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Withdrawal Agreement Negotiations

Volume 645: debated on Thursday 19 July 2018

On 19 June, we published a joint statement on the draft withdrawal agreement, setting out our progress in agreeing the text on a majority of separation issues. Negotiations are ongoing, and my officials are in Brussels. With last week’s publication of the White Paper, we hope to intensify negotiations on the future relationship.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the financial settlement contained in the withdrawal agreement is one of our strongest bargaining cards? Will he therefore include in the Bill provisions to ensure that its full payment is conditional on our achieving a satisfactory outcome to negotiations?

As ever, my right hon. Friend makes a powerful point, and as the EU says, there is no deal until the whole deal is concluded. The withdrawal agreement must come alongside a framework for the future partnership agreement—article 50 requires that—and if one party does not meet its side of the bargain, that will inevitably have consequences for the deal as a whole.

The Secretary of State will be aware that the UK has a near £70 billion trade deficit with the EU, and it is transparently in the EU’s interest to get a deal that keeps trade flowing. Is he aware whether European businesses and companies are lobbying EU negotiators and Governments to ensure a mutually beneficial deal?

My hon. Friend is right. The Government have a regular and productive dialogue with the European business community, and in those discussions we highlight our common interests with those businesses. It is important that their voice is heard because a lot is at stake, not just for UK businesses and jobs, but for European businesses and jobs.

Does the Secretary of State agree that remaining inside the customs union or the single market would be a breach of the outcome of the referendum and totally undermine the trust of the British people?

My hon. Friend is right. Not only would it be a breach of the referendum, but every hon. Member, at least on the Government Benches, went into the last election promising our constituents that we would leave the customs union and the single market. Crucially, the White Paper forges a plan that can deliver that, while maintaining the strong relationship that we want with our European friends.

PPG Industries in my constituency provides 200 jobs. It tells me that if we leave the European Chemicals Agency, it will have to close. Will the Secretary of State commit to the common rulebook and not to making any compromises on that part of the White Paper?

The hon. Lady is right to point to that issue, but she also mentioned the White Paper. She will know that we are committed to staying with a strong regulatory relationship with our EU partners, for precisely the reasons she gave.

Given that so many of his friends and colleagues want to bring down the Prime Minister, how will the Brexit Secretary get his withdrawal agreement through in the autumn?

The same way that we got the customs Bill through this week—by working hard, listening to all sides and delivering for the people of the United Kingdom.

My constituency of Strangford depends greatly on the agri-food sector for employment, jobs and opportunities. With reference to the border in Northern Ireland, will the Secretary of State explain how he intends to foster cross-border trade in a safe and effective way?

The hon. Gentleman will know from the White Paper that we have set out a paradigm that works, not just for trade between the UK and the EU, but that specifically will avoid any return to a hard border in Northern Ireland. We now need to take that proposal to our European friends. I will see Michel Barnier later this afternoon, and I will be sure to convey to him the hon. Gentleman’s concerns.