My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the G20 summit in China. But before I turn to the G20, I would like to say something about the process of Brexit.
On 23 June the British people were asked to vote on whether we should stay in the EU or leave. The majority decided to leave. Our task now is to deliver the will of the British people and negotiate the best possible deal for our country. I know many people are keen to see rapid progress and to understand what post-Brexit Britain will look like. We are getting on with that vital work. But we must also think through the issues in a sober and considered way. As I have said, this is about getting the kind of deal that is ambitious and bold for Britain. It is not about the Norway model, or the Swiss model, or any other country’s model; it is about developing our own British model. So we will not take decisions until we are ready, we will not reveal our hand prematurely and we will not provide a running commentary on every twist and turn of the negotiation. I say that because it is not the best way to conduct a strong and mature negotiation that will deliver the best deal for the people of this country. As the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union told the House on Monday, we will maximise and seize the opportunities that Brexit presents.
That is the approach I took to the G20 summit. This was the first time that the world’s leading economies had come together since the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and it demonstrated the leading role we will continue to play in the world as a bold, ambitious and outward-looking nation. Building on our strength as a great trading nation, we were clear that we had to resist a retreat to protectionism and we had conversations about how we could explore new bilateral trading arrangements with key partners around the world. We initiated important discussions on responding to rising anti-globalisation sentiment and ensuring that the world’s economies work for everyone, and we continued to play our part in working with our allies to confront the global challenges of terrorism and migration. Let me take each in turn.
Trading with partners all around the globe has been the foundation of our prosperity in the past and it will underpin our prosperity in the future. So, under my leadership, as we leave the EU, Britain will seek to become the global leader in free trade. At this summit we secured widespread agreement across the G20 to resist a retreat to protectionism, including a specific agreement to extend the rollback of protectionist measures until at least the end of 2018. The G20 also committed to ratify by the end of this year the WTO agreement to reduce the costs and burdens of moving goods across borders, and it agreed to do more to encourage firms of all sizes, in particular SMEs and female-led firms, to take full advantage of global supply chains.
Britain also continued to press for an ambitious EU trade agenda, including implementing the EU-Canada deal and forging agreements with Japan and America, and we will continue to make these arguments for as long as we are members of the EU. But as we leave the EU, we will also forge our own new trade deals. I am pleased to say that just as the UK is keen to seize the opportunities that leaving the EU presents, so too are many of our international partners, who recognise the attractiveness of doing business with the UK. The leaders from India, Mexico, South Korea and Singapore said that they would welcome talks on removing the barriers to trade between our countries. The Australian Trade Minister visited the UK yesterday to take part in exploratory discussions on the shape of a UK-Australia trade deal. In our bilateral at the end of the summit, President Xi also made it clear that China would welcome discussions on a bilateral trade arrangement with the UK.
As we do more to advance free trade around the world, so we must do more to ensure that working people really benefit from the opportunities it creates. Across the world today, many feel that these opportunities do not seem to come to them. They feel a lack of control over their lives. They have a job but no job security; they have a home but worry about paying the mortgage. They are just about managing but life is hard. It is not enough for Governments to take a hands-off approach. So at this summit I argued that we will need to deliver an economy that works for everyone, with bold action at home and co-operation abroad.
That is why, in Britain, we are developing a proper industrial strategy to improve productivity in every part of the country so that more people can share in our national prosperity through higher wages and greater opportunities for young people. To restore greater fairness, we will be consulting on new measures to tackle corporate irresponsibility. These will include cracking down on excessive corporate pay, poor corporate governance, short-termism and aggressive tax avoidance, and giving employees and customers representation on company boards.
At the G20, this mission of ensuring that the economy works for everyone was echoed by other leaders, and this is an agenda that Britain will continue to lead in the months and years ahead. Together, we agreed to continue efforts to fight corruption—building on the London summit—and do more to stop aggressive tax avoidance, including stopping companies avoiding tax by shifting profits from one jurisdiction to another. We also agreed to work together to address the causes of excess global production in heavy industries, including in the steel market. We will establish a new forum to discuss issues such as subsidies that contribute to market distortions. All these steps are important if we are to retain support for free trade and the open economies which are the bedrock of global growth.
