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UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement

Volume 727: debated on Tuesday 31 January 2023

13. What recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the implementation of the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement. (903376)

The UK is fully committed to implementing the TCA for the benefit of all UK citizens and businesses. Specifically on engagement, I have had calls or meetings with Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič since being appointed in September, including on 30 September, 17 and 27 October, 1 December 2022, and 9 and 16 January 2023, and I will be having further such meetings in due course.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, but it is quite remarkable, is it not, that three years after the exit from the European Union, this Government are still in protracted negotiations—not just with the EU, but with themselves—about the terms on which we are finally going to get Brexit done. With today’s publication of a report by the International Monetary Fund showing not only that the size of the UK economy will shrink over the coming 12 months, but that it will perform more poorly than major competitor economies, can the Secretary of State tell us whether there is a single aspect of prosperity or standing in the world he can think of that has been enhanced in any way by the terms on which we have left?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that if he is suggesting our exit from the European Union has been tricky, I think that is probably a fair assessment. I would just mildly make the point that if he thinks that is tough, imagine what extricating Scotland from one of the longest and most successful Unions in human history would be like. I have absolutely no doubt that our good, professional and strong working relationship with Maroš Šefčovič and his officials and other members of the European Commission will ultimately be successfully. However, I would strongly urge him to learn lessons when it comes to the ease with which one can extricate oneself from Unions, whether they be European or—

Thank you, Mr Speaker—a well-timed riposte if ever I heard one. The difference between the UK leaving the European Union and Scotland leaving the UK and joining the EU is that we are clear about what we want and how to do it. Within the trade and co-operation agreement, UK in a Changing Europe did us all a favour by highlighting the various deadlines that exist for further clarity for further sectors. I would offer my support. Brexit has happened. I am not interested in fighting old battles, and I want to get a result for us all. On 31 December this year, arrangements for financial services passporting will come to an end. How is progress going on ensuring that that industry, which is vital for us all, has clarity going forward?

We want to provide clarity for all UK industries, and ensure that we have a good and close economic relationship, as well as a social relationship with our near neighbours and good partners. Reinforcing the point I made to the hon. Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson), I think that the pipe dream about the ease with which a Scotland separated from the UK could join the EU requires a bit closer analysis, and what Scotland would do for money, and to bring the budget deficit in line with the membership criteria of the EU, would be interesting. We will, of course, ensure that the UK financial services sector remains internationally competitive.