My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made in the other place earlier today by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement on the Government’s plans for exiting the European Union. Today we are publishing a Government White Paper on the UK’s exit from, and new partnership with, the European Union. This Government have made clear that they will honour the choice made by the people of the United Kingdom on 23 June 2016. The UK will leave the European Union. This House is currently considering a straightforward Bill that will give the Prime Minister the authority to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union and begin the negotiation over our exit. That is not a Bill about whether or not we leave the EU, or even how we do so, but about implementing a decision already taken by the people of the UK in last year’s referendum. But we have always said that we would detail our strategic aims for the negotiation and seek to build a national consensus wherever possible.
This White Paper sets out those aims and the thinking behind them. It confirms the Prime Minister’s vision of an independent, truly global United Kingdom and an ambitious future relationship with the European Union. This is based on the 12 principles that will guide the Government in fulfilling the democratic will of the people of the United Kingdom. These are: providing certainty and clarity where we can as we approach the negotiations; taking control of our own laws and statute book; strengthening the union by securing a deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom; maintaining the Common Travel Area and protecting our strong historic ties with Ireland; controlling immigration from the European Union; securing the rights for European Union citizens already living in the United Kingdom and the rights of United Kingdom nationals living in the European Union; protecting and enhancing existing workers’ rights; ensuring free trade with European markets, forging a new strategic partnership with the European Union, including a bold and ambitious free trade agreement and mutually beneficial new customs agreement; forging ambitious free trade agreements with other countries across the world; ensuring that the United Kingdom remains the best place for science and innovation; co-operating in the fight against crime and terrorism; and, finally, delivering a smooth, orderly exit from the EU.
These 12 objectives amount to one goal: a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union that works in our mutual interest. All of them are key, but let me highlight some of the specific issues in the White Paper. It reiterates our firm view that it is in the United Kingdom’s interest for the European Union to succeed politically and economically and so we approach the negotiations to come in a spirit of goodwill and working to an outcome in our mutual benefit. We recognise the European Union’s principle of the four freedoms and so the United Kingdom will leave the single market. Instead, we seek a new strategic partnership, including a bold and ambitious free trade agreement and a mutually beneficial new customs agreement that should ensure the most free and frictionless trade in goods and services that is possible. That will be to our mutual benefit.
As the White Paper notes, we export £230 billion-worth of goods and services to the EU while importing £290 billion-worth of goods and services from the EU every year. It also sets out how, after we leave the EU, the United Kingdom will look to significantly increase its trade with the fastest-growing export markets in the world. While we cannot sign new trade deals while still a member, we can and are preparing the ground for them. This means updating the terms of our membership of the World Trade Organization, of which the United Kingdom was a founding member. Modern free trade agreements require mechanisms to resolve disputes and to provide certainty for businesses on both sides. So the White Paper examines precedents in this area and makes it clear that we will negotiate an arrangement that respects UK sovereignty.
In terms of clarity and certainty, we recognise the need to provide it wherever we can during a period where some uncertainty is inevitable, so we will bring forward another White Paper on the great repeal Bill which will lay out our approach in detail. This legislation will mean the repeal of the European Communities Act while converting existing EU law into domestic law at the point of exit. That means that the position we start from—a common regulatory framework with the EU single market—is unprecedented. This negotiation will not be about bringing two divergent systems together. It is about finding the best way for the benefits of the common systems and the frameworks that currently enable the UK and EU businesses to trade with and operate in each other’s markets to continue when we leave the EU.
The White Paper also sets out that we will take control of our own laws, so that they are made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast and ensure that we can control the number of people coming to the United Kingdom from the European Union and that the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the United Kingdom will come to an end. It will be for Parliament and the devolved legislatures to determine significant changes to reflect our new position.
I have said at this Dispatch Box before that there will be any number of votes on substantive policy choices. To that end, the White Paper makes it clear that we expect to bring forward separate legislation in areas such as customs and immigration. Delivering a smooth, mutually beneficial exit, avoiding a disruptive cliff edge, will be key. A never-ending transitional status is emphatically not what we seek, but a phased process of implementation of new arrangements—whether immigration controls, customs systems, the way we co-operate on criminal and civil justice matters, or future regulatory and legal frameworks for business—will be necessary for both sides. As the White Paper says, the time needed to phase in new arrangements in different areas may vary.