Turning to global security, Britain remains at the heart of the fight against Daesh and at this summit we discussed the need for robust plans to manage the threat of foreign fighters dispersing from Syria, Iraq and Libya. We called for the proper enforcement of the UN sanctions regime to limit the financing of all terrorist organisations, and for more action to improve standards in aviation security, including through a UN Security Council resolution which the UK has been pursuing and which we hope will be adopted later this year. We also agreed on the need to confront the ideology that underpins this terrorism. That means addressing both violent and non-violent extremism, and working across borders to tackle radicalisation online.
Turning to the migration crisis, Britain will continue to meet our promises to the poorest in the world, including through humanitarian efforts to support refugees, and we will make further commitments at President Obama’s summit in New York later this month. At the G20, I argued that we cannot shy away from dealing with illegal migration, and I will be returning to this at the UN General Assembly. We need to improve the way we distinguish between refugees and economic migrants. This will enable our economies to benefit from controlled economic migration, and in doing so we will be able to get help to refugees who need it, and retain popular support for doing so. This does not just protect our own people. By reducing the scope for the mass population movements we see today, and at the same time investing to address the underlying drivers of mass migration at source, we can achieve better outcomes for the migrants themselves. As part of this approach, we also need a much more concerted effort to address modern slavery. This sickening trade, often using the same criminal networks that facilitate illegal migration, is an affront to our humanity and I want Britain leading a global effort to stamp it out.
When the British people voted to leave the European Union, they did not vote to leave Europe, to turn inwards or to walk away from the G20 or any of our international partners around the world. That has never been the British way. We have always understood that our success as a sovereign nation is inextricably bound up in our trade and co-operation with others. By building on existing partnerships, forging new relationships and shaping an ambitious global role, we will make a success of Brexit—for Britain and for all our partners—and continue to strengthen the prosperity and security of all our citizens for generations to come. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement today. It was always going to be difficult following the Brexit vote, but as the new Prime Minister, Theresa May appeared confident. She met with most of the other world leaders who were interested to meet her—partly, I think, because they are keen to understand what the post-EU era means for them and their relationship with us in the UK. So this was, by any standards, a crucial summit. We are all aware that the vote to leave the EU has created considerable uncertainty here in the UK, but in paragraph 42 of the communiqué the international uncertainty is also clear. Despite some promising recent manufacturing statistics, the long-term uncertainties remain.
What is clear is that the Government are still thinking through the implications, what our negotiating position is going to be and what outcomes we seek. It is now common knowledge that no advance preparation had been undertaken, which makes the job of the Prime Minister even harder. She had to attend this summit knowing that she would be expected to discuss with other world leaders how the decision would affect them and their relationship with the EU and the UK. Countries such as Japan were seeking some degree of predictability for their investments and businesses in the UK, but she was unable to provide reassurance or answers—not because she does not want to be helpful or make the best case for the British economy but because we are still in the “don’t know” zone. While I appreciate what lies behind the statement “Brexit means Brexit”, I have to admit that I do not know what it means—and neither, apparently, do other members of the G20.
Following the Prime Minister’s meeting with her old university friend, the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, I think that we were all left with the impression—I certainly was—of exciting new trade and economic agreements. But the clarification from Mr Ciobo, the Australian Trade Minister, has dampened that excitement. It almost sounded like a “Yes, Prime Minister” sketch as we heard him say on the “Today” programme that a UK-Australia deal could happen only,
“when the time is right”.
Sir Humphrey might have added “in the fullness of time” or “in due course”.
We cannot sign deals with other countries while we are still in the EU and we do not know when we will be leaving it. Meanwhile, negotiations between Australia and the EU will be completed probably before we even start. To heap humiliation upon embarrassment, the Australian Minister added that because the UK has no trained negotiators of our own, he has offered to lend us Australian experts for the initial talks. Can the noble Baroness confirm that what is really on offer is talks about talks? Will we accept their kind and generous offer to use their experts for our discussions with them?
