I am sure the House will join me in sending our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dawn Sturgess, who passed away last night. The police and security services are working urgently to establish the full facts, in what is now a murder investigation. I want to pay tribute to the dedication of staff at Salisbury District Hospital for their tireless work in responding to this appalling crime. Our thoughts are also with the people of Salisbury and Amesbury. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will make a statement shortly, including on the support we will continue to provide to the local community throughout this difficult time.
Turning to Brexit, I want to pay tribute to my right hon. Friends the Members for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) for their work over the last two years. [Interruption.] We do not agree about the best way of delivering our shared commitment to honour the result of the referendum, but I want to recognise the former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union for the work he did to establish a new Department and steer through Parliament some of the most important legislation for generations, and similarly to recognise the passion that the former Foreign Secretary demonstrated in promoting—[Interruption.]
Order. There is a very unseemly atmosphere. I want to hear about these important matters, and I think the House should.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I recognise the passion that the former Foreign Secretary demonstrated in promoting a global Britain to the world as we leave the European Union. I am also pleased to welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab) as the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.
On Friday at Chequers, the Cabinet agreed a comprehensive and ambitious proposal that provides a responsible and credible basis for progressing negotiations with the EU towards a new relationship after we leave on 29 March next year. It is a proposal that will take back control of our borders, our money and our laws, but do so in a way that protects jobs, allows us to strike new trade deals through an independent trade policy and keeps our people safe and our Union together.
Before I set out the details of this proposal, I want to start by explaining why we are putting it forward. The negotiations so far have settled virtually all of the withdrawal agreement, and we have agreed an implementation period that will provide businesses and Governments with the time to prepare for our future relationship with the EU. But on the nature of that future relationship, the two models that are on offer from the EU are simply not acceptable.
First, there is what is provided for in the European Council’s guidelines from March this year. This amounts to a standard free trade agreement for Great Britain, with Northern Ireland carved off in the EU’s customs union and parts of the single market, separated through a border in the Irish sea from the UK’s own internal market. No Prime Minister of our United Kingdom could ever accept this; it would be a profound betrayal of our precious Union. And while I know some might propose instead a free trade agreement for the UK as a whole, that is not on the table, because it would not allow us to meet our commitment under the Belfast agreement that there should be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Secondly, there is what some people say is on offer from the EU: a model that is effectively membership of the European economic area, but going further in some places, and the whole of the UK remaining in the customs union. This would mean continued free movement, continued payment of vast sums every year to the EU for market access, a continued obligation to follow the vast bulk of EU law, and no independent trade policy, with no ability to strike our own trade deals around the world. I firmly believe this would not honour the referendum result, so if the EU continues on that course, there is a serious risk it could lead to no deal. This would most likely be a disorderly no deal, for without an agreement on our future relationship, I cannot see that this Parliament would approve the withdrawal agreement with a Northern Ireland protocol and financial commitments, and without those commitments, the EU would not sign a withdrawal agreement.
A responsible Government must prepare for a range of potential outcomes, including the possibility of no deal, and given the short period remaining before the conclusion of negotiations, the Cabinet agreed on Friday that these preparations should be stepped up. But at the same time, we should recognise that such a disorderly no deal would have profound consequences for both the UK and the EU, and I believe that the UK deserves better.
The Cabinet agreed that we need to present the EU with a new model, evolving the position that I had set out in my Mansion House speech, so that we can accelerate negotiations over the summer, secure a new relationship in the autumn, pass the withdrawal and implementation Bill and leave the European Union on 29 March 2019.
The friction-free movement of goods is the only way to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and it is the only way to protect the uniquely integrated supply chains and just-in-time processes on which millions of jobs and livelihoods depend. So at the heart of our proposal is a UK-EU free trade area that will avoid the need for customs and regulatory checks at the border and protect those supply chains. Achieving this requires four steps. The first is a commitment to maintaining a common rulebook for industrial goods and agricultural products. To deliver this, the UK would make an up-front sovereign choice to commit to ongoing harmonisation with EU rules on goods, covering only those necessary to provide for frictionless trade at the border. This would not cover services, because that is not necessary to ensure free flow at the border, and it would not include the common agricultural and fisheries policies, which the UK will leave when we leave the EU.
The regulations covered are relatively stable and supported by a large share of our manufacturing businesses. We would continue to play a strong role in shaping the European and international standards that underpin them, and there would be a parliamentary lock on all new rules and regulations, because when we leave the EU we will end the direct effect of EU law in the UK. All laws in the UK will be passed in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. Our Parliament would have the sovereign ability to reject any proposals if it so chose, recognising that there would be consequences, including for market access, if we chose a different approach from the EU.
Secondly, we will ensure a fair trading environment. Under our proposal, the UK and the EU would incorporate strong reciprocal commitments relating to state aid. We would establish co-operative arrangements between regulators on competition and commit to maintaining high regulatory standards for the environment, climate change, social and employment, and consumer protection.
Thirdly, we would need a joint institutional framework to provide for the consistent interpretation and application of UK-EU agreements by both parties. This would be done in the UK by UK courts and in the EU by EU courts, with due regard paid to EU case law in areas where the UK continued to apply a common rulebook. This framework would also provide a robust and appropriate means for the resolution of disputes, including through the establishment of a joint committee of representatives from the UK and the EU. It would respect the autonomy of the UK’s and the EU’s legal orders and be based on the fundamental principle that the court of one party cannot resolve disputes between the two.
Fourthly, the Cabinet also agreed to put forward a new business-friendly customs model—a facilitated customs arrangement—that would remove the need for customs checks and controls between the UK and the EU because we would operate as if a combined customs territory. Crucially, it would also allow the UK to pursue an independent trade policy. The UK would apply the UK’s tariffs and trade policy for goods intended for the UK and the EU’s tariffs and trade policy for goods intended for the EU. Some 96% of businesses would be able to pay the correct tariff or no tariff at the UK border, so there would be no additional burdens for them compared with the status quo and they would be able to benefit from the new trade deals that we will strike. In addition, we will bring forward new technology to make our customs systems as smooth as possible for businesses that trade with the rest of the world.
Some have suggested that under this arrangement the UK would not be able to do trade deals. They are wrong. When we have left the EU, the UK will have its own independent trade policy, with its own seat at the World Trade Organisation and the ability to set tariffs for its trade with the rest of the world. We will be able to pursue trade agreements with key partners, and on Friday the Cabinet agreed that we would consider seeking accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership.
Our Brexit plan for Britain respects what we have heard from businesses about how they want to trade with the EU after we leave and will ensure we are best placed to capitalise on the industries of the future in line with our modern industrial strategy. Finally, as I have set out in this House before, our proposal includes a far-reaching security partnership that will ensure continued close co-operation with our allies across Europe while enabling us to operate an independent foreign and defence policy. So this is a plan that is not just good for British jobs but good for the safety and security of our people at home and in Europe too.
Some have asked whether this proposal is consistent with the commitments made in the Conservative manifesto. It is. The manifesto said:
“As we leave the European Union, we will no longer be members of the single market or customs union but we will seek a deep and special partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement.”
What we are proposing is challenging for the European Union. It requires the EU to think again, to look beyond the positions that it has taken so far, and to agree a new and fair balance of rights and obligations. That is the only way in which to meet our commitments to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland without damaging the constitutional integrity of the UK and while respecting the result of the referendum. It is a balance that reflects the links that we have established over the last 40 years as some of the world’s largest economies and security partners. It is a bold proposal, which we will set out more fully in a White Paper on Thursday. We now expect the EU to engage seriously with the detail, and to intensify negotiations over the summer so that we can get the future relationship that I firmly believe is in all our interests.
In the two years since the referendum we have had a spirited national debate, with robust views echoing around the Cabinet table, as they have around breakfast tables up and down the country. Over that time I have listened to every possible idea and every possible version of Brexit. This is the right Brexit. It means leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019; a complete end to free movement, and taking back control of our borders; an end to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the UK, restoring the supremacy of British courts; no more sending vast sums of money each year to the EU, but instead a Brexit dividend to spend on domestic priorities such as our long-term plan for the NHS; flexibility on services, in which the UK is world-leading; no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, or between Northern Ireland and Great Britain; a parliamentary lock on all new rules and regulations; leaving the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy; the freedom to strike new trade deals around the world; an independent foreign and defence policy—but not the most distant relationship possible with our neighbours and friends; instead, a new deep and special partnership. It means frictionless trade in goods; shared commitments to high standards, so that together we continue to promote open and fair trade; and continued security co-operation to keep our people safe.
This is the Brexit that is in our national interest. It is the Brexit that will deliver on the democratic decision of the British people, and it is the right Brexit deal for Britain. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance copy of her statement, and share her condolences to the friends and family of Dawn Sturgess.
