of State is that he can no longer wear the green tie. He has been as clear as he can—one of his great advantages is straight talking—but will he give us his best estimate now of the date on which he thinks we will actually leave? I am asking for his best estimate. We will not hold him to it—nobody is that worried—but will he just give us a date?
That is a very good try. I am sure that, in his youth, my hon. Friend was a great seducer, but I am not going to be seduced. [Interruption.]
I do not think we want too much information on that front.
The right hon. Gentleman has always been a great defender of parliamentary democracy. Throughout the afternoon he has emphasised that the situation is complex and there are trade-offs to be made. That is why it is so incomprehensible to many of us that he does not want the House to have a vote before the path is chosen for how to trigger article 50. I wonder whether he is aware of the statement made by the former Foreign Secretary, Lord Hague, that it would be sensible
“to endorse the start of negotiations”
“a defeat for the terms of exit, after lengthy negotiations…could leave the UK in…limbo”.
I always listen very carefully to my fellow Yorkshireman. Let me say to the hon. Lady that the reason for the question of article 50 not being put to a vote of the Commons is simply this: I am a great supporter of parliamentary democracy because it is our manifestation of democracy in most circumstances; in this unique circumstance we have 17.5 million direct votes that tell us what to do. I cannot imagine what would happen to the House in the event that it overturned 17.5 million votes. I do not want to bring the House into disrepute by doing that. I want to have the House make decisions that are effective and bite into the process. That is what will happen.
In welcoming my right hon. Friend to his post, may I stress to him the importance of achieving fairness when it comes to our immigration policy? Does he agree that whatever criteria eventually guide it, we must have an immigration policy that no longer discriminates against the rest of the world outside the EU, as our present policy does?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. He has campaigned on this matter for a very long time, I know. All I can say is that he should bear in mind that I am not the Home Secretary. My job is to bring the power back so that the Home Secretary can exercise it. I am quite sure she will listen to what he has said and pay great attention to it.
Today, the Japanese Government have provided the British people with more detail on what Brexit means than the UK Government. Most of us had hoped that we would hear more this afternoon, but I am sad to say that what we have heard was sadly lacking in detail and could best be described as the Ladybird guide to exiting the European Union. This is not a petty point; like many other hon. Members, this summer I have been speaking with major employers in my constituency—in particular, the financial sector in Edinburgh South West and the universities, Heriot-Watt and Napier, which are huge employers. They are all very keen to see a detailed explanation of what Brexit will mean for them, their institutions and their employees, my constituents. When is the Minister going to give this House that sort of detailed explanation?
The first point to make is that we have been in the European Union for 40-odd years. The links are very complicated. The effects on much of our society are quite complex, and some of them are quite expensive to replicate. The hon. and learned Lady will get the information she is asking for, but stepwise, as it comes out and as we generate it, and it will be accurate and useful at that point in time. A few months is not going to be a problem for her constituents.
May I also join in welcoming the three Secretaries of State to the Front Bench? They are like magnificent dreadnoughts at anchor, and we wait for them to set sail enforcing the pax Britannica. May I echo the comments about the importance of science, but also bring to the Secretary of State’s attention the creative industries, which grow three times faster than the UK economy as a whole? They rely to a certain extent on European regulations, such as the poetically named audiovisual media services directive and the general data protection regulation. May I gently nudge their interests near to the front of the queue as the Secretary of State takes us out of the European Union?
I say to my right hon. Friend that he almost does not need to nudge them forward. I am very conscious of the issues relating to the film industry, in particular, which is a very mobile industry in both capital and personnel terms, and is therefore one that we are looking at very soon—indeed, it is the subject of one of the roundtables I was talking about earlier.
The Secretary of State is well placed to address the problems with EU rules faced by Tate and Lyle in my constituency, and I welcome him to his position. It sounds from his earlier answers as though he thinks that it is possible that, at the end of the two-year negotiation, Britain will continue to be a member of the European Union single market. Will he confirm whether he thinks that is possible, and in what circumstances he thinks that would be the outcome?