As one of the most important actors in global affairs, we will continue to work with the European Union to preserve United Kingdom and European security, fight crime and terrorism and uphold justice. We must work more closely—not less—in these areas. We will seek to build a national consensus around our negotiating position, so we are talking all the time to business, civil society, the public sector and representatives of the regions. We have engaged the devolved Administrations in this process and, while no part of the United Kingdom can have a veto, we are determined to deliver an outcome that works for the whole of our country. We continue to analyse the impact of our exit across the breadth of the United Kingdom economy, covering more than 50 sectors, to shape our negotiating position.
To conclude, the referendum result was not a vote to turn our back on Europe. It was a vote of confidence in the United Kingdom’s ability to succeed in the world and an expression of optimism that our best days are still to come. Whatever the outcome of our negotiations, we seek a more open, outward-looking, confident and fairer United Kingdom that works for everyone. The White Paper is available on the Government website and I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses”.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and the House for agreeing to hear it so early, before having time to see the White Paper. It was a courtesy to me so that I can get away for the funeral of my favourite uncle, Uncle Joe. That is why we are having this debate early—so I can go and bid farewell to him—and I thank the House for its tolerance.
I also thank the Government for now—perhaps a little late—putting a White Paper to Parliament and making an announcement here. It was a tad regrettable that the Prime Minister’s two key speeches were made outside Parliament; one to the Conservative Party on 2 October and one in Lancaster House on 17 January. It is Parliament—and particularly the House of Commons—which speaks for the country, so we are pleased that the White Paper, which we have long sought, has been announced at the Dispatch Box.
The driving motivation for Mrs May and her negotiators must be the long-term economic and social well-being of the UK. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that she led the country. I hope that she can and will, because only by exiting the EU in a way that serves all the country—Scotland, Wales, London and the areas that have done less well from globalisation—will she truly be able to work to unite a divided country and also enable our economy, businesses, workers and consumers to benefit, while safeguarding our environment and our relationship with our nearest neighbours and close allies.
Some of what is suggested in the White Paper we can support: tariff-free, encumbrance-free and—I think the Minister said—frictionless access to the EU market; the ability to recruit talent; support for science and innovation; and, as I have stressed before, the partnership that we need with the EU 27. But we also have serious concerns about the White Paper, which will form our agenda for scrutiny here and, I hope, for the ongoing work of our EU committees, to which the Minister paid tribute earlier.
Consumers are not highlighted in the 12 principles but are vulnerable to losing compensation from cancelled flights and dangerous products once we are out of the European alert system. They will possibly be unable to use our courts to follow insurance claims for car accidents abroad, and may even face visa requirements to travel in the EU. The environment is also not one of the overarching 12 principles, despite enormous improvements to the environment made at EU level in co-operation with our EU allies. Nor is how to make good our absence from Euratom—just three paragraphs in the White Paper. We regret any departure from the customs union. We will seek to understand why on earth this is an objective, given the problems it will cause for our importers and exporters, particularly of complex products or components, and for the service sector, as was raised this morning.
I am also curious about the background to the White Paper. Is it just the Lancaster House speech but in a more normal White Paper style? Or is it what we would normally expect from a Government who know what they are doing, based on careful cost-benefit and options appraisal, with impact assessments prepared for the various options? The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, asked some fairly simple but fundamental questions this morning about such assessments, but answers came there none. I ask again: will the Government, while holding any negotiation tricks safely up their sleeve, complete and publish impact assessments on the White Paper’s objectives? Will they make these available to our EU committees in a timely manner so that their reports can influence the Government’s thinking?
When will the Government publish the other White Paper, not on what is called the great repeal Bill but on what is actually a retrenchment Bill? Will there be pre-legislative scrutiny of that Bill?
My Lords, I also thank the Minister for repeating the Statement, but I ask him from where the Government believe they derive the mandate to leave the single market, in an extreme version of Brexit. This dishonours the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, breaks the Conservative manifesto promise to stay in the single market and breaches the wishes of 90% of voters who, in a poll last November, said they wanted to stay in the single market. There was no choice on the ballot last June that asked people, “Do you want to leave the single market?”.
Therefore, will the Minister tell me why this version of Brexit, which will be so destructive to our economy and jobs, is being chosen? It will also be a great deal more bureaucratic. Any alternative to the smooth trade we get with the single market and the customs union, especially for supply chains that exist not only in manufacturing but in services and, as I learned this morning, universities, which depend on the free exchange of academics, will be more bureaucratic and mean more red tape. The Conservatives always tell us they stand for slashing red tape. Also, how do we expect to get the benefits of common systems and frameworks when we are not in the single market and customs union? I do not understand how we can derive such benefits.