We are more than two years on from the referendum: two years of soundbites, indecision and Cabinet infighting, culminating in a series of wasted opportunities, with more and more people losing faith that this Government are capable of delivering a good Brexit deal—and that is just within the Prime Minister’s own Cabinet. It is two years since the referendum and 16 months since article 50 was triggered, and it was only this weekend that the members of the Cabinet managed to agree a negotiating position among themselves—and that illusion lasted 48 hours.
There are now only a few months left until the negotiations are supposed to conclude. We have a crisis in the Government; two Secretaries of State have resigned; and we are still no clearer about what our future relationship with our nearest neighbours and biggest trading partners will look like. Workers and businesses deserve better than this. It is clear that the Government are not capable of securing a deal to protect the economy, jobs and living standards. It is clear that the Government cannot secure a good deal for Britain.
On Friday the Prime Minister was so proud of her Brexit deal that she wrote to her MPs to declare that collective Cabinet responsibility “is now fully restored”, while the Environment Secretary added his own words, saying that
“one of the things about this compromise is that it unites the Cabinet.”
The Chequers compromise took two years to reach and just two days to unravel. How can anyone have faith in the Prime Minister getting a good deal with 27 European Union Governments when she cannot even broker a deal within her own Cabinet?
To be fair—I want to be fair to the former Brexit Secretary and the former Foreign Secretary—I think they would have resigned on the spot on Friday, but they were faced with a very long walk, no phone and, due to Government cuts, no bus service either. So I think they were probably wise to hang on for a couple of days so they could get a lift home in a Government car.
I also want to congratulate the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab) on his appointment as the Secretary of State. He now becomes our chief negotiator on an issue that could not be more important or more urgent. But this new Secretary of State is on record as wanting to tear up people’s rights. He has said: “I don’t support the Human Rights Act…leaving the European Union would present enormous opportunities to ease the regulatory burden on employers.” And he is the one negotiating, apparently, on behalf of this Government in Europe.
This mess is all of the Prime Minister’s own making. For too long she has spent more time negotiating the divisions in her party than she has in putting any focus on the needs of our economy. The Prime Minister postured with red line after red line, and now, as reality bites, she is backsliding on every one of them. We were also given commitments that this Government would achieve “the exact same benefits” and “free and frictionless trade” with the EU. Now those red lines are fading, and the team the Prime Minister appointed to secure this deal for our country has jumped the sinking ship; far from “strong and stable”, there are Ministers overboard and the ship is listing, all at the worst possible time.
If we look at the Prime Minister’s proposals for the long delayed White Paper, we see that this is not the comprehensive plan for jobs in Britain and the economy that the people of this country deserve. These proposals stop well short of a comprehensive customs union, something trade unions and manufacturers have all been demanding; instead, they float a complex plan that had already been derided by her own Cabinet members as “bureaucratic” and “unwieldy”.
The agreement contains no plan to protect our service industry and no plan to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland, and also puts forward the idea of “regulatory flexibility”, which we all know is code for deregulation of our economy. The Government’s proposals would lead to British workplace rights, consumer rights, food safety standards and environmental protections falling behind EU standards over time, and none of this has even been tested in negotiations.
The Chequers agreement now stands as a shattered truce, a sticking plaster over the cavernous cracks in this Government. The future of jobs and investment is now at stake, and those jobs and that investment are not a sub-plot in the Tory party’s civil war. At such a crucial time for our country in these vital negotiations, we need a Government who are capable of governing and negotiating for Britain. For the good of this country and its people, the Government need to get their act together and do it quickly, and if they cannot, make way for those who can.
The right hon. Gentleman has been in this House for quite a long time, and I know that he will have heard many statements. The normal response to a statement is to ask some questions. I do not think that there were any questions anywhere in that; nevertheless I will—[Interruption.]
Order. Members on both sides of the House should try to calm down. There is a long way to go and, as is my usual custom, I hope to be able to call everybody who wants to ask a question. People do not need to chunter from their seats when they can speak on their feet.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will comment on a few of the points that the right hon. Gentleman has made. He talks about removing or lowering standards in a number of areas, including employment. As I said in my statement, we will
“commit to maintaining high regulatory standards for the environment, climate change and social and employment and consumer protection.”
He says that there is no plan in what I had said to ensure that there would be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, but in fact the very opposite is the case. The plan delivers the commitment for no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. At the beginning of his response, he thanked me for giving him early sight of my statement. It is just a pity that he obviously did not bother to read it.
The right hon. Gentleman says that we are two years on. This is the right hon. Gentleman who, immediately after the referendum decision in 2016, said we should have triggered article 50 immediately with no preparation whatsoever. He talks about delivery. Well, I remind him that we delivered the joint report in December, we delivered the implementation plan in March, and now we stand ready to deliver on Brexit for the British people with the negotiations that we are about to enter into. He talks about resignations, but I remind him that he has had, I think, 103 resignations from his Front Bench, so I will take no lectures from him on that.
When it comes to delivering a strong economy and jobs for the future, the one party that would never deliver a strong economy is the Labour party, whose economic policies would lead to a run on the pound, capital flight and the loss of jobs for working people up and down this country.
Whatever one’s view might be on the plan that my right hon. Friend has been talking about, I urge her not to accept a single recommendation from the Leader of the Opposition, as nobody else in his party does so. May I urge her, however, to answer this question. As she lays this plan in front of the European Union Commission and proceeds with the negotiations, does she believe that there will be any concessions offered to them, or none?
This is the plan that we believe is going to deliver on Brexit for the British people, in a way that gives us a smooth and orderly Brexit and ensures that we can do all the things we want to do in terms of trade policies around the rest of the world and the commitments that we have made to Northern Ireland. When the White Paper is published on Thursday, my right hon. Friend will see that there are a number of areas, such as participation in certain agencies, where we are proposing a way forward, and of course there will need to be negotiations on that way forward, but this is the plan that I believe delivers on Brexit for the British people and does so in a way that protects jobs and ensures that we have a smooth and orderly Brexit.
I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of her statement. I share the sentiments in her remarks about Dawn Sturgess. The Prime Minister knows the commitment of the SNP to work with her when it comes to important matters of national security.
I should start by congratulating the departing Secretary of State for Exiting the EU on the whole four hours that he spent negotiating in Brussels and wish all the luck in the world to his replacement—he is going to need it. Then there is the departing Foreign Secretary. He should not have been allowed to resign; he should have been sacked for being a national embarrassment.
The Prime Minister’s proposals represent at best a starting point—a cherry-picking starting point. It is hard to believe that it has taken the Prime Minister two years to put together a proposal—two years to put it together and two days for the Cabinet to fall apart. There is, I believe, a majority in the House of Commons for staying in the single market and the customs union, so will the Prime Minister work with the rest of us to make sure that we can deliver on staying in the customs market and the single market, to deliver what is in the best interests of all our people? Will she stop kowtowing to her hard Brexiteers who are prepared to accept economic self-harm and the loss of jobs? Will she recognise that she now has to take on her extreme Brexiteers and work in the national interest of all the nations in the United Kingdom?
The Prime Minister’s proposed facilitated customs arrangement has been called the “fudge of the century” by one senior EU official. The response from EU negotiators has been to see if the proposals are “workable” and “realistic”. I would not hold my breath. In her piece in The Daily Telegraph today, the Prime Minister has again noted that the UK Government continue to prepare for no deal. That is simply outrageous. To put the economy and jobs in such peril is a complete failure of leadership.
The absolute crisis that has engulfed the Conservative party over the past 17 hours is a national embarrassment. As the UK inches closer to the cliff-edge scenario, we see a Government in chaos and a Prime Minister struggling to lead her party—never mind her Government—and there have been seven resignations since the election a year ago. The Prime Minister must see sense and accept the mounting evidence against a hard Brexit raised by Opposition parties, the business community and the devolved Administrations. Will she work with the rest of us to stay in the customs union and the single market to protect jobs and ensure prosperity?
The right hon. Gentleman commented on the preparations for no deal. It is entirely right and proper for this Government to make preparations for every eventuality, because we are going into a negotiation. It is right that we step up our preparations for no deal to ensure that we are able to deal with whatever comes at the end of the negotiations. The right hon. Gentleman’s key question—he asked it twice—was whether I would work with people across this House to stay in the single market and in the customs union. The answer is an absolute unequivocal no. We are leaving the single market and we are leaving the customs union.
How does my right hon. Friend reconcile the Chequers statement with the recent repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and with the European Court of Justice and with democratic self-government in this country?
