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Discussions with EU Counterparts

Volume 664: debated on Thursday 5 September 2019

7. What discussions he has had with his EU counterparts over the summer recess on the UK’s departure from the EU. (912280)

Over the summer recess, I had extensive discussions with my European counterparts—I suspect that my right hon. Friend and I saw a little less of the summer than some—including in the past fortnight in Paris, Copenhagen, Helsinki and a couple of other places. There has been extensive engagement, and that engagement continues.

I am very encouraged to hear my right hon. Friend begin to list some of his summer itinerary. I think that helps to build confidence in the fact that the Government are engaged in serious discussions with the European Commission and other counterparts. To that effect, would he be prepared to publish information on whom he has met and the discussions he has had when not in meetings, with whom and when?

Order. I would just say that I am sure that the unknown place to which the Secretary of State has referred has not forgotten that he visited it and its inhabitants.

I fear that I might get into trouble with the said unknown place, but I hope that a bit of latitude will be granted. My right hon. Friend raises a material point, because it goes to the crux of last night’s debate and the sincerity of the negotiations. The Prime Minister has also had extensive contact through the G7 and his visits to Berlin and Paris, among other places, and there has been the extensive work, to which I pay huge tribute, of the Prime Minister’s Europe adviser, who was in Brussels last week, this week and who has also travelled extensively. Significant work has been going on, and I am very happy to look at what further detail we can set out.

First, as the hon. Lady well knows, the Government do not comment on leaks. Secondly, the issue is really about looking at the substance. Look at the letter to President Tusk that narrowed down the issues. It would have been much easier for the Prime Minister to set out a long list of demands but, because of the seriousness of the negotiations, those have been narrowed down, as set out in that letter. One of the European Union’s charges against the previous Government was that they had not been specific enough about what sort of future relationship they sought in the political declaration. The letter answered that very clearly: a best-in-class FTA, and one that covers not only the economic side, but security and other aspects. There is substance there. The problem with the other side is that they do not want to leave at all, and therefore they will not take yes for an answer.