The Prime Minister said in her Lancaster House speech that,
“no deal … is better than a bad deal”.
In the light of that, will the Minister please explain how the Government will fulfil the promises of certainty, clarity and a smooth orderly exit, avoiding a disruptive cliff edge? If the Government propose to walk away from the negotiations, how can they avoid a disorderly, chaotic Brexit, which is precisely what business and most of us fear? Where is the national consensus? Where are the 48% of people who voted to remain reflected in the White Paper, which I acknowledge I have not had the opportunity to read, although I read the Statement, which talks about a national consensus? I second the request for the publication of impact assessments for us to know exactly where the Government think they are taking us in concrete reality.
The Prime Minister has admitted that the UK will continue to pay into the EU budget for the sectoral benefits they expect to get. Where will the money come from for the NHS, promised by the leave campaign? It is currently about £11 billion; we all know how cash-starved the NHS is.
On the declared red line of no jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice, how will we then co-operate on crime and terrorism, and exchange data? These Benches fully support cross-border co-operation on policing and security, as well as civil justice. The Home Secretary was pressed on this in the other place by the Home Affairs Committee. It asked how she was going to get those arrangements while denying the jurisdiction of the Luxembourg court. She floundered in answering that question, as did the Minister of State in the Ministry of Justice to the EU Justice Sub-Committee on Tuesday in the area of civil justice. It simply does not add up.
I also ask the Minister a question we keep asking because it is important, particularly to this House. It is a cross-party concern that EU nationals and Brits in the rest of the EU should not be a pawn in negotiations. There is nothing whatever to prevent the Government giving a unilateral guarantee and a simplified procedure for EU nationals to stay, and for Brits in the rest of the EU. It is morally indefensible as well as economically illiterate not to do so. Can the Minister give me a real answer why that is not happening?
Lastly, if the Government really believe in British democracy, they should trust the people for a final say on this deal. [Laughter.] It is not a laughing matter. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, thinks it is funny. The Liberal Democrats do not. We take democracy seriously. People have not had a chance to see the colour of the Government’s money when it comes to what Brexit will mean in detail. They—not just Parliament, but voters—should get the chance to say whether that Brexit deal is good enough or whether they prefer to stay with the European Union.
I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Ludford, for those interesting remarks. I start by offering my condolences to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter. I completely concur with the thrust of what she said about the need for parliamentary scrutiny. As I said at the Dispatch Box earlier, and will continue to say, the Government will provide information and the opportunity to scrutinise me and other Ministers as we proceed in the process. I look forward to the debates that lie ahead.
I am also heartened by the approach taken by the noble Baroness and her party to the overriding approach set out in the White Paper. Obviously, it is absolutely our intention to try to safeguard our economic prosperity and, as she rightly said, to represent all parts of the United Kingdom and all parts of the economy. I am delighted therefore that there is the basis of some consensus around those points.
The noble Baroness entirely legitimately asked very basic questions about the protection of consumers and of the environment. I come back with the simplest of responses: as I have said previously, the approach underpinning the great repeal Bill is to ensure that those EU laws and regulations are enshrined in UK law. I am sure we will go on to debate those points and matters of detail in the weeks and months ahead, but that is absolutely our underlying approach.
On the customs union, as I have said before, we should start thinking about the customs union in terms of its component parts. Yes, there is the component part with regard to the common external tariff and the CDCP, from which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said we wish to withdraw. However, there are other aspects of it, as the noble Baroness well knows, regarding the processes around frictionless trade, such as authorised economic operators and trusted trader schemes, and precedents that one could point to on the borders between Canada and North America to ensure very free and frictionless trade. Therefore, it is slightly premature to say that we are somehow going to lose all these points. We are focused on it and are determined to ensure that we achieve trade that is as frictionless as possible.
Both the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Ludford, raised impact assessments. I am sorry to say that on this point, at this juncture, the Government disagree on publishing an impact assessment, for the simple reason that, as I have said before, it would undermine our position at the negotiating table. I feel that we will continue to disagree on this. I strongly recommend that noble Lords think about the consequences of providing such an analysis for the negotiations that are set to come. I note that the other place voted by a substantial majority not to do anything to undermine our negotiating position.