What I said—and I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman if I misled him—is that I am seeking to get the best possible access. That does not necessarily mean being a member of the single market. As listed earlier, plenty of countries have that access without making the sorts of concessions that we have had to make as a member of the Union.
It is good to see the three Brexiteer Cabinet Ministers sitting together in the Chamber, working for one nation, with one referendum and one clear decision, despite the fact that some people, including Tony Blair, who famously offered us a referendum and then took it away, have said that there is a chance that we might remain a member of the European Union. Will my right hon. Friend make it absolutely clear that we will be leaving the European Union in its entirety? When does he envisage us getting our hands on the Brexit dividend—the membership money—so that we can spend it on our priorities?
The answer to the first question is yes; the answer to the second question is: “At some point, once we have left.”
I welcome the Secretary of State to his position and thank him for the fact that one of his early visits was to Northern Ireland. Will he ensure that he always talks to the official Opposition there? What I have been picking up from businesses throughout the summer is uncertainty, which we have talked about. It is absolutely key, particularly in Northern Ireland, that we do not slip into a recession. We are always on the edge of it. Will he keep that foremost in his mind?
Very much so. One group I met in Northern Ireland was the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland’s new business advisory group, which talked about exactly that. Sadly, we were there on the day of the Caterpillar announcement, which was bad news—it was nothing to do with Brexit but with a problem with markets in the far east. We will have that clearly front and centre.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his resurrection. He spoke about the value of free trade with the European Union when we leave it. That trade consists of trade in both goods and services. The barriers to it are tariff barriers, which have been discussed extensively, and non-tariff barriers, which have received rather less attention. What reassurance can he give to the many businesses in this country in the services sector, which is particularly important to us and is growing—trade with the European Union in the sector is important—that the removal of non-tariff barriers, which is in their interests, will continue?
My right hon. Friend is the author of the resurrection line I cited earlier, and I would say a couple of things to him. I am tempted to use Ghandi’s comment about western civilisation. The single market in services would be a good idea, but it is somewhat patchy to say the least, and one major part of the big exercise we are doing is trying to establish exactly what the non-tariff barriers are and where they can and cannot be resolved. I take his point entirely on board. Services is the one area where we have a surplus with Europe, and we want to keep it.
The industrial working class of West Dunbartonshire voted overwhelmingly to remain within the European Union and to become part of a sovereign, independent Scotland. With that, I welcome the Secretary of State to his position.
The hon. Member for South Down (Ms Ritchie), who is no longer in her place, posed a very interesting question that requires further investigation on our relationship with Ireland. It is not just an economic relationship, but a social one and a familiar, reciprocal one across the length and breadth of this Chamber and the Dáil Éireann. After the Secretary of State meets the Foreign Minister of Ireland this week in Dublin, and possibly the Taoiseach, will he return to the Floor of the House and make a statement on their discussions in relation not only to the common travel area, but to the Ireland Act 1949, so that those relationships can continue when this part of the United Kingdom leaves the European Union?
When the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, the common travel area will continue.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his post.
The fishing industry, not least in Scotland, was once a proud and large industry envied around the world. Many of my fishermen constituents see leaving the EU as a huge opportunity. Will he reassure them, other fishermen and potential new fishermen around the United Kingdom that fishing will be very high on his list of priorities, including potentially taking the 200-mile limit back?
One group I have met already is fishermen. The answer to my hon. Friend’s initial question about priority is yes. What form that takes depends on the interests of our fishermen. Because they have interests in other waters, I will not say yes to his second question, but on priority, the answer is yes, absolutely.
