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Internal UK Trade

Volume 640: debated on Thursday 3 May 2018

13. What steps his Department is taking during negotiations on the UK leaving the EU to maintain the integrity of the UK. (905131)

In December, the joint report of the UK and the EU reached a balanced set of commitments that reiterate both our commitment to avoiding a hard border and our clear position on preserving the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom. Internal trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is of critical importance to Northern Ireland’s economy. In 2015, goods sold from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK stood at £10.7 billion.

It is essential to the integrity of the United Kingdom that there are no barriers to internal UK trade, including between Northern Ireland and our biggest market, Great Britain. Can the Minister confirm that, for this Government, this is an absolute red line in all of the negotiations?

I agree with the hon. Lady: we have absolutely set out that we will not accept any internal barriers within the internal market of the United Kingdom. It is important, in that respect, that the UK Government have been able to reach a deal with the Welsh Government to work together to make sure that we are able to implement frameworks. I welcome the fact that that deal is open to the Scottish Government and to a restored Executive in Northern Ireland.

Does not the integrity of the UK depend on the Good Friday agreement and the Good Friday agreement on the consent of the people on both sides of the border, both of whom voted to remain in the European Union? That consent, therefore, is dependent on an open border, and that open border can be maintained only by our continuing membership of the customs union. Is not that the irresistible logic of the position?

No, it is not, and the hon. Gentleman’s former party leader has pointed out that the customs union is not the determinant of addressing the border. We are very clear in our commitments, both to the Good Friday agreement and to there being no hard border on the island of Ireland, and we are also very clear in our commitment to the principle of consent, to which he referred. That principle of consent must be respected by both sides in this negotiation.

Remarkable self-denying ordinance on which I congratulate the hon. Lady, but we may hear from her at a later point in our proceedings.