As for the publication of the great repeal Bill, I agree with the noble Baroness that the Bill will have within it a number of measures to ensure that the Government have the powers to deliver a smooth and orderly Brexit. Here, we will have to get the balance right to ensure that this House and the other place have the opportunity to scrutinise not just the Bill but the measures that may flow from it, while ensuring that our statute book is fully operable on the day we depart. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, raised this point in Questions earlier. I am very mindful, as are my fellow Ministers, of the need to get that balance right. We will ensure that there is as much time as possible for proper scrutiny of the White Paper and of the Bill. We will be mindful of the thoughts of noble Lords on processes that might be entailed in making sure that the statute book is fully operable.
On the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, once again I am sorry: we just disagree on this point. There was a referendum. That gave this Government the mandate. There were numerous times during the referendum campaign when those on both sides of the argument made the point that what people who voted leave would be voting for was to leave the single market. I have chapter and verse here from Mr David Cameron, my right honourable friend Mr George Osborne, the noble Lords, Lord Mandelson and Lord Darling, and my noble friend Lord Hill, and, on the other side of the argument, Mr Michael Gove and the Foreign Secretary. All made it very clear during that campaign what a vote to leave would mean. It is not quite right to say, therefore, that the British public did not know what they were voting for.
The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, made a number of salient points and raised questions which I am sure we will wish to return to in the weeks and months ahead. I will pick up just a few of them. She mentioned standards. She is absolutely right: there is an issue around standards which this Government are very focused on. We want to ensure that consumers and businesses can continue to operate and get the protection they need, and that businesses have the frictionless trade they enjoy. The standards framework is slightly more complex than some people may understand, for the standards are set by European bodies which are not part of the EU. Our membership therefore is not entirely hinged on our membership of the EU—I am thinking of CEN and CENELEC in particular. We are focused on that and on the issues around conformity assessment that arise from it, and we will obviously wish to debate them more in due course.
The noble Baroness also asked how we would avoid a cliff edge. This comes back to the fact that we have set out what we believe is a clear, rational approach to the negotiations. We believe that it will be in our mutual interest to come to an agreement with our European partners and that we will avoid a cliff edge as long as that happens. That is what we intend to do.
The noble Baroness mentioned the role of the ECJ. As she rightly pointed out, the ECJ has a role in a number of ambits. Given that we are leaving the ECJ, it will be a matter for negotiation how we can continue to have a relationship with those bodies and agencies in the months and years following our exit.
I have nothing further to add on the issue of EU nationals, but the Government have raised this issue with other EU leaders and they told us that they did not wish to start to negotiate on this point until we had begun formal negotiations and therefore had triggered Article 50. That is why it is important that we get to the point of triggering Article 50 by the end of March.
Finally, on whether there should be a second referendum, I would simply say this: there are some people in the Liberal Democrats who do not accept the outcome, who feel incredibly angry and who feel that the referendum is reversible and can somehow be undone. The public have voted. I think it is seriously disrespectful and politically utterly counterproductive to say, “Sorry, guys, you got it wrong. We’re going to try again”.
I am very sorry they disagree with that, because those were the words of Sir Vince Cable. It is what the Liberal Democrats themselves have been saying. I entirely agree with the guru of Twickenham. I am so sorry that we disagree on this fundamental point.
Is my noble friend aware that none of us has had a chance to read the White Paper yet? We have an advantage in this House that at least we have had it before the Second Reading and can properly discuss it.
Perhaps my noble friend can respond on one point that concerns me. I was involved when we had the presidency of the European Union for six months and I know of the great organisational pressures that are put on government at such times. I do not know what encouragement we can give to the other members of the European Union, but as I look at who the next presidencies will be after Malta—in the shape of Estonia, then Bulgaria, Austria and Romania—I do not think that I am the only Member of your Lordships’ House who will worry about the ability of the presidency to cope with the great pressures it will have at that time.
On a lighter note and just to warm things up a bit, is my noble friend aware that we are approaching the 100th birthday of Dame Vera Lynn? I do not think that I am the only person who noted how improbably appropriate her songs would be for this situation. They include:
“We’ll meet again, don’t know where,
Don’t know when”,
“Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye,
Cheerio, here I go”.
The last is perhaps even more to the point:
“Say that everything will turn up right,
It hurts to say goodbye”.