Is the noble Baroness also able to say anything more about the meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister, following his 15-page memo on Japan’s specific concerns, and whether they discussed car manufacturing remaining in the UK whatever the Brexit terms are?
We understand why our allies are uncertain. I fear that there is a danger of us becoming marginalised. Meetings took place without us that in the past we might have expected to be part of, such as President Obama’s meeting with Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande. What is encouraging, though, is that these countries are not hostile. I think that they genuinely want to make their economic relationship with us work—but we have to get moving to create the certainty and clarity that they need.
It is not just our international friends who are uncertain. So are we—even, it appears, members of the Cabinet. On Monday, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis, responded to a question from Anna Soubry MP about whether, in light of the concerns raised at the G20 about the impact on the economy,
“the Government are prepared to abandon that membership of the single market”.
He told the House of Commons that,
“the simple truth is that if a requirement of our membership is giving up control of our borders, then I think that makes it very improbable”.—[Official Report, Commons, 5/9/16; col. 54.]
Those were the Secretary of State’s words: “very improbable”.
Now, I am not clear how he defines,
“giving up control of our borders”,
but he was quickly slapped down by No. 10, which said that this was his “opinion” and not “policy”. Yet, in your Lordships’ House yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, responded to my noble friend Lord Wood, that the Government,
“are not in a position to go into detail on this other than to say that we are not looking at an off-the-shelf response”.—[Official Report, 5/9/16; col. 889.]
I am confused, and I do not think I am the only one. I thought that the Secretary of State was articulating government policy from the Dispatch Box—but apparently not. Can the noble Baroness confirm whether, when Ministers make statements in either House, the statements should be regarded as government policy—or can we now expect to hear private opinion as well? How will we be able to tell the difference?
Finally, the summit also discussed other issues, included terrorism and refugees, as referenced in the Statement. Paragraph 44 of the communiqué deals with refugees. I welcome that the Government signed up to the communiqué quote:
“We call for strengthening humanitarian assistance for refugees and refugee resettlement”.
The noble Baroness will have heard the exchanges in your Lordships’ House yesterday and again today about the grave disappointment with the Government’s actions to date on resettling those unaccompanied children who qualify to come to the UK under family reunification laws yet remain in the camps in Calais—in the Jungle.
Is she aware of the report today from UNICEF, which is highly critical of the UK Government because of the danger that these children are in? They are often traumatised by both the journey from their home country and by what they witnessed or suffered there. As the author of the UN report states, they are,
“at risk of the worst forms of abuse and harm and can easily fall victim to traffickers and other criminals”.
What can be more important than ensuring that these children, who are legally as well as morally entitled to safety and refuge in the UK, have that refuge? Does the noble Baroness consider that the Government now need to take faster and more effective action to fulfil both the Dubs amendment on child refugees, passed by this House while Theresa May was Home Secretary, and the agreement reached at the G20 summit?
I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to address these questions and that the Government truly understand how important clarity is and that uncertainty is the enemy of good government.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement this afternoon. The Prime Minister’s Statement and the G20 leaders’ communiqué clearly set out the challenges facing the global economy at this time. As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, quoted, it goes on to state clearly:
“The outcome of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU adds to the uncertainty in the global economy”.
One wonders whether any of that uncertainty was dispelled by the numerous meetings that the Prime Minister had. She says that “Brexit means Brexit”, but I rather suspect that none of the other G20 leaders knows what it means; and as the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, indicated, it appears that some members of the Cabinet do not know what it means either. When one hears that Downing Street spokespersons are dismissing a Secretary of State’s quotes as being personal rather than a statement of government policy, it suggests that the collective responsibility that we had in the coalition was a model that this Government ought to follow. Perhaps the noble Baroness the Leader of the House will take the opportunity now, and not rely on a No. 10 spokesperson, to make the position very clear with regard to the comments of the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU on Monday.