We have, as my hon. Friend says, repealed the 1972 Act, but we have also ensured that we will take EU laws into UK law at the point at which we leave the European Union, such that we see a smooth and orderly Brexit. In the future, the European Court of Justice will not have jurisdiction over the United Kingdom, and this Parliament will make sovereign decisions. The decision as to whether Parliament is willing to accept the deal that has been negotiated will be made when the meaningful votes in the withdrawal and implementation Bills come before the House. Thereafter, it will be up to this Parliament to decide whether it agrees with any changes to the rules or any laws that this Parliament wants to pass. That is sovereignty—taking back control of our laws. That is what I believe people want and that is what we will do.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on effectively killing off the United States-UK trade agreement by agreeing to retain EU regulatory convergence, which of course the Americans cannot accept. I echo the calls she has just heard saying that, now she has lost the support of her Brexit fundamentalists, now is the time for national consensus. A majority in the House supports our retaining membership of the customs union and the single market, the original Common Market, or whatever name and label she wants to attach to it.
The right hon. Gentleman refers, as the leader of the SNP did, to staying in the single market and staying in the customs union. We will not be staying in the single market, and we will not be staying in the customs union. To do so would involve keeping free movement, which would not be keeping faith with the vote of the British people. There will be an end to free movement from the European Union into this country as a result of our leaving the European Union.
I commend the Prime Minister for this plan. In particular, I congratulate her on her leadership in the past few days. She said she would listen to business, and she clearly has listened to business. However, there are concerns that there are no details of the Government’s plan for services. What more detail can we expect to hear in the forthcoming White Paper?
There will be more detail in the forthcoming White Paper, but the point about services is that, for a variety of reasons—not least because services are an important sector for the United Kingdom—we believe it is important to maintain more flexibility in how we deal with them. On industrial goods, businesses are very clear that they will continue to meet EU rules, regardless of the position the Government take, because they want to continue to export to the European Union. On services, we want to be free to ensure that we are able to put in place what we believe is necessary to maintain our key position in services, not least in financial services. The global financial centre of the City of London needs to be maintained into the future, and we will continue to do that.
The Prime Minister welcomed the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to his post, and I join her in doing so. The Exiting the European Union Committee looks forward to seeing him appear before us very soon indeed.
The Government have indicated that the facilitated customs arrangement, even assuming the EU were to agree to it—a question about which there must be a great deal of doubt—will be fully operational only by the time of the next general election in 2022. Will the Prime Minister therefore now confirm to the House that, in light of that, the current transitional arrangement, which expires in December 2020, will inevitably have to be extended?
The Prime Minister is right to reaffirm that we are taking back control of our laws, our money and our borders, which I fully support, but will she clear away the ambiguity or contradictions in the Chequers statement that imply we will give the ECJ powers, we might pay money to trade, we might accept their laws and we might have their migration policy?
I am sure my right hon. Friend has read the Chequers statement very carefully but, actually, it did not say that. We will be ending free movement. As in any trade agreement we would strike with any country or group of countries around the world, there will be mode 4 provisions on mobility of investors and businesses, but we will be able to set our own immigration laws and immigration rules for people coming here from the European Union. We will be able to continue to set our own laws in the future.
It is not the case that the European Court of Justice will have jurisdiction in the United Kingdom—it will not. Businesses and individuals here in the United Kingdom will not be able to take cases to the European Court of Justice. Matters here in the UK will be determined by the UK courts.
The Prime Minister’s plan is still a fudge, on immigration, on the European Court of Justice and on the “customs facilitated partnership maximum arrangement”—nobody understands what it is. She has kept trying to pander to different parts of the Conservative party, and today has shown that it just is not working. Will she instead put a plan for negotiations to the whole House of Commons for approval? When she is in such a mess she cannot just keep standing there saying, “Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed.” It has.
I did not say nothing has changed; I said our position had evolved. We have set out more details in our position, and I believe that it is the position that is absolutely right for the United Kingdom. It is the best Brexit deal for Britain; it gives us delivery on Brexit, protects jobs, and ensures that we maintain our commitment to Northern Ireland in relation to the border and that can have a smooth and orderly Brexit.
The Prime Minister is not dealing with the theory of leaving the European Union—she is dealing with the practice of leaving the EU. Will she assure me that the Chequers agreement allows the continuation of the situation that has seen the UK get more inward investment over the past 30 years—under both parties—than we could possibly have anticipated? That is good news for the future of the engineering industry in our country, as well as all the other jobs that are so reliant on such industries.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right; we have seen good figures for foreign direct investment in the UK, supporting jobs in the UK. That will continue in the future. I believe that the plan I have set out, with its clear momentum for frictionless trade with the EU while giving us the freedom to strike trade deals around the world, will be welcomed by businesses and investors, and we will see more investment and more jobs in the UK.
Among the matters agreed in the Chequers communiqué, reference was made to the continuing obligation of the Government to the so-called backstop arrangement. I have heard the Prime Minister’s clear statement about the main deal as far as the Union is concerned, and I welcome it, but will she make it clear that as far as the backstop is concerned she stands by her rejection of the EU’s legal interpretation and there will be no constitutional, political or regulatory differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK?
As the right hon. Gentleman has invited me to do, let me say that I am happy to say that I continue to reject the protocol proposal of the so-called backstop put forward by the European Commission earlier this year. The fact that it would have effectively carved Northern Ireland away from the rest of the UK and kept it in the customs union and most of the single market would have meant that border down the Irish sea—that is completely unacceptable to the Government of the UK.
Delivering the referendum result was always going to involve a series of compromises and trade-offs, and I want to support the position that the Prime Minister achieved with the Cabinet on Friday at Chequers, which absolutely puts business and jobs at the heart of any Brexit deal. That is in the national interest, and I think the Prime Minister has the vast majority of the country behind her in delivering a Brexit in the national interest. Is she able to say when we expect to hear the initial reaction from the European Union after publication of the White Paper on Thursday?
I have had conversations with a number of European leaders in recent days, and the indication is that they do feel this is a proposal that can ensure that we move the negotiations on and move them on at pace. I will be seeing a number of European leaders over the next couple of days; we are hosting the western Balkans summit tomorrow and then there is the NATO summit. I believe this plan is good for the UK, and the EU will see that it will lead to a deep and special partnership that will be in both our interests.
I believe the Prime Minister to be a rational human being, so why does she not save herself, us and the country a great deal of misery and grief by putting the option inexplicably ruled out at Chequers, the EEA-plus option, to this House in a free vote?
As I indicated in the statement that I made, the reason I do not think the EEA-plus option is right for the UK is that it does not deliver on the vote of the British people. That is our duty: it is our job as a Government to deliver the Brexit that the British people voted for.
The announcement that the Government are preparing for a no deal—an inaccurate term for moving to WTO terms, on which we trade with the vast majority of countries in the world—is very welcome and sensible. Given the intransigence and churlishness with which the EU has welcomed the Prime Minister’s generous offers so far, what is the date by which she judges it will be a “drop dead” moment at which to state that the talks are not progressing and that we will definitely go on to WTO terms?
I am sure that my right hon. Friend has been in a sufficient number of negotiations to know that it is not sensible to try to put a date on these matters in the way that he said. We have so far received a positive reaction to the proposals that we have put forward. We will go into intense and pacey negotiations with the European Union. I am clear that when this House comes to look at the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill, it needs to have sufficient detail about the future relationship to be able to make that proper judgment.
The oddly named Chequers agreement fell apart after a weekend and is now the Chequers disagreement, as the Prime Minister’s Cabinet disintegrates before our eyes. Will she tell the House how on earth she is going to persuade the European Union to agree to her disagreement when her own Cabinet does not agree with it?
We have put forward the UK Government’s position and that has been received by the European Union as something on which there can be negotiations in future. We will go into those negotiations determined to deliver the best deal for Britain.
What matters even more than the agreement reached at Chequers is the eventual agreement that this country reaches with the European Union, and what matters about that is that it promotes jobs and prosperity by helping British business. Will the Prime Minister assure the House that in the details of the White Paper that we will see on Thursday there will be a clear commitment to as free trade as possible across Britain’s borders with the European Union, to preserve jobs and prosperity for the future of this country?
I assure my right hon. Friend that maintaining that free trade across the borders between the United Kingdom and the European Union is important, which is why we have always said that we want as frictionless trade with the EU as possible. The plan that I have put forward, which the Government will set out in the White Paper later this week, will show how we can do exactly that: maintain those jobs but have the freedom to increase our prosperity with trade deals around the rest of the world.
Have any European leaders agreed to let the UK collect tariffs on their behalf?
We are putting forward the facilitated customs arrangement for the future as part of the negotiations for the plan for the future relationship.
May I say to my right hon. Friend how much we are looking forward to the publication of the White Paper on Thursday? Will she undertake to publish the White Paper that was set aside—the White Paper that was months in drafting by DExEU under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) ?
The White Paper that we publish on Thursday will be based on the work that has been done by DExEU over recent weeks and will of course reflect the decision taken by the Cabinet on Friday.
The Prime Minister says that under her plan, we will not be subject to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice, but the Chequers statement says that our courts will pay due regard to its case law and make joint references for rulings, which presumably will be binding. The big difference is that after 29 March, there will be no Scottish and no English judge on the Court of Justice. Will that not be the very definition of being subject to the jurisdiction of a foreign court that her Brexiteers so opposed?