My Lords, we will certainly be meeting again, here, many times. On the next presidencies, my noble friend raises a very good point. I think that I am right in saying—in fact, I am sure—that the Government have offered support for the presidency of the Estonian Government if it were required. We are obviously in conversations with all the nation states that he has mentioned. We have been supported by them in making sure that we will continue to have a role in matters of substance that come to be discussed by the EU until we leave the EU, thereby fulfilling our role as a full member until the day we leave.
My Lords, in his foreword, the Secretary of State calls this White Paper a “plan”. Does the Minister agree that any plan worth the name requires a thorough cost-benefit analysis? Does he further agree that there is no such analysis in this White Paper or in the Statement or in the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech? There is certainly not a cost-benefit analysis of what operation under WTO rules would mean, what departure from the single market would mean, or what withdrawal from the European customs union would mean. All we have from the Government is the Statement this morning:
“We continue to analyse the impact of our exit across the breadth of the UK economy”.
What will they do when they produce those analyses? Keep them to themselves for fear of telling our counterparts in negotiation what we are thinking. Is it not clear that there is no compromise of our negotiating position in being honest with the British people about the cost-benefit analysis which is absolutely vital? In the absence of such a cost-benefit analysis, this White Paper is not a plan worth the name; it is a wish list.
The noble Lord makes his point with his customary passion and eloquence. I simply say that I am sorry but I disagree on that point. The British people were presented with a clear choice on 23 June. They were presented with different options. They made a choice. Furthermore, as your Lordships will know, the House of Lords European Select Committee earlier in the year said that parliamentary scrutiny of negotiations,
“will have to strike a balance between, on the one hand, the desire for transparency, and on the other the need to avoid undermining the UK’s negotiating position”.
That is our position and we will stick to it.
My Lords, chapter 9 in the White Paper sets out how, after we leave the EU, the UK will look to significantly increase its trade with the fastest growing export markets in the world. Does the Minister agree that a number of those countries already in the EU do significantly better with those export markets in the rest of the world? Why in fact are we waiting until after we leave the EU to start doing work on preparing to meet that competition? Why have we only heard from Dr Fox referring to lazy management in this country and have still not heard anything in detail from him? We have had the industrial strategy, which is as woolly a document as one could ever see—no specifics in it, no targets and no timetables. It is woolly in the extreme, like the people who have led the country out of the EU. When can we expect to get moving on a specific, timetabled and detailed analysis of how we are going to compete in the rest of the world? We do not need to wait until after we have completed the negotiations.
There are two separate points there. First, what are we doing to help UK businesses export, as we speak? There is an enormous amount of work going on on that front. The signs are already there that we are beginning to get great progress in our export markets around the world. That work continues. As regards the actual point that I think the noble Lord is getting at about the negotiations, he will be well aware of the duty of sincere co-operation, which ensures that we are therefore not able to start formal negotiations with non-EU countries until we have left the EU. The noble Lord may have a sense of impatience about that—I can sense it—but the reality is that we need to approach these negotiations in good faith and good will towards our European partners, and not seek to tear up or undermine the obligations that we face as a member of the EU today.
My Lords, on the question of trade agreements, given that there is a trend for intra-regional trade, has there been consideration given to starting a conversation with regional bodies such as the ACP, Mercosur, ASEAN and the Commonwealth? All the bilaterals engage with those regional bodies. Just to give an example, I encourage the Government to look at the Central American Association Agreement, which is an EU association agreement which encompasses trade, and to bring it into Parliament, because it has been stuck for a very long time without coming before the House.
The noble Viscount makes an extremely good point. Indeed there are a number of organisations like Mercosur and certainly the GCC which my noble friend Lord Price has I am sure been in contact with. We will continue to have conversations with those groups as well as individual member states. I would be happy to discuss that point with him in more detail.
My Lords, has my noble friend seen the latest report from TheCityUK stating that the EU has been a straitjacket on the City of London, which will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to now do business with the whole world? The EU’s own leaked report from the monetary affairs committee says that the EU has to do a workable deal with the UK, because it is absolutely vital for all Governments in the EU to get access to the City of London. In these circumstances, will my noble friend tell the remaining remoaners to start having faith that this is a great country, and we can be an even better country once we are outside the straitjacket of the dying and declining EU?