Since the result of the referendum in June, a number of Conservative Ministers have sought to give the impression that they could agree new trade deals in time for tea. The clear evidence from this summit is that that will simply not be the case. Although a number of world leaders have talked about maintaining good relations with the United Kingdom—which is very welcome—few gave the impression that a trade deal with the United Kingdom was a top priority for them. President Obama made it clear that a trade deal between the EU and the USA was a much greater priority. He was not the only world leader to take that position. The Japanese Government have released a detailed document setting out their concerns. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has warned the Prime Minister that Japanese companies need more certainty in order to stay in the United Kingdom, and Japan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom has highlighted that Japanese companies could disinvest from our country.
The Prime Minister’s statement refers to the leaders of Mexico, South Korea, India and Singapore, who said that they would welcome talks on removing barriers to trade between our countries. That is very welcome, but can the Leader of the House give the House some context? What percentage of goods are exported from the UK to these four countries in total, compared with the percentage exported to one country, Germany, with which we would inevitably be raising trade barriers unless we enjoy full membership of the single market? Even Australia, the country from which the Prime Minister had the warmest welcome at the G20, has been clear that any post-Brexit deal with the UK would have to wait until Australia had completed parallel negotiations with the European Union, a process which will not even begin for another two and a half years at the earliest. I fear it is a long time since Britain has stood so alone on the world stage. Can the Leader of the House confirm that, at the summit, the Prime Minister did not hold a single bilateral meeting with any other Europe Union leader?
Will the noble Baroness take this opportunity to end the current uncertainty? Do we not owe it, globally and to companies here at home, to indicate what our position will be with regard to membership of the single market? Does she agree that securing such membership should be the Government’s priority rather than burdening British companies with additional red tape and compromising our position as a global economic nation?
We on these Benches are also deeply disappointed that the Prime Minister failed to raise the issue of steel exports with China during her bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping. Thousands of jobs at Port Talbot, and across our steel industry, are facing an uncertain future because of dumping of steel on the EU market by China, but although it was raised in plenary, it does not appear that the Prime Minister took the opportunity to make the case in a bilateral meeting.
Although there has been much aspirational talk by Ministers of preferential trade deals, one is conscious that the only concrete, substantive trade deal that we have heard about since Parliament returned on Monday is the continuing supply of military equipment to Saudi Arabia. Can the noble Baroness tell the House what discussions the Prime Minister had with Saudi Ministers at the G20 regarding the position in Yemen and international humanitarian law? Will she clarify her Government’s definition of a “serious” breach of international humanitarian law?
With regard to other matters, the communiqué states a clear commitment to,
“usher in a new era of global growth and sustainable development, taking into account … the Paris Agreement”.
Given the news that China and the USA have now ratified the Paris Agreement, will the noble Baroness commit to the UK ratifying that agreement in line with our international partners? Will she also confirm whether or not it will require parliamentary approval under Section 20 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 and, at the same time, whether the same parliamentary requirement applies to any Brexit agreement with the remaining EU?
The communiqué also states a clear commitment to,
“taking into account the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
What action are this Government taking to ensure that the sustainable development goals are truly universal and that each government department is working towards these goals?
We on these Benches remain very concerned at the global refugee crisis. Given the attention given at the conference to the refugee crisis, will the noble Baroness be more specific about the Government’s objectives at the upcoming high-level meeting on refugees and migrants in New York later this month? Can she also answer the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, in relation to the some 380 children eligible to come to the UK who are currently in Calais?
We have heard in recent weeks that Brexit is Brexit, but we seem to be no closer to knowing what it actually means. From the briefings given on the Prime Minister’s plane, we know that it does not mean a points-based immigration system or that £350 million a week will be given to the National Health Service—that promise, given by those who are now senior members of the Conservative Government, is no longer worth the bus it was written on. There is much confusion from the Conservative Government, and in the face of that confusion, we on these Benches will continue to fight to keep Britain open, tolerant and united.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness and the noble and learned Lord for their remarks. Before I address some of the specific points, I will touch on some of the key elements of last week’s summit. First, as I said, we saw that the UK has, and will continue to have, a leading role in the international community, whether in championing work on antimicrobial resistance or pushing to deliver an economy that works for everyone. The summit showed that we are shaping the global agenda on many of the important challenges facing the world, and we will continue to do so.
