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Great Repeal Bill: Future Trade Terms

Volume 624: debated on Thursday 27 April 2017

7. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Trade on the potential effect of the great repeal Bill on negotiating future trade terms with the EU. (909875)

My Department is responsible for overseeing negotiations to leave the EU, and establishing the future relationship between a global Britain and the EU. We are, of course, working hand in hand with the Department for International Trade as we seek a deep and special partnership with the EU, and a bold and comprehensive trade agreement. The great repeal Bill will ensure a smooth and orderly exit from the EU. The laws and rules that we have now will, wherever practicable, continue to apply. The negotiations with the EU on the future relationship with Britain will be unlike any before, since both sides will start from the point of exact equivalence.

I thank the Minister for that comprehensive reply. When it comes to these key negotiations, is it his intention to recruit and embed outside talent and expertise from different sectors such as law, insurance and financial services to reinforce and bolster the Government’s own civil service teams? Has this outreach programme started?

I can assure my hon. Friend that we have been doing that outreach. Both my Department and the Department for International Trade have been bringing in expertise from across the civil service and from key areas of the private sector. The Under-Secretary of State for International Trade, my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier), tells me that his Department has already recruited more than 200 trade advisers.

I have asked Ministers six times in the last three months how the Government plan to extract us from the European economic area. Not once have I got a straight answer. Throwing away our membership of the single market with no plan for a vote in Parliament is the single largest act of economic self-harm and democratic nihilism that I can imagine. In which year does the Minister believe we should come out of the European economic area, and will the so-called “great” repeal Bill include the repeal of the European Economic Area Act 1993?

The Government’s position has been very clear: we are a member of the European economic area as a consequence of our European Union membership, and we respect the position of European leaders that the four freedoms underpinning the European Union are inseparable. We are leaving the European Union, but we will seek to form a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement between the UK and the EU.

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is a very fine man, but his name is not Sir Edward Leigh. [Interruption.] Be patient—we will hear from the fellow shortly. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman, who is a person of immense distinction, knows his own name—he just did not hear me.

We are of one mind anyway—it does not really matter very much.

In the interests of good government, will the Minister instruct the permanent secretary to ensure that there are worthwhile discussions with a possible future Government on how we square the circle of staying in the single market but controlling immigration and of being inside the customs union, or outside it—I do not know what they are going to do—and trying to make new trade agreements? I am sure that the permanent secretary is a very clever man and that he can do all this work.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his demonstration of the single transferable question and on the point he makes. The speech from the shadow Secretary of State has been widely picked up as setting out a confused position and one that is irresolvable, but I have no doubt that our permanent secretary is brilliant enough to be able to work his way through it.