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EU Referendum

Volume 615: debated on Tuesday 18 October 2016

3. What recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on the outcome of the EU referendum. (906639)

8. What recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in other European countries on the timetable for the UK leaving the EU. (906644)

10. What recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on the outcome of the EU referendum. (906647)

Since becoming Foreign Secretary, I have engaged with many of my counterparts across Europe and beyond, including partners as far afield as Turkey and Japan. Those discussions have of course touched on the outcome of the referendum and the Government’s plans to enact the result.

My right hon. Friend kindly visited my constituency last year, so he will know that there are many Japanese employers in Telford. Will he please tell the House what assurances he has given to his Japanese counterpart that post-Brexit global Britain is still a great place to do business?

My hon. Friend will know that since the referendum result there has been a £24 billion investment from Japan in this country from SoftBank alone, and Japanese investment continues to come into this country. I think that all Japanese investors, and indeed investors around the world, can be secure in the knowledge that we will get the best possible deal for goods and services that will allow their companies to flourish and to prosper in this country as never before.

The Secretary of State will be aware that the timetable for leaving is triggering instability and uncertainty in the economy, so much so that the Cabinet is considering spending billions to keep single market access for the City of London. What is the timetable for the same support to be applied to Scotland, where 62% of us voted to remain?

The people of Scotland obviously had a referendum in 2014 and voted convincingly to remain in the United Kingdom. This was a United Kingdom decision. We will continue the negotiations as a United Kingdom, and we will get a fantastic deal for this country and a strong deal for the EU—both a strong UK and a strong EU.

The Honourable Luigi Di Maio, the deputy speaker of the Italian chamber of deputies, whom my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) and I met three weeks ago, confirmed in yesterday’s edition of The Times that Britain should retain access to the single market and control its migrants. Will the Foreign Secretary reciprocate by confirming on Italian media the welcome comments made by the Honourable Luigi Di Maio? Will he also confirm that Italians continue to be welcome across the United Kingdom?

I am sorry—forgive me.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. I think that Rai TV has been requesting an interview with me for some time on this matter, and that is the most ingenious interview application I have yet heard. I will certainly do what I can to assist. Italians and all nationals from EU member states can have the assurance that their status here will of course be protected, provided that there is symmetry and reciprocity on the other side.

When the Secretary of State met John Kerry recently, did he have the opportunity to discuss the American chamber of commerce report, which will apparently land in the Cabinet Office this week and which warns that American companies with $600 billion-worth of investment in Britain are currently reviewing the situation because of uncertainty about our future unfettered access to the single market? Next time the Brexit Sub-Committee of the Cabinet meets, will the Secretary of State support the Chancellor in standing up to the hard Brexiteers, who seem to want to do such untold damage to our economy?

I have not yet seen the American chamber of commerce report because, by the right hon. Gentleman’s own account, it has not yet been published. I have no doubt that American companies, in common with all companies around the world outside the UK and the EU, will find the UK in future an even better place to invest in and to bring their corporations to, because of the natural advantages of time zone, language and skills that this country enjoys.

Given that the 170-odd countries outside the EU successfully trade with it—some have trade deals and some do not—what does the Secretary of State have to say to those pessimists and remoaners who continue to believe that we, with the fifth largest economy in the world, cannot thrive outside the EU, particularly given his additional list of suggestions and the fact that business costs are relative and it costs a lot more to do business on the continent?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I deprecate the terms “pessimists”, “gloomadon-poppers” and “remoaners”. We are all in this together and everybody wants to make a great success of Brexit. I have no doubt at all that this country will be able to do a fantastic deal with our friends and partners in the European Union, and simultaneously become even more attractive to investors from around the world, with a new series of stunning free trade agreements.

How does the Foreign Secretary explain to his counterparts his support for Turkey’s accession to the European Union, since that was used by the Brexiteers as a reason for getting the UK out? Did he campaign for Turkey’s accession in order to get the UK out, or did he campaign for the UK to get out in order to support Turkey’s accession?

The right hon. Gentleman will know, because we had a debate on this very subject during the course of the referendum campaign, that I am a passionate advocate of Turkish membership of the EU, if that is indeed what the Turks want—sometimes they seem to change their minds these days—always provided that the UK has left before that day.

I have here an article written by the Foreign Secretary—I think there is only one of this one—in which he argues, immediately after the referendum campaign, for full participation in the single marketplace. If it was okay for the leader of the Brexiteers to argue for full participation in the single marketplace after the referendum, why is it not okay for people on this side of the House to try to force that issue to a vote in the House of Commons?

The right hon. Gentleman will know full well that it is completely unrealistic to expect the Government to put their negotiating position to a vote in this House before those negotiations are concluded. That has never happened before. I remember all sorts of negotiations on Maastricht and other European treaties, and they were never put to this House before they were concluded, as he knows full well.

There has been reference to the draft newspaper column in favour of remain that the Secretary of State wrote in February. He wrote:

“This is a market on our doorstep, ready for further exploitation by British firms…Why are we so determined to turn our back on it?”

The argument he made back then is exactly why we on this side of the House are so concerned about a hard Brexit that would put our access to the market at risk and risk the jobs of British people. Why does the Secretary of State no longer agree with himself?

Most people will understand that the arguments have moved on and that the people have spoken overwhelmingly. Indeed, one of the most powerful cases that could possibly have been made for leave was to be found in the article that I wrote for remain. Everybody who has read it has told me that they emerged from it feeling a profound sense of obligation to leave the European Union, and they were quite right. That analysis, I am afraid, is absolutely justified and I am delighted that the people voted accordingly.