Secondly, we saw that world leaders want to work constructively with us to make a success of Brexit. The Prime Minister outlined her vision for the UK as a global leader on free trade, and it was clear that there is a shared desire to build and maintain strong relationships with our international partners. Our priority now has to be to work through the issues posed by Brexit to deliver on that vision, and to get the right deal for Britain.
The noble Baroness and the noble and learned Lord asked about the shape of this. We are looking at negotiating a new relationship with Britain. Noble Lords are right that the process will not be brief or straightforward, but we are looking to achieve the best deal. What the British people told us with their vote was that it must be a priority for us to regain more control over the numbers of people who come here from Europe, but also that we must allow British companies to trade with the single market in goods and services.
Both noble Lords asked about Japan’s approach. Of course we continue to listen to and engage with Japanese business and investors as we plan for our exit. In fact, since the G20 the Japanese ambassador has praised the,
“cautious and very patient”,
approach of the Prime Minister, and said that what is needed are,
“well-thought through considerations before you start any negotiations”.
That is exactly the approach that the Prime Minister has taken. The relationship between the UK and Japan has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and we believe it will continue to do so. The PM and the Prime Minister of Japan spoke and were both clear that they would work together to build our relationship. As was said in the Statement, as a member of the EU we will continue to support a swift conclusion to the EU-Japan free trade agreement, and co-operation on security with our European and global allies will be undiminished.
The noble Baroness and the noble and learned Lord asked about unaccompanied children. I assure noble Lords that we began to work to implement the Dubs amendment immediately after the Immigration Bill gained Royal Assent. Discussions are happening with local authorities because this is a UK matter rather than a G20 one, but of course we are working with Greece, France, Italy and NGO partners to speed up existing processes and implement new ones where necessary.
The noble and learned Lord commented that the Prime Minister did not meet other EU leaders. As he will be well aware, over the summer she visited France, Germany and some of the key leaders. This was her first opportunity to meet President Obama, for example, so she took such opportunities at the G20 and that was the right approach.
The noble and learned Lord questioned the fact that the Prime Minister did not specifically raise steel with China. In fact she raised it with everyone; this was a key concern of ours, and in fact we were delighted to have secured a commitment from the G20 steel-producing nations to bring forward a global response to address overcapacity, including through the OECD Steel Committee, which will meet next week. That will provide the first opportunity, following the summit, to take stock of response efforts and discuss the feasibility of forming a global forum for dialogue and information sharing on overcapacity.
The noble and learned Lord asked about the Paris agreement. We are fully committed to ratifying it, and of course we were very pleased to see the commitment from both the United States and China during the course of the summit. We are already playing our part in delivering this through our domestic climate framework and we will ratify it as soon as possible, but all necessary work to implement the agreement is under way. I am sure we will refer to some of the other issues that the noble Lords raised later in the debate, but if there is anything else I can add subsequently I will do so.
To conclude, I reinforce what the Prime Minister said in the other place: the best route to prosperity for this country is as a global leader in free trade, but to carry people along with us we must deliver and demonstrate the benefits of that approach for people right across the country. As a Government, that is exactly what we will do. We will act boldly at home so that our economy works for everyone, and we will work with our international partners abroad, shaping an ambitious global role for this country that will deliver prosperity for our citizens and those around the world in years to come.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader for repeating a very sensible Statement bringing us all up to date. I heard the Australian Trade Minister yesterday discussing his proposal that he should lend us a negotiator. The idea would be that there would be an Australian negotiator on both sides of the table. He described that as a joke—a quip. It is clearly not one that has gone down well with the Opposition.
The one thing I would say in response is that the Australian Trade Minister was setting out the legal position. We can certainly negotiate and discuss the arrangements that we wish to have with the Australians and other international global partners. The Prime Minister had an extremely useful and constructive dialogue with Prime Minister Turnbull, and we look forward to working with him to develop our relationship with Australia more fully.
