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Leaving the EU

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2018

6. What assessment her Department has made of the effect on Northern Ireland of the UK leaving the EU. (905148)

8. What assessment her Department has made of the effect on Northern Ireland of the UK leaving the EU. (905150)

The Government are committed to delivering a Brexit that upholds the commitments we have made to the people of Northern Ireland to uphold the Belfast agreement, and to avoid a hard border and any border down the Irish sea.

The Department for Exiting the European Union’s own impact report predicts an 8% hit to economic growth in Northern Ireland—a part of the UK that has long been less economically developed than others—after we leave the EU. Why are the Secretary of State and the Minister prepared to let Northern Ireland suffer, when they could avoid that by following the Labour party’s lead and committing to a new customs union?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the economic analyses of the past have not always been exactly accurate. As far as Northern Ireland is concerned, he might wish to reflect on the fact that as well as the huge economic benefits that I outlined in answer to earlier questions, over the past year exports are up by 9%.

Paragraphs 47 and 48 of the joint report identified the commitment to north-south and east-west co-operation. The Government have still not published the results of the mapping exercise on the 140 areas of cross-border co-operation. Will the Minister tell us when we can have the list demonstrating those 140 areas of co-operation?

The hon. Lady should be in no doubt that we are committed to the commitments made in the joint report.

Is the truth not that we have seen record foreign direct investment in the United Kingdom as a whole despite Brexit, and that when we leave, Northern Ireland will continue to be a top destination of choice for investment? After all, we do have the fifth largest economy in the world.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to make the good point that we have one of the leading economies in the world. Leaving the European Union will be an opportunity for the United Kingdom to pursue a new path and trade policies that benefit us, and us exclusively. I agree entirely that we have a positive future outside the European Union. [Interruption.]

I am glad to hear what the Minister and the Secretary of State have said about the integrity of the United Kingdom. Will the Minister take this opportunity to reaffirm that whatever happens and whatever the effect of Brexit on Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom will remain together economically, politically and constitutionally?

I can absolutely give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance: the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will remain intact. There should be no doubt about that.

Every right-thinking person should welcome that commitment, not only on the political front but economically, given that the vast bulk of sales from Northern Ireland go to the Great Britain market. Those who advocate separating out Northern Ireland into the customs union while the rest of the United Kingdom leaves it would inflict economic misery on all our constituents. Will the Minister take the opportunity to remind Leo Varadkar that when he talks about not leaving Northern Ireland behind, what he means is sucking Northern Ireland into the institutions of the EU, which would be economically disastrous for all our citizens?

Let me assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear that neither she nor any other Prime Minister would ever compromise the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom. That means that Northern Ireland is very much a full part of the rest of the country, along with Scotland, Wales and England. There is no question whatsoever of having a border at the Irish sea—none whatsoever.

I think the House recognises that I am a beacon of stability in an ever-changing Opposition Northern Ireland team. Sadly, I am always the bridesmaid.

The European arrest warrant is vital to policing in Northern Ireland—we all accept that—and enables the Police Service of Northern Ireland to co-operate with colleagues in the south. Many have commented that no visible progress has been made on the replacement of the critical EU policing frameworks that enable vital cross-border co-operation. Will the Minister outline what discussions his Department has had with Home Office colleagues about this vital issue, and reassure not just the House but the people of Northern Ireland?

It is good to see that the hon. Gentleman is still in his place and that there is some continuity in the shadow Northern Ireland team.

As far as the withdrawal agreement is concerned, a huge amount of progress has been made. The hon. Gentleman raises the very important issue of the European arrest warrant. The various Departments are all working together to ensure that we achieve the very best deal possible. Yes, the Northern Ireland Office is speaking with the Home Office to make sure that we get the very best deal in terms of protection and of the replacement framework that we will have when we leave the EU.

Order. Mr Speaker is attending the funeral of the late Michael Martin, who was Speaker of this House and a true family man who was committed to his community in Glasgow. I know that the House wants to pass on its prayers and condolences to his wife, Mary, and family.

There is important business to come in Prime Minister’s questions and we want to hear from as many colleagues as possible. May I remind all Members, Front and Back Benchers, to ask succinct questions? I trust that the replies will be as pithy.