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Devolved Administrations: Talks

Volume 655: debated on Thursday 28 February 2019

On Monday I co-chaired the eighth ministerial EU negotiations forum in Cardiff. During the meeting, Jeremy Miles from the Welsh Government, Graeme Dey from the Scottish Government and I discussed the issue of data in the context of our future relationship with the EU, which I know is very important to the devolved Administrations in the discharge of their responsibilities. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State attends the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU negotiations), and, indeed, did so on his first day in office.

Does the Minister agree with the submissions made more than two years ago by the devolved Administrations, and confirmed by more recent analysis by his own Government, that staying in the single market and the customs union would be the best outcome for the whole UK economy?

We have, of course, taken careful note of the submissions from the devolved Administrations, but we have Governments led by different parties with different political positions. We discuss that regularly in the ministerial forum. What we need to do is work together to ensure that our approach works for the whole UK, and that is what we will continue to do, recognising the differences of opinion that exist between the respective Governments.

Will the Government now admit that if they had engaged properly with the devolved Administrations two years ago and had meaningful discussions with the Scottish Government about their—the Scottish Government’s—paper “Scotland’s Place in Europe”, they would not now be in the position of having to blackmail the House into choosing between a bad deal and no deal?

We have engaged on those papers, and we have had a range of meaningful discussions over the years, in many of which I have been personally involved. However, we respect the fact that we will take politically different positions on some of these issues. The UK Government believe that they must discharge their responsibility for the UK to leave the EU, and the Scottish Government do not agree with that. Nevertheless, we will continue to work together to find the best approach to these challenges.

Given that the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland has supported a differentiated deal for Scotland in the event that Scotland is removed from the single market by the UK, and given that the Government support a differentiated deal for Northern Ireland, will the Secretary of State confirm that a similar option would be possible for Scotland?

The circumstances of Northern Ireland, with the UK’s only land border with the EU, are different in that respect, but more importantly the deal we have negotiated is for the whole of the UK, and it is vital that we recognise that it was a UK-wide referendum and therefore we should deliver on that deal for the whole of the United Kingdom.

When my hon. Friend meets Members of the Welsh Assembly does he remind them that the people of Wales voted for Brexit with far greater enthusiasm than they voted for a Welsh Assembly? Will he urge them, along with some of the more recalcitrant members of the Cabinet, to get behind the Prime Minister and deliver Britain out of the EU with or without a deal by the end of March?

My hon. Friend makes his point with his usual force and power, and of course he is absolutely right that Wales did vote to leave the EU. I have indeed in Select Committee sessions at the Welsh Assembly reminded some Assembly Members of that, but the Welsh Government have engaged constructively with us in the ministerial forums and we will continue to work with them to deliver an outcome that works for the whole of the UK.

Last week the Government announced a new fund to help local authorities with ports to manage Brexit. It appears that the fund covers only England, and in Wales the Welsh Government provide no such dedicated ports assistance. Will the Minister please raise this with Welsh Ministers, because information provided by my local authority in Pembrokeshire, with its ferry connections to Ireland, suggests that my county is not getting the assistance it needs?

My right hon. Friend as always is a champion for his county, and may I in advance wish him a happy St David’s Day? I will certainly be happy to take this up with colleagues in the Welsh Government, and I know that my ministerial colleague my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), who is in charge of no-deal preparations, will be looking at that in our overall approach to ports.

May I remind my hon. Friend that devolved administrations need not only be the nations of the United Kingdom? They could also include the combined authorities, including the one in the west midlands.

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, and I know my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng) sitting beside me on the Treasury Bench has engaged in some very useful discussions with the combined authorities, including Andy Street.

I have had correspondence from one of my companies, Clandeboye Yoghurt, and had a second meeting last Friday with another of my companies, Lakeland Dairies, both of them concerned about packaging. The issue is clear: the packaging needs to be in order before 12 March—another D-day—so the products are ready to leave on 29 March. They have been in touch with the Northern Ireland devolved Administration Department—the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs—and the Department here; can we have some idea of what is happening?

I will be very happy to take that issue up on behalf of the hon. Gentleman with the relevant Departments—the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for International Trade—and make sure that they are engaging with the Northern Ireland civil service.