No, and I understand that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has already commented on this issue in response to a question that the hon. and learned Lady asked in another meeting. We will not be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. That is one of the things that people voted for and that we will deliver.
The Prime Minister said that we would not be hindered from doing trade deals, but at a briefing given by 10 Downing Street, it was explained that in signing the trans-Pacific partnership there would have to be a carve-out, because of our obligation to follow the common rulebook. Will my right hon. Friend explain what obstacles there will be to trade and how the process will work?
There are issues that we would look at in any circumstances as the United Kingdom in relation to standards and the way in which we wish to operate, which could lead to our not being able to undertake all the commitments that somebody might want in a free trade deal. We could tear up all our regulatory standards, but I do not think that that is what we should do, I do not think that that is what this House wants us to do, and I do not think that that is what the public wants us to do. As we go forward, we will be making those trade deals. We specifically looked at whether the plan that we were putting forward would enable us to accede to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and it will.
I thank the Prime Minister for her statement. I join my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) in welcoming the Brexit Secretary to his place. Might I ask that time is found to visit the elected political leaders of Europe to seek support for this plan, rather than just depend on the bureaucrats in Brussels?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I am speaking to elected leaders across Europe. The incoming Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab), will also be out and around in Europe, talking not just to leaders, but to politicians across Europe and in the European Parliament about the plan that we propose.
The EU says that it will not tolerate cherry picking, but what I fear is that we have picked the wrong cherry. By accepting a common rulebook in goods, we are locking ourselves into a sclerotic structure in which the EU has an overwhelming trading surplus. Will that not severely constrain our ability to make our business more competitive and to undertake free trade deals, which means that Brexit will no longer mean Brexit, and the Commission, where we will have no vote, regulating our business forever?
No. The position that my hon. Friend sets out is not the position for the future. I have been very clear that Parliament will be able to take these decisions about rules in the future. The reality and practicality of Brexit—somebody said earlier that I am dealing not with the theory, but with the reality and practicality of Brexit—is that our businesses which want to export to the European Union will continue to operate to the European Union’s rulebook in industrial goods, just as when we sign trade deals with other parts of the world, we will need to ensure that both sides can operate to the rules that are appropriate there. Businesses will continue to apply these rules regardless. By operating in this way, we are able to ensure that frictionless border between the UK and the EU, which is important to delivering on our commitments for Northern Ireland while maintaining the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom, and to ensuring that we maintain the jobs that rely on the integrated supply chains that have grown up over decades.
The Prime Minister has proposed a free trade area for goods, but the fact is that our services sector has been left out and left behind by this Government. TechUK, which employs more than 700,000 workers in the technology sector, has said that a deal such as the one that she has proposed will reduce access to EU markets, will be confusing for consumers, and will add to complexity for business. Why is she ignoring these services, which make up most of the British economy?
This is not about ignoring services’ businesses, but about seeing that that sector is one of the areas where we have great opportunities for trade deals around the rest of the world. It is also about recognising the importance and the significance of financial services in the City of London and the importance of ensuring that we can have not just regulatory co-operation, but the freedom to be flexible in these areas.
On Saturday mornings, I lead the listening team in Wellingborough. We have an hour’s meeting when we talk about national and local politics and then we go out and campaign for two hours. This week, the activists were so disappointed about what had happened at Chequers that they said they had been betrayed. They said, “Why do we go out each and every Saturday to support the Conservative party to get MPs elected?” For the first time in more than 10 years, that group refused to go out to campaign. What does the Prime Minister say to them?
I am very sorry that my hon. Friend’s activists did not feel able to go out and campaign. I would hope that they would campaign for their excellent Member of Parliament and be willing to support him on the doorsteps. This is not a betrayal. We will end free movement. We will end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. We will stop sending vast sums of money to the European Union every year. We will come out of the common agricultural policy. We will come out of the common fisheries policy. I believe that that is what people voted for when they voted to leave, and we will deliver in faith with the British people.
My constituents who work at Airbus, Vauxhall Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Unilever and many other parts of our modern manufacturing supply chain have had their voice heard, but they need to be heard more, because they need not just what is in the Chequers statement. When will the Prime Minister go further and accept that we need to include more in this deal and that we need to be part of the internal market of the European Union?
We are very clear that we will not be members of the single market, because of the full set of requirements that that brings, including free movement. The hon. Lady refers to Vauxhall, which has of course announced that it will invest in a new manufacturing platform and boost production at its commercial vehicle plant in Luton; that will safeguard 1,400 jobs. There have been other positive announcements from the automotive sector. We have recognised the integrated supply chains and the need for frictionless trade across the border, and that is what this plan delivers.
May I give the Prime Minister a message from Mid Sussex, to this end—that despite the inevitable slings and arrows, will she stick to her guns to deliver a Brexit that is in line with the interests of our people, their prosperity and their security?
That is exactly my aim and that of this Government—to deliver a Brexit that is smooth and orderly, that maintains the prosperity of this country and indeed enables it to be enhanced in the future, but that maintains our important security co-operation for the safety and security of citizens.
When the Prime Minister took office she said that she wanted to bring the country back together, and I believe that she had the will of most people in this House and the country. Some 69% of British people now think that Brexit is going badly, her Cabinet is horribly split, the Government are split, the nation is more divided than ever, and our people will be poorer as a consequence of this deal that leaves out services. Will she now commit to giving the people a second vote on this deal?
No, I will not commit to doing that, and the reason that I will not is that the British people voted. This House and this Parliament gave the British people the vote. The British people made their choice and they want their Government to deliver on that choice. Given that 80% of people at the last election voted for parties that were committed to delivering Brexit, I think that it is time that the Labour party ruled out a second referendum.
In my constituency, 60% voted to leave the EU. Within 48 hours of the Prime Minister’s statement on Friday, I received over 300 emails—disheartened, dismayed and telling me that democracy is dead. Will the Prime Minister tell the House how she plans to restore faith in my constituents that this is not a sell-out?
People from across the country, wherever they voted to leave—I understand that my hon. Friend has received comments not just from her constituents on this matter—wanted to see an end to free movement. We will deliver that. They wanted us to stop sending vast amounts of money to the EU every year. We will deliver that. They wanted us to end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK. We will deliver that. They wanted to come out of the common agricultural policy. We will deliver that. They wanted to come out of the common fisheries policy. We will deliver that. We will deliver Brexit that people voted for, but we will do so in a way that ensures that we protect jobs, maintain our commitments to the precious Union of the United Kingdom, and can go out and do trade deals around the rest of the world that will bring jobs to my hon. Friend’s constituency and others.
The new Brexit Secretary has proudly advocated no deal, claiming that we would thrive. He has suggested that we might have to abandon the common travel area with Ireland. He has suggested scrapping the working time directive. In 2013, he voted against crucial police and justice co-operation across Europe that will be key to any security treaty. Are those things now Government policy, and if not, why did the Prime Minister appoint him?
The Government’s policy is very clear. I have set it out this afternoon. Further details will be in the White Paper. The Brexit Secretary looks forward to delivering on that Government policy.
Will the Prime Minister assure me that we will not charge the EU any more for access to our markets than we would expect to be charged?
One of the key features of the facilitated customs arrangement that people may not have seen is that we would recognise that the European Union would effectively be taking tariffs for UK goods that would enter other European Union countries to come to the United Kingdom. We would make sure that that was reflected in the arrangements that are made in relation to the facilitated customs arrangement.
Today the Welsh Affairs Committee published a report recommending continued membership of the single market and the customs union on the basis of evidence received about agriculture. If whoever is in government does not come to the same conclusion, we will all wake up on 30 March without a functioning Government and without a functioning deal. For all our sakes, when will the Prime Minister push for an extension to article 50? This is a negotiation with people’s livelihoods, not a game against the clock.
This is a negotiation that is of vital importance to the United Kingdom and to our future as global Britain, and that, with the plan that we have put forward, will be about protecting jobs and livelihoods for people across the whole of the United Kingdom. We are not—we are not—extending article 50. We have a negotiation, we have a plan for that negotiation, and we will go to it at pace.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the reasons companies have come to this country, and that British companies have become involved in integrated European manufacturing, is that for more than 30 years we have had a settled rulebook about trade in goods? Does she agree—I thank the Cabinet for agreeing to this—that the proposal is right to protect that business and to ensure that we keep those jobs?
My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right: the rulebook in relation to industrial goods has been broadly settled over a number of decades and is not expected to change significantly in the future. Businesses continue to work to that and would do so after we have left the European Union. The position we have taken, which protects jobs, is absolutely right.
May I beg the Prime Minister to think again? It is obvious, even from today’s proceedings, that for all her hard work at Chequers, she is still imprisoned by a group of hard Brexit ideologues. Will she change her mind, speak to those who have a real desire for the national interest in withdrawing from the European Union, and take a rather different view on having a vote in Parliament on the Chequers agreement?