Whether we were on the side of remain or on the side of leave, we should now be on the side of doing things in the interests of the British public. In that context, the Secretary of State mentioned the rights of EU citizens and said that he was sure we could arrive at a generous settlement. May I suggest that people worry about their futures, whatever the legal framework? The negotiations with other EU member states on the rights of UK citizens there, and the rights of EU citizens here, are a top priority, because those people deserve to have those uncertainties settled as soon as possible.
I agree with the right hon. Lady that that is a high priority. If I can accelerate it, I will.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his post. He is absolutely the right man to do this important work. He will appreciate the complete economic illiteracy of the European Union. On the one hand, it writes very big cheques to middle-income and developing countries to bail out their flailing economies, and on the other, it gives unequal access to European Union markets. That clearly hampers the ability of those countries to be equal partners rather than supplicants. How can Britain do better?
I take my hon. Friend’s point well, but I am loth to offer free advice to people who are our negotiating partners. That is a central point of their own policy to put right.
Does the Secretary of State accept that we will never attain the goal of being a beacon of free trade unless the British financial services industry retains free and full access to the single market?
That is just one element of free trade, but of course we want to maintain as much access as possible. That is the aim in the negotiations.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his place on the Front Bench, and my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Trade, who are sitting either side of him. We have great faith in what they will deliver. Does the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union agree that not liking the outcome of a democratic vote is no justification for seeking to overturn it, however much sympathy we may have for Labour Members with their forthcoming democratic vote? This is a great opportunity for the United Kingdom. Is it not time to put the arguments of the referendum behind us and back Britain’s Government in getting a good deal for Britain? We are changing the direction of our country. This is not just the Government’s negotiation but Britain’s negotiation, and this House should unite behind them.
As always, my hon. Friend speaks for England.
The Greater Lincolnshire and Peterborough Federation of Small Businesses recently briefed me that the confidence of its members is at a four-year low. Like all of us, they want to make Brexit work and are keen to work with the Government to bring that about, but they are keen to retain access to the single market and ease of access to European labour. Most of all, they want certainty. What road map to certainty can the Secretary of State give them?
Let me first deal with the immediate uncertainty and loss of confidence. There was undoubtedly a downward dip in confidence immediately after Brexit, partly because of all the terrible things people said would happen. They have not happened, and confidence is recovering, so let us put that to one side for the moment.
On access to markets, I am absolutely on the side of those FSB members. That is what we will seek to do, but we must take on board the fact that the sheer level of immigration into the UK from the European Union has caused social issues, and perhaps economic issues for low-paid workers and the like. We must balance that against the corporate interests—that is what we will do—and try to get the outcome that is best for Britain.
As someone who supported Brexit, I offer congratulations on the creation of the Secretary of State’s Department and wish it success. However, may I gently ask him when he hopes to close down the Department and return the function of the Minister of Europe to the Foreign Office?
My desire to return to the Back Benches is overwhelming, so it will be as soon as I can.
The Secretary of State will undoubtedly be aware of our debate later today on the tampon tax and the Government amendment that makes its abolition subject to the UK’s EU obligations, and not just our obligations of EU membership. Will he tell the House whether any exit agreement with the EU could include requirements on the UK to set minimum rates of VAT even after our membership ends? In that scenario, can he give us an absolute guarantee that we will be allowed to zero-rate women’s sanitary products?
What the hon. Lady describes is one of the reasons—it is not the only reason, but it is one of many—for wanting to leave the European Union. Being able to set one’s own tax rate is a fundamental for an independent country. That is what we want to be once more.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend and the whole Front Bench team to their important new roles in making a success of Brexit. Will the Secretary of State set out what discussions he has had with the EU Trade Commissioner, who has taken a much tougher line on article 50? We all agree it is in everyone’s interest to get on and negotiate before we exit, but in a recent interview she indicated that that will not be the case.
Yes, but the commissioner is not in a position, frankly, to tell the Secretary of State for International Trade what he can do, subject to meeting European law. European law in this case means not putting a free trade agreement into effect until we leave. That is the limit. In terms of other discussions and negotiations, commissioners have tried to say that we cannot speak to other members of the European Union, which is sort of silly. We are an ongoing member of the European Union and we take our responsibilities seriously. It is implausible that, in our conversations with member states, we will not talk about what is coming next.
