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Devolved Administrations: Brexit

Volume 629: debated on Wednesday 11 October 2017

1. What steps he has taken to engage with the devolved Administrations on the matter of the UK leaving the EU. (900872)

14. What steps he has taken to engage with the devolved Administrations on the matter of the UK leaving the EU. (900886)

I met the Deputy First Minister of Scotland and the First Minister of Wales to initiate a full programme of engagement with their respective Administrations. Engagement continues at official level with the Northern Ireland civil service. I look forward to reviewing cross-departmental progress at the forthcoming Joint Ministerial Committee on EU negotiations.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer and I welcome the recent announcement of the new civil service hub in Cardiff, which will bring 4,000 civil service jobs from across Wales into one hub. Llandrindod Wells in my constituency was named this morning as the happiest place to live in Wales. Will my right hon. Friend give a commitment to continuing to see the whole of Wales as a target for future civil service collaboration?

I add my congratulations to the people of Llandrindod Wells on selecting an MP who will make them happy, too. My hon. Friend is quite right about the civil service hub in Cardiff. The UK Government have a significant footprint in Wales and the hub will deliver a range of benefits not just to people in Cardiff but across Wales, demonstrating the impact we can make through greater collaboration.

It has to be said that the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Chris Davies) always looks a very happy chappie and we are delighted to know it.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that once we leave the EU we will have total control over our internationally recognised fisheries limits, that fishermen from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England will benefit from any new management regime, and that this will not be bargained away during any negotiations?

I am happy to assure my hon. Friend that when we leave the EU we will be fully responsible under international law for controlling UK waters and the sustainable management of our fisheries. Through the negotiations we will of course work to achieve the best possible deal for the UK fishing industry as a whole.

Will the First Secretary of State please explain what consultation there was with the Welsh and Scottish Governments before the publication of UK Government papers on Brexit issues, including customs, Northern Ireland and research and development?

The position papers we have published over the past couple of months go to the devolved Administrations before they are published. As I said in my answer to the original question, we have regular consultation—indeed, later today I will be meeting the First Minister of Wales.

We are told that the UK Government are preparing for a no-deal Brexit scenario. Will the First Secretary of State detail the preparations his Government have made for a scenario in which the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill fails to gain the legislative consent of the devolved Administrations?

The Government are, as the hon. Gentleman and the House would expect, preparing for all eventualities. That is the only responsible thing for a Government to do and that is what we are doing. The House will have a considerable amount of time during the Committee stage, which is coming up shortly, to debate the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. I hope, partly through the re-institution of the Joint Ministerial Committee, to make sure that the legislative consent motion will be agreed.

Given that there is no devolved Executive in Northern Ireland at present, how are views from Northern Ireland being fed into this process?

As I said in reply to the original question from my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Chris Davies), at the moment views from Northern Ireland are being fed in through the Northern Ireland civil service, which is currently doing administrative tasks. I am sure my hon. Friend will join me in hoping that we will soon have a Northern Ireland Executive back doing their job.

A lot of us are concerned about the shenanigans going on here and would prefer it if the Government gave a straightforward commitment to transferring relevant powers to the devolved Administrations instead of foutering around. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, when referring to UK-wide arrangements after Brexit, he is talking about co-decision between the UK Government and the devolved Governments—or does he mean that this Government will tell the others what to do?

No, the spirit and letter of the devolution settlement is that there are areas of responsibility for this Parliament and the Westminster Government, and areas of responsibility for the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly. We have said that these have to be UK-wide frameworks. I think the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues in the Scottish Government accept that we do not want to break up the UK single market, but that there are responsibilities that will remain with Scotland.

The Chancellor has written today that the Government must be prepared for every outcome from Brexit, but that he will not make resources available for a no-deal scenario. As well as managing the civil service, the Cabinet Office is responsible for co-ordinating Government policy. Whatever the Chancellor’s views, will the Minister now indicate that there is sufficient civil service resource currently working on the potentially disastrous no-deal Brexit scenario and its impact on the devolved Administrations?

I commend to the hon. Gentleman what the Chancellor actually said. I am happy to reassure the hon. Gentleman and the House that, yes, the Government are preparing for all eventualities, as any responsible Government would.

The truth is there is no contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit, and that explains the breakdown of policy co-ordination, for which the Minister is supposedly responsible, right at the heart of Government. The Government are a shambles and wholly divided. We have a Prime Minister who said that no deal was better than a bad deal, a Chancellor who now says he will not fund a no-deal scenario and a Foreign Secretary who seems perfectly happy with a no-deal arrangement. The stakes could not be higher, but the Government are a shambles. Is it not time they either got their act together—it is the Minister’s job to make sure that they do so—or stood aside and prepared the way for a Government who will act in the national interest?

I am happy again to assure the hon. Gentleman that the appropriate arrangements for all eventualities are being prepared, and of course the Government are working hard to make sure we get the best Brexit deal for this country—one that will ensure the future prosperity of this country for decades to come.