The hon. Gentleman talks about operating in the national interest. That is exactly what the Government are doing. It is exactly why we are putting this proposal forward. We will negotiate with the European Union on the basis of this proposal, and of course, in due course, Parliament will have its opportunity to vote through the meaningful vote and on the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill.
My right hon. Friend refers to negotiations. Of course, negotiations are about give and take, and some people may think we have given rather too much, but I am actually not sure that the European Union will take it—I think it will want us to give a little more, and a little more. Will she recall Parliament over the summer if, in those deep and pacey negotiations, we are asked to give even more? [Interruption.]
Although I recognise the good intentions with which my hon. Friend asked that question, I suspect that it did not quite receive the full approval of the entire House.
The Prime Minister should have sacked her Foreign Secretary some time ago, given that he is someone who put himself before his party. She now risks putting her party before her country. How can she possibly persuade us that she can negotiate with strength with Brussels when it is clear that she leads a divided House and is struggling to take back control of her Cabinet, never mind anything else?
The Cabinet has agreed the position that the Government are taking forward. The right hon. Gentleman asks about the ability to achieve in negotiations. I simply point out that that is exactly what we have been doing at every stage in these negotiations.
In noticing the hon. Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke), I note with approval that the bright shirt he is wearing is more reminiscent of Arsenal than of West Ham.
Thank you for that endorsement, Mr Speaker.
My constituency contributes roughly half a billion pounds to the GDP of this nation, mainly through small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the most important thing we must achieve is that those small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the lifeblood of this country, are able to supply the big companies, no matter where they are able to trade, and that this deal allows them to expand in all other parts of the world as well?
That is exactly what this deal does. By ensuring that we have frictionless trade across the border with the European Union and in the facilitated customs arrangement we have put forward, we are ensuring that those businesses that currently only trade with the European Union will have no extra requirements in terms of customs, and therefore that we are not increasing the burdens on those businesses.
In the Prime Minister’s initial letter to Donald Tusk notifying the European Commission that she wanted to trigger article 50, she said that if there was no deal, there would be no deal on security. I do not think she was making a threat—she was simply stating the truth and the facts—but since then, the European Union has made it clear that it is not sure that it wants precisely the same version of security co-operation that we have talked about. It now says that we will not be able to be a member of the European arrest warrant. Is not this issue of national security as important as it was on the day that she wrote that letter, and is it not therefore most important that we get a deal?
Of course the issue of national security is important. We want to maintain operational capabilities. As the hon. Gentleman will see when the White Paper comes out, in the security partnership that I outlined in my Munich speech and that we are putting further details on, we want to ensure that operational capabilities through instruments, programmes and agencies are still available to the United Kingdom. That will be part of the negotiations that we take forward, and a security partnership is an important element of our future relationship.
Could my right hon. Friend say what distinction she would draw between a combined customs territory, which the Cabinet appears to consider desirable, and a customs union, which it does not?
I am very happy to answer my right hon. Friend’s question. In a customs union, it would be necessary to be part of the common commercial policy, which would not enable us to sign trade deals with other countries around the world. In the arrangement that we have put forward, we will be free to sign trade deals around the rest of the world.
The Government’s proposals effectively seem to seek to reproduce parts of the backstop proposal for the whole of the UK, but with a Swiss-style dispute settlement system. What will the Prime Minister’s proposals mean for the mutual recognition of health professionals’ qualifications so that they can operate cross-border?
That is one of the areas in which we will be entering negotiations with the European Union. We want to ensure that we see recognition in a number of areas in relation to professionals and professional services but, of course, that is something that we have to agree with the European Union.
The Prime Minister knows my constituency well, and my constituents know her to be a lady of integrity who puts the national interest first; she has done that in this deal, and I commend her for it. Many of the businesses in my constituency are concerned about non-tariff barriers. Can she confirm that this agreement overcomes their concerns and that they will be free to trade over those non-tariff barriers?
The point of the deal that we have put out and the proposal that we will be presenting to the European Union is that we can have the ability for free trade between the United Kingdom and the remaining EU27. That is partly about frictionless borders, but it also about the standards and regulations to which those businesses will continue to operate.
There is obviously disagreement in the Prime Minister’s party, as there is in the Labour party, about what the people actually voted for in 2016. Is it not time to clarify this with the people themselves rather than always to be guessing? With respect, I do not accept, as is being said, that the people have spoken. There is a further question for the people once they have the final deal, and they should have the final say on the deal.
The hon. Lady talks about disagreement, but the biggest disagreement is of course between the Liberal Democrats and the people of this country, who voted to leave the European Union.
May I warmly congratulate the Prime Minister on the progress that she made at the weekend at Chequers? I wish her well during the difficult few days that no doubt lie ahead before we see, I trust, further details in the White Paper.
Is the Prime Minister now confident that the leaders of the other 27 European Governments involved will accept this as a reasonable starting position for negotiations, based on the realities of business and trade in the modern world? Will she ask them to speed up as far as possible the serious negotiations that must now begin, with no doubt some modest compromises on both sides before we reach a successful conclusion?
I reassure my right hon. and learned Friend that the responses I have received so far from other European Union leaders have been positive about the proposals we have put forward. Indeed, at the June European Council, the European Council at 27 agreed that we needed to increase the pace of the negotiations in the future.
On 18 December, the Prime Minister told the House:
“We will be going in and negotiating for services and for goods.”—[Official Report, 18 December 2017; Vol. 633, c. 761.]
We trade at an annual surplus of £28 billion in services with the European Union. Why, other than for reasons of internal politics and ideology within the Conservative party, has she taken the profit-making trade aspect of the UK economy and thrown it under the Brexit bus?
May I say to the right hon. Gentleman that that is not correct? We are ensuring that we have flexibility in relation to services. As we look around the rest of the world, it is services that will be a significant element of our trade agreements with the rest of the world, and it is in services that we will be able to benefit. We want that flexibility, and that is precisely what we are negotiating for.
The Prime Minister has always been very clear that she seeks a bespoke relationship between the EU and the UK. There are only nine meetings of the European Parliament in Strasbourg before we will have left. May I urge the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet to keep focused on the timetable and deliver that deal?
I thank my hon. Friend for pointing that out. We will indeed be focused on the timetable, both in negotiations with the European Union, and also in recognising the role that the European Parliament will play, because it will need to agree to the withdrawal agreement when it has been finalised.
The Prime Minister has been struggling quite cleverly within the constraints of her self-imposed chains and red lines. Would it not be a bit easier for her if she acted in the way that Clement Attlee acted in the 1941 crisis and we worked together in the national interest to deal with this crisis? Carrying on as we are will not succeed, and she knows it.
The Government have put forward a proposal in the national interest. There are differences across this House, as has been obvious from a number of Opposition Members who want us to stay in a customs union and want us to stay in the single market, which in my view would not be keeping faith with the vote of the British people.
It is generally accepted that the EU has a poor track record on trade deals, in large part because of its protectionist rules and regulations. Does the Prime Minister accept that, in pursuing a common rulebook and promising harmonisation, we would be obliging imports from third countries to abide by those same regulations and therefore make trade deals more difficult to achieve?
As I said earlier, we could of course tear up the regulatory standards we have in the United Kingdom, but I do not believe that that would be the right thing to do. I also do not believe that the House would support it. When we look at trade deals around the rest of world, we see that there are decisions to take, as in any trade deal, about the basis on which trade goes forward, and about the standards that both sides will apply in those deals. However, I believe it is right that the United Kingdom maintains high regulatory standards in a number of areas.
The customs Bill and the Trade Bill were both drafted several months ago. In the Chequers agreement, the Prime Minister has set out a rather complicated new customs arrangement. Will the legislation that the House will consider next week need any changes?
No, I do not believe it will.
It is just over 16 months since the Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously—leavers and remainers together—concluded that
“the previous Government’s decision not to instruct key Departments to plan for a ‘leave’ vote in the EU referendum amounted to gross negligence. Making an equivalent mistake would constitute a serious dereliction of duty by the present Administration.”
Does my right hon. Friend understand the relief that the no-deal preparations will be overt, and will she ensure that the resources and commitment that may have been absent from the preparations are given to this important task to show the steel in our position?
As I am sure my hon. Friend knows, we have allocated a significant amount—£3 billion over two years, £1.5 billion of which has already been allocated to Departments—for Departments to do their work on preparing for leaving the European Union. Some of that work will relate to what might be necessary in getting a deal, and other work will relate to what would be necessary if there were no deal. Work has already been undertaken by Departments, but we are now stepping up the pace and intensity of that work.
On Friday night, after the Chequers meeting, the Prime Minister announced unanimous Cabinet support and reaffirmed the principle of collective responsibility. After the resignations of two of her Cabinet today—it looks like she could have a hat-trick by close of play—has she appointed a new Foreign Secretary and, if so, who is it?