I am surprised by the right hon. Gentleman’s assertion that the mandate for Brexit is overwhelming. I remind him that 16 and 17-year-olds, whose future as European citizens will be most affected by the decision, were denied a vote. While the Secretary of State is speaking with stakeholders, what steps will he take to ensure that young people are given a voice and a say in their future?
One aspect of democracy is that one side wins and one side does not win. [Interruption.] Someone from the Labour Front Bench says that young people lost, which is certainly not true. We will see a bigger, greater and more glorious country in future than the one we already have. Just because the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald) does not understand that does not mean that they lost.
To return to the hon. Lady’s point, young people may of course feel at this point that their views did not win the day. I am afraid that that is part of democracy. It is our job to ensure they gain from the outcome of that decision.
In warmly welcoming my right hon. Friend to his very well-deserved position, I implore him to have early discussions with our right hon. Friends the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Transport and others to ensure that the words “European Union” are removed at the earliest possible moment from UK passports and driving licences.
I will draw my hon. Friend’s comments to their attention.
The statement was 15 minutes of meaningless waffle from a clueless Tory Government who have absolutely no plan for this accidental Brexit. I say to the Secretary of State that there is no point in just dictating to the people of Scotland when it comes to Brexit. Some 62% of the Scottish people voted to remain within the European Union, along with every single one of the Scottish local authorities. How should their views now be progressed?
And 1 million Scots voted to leave. Despite the partisan use of this argument by the Scottish National party for its own interests, the simple truth is that the Scottish view on whether it should have independence has changed not one jot. That is an answer to the hon. Gentleman’s waffle.
Congratulations on resurrection after 18 years. It gives the rest of us hope.
It was not just places such as Lincolnshire that delivered the leave result; it was the Labour heartlands in the north and the midlands. My right hon. Friend knows those heartlands very well indeed. Does he think it would have been helpful if the official Labour spokesman—if there is such a thing—had made it absolutely clear that the people had spoken and that all Conservative and Labour Members will deliver this democratic result?
Sadly, I am not holding my breath for that outcome. What I will say is that the Conservative party is the only party willing to deliver on the people’s decision.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the right hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) said during the referendum campaign that
“those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies. That would make a lot more sense for the UK and it’s perfectly possible but only if we leave the EU”.
What reassurances can the right hon. Gentleman give the farming communities that are the lifeblood of rural Wales that subsidies will continue to the more-challenging-to-farm areas, so we are not turned into a big butterfly park?
The first thing that happened was that the Chancellor underwrote the common agricultural policy payments. That was very important in its own right in terms of confidence for exactly those people. In the discussions on departure from the European Union, and on subsequent agriculture and trade policy, we are discussing exactly those things. We have very much in mind what the hon. Lady is saying.
I totally support the Government’s position not to rush into triggering article 50. I welcome the Secretary of State’s comments. He knows how important access to the single market is both for our own businesses and for inward investors from growth markets such as Asia. Does my right hon. Friend agree that just as we are currently in the European Union but have various opt-outs, so in due course we shall be out of the European Union but have the ability to continue arrangements that work well for all sides, for example Europol and the European health insurance card from which so many British families benefit?
The first premise is returning power to this Government and this Parliament. How they deploy that power is entirely up to them. I would think any sensible Government would be involved in mutually beneficial activity. Israel subscribes to some European research operations and it is nowhere near being a member of the European Union. In those terms, my hon. Friend’s point is well made.
Will the Secretary of State repeat to the House the guarantee he gave in Northern Ireland last week that his Government will not seek to impose a hard border, which would restrict the free movement of people and labour between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic? Will he extend such a guarantee to Gibraltar and Spain?