My Lords, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House rightly said how important it is that we trade around the world, and she will know that 95% of that trade is carried by merchant shipping. Sadly, and for surprising reasons, the Conservative Party has never been very supportive of our merchant fleet. We have just completed the Maritime Growth Study. Will the Government implement its recommendations, which will help reinforce the strength of our merchant fleet with all the benefits that will have, particularly for global trade?
I will have to write to the noble Lord on the specifics of his question. What I can certainly say is that the UK is an outward-facing, global nation and we want to be a global leader in free trade. We set out our determination to achieve that; the Prime Minister reiterated it in her Statement and in response to questions in the other place; we are focused on making sure that we make the best of Brexit for this country and work constructively, as we do now, with other countries around the world.
A majority of those permitted to vote on 23 June voted to depart from the EU, but they were given no help whatever by the leave campaign to know what the destination thereafter would be and have been given no help since 23 June by the Government. We have heard the remarks about the Brexit Secretary being slapped down by the Prime Minister. In her response, the noble Baroness talked about trade with the single market, but that covers a multitude of possibilities. Can she be more specific about what that means? Does it mean membership of the single market or access to it, which is different? Where does it leave the customs union, for instance? Are the Government laying on a series of tutorials for Secretaries of State and Ministers on the difference between all those concepts, because many of them do not seem to understand them?
My Lords, as I think was clear from the Statement, we will not be providing a running commentary on what is happening. We want to get the best deal, and in order to get the best deal, as many noble Lords will know from their careers in business, you do not show your negotiating hand. What I have said is that the priority is to regain more control over the numbers of people coming here from Europe and, as the noble Baroness rightly said, to allow British companies to trade with the single market in goods and services.
My Lords, I do not think I heard the words “Hinkley Point C” mentioned in the Statement; perhaps I missed them. While I personally deplore some of the overhyped fears about Chinese security and threat—there is always a question, but it has been exaggerated—will my noble friend remind her Cabinet colleagues that there are ways forward with this particularly difficult project which will continue to combine the input of the Chinese, whose good will and technology we need, with the needs of the French and of EDF, which is a company in some difficulty, without saddling ourselves with the present prospect of a project of the wrong design at the wrong time that will load our industries and consumers for many years ahead with unnecessarily high energy costs?
My noble friend is right: there was no reference to Hinkley in the Statement but, as the Prime Minister has said, there is more to our relationship with China than Hinkley. She spoke to President Xi about the fact that we are reviewing the Hinkley deal because it is a complex, large-scale infrastructure project. It is only right that we look at the detail and consider all its component parts. The Prime Minister assured President Xi that a decision will be made in a timely manner.
My Lords, the noble Baroness will appreciate that the Prime Minister said nothing at all at the summit on the position of EU nationals who have settled in the United Kingdom. Many people from all shades of politics are deeply disappointed about that situation because they consider that the United Kingdom Government have given those people a clear undertaking that they could remain in perpetuity if they so wished. Does the Leader of the House, who is very greatly respected, agree that the one thing that you cannot use as a bargaining chip, however great the temptation, is your word of honour?
I assure the noble Lord that the Prime Minister has been clear that she is determined to protect the status of EU nationals already living here, and the only circumstances in which that would not be possible are if British citizens’ rights in European member states are not protected in return—and that is something that I find very hard to imagine.
My Lords, the noble Baroness said that the Government were not going to provide a running commentary, but in many ways that is precisely what we have had for two months. We have had the Secretary of State for leaving Europe saying something in the House the other day, only to be sharply slapped down—rightly, in my view—by the Prime Minister and No. 10. The problem is that, during the referendum, the alternative to Britain being in Europe was never actually discussed; it was not on the ballot paper. The real problem is that, unless and until this country, led by the Government, works out where it stands on issues such as the single market—or on immigration, if we are not going to have a points-based system—we are never going to get anywhere. I am not one for rushing into things when we do not need to, and I know that the process will be long and tortuous, but can the noble Baroness tell us when the Government intend to set out their stall either in a White Paper or in some other way so that we can have a proper debate in this country, which we rather missed out on two months ago?