I have actually been in the Chamber for quite a time since the resignation of the Foreign Secretary. I will be appointing a new Foreign Secretary in due course.
In South West Bedfordshire, small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. One of my constituents started his four years ago. It turns over £4 million and moves high-value capital equipment across EU-UK borders at short notice on a daily basis. Before Friday, he feared for the future of his business. Friday’s agreement gives him hope. I ask the Prime Minister to maintain her resolve to help him and men and women like him across our United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that small businesses form the backbone of our economy. It is right that we have heard from businesses large and small about their interest in maintaining frictionless trade across our EU-UK borders. That is exactly what we will be delivering in this proposal.
There is an air of complete unreality this afternoon, because it should be blindingly obvious from the resignations of the Foreign Secretary and the Brexit Secretary, and from the constituency of opinion they represent on the Government Benches, that there is no majority in the House for the Chequers deal—it is dead. No European leader ought to take it seriously because it will not pass through the House. The question for the Prime Minister is this: when will she finally accept that trying to appease the hard Brexiteers on the Conservative Benches will never work? She can reach across, but she must also accept that Opposition Members will never vote for a deal that delivers, yes, a softer Brexit on goods, but a hard Brexit on services.
Through all of these decisions, I have had people complaining that I have taken the view of this side of the argument or taken the view of the absolute opposite side. What I have done is put forward what is in the national interest for the best Brexit deal for Britain.
Will the Prime Minister explain to the House how the new UK-EU free trade agreement will ensure that London retains its status as the global trading capital of Europe? To do that, is it not best that the rulebook is made in Britain?
If we look at the two areas of goods and services, what is very clear is that those who will be trading with the European Union will continue to operate according to that rulebook in the European Union. Where we need to ensure we have that flexibility—particularly to protect one of the key areas for London, which is the City of London as a global financial centre providing a significant proportion of the debt and equity that underpins business across the European Union, with the risks that that entails here in the United Kingdom—it is right that we have regulatory co-operation with others, but that we are able to have rather more flexibility on services. That will be good for London.
The Prime Minister has today presented her position on the negotiating position decided at Chequers as an evolution of her Mansion House statement. Most Members believe there will have to be a further evolution of that position before the House will agree a deal. On that basis, does the Prime Minister agree that it is crucial to keep business in all parts of the economy—services and manufacturing—at the heart of the negotiating process?
What is important to keep at the heart of the negotiating process is our duty to deliver on Brexit for the people of the United Kingdom, and to do that in a smooth and orderly way that protects jobs and livelihoods while ensuring our commitment to our precious Union of the United Kingdom. That is exactly what the Government will be doing.
Does the Prime Minister recognise the overwhelming support she has for the pragmatic and collaborative approach she has taken in outlining these Brexit proposals, taking the lead to find a way forward that shows us the compromise needed to bring a divided country back together and, crucially, to safeguard our economy? One of the qualities we expect in a Prime Minister is to lead and not quit when the going gets tough.
It is absolutely the case that on such issues it is important that we come to a decision that I and the Government believe is in the UK’s national interest and will deliver a good Brexit deal for the United Kingdom. That is where our focus is and will continue to be.
The Prime Minister has opted, finally, for a high degree of alignment with the European Union—she is right to have done so. The Government and the EU intend that the UK will stay in the large number of international agreements with countries outside the EU covering trade and other areas, but that will require agreement from those non-EU countries. What progress has there been so far in securing agreement from those countries?
The right hon. Gentleman is right in that we are looking to maintain those agreements. Of course, once we are out of the European Union, it will then be possible for us to enhance and improve those agreements in negotiation with those countries. Discussions have been held with a number of countries, and also with the European Commission, which itself has indicated its recognition that this is the right way forward.
Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt), every single Government in every single particular will need to be ready when we leave the European Union, which could perhaps be as early as 29 March next year. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agree to publish more information so that Parliament can be reassured in this respect?
We have always been clear that we will keep Parliament informed. One of the things I said at Lancaster House was that we would provide information generally as and when it was possible to do so. My hon. Friend said, I think, “if” we leave the European Union on 29 March 2019. Let me just confirm that we will be leaving on 29 March 2019.
It may be possible that European leaders welcome this plan simply because it is the first thing to make it on to paper. The Prime Minister talks about sticking to a common rulebook for goods but not services, but is it not the case that goods and services are often combined, particularly in the aerospace industry, which is important in my constituency?
This is not the first time that the Government have put something down on paper in relation to proposals for the future, but we have evolved the position since the Mansion House speech that I made about this. The industrial goods rulebook—we have used that term—is recognised and has been stable over quite a number of years, as has been pointed out by Conservative Members. Businesses, including the aerospace industry, were very clear that it was that rulebook that they wanted to continue to operate by, and that that would protect jobs. That is why we have taken this step.
The Brexit Secretary has unfortunately resigned. He, at least in theory, was leading our negotiations with the European Union. For months, his Department had been working on a detailed White Paper, but that was not presented to the Cabinet at Chequers; it was presented with a different plan. I echo the call made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Sir Bernard Jenkin), which was that that DExEU White Paper should now be published so that the House and the country have a chance to see the alternative options that DExEU had proposed.
It was always clear that the White Paper, which will be published as a DExEU White Paper, would reflect the Government’s position, and the White Paper that is published next week will do exactly that.
Now that even senior members of the Government are resigning—DExEU’s midnight runners and the Foreign Secretary—because they think that we are heading for a bad Brexit deal, I suggest to the Prime Minister that at the end of the negotiations, she could put herself in a strong position by holding a people’s vote to validate the final deal. What is she scared of?
I think that I have covered this point on a number of occasions. It remains unfortunate that the Labour party is not willing to rule out a second referendum. This House—this Parliament—overwhelmingly gave the people of this country the decision and the choice whether to leave the European Union. They voted. I think that the vast majority of the public out there want their Government to deliver on that—not to have a second referendum, but to have faith with the British people and deliver on their vote.
Seventy per cent. of my constituents voted for Brexit. In the past two years, they have become increasingly frustrated at the progress and concessions that have been made. That frustration is now turning into anger. What can the Prime Minister say to reassure them that there will be no further concessions?
First, I believe that the important message to my hon. Friend’s constituents and others is that we are delivering on the key issues that led to people voting to leave the European Union—an end to free movement, no more vast sums of money going to the EU every year, and our coming out of the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy and out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. He talks about their concerns about the timetable. It is precisely to ensure that we are able to reach the end of our negotiations this autumn—such that, where we have a deal, we have those proposals in place by 29 March 2019— that we are presenting this proposal to the European Union. His constituents will see us leave the European Union on 29 March 2019.
Contrary to what the Prime Minister has repeatedly told the House today, the EEA agreement does in fact enable the suspension and reform of free movement of labour, removes the direct effect of EU law and sits outside the jurisdiction of the ECJ. The Chequers proposal, however, is a bureaucratic nightmare that is riddled with ambiguity and complexity. Why does the Prime Minister stop trying to reinvent the wheel and commit instead to an EEA-based Brexit?
The hon. Gentleman might have noticed that this House had an opportunity to vote on the EEA issue within the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and voted overwhelmingly against membership of the EEA.
I welcome the agreement that the Cabinet reached last week and urge the Prime Minister to hold firm in the national interest. Does she agree that what we have forms the basis for a good deal for Scotland—frictionless trade with the European Union, out of the common fisheries policy and maintaining and preserving the integrity of the UK’s internal market?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This will be a good deal for Scotland. Crucially, it does deliver on what I believe Scotland wants, which is to come out of the common fisheries policy, and of course it maintains the UK’s internal market, which is of significant benefit to Scotland and is indeed of more consequence to Scotland than its trade with the European Union.
The Prime Minister has said clearly in her statement today that she sees an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over UK matters. How does she square that with continued membership of the European arrest warrant?
We are clear that as we go forward in these negotiations we will look at how we could operate the various operational capabilities in the security arrangement to the benefit of citizens in both the UK and the EU. Our position on the European Court of Justice remains, however, and of course changes were made to the operation of the EAW when I was Home Secretary, not under the jurisdiction of the ECJ but under the laws of this country as determined by this House.
Prime Minister, I have listened very carefully to everything you have said today, and I have read very carefully everything you have circulated. I even went to one of the briefings you organised today, and I was struck by the reply from your presenter every time there was a question about why we could not have something better than what was on the piece of paper presented: we were told that the EU simply would not agree. I have gone carefully through everything, and I cannot see how what was agreed at Chequers will deliver Brexit, either hard or soft. There is much use of “indirect” instead of “direct”, but it will not deliver Brexit. Please, Prime Minister, the people would like you to stand up to Mr Barnier and say “No.” I would like you to bear that in mind when you consider what to put in the White Paper to make Brexit deliver the economic dividend it should.