I certainly repeat the statement I made in Northern Ireland last week. The soft border or open border—I am not quite sure what the right phrasing is—existed before either of us were members of the European Union. We were separate countries with different VAT and income tax rates. It seems to me entirely possible, given modern technology, that we can do the same, and that we can design an immigration system that is also able to cope. I certainly reiterate in the House what I said in Northern Ireland last week.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend to his new post and his statement, no doubt the first of many to this House. On 22 June, the day before the referendum, the FTSE closed at 6,261. Today, it is over 6,800—up 10%. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this tells us all we need to know about investor confidence in our future: that we will be better off outside the European Union?
What it certainly tells us is that the business community is not as afraid of this great new opportunity as was claimed before the referendum. I do not want to re-run the arguments of the leave campaign, but let me say that while market movements in stock markets are volatile, small and often reverse themselves, what do not reverse themselves are large inward investments. In the year in which our party committed to give the referendum, we had the largest inward investment in our history.
I congratulate the Secretary of State who has clearly learned the lessons from the leave campaign because he has said nothing at all today. His statement was 15 minutes of waffle and soundbites about “national consensus”, “interests of the entire nation” and “one nation”, which is completely at odds with the fact that 62% of the electorate in Scotland voted to remain. This does not bode well for meaningful input from the Scottish Government. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm the claim made during the campaign by the right hon. Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox), now the Secretary of State for International Trade, that Scotland would suddenly have control of a whole new raft of powers, including over immigration—or was that a piece of nonsense, too?
I do not think that my right hon. Friend was referring to immigration; I suspect he was referring to fishing. What certainly will be the case is that we will take back control of UK fishing rights.
I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend and parliamentary neighbour on his appointment—an inspired choice. While he has been in the role during these short few weeks, has he seen any evidence of contingency planning across any Whitehall Department prior to the referendum relating to the possibility that the British public might vote to leave the European Union? It strikes me that in a two-horse race, it might have been an idea to look into this possibility. Furthermore, given that we are going to have to look at all these different laws and 12,000-plus EU regulations that affect our lives, what progress are the Government making on ensuring that we recruit the brightest minds to do this properly?
Given that my Department did not exist before I arrived in it, it is rather difficult to find documents that relate to what happened beforehand. There was certainly some planning done on the financial side—to deal with any financial turbulence. As we saw, the Bank and the Treasury undertook certain measures. As for the Department itself, I have brushed across it, but the fact that it quadrupled in size in August certainly says something. My hon. Friend will remember from his days as a Parliamentary Private Secretary what Whitehall is like is August—it is empty. We are not short of applicants, and we really have the brightest and the best applying to help us. That applies to the Department for International Trade as well as mine, so my hon. Friend can feel confident about that.
The Secretary of State, whom I welcome to his post, reaffirmed in his statement the Chancellor’s promise that all structural investment fund projects signed before the autumn statement would be underwritten by the Treasury as we leave. That is a bit of a quandary for the people of Greater Manchester. We have been allocated to 2020 £322 million in European structural investment funds, but £157.9 million of that has not yet been contracted. It is currently held up in Whitehall Departments, predominantly the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Work and Pensions. Can the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the people of Greater Manchester get all the £322 million allocated to them by the European Union—and not the lesser amount that has already been approved by the Government?
I will draw the hon. Gentleman’s request to the attention of the Chancellor.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his well-deserved appointment. Some 61% of the people of Kettering voted to leave the European Union and they want to make sure that my right hon. Friend has the tools to finish the job. Following the question about staff numbers from my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams), the Secretary of State says that he has 180 people at the moment, but how many does he need? Given that his Department will hopefully no longer exist in two years’ time, what incentive is there for the brightest and best civil servants, who will have long-term civil service careers in mind, to join his Department; and what incentives are there to attract people from the private sector?