The noble Lord is absolutely right: it will take time for negotiations for us to leave the EU. That is why the Prime Minister has been clear that we will not invoke Article 50 before the end of the year. We are focusing on establishing a UK approach and clear objectives for negotiations. As I said, we are well aware that negotiations will not be brief or straightforward and believe that it would be inappropriate to set out timelines for entering a negotiation. We want to get the best deal for Britain, not the quickest one. As noble Lords will be aware with the changes in government, we have a new Department for International Trade, but we also have the Department for Exiting the European Union, and they will remain in close contact with investors and businesses throughout the process to facilitate a stable and transparent process. We are already engaging widely, and your Lordships’ House will of course be involved with our thinking.
My Lords, does not this Statement, combined with a highly critical report from the Electoral Commission, demonstrate the very real dangers of holding referendums rather than relying on representative parliamentary democracy? Was there any discussion at the summit with regard to the enormous influx both of refugees and of economic migrants into the European Community area? Why are we continuing to encourage and facilitate traffickers by rescuing—quite rightly—people who are trying to cross the Mediterranean, at the same time aiding the traffickers, who can say, “Don’t worry if the boats don’t look safe—you’ll be rescued by the Royal Navy and arrive in Italy or Greece in due course”? It is highly dangerous, and we ought not to continue this practice, which simply exacerbates the immigration problem.
The G20 summit focused on the need to develop a sustainable framework for the global management of migration. By reducing the incentives to make dangerous secondary journeys and stopping organised immigration crime groups from exploiting the vulnerable, we can achieve better outcomes for migrants. As my noble friend will be aware, the UK is a major contributor to Operation Sophia. We are also looking ahead from the summit to two high-level migration events at the UN General Assembly later this month: the UN Secretary-General’s high-level meeting on large movements of refugees and migrants and President Obama’s leaders’ summit on refugees. They will build on the work that was undertaken at the London Syria conference in February.
My Lords, the Prime Minister’s Statement is a little perplexing. She says that,
“we will make a success of Brexit”,
but that follows:
“By building on existing partnerships”.
Surely the point of Brexit is that we are leaving our most important partnership—the European Union. Can the noble Baroness explain how we plan to become a global leader in trade when, at the moment, all our trade negotiation is done through that most important partnership of the European Union and we do not have our own trade negotiators?
My Lords, what will be the noble Baroness’s role in this? There are a number of European Union committees—I am a member of the Sub-Committee on Home Affairs—which are looking at legislation coming from Europe now. My view is that we will have to make some attempt to put into British law those things that are coming through and then change them later. How will the noble Baroness manage the House’s agenda on European legislation that is coming through now and will continue to come through? We cannot assume that we will not put it into effect, in particular on security, policing and terrorism, which is an immensely important area. Does she have any proposals for how we handle this?
The noble Lord is absolutely right: it is critical that the well-respected work of the EU committees should now reflect the new reality that we are in. Certainly, through the usual channels and discussions with other Members across the House, we will be looking to ensure that the way we work here allows us to involve ourselves in the most effective way. We are in early discussions—obviously we have only just come back from Recess—but I assure the noble Lord that it is at the forefront of my mind. I will, I am sure, be involved in a number of conversations with my opposite numbers over the coming weeks.
My Lords, does my noble friend accept that among those who are most disillusioned and disaffected following the vote on 23 June are the young people of this country, particularly in our universities? They are our future. What will the Government do to try to convince our university students and other young people, on whom we all depend, that there truly is—I believe it is perfectly possible—a bright future beckoning? They must be convinced that splendid isolation is not the answer and that real co-operation is. Will there be a concerted attempt by government Ministers to put the case across?