Order. I allowed the hon. Lady to complete her question, but may I gently encourage her to remember that we do not use the word “you” here? She has now been a Member for eight years, and I look to her to set an example to new colleagues who require leadership.
It is precisely because we are saying “No” to the proposals put forward by the European Commission that we are putting forward our own proposal, which is much more ambitious and comprehensive than those from the EU and, I believe, is in the best interests of this country.
I do not know whether Members have seen the breaking news, but apparently one report is saying, “Theresa May will contest any motion of no confidence.” Does the Prime Minister anticipate such a vote and who does she think might challenge her?
Nice try, but I am getting on with the job of delivering what the British people want.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement that no deal preparations will be stepped up. What are those preparations; how will they be stepped up; will they include new money; and most importantly, will they include the delivery of the lorry park on the roads to the channel ports that was promised two years ago but has not yet been delivered by the Department for Transport?
As I said earlier, £1.5 billion has already been allocated, and the Chancellor has made £3 billion available over two years for the various preparations, which include the no deal preparations. The new Brexit Secretary will take on the task of ensuring that we step up those no deal preparations. I know from previous discussions the concern my hon. Friend has about the potential lorry park in Kent in relation to the port of Dover. He champions the rights and needs of his constituents very eloquently in this House.
With the setback of four ministerial resignations and March 2019 bearing down upon us, will the Prime Minister think again about the extension of article 50? It would enable her to hold a vote on the final deal, which I know she is not in favour of, and give her additional time in the negotiations with the EU to secure a better deal than the one she might be about to secure.
No, we are not going to extend article 50. We have a timetable; we are working to it; and we will leave on 29 March 2019.
I call James Cartlidge.
Oh, thank you, Mr Speaker.
The hon. Gentleman does not have to look quite so surprised to be called. He was standing. It is very good to know that he knows his own name. I called him, and the House, and perhaps the nation, wish to hear him.
The largest employer in my constituency is Philips AVENT, the baby care company, which employs 1,500 people. At the weekend, its chief executive made it clear that in the event of a hard Brexit that plant could close, which would be a massive shock to my local economy. May I say to my right hon. Friend that, although there is a lot of excitement about certain jobs being lost in this place, I will be supporting her negotiating position because it prioritises the jobs that matter—those of our constituents?
The route that we are taking is a route that delivers on Brexit and delivers on the vote of the British people, but does so in a way that protects jobs and livelihoods and maintains the other commitments that we have made. My hon. Friend is absolutely right: people talk about things in this House, but it is the jobs of our constituents that we should be concerned about.
The Government are in utter chaos over a Cabinet agreement that has taken two years to achieve, to which the EU may never agree and that covers barely 20% of our economy. If it is such a good agreement, why has the Prime Minister lost two Secretaries of State who were in charge of the Brexit negotiations?
The agreement that we have reached, which will be reflected in the White Paper to be published later this week, will set out our intentions across the whole of our economy. We made some very specific proposals in relation to industrial goods, but we will cover the other aspects of our economy and the flexibility that we believe is right in those areas for the future.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that the mobility framework will be part of an immigration system that we control and we deliver for our economic needs, while ending the free movement of labour?
I am happy to give my hon. Friend that commitment. We will end free movement. As we come to this agreement with the European Union, there will of course be the question of what would, in a trade agreement, be a mode 4 mobility proposal. We will seek to ensure that we offer those mode 4 arrangements in the trade agreements that we reach with the rest of the world as well, but, crucially, we will also put in place our own immigration rules in relation to immigration here from the European Union.
The BBC’s political correspondent has tweeted that the 48 letters have been received. Is the Prime Minister certain that there will no further resignations from her Government over this today?
The Government have only one interest in jobs, and that is their interest in the jobs of the people of this country, and in ensuring prosperity in the future.
Brexit has divided the country. With that in mind, may I suggest to my right hon. Friend that it is essential for us to pursue a Brexit that is true to the referendum result and supports the aspirations and incomes of people whose jobs depend on trade with the European Union?
That is precisely the approach that the Government have taken. We want a smooth and orderly Brexit. We want a Brexit that protects jobs and livelihoods. However, we also want to keep faith with the British people and deliver on what they voted for, and that is exactly what we will do.
It has been argued that the policy that was agreed at Chequers at the weekend was necessary to protect the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom, because it would avoid the need to implement the backstop arrangement with the Irish Republic. Is it part of the agreement that the Government will sign a legally binding protocol with the EU that would treat Northern Ireland differently? If not, why is it necessary to have a divisive future trade arrangement that is designed to protect the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom if that was never in jeopardy?
As I said earlier, we have rejected the European Union’s proposal in relation to the protocol. The expectation is that there will be a protocol in the withdrawal agreement, but we have always made clear our belief that the best resolution of the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland will come within the overall trading relationship that we develop between the United Kingdom and the EU, and that is exactly what this plan delivers.
Will the Prime Minister assure me that, in the event that EU negotiators reject the Brexit agreement, she will rule out any further concessions?
We have put forward the plan that we believe is the right plan for the United Kingdom. By virtue of its going into negotiation, there are elements of this that we will be negotiating, but we have put forward the plan and the basis on which we believe we can deliver the best Brexit for Britain.
The Prime Minister has outlined a hard Brexit for services. As she will know, people in the tech sector are concerned because they need to keep up with the changes in the world. Last week in the European Parliament, the copyright directive was a hugely important decision, in which our MEPs played a huge role, and our constituents were able to lobby them. Under the Prime Minister’s proposals, how will we have that kind of influence in future, or will we be like the Italians not watching their football team and wondering why it is not on the pitch in the World cup?
The hon. Gentleman refers to the issue around services; some of his hon. Friends are complaining that we are going to provide ourselves with flexibility in services precisely to be able to deal with this issue on that more international basis, so I am really not sure why he is taking this position. It is right that we will have greater flexibility in relation to services for the future, and many of the issues we are dealing with in services are dealt with on that international basis, rather than the European basis.
The Prime Minister has rightly been consistent from her Lancaster House speech onwards in promising to deliver the three freedoms of retaining control of our laws, our borders and our money. Much of this deal does that, but will she expand on how we will square those promises with a shared rulebook on traded goods and whether we are still delivering on those three freedoms?
I believe we are still delivering on the promises we have made. We will not be sending those vast sums of money to the EU every year; we will be able to use that money—that Brexit dividend as it has been called—to put money into our public services, and I have already indicated what we will be doing in relation to the national health service. The jurisdiction of the ECJ will end in the UK, and we will have control of our borders because we will be deciding—we will be setting the rules for immigration here in the UK.
Given the new Brexit Secretary’s on-the-record and public views on scrapping the agency workers directive and TUPE regulations, what confidence should my constituents have that these regulations will be maintained post Brexit?
Constituents across the country can have confidence in a Government who have been very clear that we will not reduce workers’ rights standards. Indeed, this Government have pledged to enhance workers’ rights, which is precisely why we asked Matthew Taylor to do the report on new forms of employment, so we can ensure workers’ rights and legislation around employment are keeping pace with the changing employment market.
I do not religiously read every tweet that emanates from the hands of President Trump, so I do not know what his views are on the Chequers deal, but the Prime Minister is meeting him later this week. Will she be discussing the exciting potential for trade deals with the USA, and does she believe there is anything in this Chequers deal that could possibly inhibit that trade deal?
I am sure that trade will be one of the issues I discuss with President Trump, as indeed other key issues will be, such as security and defence; as my hon. Friend knows, the United States is our longest-standing and deepest security and defence partner. The proposal we are presenting to the EU enables us to sign trade deals around the rest of the world, but I would caution hon. Members that of course, when any trade deal is being signed, the United Kingdom will take a decision on what standards it wants to continue to abide by and will make decisions on whether those standards will be changed or torn up, possibly affecting that trade deal. But that will be a decision for us here in the UK.
The UK’s textile and fashion industry contributes £28 billion annually and textiles are a significant contributor to our Scottish economy. I am chair of the all-party group on textile and fashion. The industry is concerned about the passporting of goods and of highly specialist services, so how does the plan protect creative industry services? Will the Prime Minister do this and ensure no fashion faux pas going forward?
When the hon. Lady sees the White Paper that will be published later this week, she will see that it will cover the issue of the creative industries.
Order. I cannot believe that the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) is standing up; he was absent from the Chamber for some considerable period—but perhaps he is waiting for the next statement. I call Jeremy Lefroy.
May I join my right hon. Friend in paying tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) for all the work that they did on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and much else, and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) for all his work in representing the United Kingdom? I pay particular tribute to him for his work in Africa.
Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister tell me how the association agreement, which is being put forward following the Chequers agreement, will ensure that we put national security, economic prosperity and our United Kingdom at the heart of our negotiating objectives?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question, which gives me the opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) on the hard work that he put in on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. He did a very good job on that legislation.