The first thing about incentives—we barely need them—is that people will want to be at the centre of the most important historic change that has happened over the last two or three decades. I do not think that will be a problem. Arrangements are being made, precisely because we will disappear when the process is over, to ensure continuity and to ensure that they will go back seamlessly into the Whitehall system. I rather suspect that, at the end, there will be lots more bids for them than that.
Membership of the European Union allows young people in Scotland the freedom to easily live, learn and work across Europe, and they voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. What assurances can the Secretary of State give to young people living in my constituency that these benefits and freedoms will be retained after Brexit?
That is a good question. I would expect us to be able to ensure that there will be freedoms that are at least as good as those that are in place now. One important aspect—it applies to the EU, but particularly to Britain—is that we are a science superpower. We have a fabulous education system and some of the best universities and the best students in the world. I think that that will be reflected in the outcome that we see in a few years’ time.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his new position. Speaking as a parliamentarian who has never seen him in action at the Dispatch Box, it is an absolute pleasure to watch him. Enough of all that, however; let me get down to the nitty-gritty in my blunt northern way. Will my right hon. Friend look into VAT? As he knows, it was a purchase tax before 1973; it is now VAT. It has fluctuated up and down over the years, but irrespective of that, many small businesses out there need the taper relief because when they hit the VAT threshold, it can actually kill them off. I know that—I was a small businessman; I succeeded, but it was a problem. Will my right hon. Friend please look further into this on behalf of the small businesspeople of the United Kingdom?
I will personally draw this to the attention of the Treasury, and I will make sure that we think about it as we go through this process.
I congratulate my parliamentary neighbour on his appointment. As he knows, the Humber estuary is fast becoming the UK energy estuary, with Siemens investing massively in Hull and having the potential to export to the single market. Trade deals with Australia will not really cut it in Hull, so will the Secretary of State agree to meet a delegation from the Humber to make sure that the green energy industry benefits from the huge and exciting opportunities that he has talked about?
How could I say no to meeting a delegation from the Humber? Siemens was one of the companies that said that it would continue investment in the UK, which was something of a change from what appeared to be the case before the referendum. Yes, of course.
I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend say that he had begun the huge task of going sector by sector to assess the undoubted challenges that many parts of the British economy will face. Will he add a second column to his spreadsheet for the opportunities that those sectors might have and that might arise from Brexit? We all know from every industry and business that we have worked in that there will be areas of promise from leaving the European Union, particularly in respect of avoiding onerous and excessive European regulations that hold back British economic sectors. Will my right hon. Friend create a parallel process of assessing those regulations so that we can be in a good position as soon as we leave?
That is a good point, and we are on it already. The opportunities side of the spreadsheet, as my hon. Friend puts it, is integral to the process. We have already had reports on some of them, but we are also challenging some of the points that have come back to us because of a degree of special pleading. It takes a little longer than just asking the question, but yes, we are doing what my hon. Friend suggests.
In June, Vote Leave issued an unequivocal letter, co-signed by the Foreign Secretary, saying that the levels of funding that constituencies such as mine currently receive from the European social fund would continue post-Brexit. Will the Secretary of State repeat that guarantee from the Dispatch Box today, or was that letter simply worthless?
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was not listening earlier when I said that I was putting into the Library the letter from the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the structural fund—exactly what the hon. Gentleman asks.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his place. One of the greatest opportunities presented by leaving the European Union, particularly for Cornwall, is reclaiming the UK’s territorial fishing waters. Will my right hon. Friend commit not to using this natural resource as a bargaining chip for the wider deal but to embracing the opportunities that this could deliver to coastal communities such as mine and others around the UK?
I have never experienced so many attempts to seduce me into making promises. As I said earlier, this will be one of the gains from the European Union negotiation, but there may be some internal negotiations within it. If my hon. Friend speaks to his local fishermen, he will see what I mean.