I hope my noble friend was reassured by the tone of the Statement I repeated today, because I think it was very clear that we are and want to remain an outward-facing country, and that we want to make the best of the opportunities that the vote has allowed us. There is a lot that we can do in this country ourselves. The Prime Minister has made very clear that the social justice agenda is extremely high in her priorities. That is why, as I have said, we are developing a proper industrial strategy at home so that more people can share in our national prosperity through higher real wages and greater opportunities for young people. We have a lot of initiatives, such as the apprenticeship levy, and we are looking at ways to ensure that, through a strong education system and ensuring that there are job opportunities and new opportunities for us globally, young people can see that this country has an extremely bright future.
My Lords, the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and other leading Cabinet Ministers have all said that they want to see an open border between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland. I support that objective. They have also said that they want to see greater control on immigration from the European Union, which is also an objective I support. Does the noble Baroness not see a glaring inconsistency between those two laudable objectives? Has sufficient work been done to drill down into the detail to see precisely how these conflicting objectives are to be achieved in a way that does not result in the border between the United Kingdom and the European Union being moved to Stranraer?
I certainly assure the noble Lord that we are fully engaging with the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure a UK-wide approach to our negotiation. As my noble friend Lord Bridges made clear in his Statement on Monday, we have reiterated our determination that there will be no return to the hard borders of the past.
Certainly, we take this issue extremely seriously, which is why we have produced a new Hate Crime Action Plan. This is something of which we are extremely mindful. I believe the latest figures show that the situation is still unacceptable but the spike that was seen has now gone. However, I assure the noble Baroness that this matter is at the forefront of our mind and is certainly something that we all take very seriously in discussions with other colleagues globally. We will focus on it because, as I said, we want to ensure that we are seen to be, and remain, the outward-looking, global international country that we have always been.
My Lords, the country is about to embark on a momentous change of direction that will affect generations. Since, once Article 50 is triggered there is no going back, how does my noble friend the Minister expect the concept of the sovereignty of Parliament to be respected during the process?
Of course Parliament will have a role in making sure that we find the best way forward and the Department for Exiting the European Union will consider the detailed arrangements for that. The referendum result was a clear sign that the majority of the British people wish to see Parliament’s sovereignty strengthened, so throughout this process Parliament will be regularly informed, updated and engaged.
The noble Baroness the Leader of the House elided—inadvertently, I am sure—over the question asked by my noble friend Lord Darling. When can we expect to see a definitive statement from Her Majesty’s Government setting out their vision of what a post-EU future for this country will be like, and what they intend will be the prime objectives in their negotiations? When will Parliament see that in a White Paper and when will the British people see it?
As I have said on a number of occasions during these questions, our priority is to regain control of the number of people who come here from Europe but also to allow British companies to trade with a single market in goods and services. We will not give a running commentary on negotiations.
My Lords, I note that the Prime Minister said that we will not shy away from dealing with illegal immigrants. Do the Government now recognise that the rate of immigration into Europe has become wholly unsustainable and that the EU’s system of quotas is not working because it has been completely ignored, and that a new approach is needed? Will my noble friend encourage the Prime Minister to take to the UN in America my proposal for having an area of desert, probably in north Africa, designated for the reception of all immigrants, where they can be sorted out and dealt with?
My Lords, I have listened to the debate with great interest. A lot of noble Lords do not appear to know what Brexit means. Brexit means leave. That is precisely the question that the electorate answered. They were asked whether they wished to remain or whether they wished to leave. They decided that they wanted to leave. That was an instruction to the Government to get on with it. The great disgrace is that the Government and the Civil Service had not prepared for either alternative. That, of course, is the problem we are facing now.
But it is not all doom and gloom. There is a great future ahead, as there has been a great, historic past. We should take hold of that. We should not be supplicants; we are a great country and we should use our power for the good of this country and the rest of the world.
I found the second paragraph of page 3 very interesting. Does it mean that the Government are moving towards syndicalism?
I certainly endorse the noble Lord’s upbeat words. We are not turning our backs on the world. We are the same outward-looking, globally minded, big-thinking country we always have been. We remain open for business; we are negotiating a new relationship with Europe.