The point about the association agreement is that it provides a framework within which it is possible to set the various other agreements that we come to on trade and security, in order to do exactly as my hon. Friend suggests and ensure that the deal we are putting forward is the right one for the UK.
Over the past few weeks, great concern has been expressed by major manufacturing companies, by farmers and by the service sector in north Wales over the Government’s approach to Brexit. Those people do not have a political axe to grind. They are deeply concerned about jobs and about our economy. What confidence can we have that the Government and the Prime Minister will listen to them, bearing in mind that the deal that was agreed around the Cabinet table is unravelling as we speak and is very unlikely to secure any agreement anywhere?
We have been listening to manufacturers, to businesses, to farmers and to others up and down the country who provide jobs, and that is precisely why we have come forward with a proposal that delivers on Brexit, but does so in a way that protects jobs and livelihoods.
I warmly welcome the decision to seek membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Can my right hon. Friend give me some indication of the value to the UK economy of such membership, and has she received any indication from any of the other signatories that there is anything in the Chequers agreement that would inhibit UK membership?
The opportunity to join the TPP is something that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade has been championing since he came into office. He has been very clear on that particular issue. This morning, the Prime Minister of Australia said that he welcomed the interest that the United Kingdom was showing in the TPP. As we looked at the Chequers agreement, one of the things we looked at was whether it would enable us to join the TPP, and it would.
We know that on Friday night the entire Cabinet supported the Prime Minister’s position, but as of today, that is no longer the case for two of her now former colleagues. Can she tell us what further information has come to light in the intervening period to cause her colleagues to change their minds?
The Chequers agreement remains as it was: the agreement that we took on Friday. I did indicate collective responsibility at that time, and two members of the Cabinet have chosen to stand down.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to pursuing accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would give us the opportunity to have closer trading links with some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Will she seize the moment with President Trump here this week to raise the question of whether the United States of America might reconsider its relationship with the proposed TPP?
I think we will take this one stage at a time. Let us focus on the United Kingdom’s membership of TPP, but perhaps that will give a message to the United States.
The Prime Minister has spoken of maintaining high regulatory standards, but the proposal for a post-Brexit environmental regulatory body put forward just a few weeks ago by her Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs contained no watchdog powers to bring legal action and no commitment to enshrine current environmental principles such as the polluter pays principle. How will her Government ensure that those high regulatory standards are fully protected?
Separate bodies are not required to ensure that the Government are delivering high environmental standards. The Government are committed to them and the hon. Lady will see us continuing to be so.
The Chequers agreement delivers on the referendum result and lays the foundations for future trade. Anyone who truly has the nation’s interests at heart should support it. However, when it comes to the negotiations, does the Prime Minister agree that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and that we will therefore not sign a £39 billion cheque until we get some assurance that the Chequers agreement, or something very similar to it, will be agreed to?
It was the European Union that used the phrase
“nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.
The Government have been clear that when we come to finalise the withdrawal agreement we need not only sufficient detail on the future relationship, but a linkage between the two. It is a package. They are not separate issues.
The Prime Minister must now know that her fate is inextricably tied to the success or failure of her maximum facilitation customs proposal. I understand that she has been eager to solicit the views of the other 27 EU member states, so how many member states has she consulted? Given that her own Cabinet has failed to support the idea over the past 24 hours, is she confident that member states will continue to support it in the next round of negotiations?
We have put forward a facilitated customs arrangement. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the details of the various models that were proposed, he will see that his question is not entirely factually correct. However, we will be negotiating such matters with the European Union.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that her Chequers proposals would prevent the mutual recognition of standards, even with highly developed countries such as the United States, Australia and New Zealand, effectively ruling out free trade agreements?
The proposals would not prevent free trade agreements with those countries, but there is a challenge for us in relation to the United States and standards. We have always supported a single standards model, but the United States has a multiple standards approach, so that would be an issue. However, this deal enables us to sign trade deals around the world.
Fishing is important across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. My constituency voted to leave, and the village of Portavogie, almost to a man and almost to a woman, wants out of the EU. Will the Prime Minister reassure this House that we will control our fishing waters, quotas and days at sea and that we will have an unfettered, free fishing sector that is in our hands in this House?
I can give the hon. Gentleman that reassurance. We will come out of the common fisheries policy, and we will be an independent coastal state. It will then be for us to negotiate in the normal annual negotiations access to our waters and our fishermen’s access to other waters.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that, under her proposals, including the common rulebook, the United Kingdom will be able to ban live animal exports and introduce other animal welfare standards that our membership of the European Union currently prevents us from implementing?
We would be able to enhance our standards, but we would have committed to that rulebook in a number of areas. In agriculture and agri-foods, different levels of rules currently operate. What we are talking about for the common rulebook includes sanitary and phytosanitary conditions, and there are other aspects, such as the common agricultural framework, to which this does not relate.
May I first congratulate and thank the Prime Minister? She has had a busy few days, but has managed to be at the Dispatch Box for the best part of the past couple of hours.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the arrangements are positive for business and jobs by establishing a free trade area to enable the frictionless trade that is so important for manufacturers operating in just-in-time supply chains, such as in the automotive and aerospace sectors? At the same time, will she provide the flexibility to pursue trade opportunities around the world?
Yes. We want to ensure two things —we want to continue to have a good trading relationship and to be able to do trade deals around the world. Our proposals for frictionless trade do exactly what my hon. Friend says and will ensure that we maintain those integrated supply chains and the jobs that rely on them.
One of the key reasons why people in Corby voted to leave was to set up a proper trade defence instrument in this country so we can take the right steps, when we need to, to protect our industries against unfair dumping on our market. Will that be the case under this set-up?
Yes. When the White Paper is produced, my hon. Friend will be able to see the arrangements that will be put in place for trade remedies and sanctions.
A greater proportion of my constituents voted to leave the European Union than in any other constituency, and what they say to me today is, “Please can we just get on with it?” The deal negotiated at Chequers delivers on bringing decisions on immigration, money and law back to this House. Please will the Prime Minister get on with it, and will she urge the European Union to get on with it?
I am happy to agree with my hon. Friend. I hope and expect that we will now see a greater pace and intensity in the negotiations, because we want to ensure that we meet the October deadline for coming to an agreement.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that services make up nearly 80% of the UK economy? Yet there never has been, and probably never will be, a properly functioning single European market in services, which is probably one of its greatest failures. Is not taking a flexible approach to services therefore eminently sensible?
I thank my hon. Friend for pointing out a fact that seems to have evaded a number of the Labour questioners today. Precisely because there is not that single services market in the European Union, it is right and in our interest that we take a flexible approach.
Two thirds of my constituents in Sleaford and North Hykeham voted for Brexit. Although they support getting on with the job of getting out of the EU, they look for reassurance on one aspect in particular of the proposed Chequers agreement, the common rulebook for goods and agri-food—agriculture and food being a large part of my constituency. Can the Prime Minister confirm what options will be open to us if we do not agree to any aspect of that rulebook? Who will be writing the rules in the future?
It is important that it will be open to Parliament to make decisions. If any rules change in the common rulebook, it will be for Parliament to determine whether or not it wishes to adopt those new rules. There will, of course, be a potential consequence, depending on the nature of any changes that are made, which is precisely why I say it will be Parliament that determines our laws in the future.
The Prime Minister will be aware that these proposals go further than many of us, and indeed many voters, would like to see us go and are at the absolute limit of what many of us feel able to agree to. Will she reassure the House, and indeed the voters in my constituency, that when she presents this deal to the EU, she will make it absolutely clear that there is very little room for any further concessions and that rejection of this deal by the EU is likely to result in a no deal outcome?
As we look at this issue, I have been determined to ensure, as I said earlier, that we can protect jobs and livelihoods but also deliver on what people voted for, which is leaving the European Union and, crucially, the three issues of control of borders, money and laws. This proposal does, indeed, deliver on that, which is why the Government are putting it forward. We believe it is a good proposal, and I look forward to negotiating it with the European Union.
It is easy to talk about Brexit, but the Prime Minister has to deliver it. Does she agree that the Chequers proposals balance securing jobs in vital sectors, such as Gloucestershire’s aviation supply chain, with delivering on the promise of an enterprising and independent trade policy?
Of course there are many theories about Brexit and the type of Brexit we should have, but my hon. Friend is absolutely right that what we are doing is delivering a practical Brexit in reality, and we should all have concern for the jobs and livelihoods of our constituents as we do that.
Can my right hon. Friend assure our European and international partners that she and her Cabinet colleagues have the overwhelming support of the majority of the party, of this House and of the people of this country in moving forward in the way the White Paper will suggest?
I thank my hon. Friend for his patience. It is important that we now move forward together as one country, very clear in what we want to see in our future relationship with the European Union, and that we go into the negotiations with that confidence.
I am most grateful to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and all 95 Back Benchers who questioned the Prime Minister. Whatever people think about this matter, the Prime Minister has clearly scored highly today in terms of productivity. We should be clear about that.