Flexibility is important in such complex negotiations, which will require imagination on both sides, and not everybody will be able to know everything at every stage. That is why we have to set out our strategic aim for a new partnership with the EU, encompassing a bold and ambitious trading relationship, and it is also why we will not get drawn into setting out every detail of our negotiating strategy or laying out red lines. Doing so would tie the Government’s hands and make it harder for us to achieve the right deal for the UK, which I presume is what everybody in the House wants.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) reminded the House that article 50 requires the EU to take account of any future relationship that an independent Britain might have with it as we negotiate the declaration of our independence. Does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agree that as we negotiate our independence, we should also show generosity to the EU27 by continuing to offer them access to our market on a free trade basis?
My right hon. Friend is exactly right; we have made it clear that that is our intention. It is one of the reasons, I believe, why the Prime Minister’s speech has been received with such applause around the rest of Europe. I will quote, if I can find it—
In that case I will not quote it, Mr Speaker. The quote is rather long, so I will leave it. I simply say that I agree with my right hon. Friend.
The Secretary of State has repeatedly said that he can maintain flexibility and give the House a say through the great repeal Bill, but that only covers things in legislation. When will the House be able to consider the value of the EU agencies and the cost of setting up new UK ones?
That is precisely the sort of thing that might well come up in legislation. In dealing with these EU agencies, we will seek the best outcome in each case for the relevant sector. When doing so, we will of course talk to the House about the costs and benefits of various options, but we will do that when it is appropriate for the House to know, not while we are in the middle of the detailed negotiations.
In seeking a clean Brexit, we will want to be as flexible as possible in negotiating the continuation of our membership of a free trade area, but does the Secretary of State agree that such an agreement might not be forthcoming and that therefore we must be prepared for a situation in which some form of duties might be necessary? Does he also agree that it is perfectly possible in the modern era, with digital technology, to have the border as a part of the journey, rather than a hard border of old?
Given the constituency that my hon. Friend represents, he will know that better than most people. I understand exactly what he is getting at; he is absolutely right.
Just say no.
I am not going to say definitely no to the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant); on the contrary. He knows my prejudices—I think that is probably the right word—but it is for Parliament to decide what Parliament wants to do. The essential responsibility for the negotiation is quite properly the Government’s, and the Opposition—indeed, everyone in the House—will hold us to account for that. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman is right that there is a role for Parliaments to talk to other Parliaments about the joint interests of their constituents, and in that respect he has my support.