My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has regular conversations with Cabinet colleagues on a range of EU exit issues, including on an implementation period. We recognise the importance of negotiating an implementation period that benefits the whole UK, including Northern Ireland. [Interruption.] We welcome the EU’s agreement to negotiate an implementation period. The precise terms should be agreed as quickly as possible to provide vital certainty to businesses and citizens. [Interruption.]
Order. It is most unfortunate that neither the Minister’s mellifluous tones nor the content of his answer could properly be heard because of the number of private conversations. I think he deserves a more attentive audience.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I grasped the word “negotiation” in there. Has the Secretary of State agreed a concession in those negotiations with the Brexit Secretary that will allow Northern Ireland to remain part of the single market and customs union, while the UK leaves, to avoid a hard border—yes or no?
I say again that the United Kingdom is committed to leaving the single market and customs union and to the integrity of the constitution and our economy.
I think that we are all a little confused about how the Government intend to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. The Minister’s Cabinet colleagues are falling over themselves to secure the maximum possible separation from the EU and the least possible realignment. Has he ruled out the idea of separate arrangements for Northern Ireland governing trade and commerce, or not?
Let me say again that the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom remains. We are in phase 2 of the negotiations, and these matters are currently being discussed. I am sure that all the parties—Ireland, the United Kingdom and the European Union—recognise the difficulty of the issue and will be as flexible and innovative as possible.
Does the Minister agree that it is about time the Government demonstrated a “no surrender” attitude to the EU bureaucrats who try to blackmail us and bully us over flights, passenger duty and everything else? Stand up to them, man! Stand up to the EU, and let us get on with leaving it. [Interruption.]
Let me just say—[Interruption]—that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will stand up to anyone and everyone when it comes to maintaining the best interests of the United Kingdom. [Interruption.]
Order. There is far too much noise in the Chamber. Let us hear Thangam Debbonaire.
The Good Friday agreement was one of the greatest legacies of the last Labour Government. Is the Minister content that messing up the border issue could make destroying the Good Friday agreement one of this Government’s legacies?
I assure the hon. Lady that the joint report published in December this year by the European Commission and the United Kingdom makes it absolutely clear that the Belfast agreement remains intact, and all of it will remain intact.