Following the referendum, in which Renfrewshire voted 2:1 to remain, I wrote to businesses across the county to offer any support that I could, and visited many businesses and institutions during the summer recess. They are all desperate for information, but, shamefully, the Secretary of State offered nothing but doubletalk, prevarication and assertions in his statement. When can EU citizens and businesses in Renfrewshire expect some details to emerge about what Brexit will entail, and about how the Government plan to spend the Foreign Secretary’s £350 million a week windfall?
I repeat what I have said already: the information will become available as we work through the process. If the hon. Gentleman somehow imagines that this is a “Lego block” process in which anyone could engage without thinking about it, I suggest that he look at it again.
I welcome the Secretary of State to his position, but may I ask whether he appreciates that the appetite of people in Scotland for a further independence referendum, and, indeed, how they might vote in such a referendum, will depend in large part on the response that he and the Government now make to those people’s decision to reject, by a large majority, the separation from the European Union? In 2014, we were promised that Scotland would be respected within this United Kingdom. If, in the months ahead, proposals emerge which offer the prospect of separate and different arrangements for Scotland and for the European Union, will the Secretary of State listen and consider them in good faith, or will he reject them out of hand?
Before I answer the hon. Gentleman’s question, may I apologise to him for the late response to the letter that he wrote to me earlier in the summer? We did try to give him some facts in it.
In respect of the discussions with the Scottish Government and other devolved Administrations, let me say this first up. There is a joint ministerial committee, in which the First Minister, or her nominee—whichever she wishes—has been offered a place, and that will be the process whereby we will look at all proposals. The Prime Minister has said that we will look at all proposals. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman upfront that—as I said to the First Minister when I spoke to her about it—I really cannot see how his proposed arrangement could be made to work, but we will look at it.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his appointment. May I ask him a question about immigration controls? Do the United Kingdom Government propose to continue to differentiate between entry restrictions applying to citizens of the European Union and those applying to people from outside the EU?
All I can say to the hon. Gentleman is this. My task is to bring the control of that process back to the Government and back to Parliament, and it is for the Government and for Parliament to decide how they use it. The simple truth is that I expect us to see a much more even-handed policy in the future than the one that we have now, but I think that we must wait until the negotiation is completed.
It is clear to SNP Members that the Government’s handling of the withdrawal from the European Union has been nothing short of a disgrace, and the lack of leadership shown by the new Prime Minister has done nothing to quell the fears of either British citizens or EU nationals living on these islands. Does the Secretary of State not agree that the only person who has shown any leadership and forward thinking on Brexit is the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon?
I must say that I thought the hon. Lady was going to refer to Ruth Davidson, who won the popularity contest this time round, but let me say something else about the Scottish nationalist approach to this. Our new Prime Minister, before she even carried out her reshuffle, went to Scotland to see the First Minister. How much more respect one politician could pay to another I do not know, but what gratitude do we get for it? What we have just heard.
I will let the House into a secret. Back in 2008, when the Secretary of State resigned his seat over civil liberties, I, as a young 22-year-old, sent him an email wishing him all the best in that election, and, despite our differences, I have been an admirer of his since then. I have to say, however, that I was disappointed by the weakness in his statement. My constituents voted to remain by more than 70%—the highest proportion in the city of Glasgow—but they will expect me to get the best deal in the circumstances. With that in mind, will the Secretary of State outline what powers he expects the Scottish Parliament to gain as a result of the Brexit vote, and when he expects those powers to be implemented?
First, it depends very much on what is agreed in the negotiation. Secondly, the undertaking that was given was to do everything possible to protect all the interests of all the parts of the United Kingdom—and Scotland, of course, is at the front rank of those people. The issue is not about giving powers to politicians; it is about looking after the interests of the people, and that is what will happen. We will look after the interests of everyone in the United Kingdom, including Scotland.
Order. I thank the Secretary of State, the Opposition Front-Bench spokespersons, and all 85 Back Benchers who had the opportunity to question the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure that other instalments will follow in due course.