My noble friend makes a good point. There is a growing realisation across many financial services, both in the City and elsewhere, about the means by which we can come to some workable arrangement that I hope is to our mutual benefits. I remind your Lordships of what the Governor of the Bank of England said a couple of weeks ago about the risks that Brexit poses:
“there are greater financial stability risks on the continent in the short term, for the transition, than there are for the UK”.
As my noble friend says, there is a growing realisation on these points and of how we might come to some workable solution in the future.
Sorry, my Lords, it was the Lib Dems’ turn.
My Lords, is it not somewhat hubristic of the United Kingdom to offer to assist the Estonian presidency of the European Union, when we ourselves said that we no longer wanted to hold the rotating presidency of the European Union?
The key question that I wanted to ask was about the great repeal Bill—the great retrenchment Bill. Can the Government assure us that they are thinking through the implications of implementing all the regulations that are in place, bearing in mind that many entail reciprocity and the jurisdiction of the ECJ? How will we deal with that? Will the Bill look at that?
I am not going to go into further detail on that specific point now. As I have set out in the Statement, we will publish a White Paper and the noble Baroness is absolutely entitled to raise that point. Let us do that when we have the White Paper in front of us.
My Lords, I seek clarification of the Minister’s words—words that were on page 35 of the White Paper and on page 6 of his Statement—
“This negotiation will not be about bringing two divergent systems together. It is about finding the best way for the benefits of the common systems and frameworks that currently enable UK and EU businesses to trade with and operate in each other’s markets to continue when we leave the EU”.
Do those common systems and frameworks not in fact amount to the regulations of the single market? In fact, is this not a recognition that the single market will be our target?
Well, it is just a simple recognition that when we bring the EU acquis into UK law, we will therefore have exactly the same systems on both sides of the Channel. Then this House and the other place can in the weeks and years ahead decide how best to proceed.
My Lords, on page 63 of this White Paper, the Government say that they,
“remain committed to European security”,
and wish still to,
“add value to EU foreign policy and security policy”.
It goes on, of course, to talk about the civilian missions in Kosovo, Georgia and Ukraine, and says that those missions increased European stability. Is it the Government’s intention that, after leaving the European Union, we will continue to participate in common security and defence policy—not just good will but operations which the White Paper itself acknowledges have been so important?
The noble Baroness, again, makes a very good point. It is clear that a number of the operations under way confront significant challenges that are likely to continue way into the future. I am not getting into detail about how we can best continue those levels of co-operation but, as I have said before at this Dispatch Box, doing so will clearly in very many cases be in our national interest, as it will be in Europe’s interest.
My Lords, as a follow-up to the question just asked by the noble Baroness, I say that I am delighted that we have the words “new partnership”. Can we please enter these negotiations as talks with friends and allies? There is far too much underlying hostility. That must not prevail. We are to work with our friends and allies in a different way and capacity; some of us deeply regret that, but that is gone. Let us make sure that this is a new and positive chapter. Can my noble friend assure me that that will be the hallmark of the talks?
I completely agree with my noble friend. The whole spirit behind the White Paper and the Government’s approach is one of building a new partnership on the basis that there will be, as I said, issues on which it is absolutely in our national interest and those of member states right across Europe to collaborate and co-operate in the months and years ahead, and to enable our businesses both in the UK and right across Europe to continue to trade freely. As I also said, we enter these negotiations very much in a spirit of good faith and good will.
My Lords, would the Minister acknowledge—
I am sorry but it is the turn of the Liberal Democrats. If we are taking questions from around the House, it is the Liberal Democrats’ turn.
My Lords, first, I thank the Government for publishing the menu after the House of Commons has finished its dinner. I have a specific question about our withdrawal from the Euratom treaty, which has provided the framework for civil nuclear power and the management of nuclear waste in this country for the last 40 years. What communication have the Government had with the industry to assure themselves that the future of nuclear power on which their energy policy depends is still secure? What estimates have they made of the cost of creating a brand new regulatory framework to replace the one we are leaving behind?
All I will say on this point is that obviously we have had extensive consultation and talks with the nuclear industry. It remains of key strategic importance to the country and we have been clear that this decision does not affect our aim of seeking and maintaining close and effective arrangements relating to civil nuclear co-operation, safeguards and safety with Europe and the rest of the world.
My Lords, would the Minister acknowledge that it was a gross exaggeration for him to claim that our Front Bench statement represented a consensus about the White Paper? For example, on the question of the single market, the Government’s position is that they will not continue membership of it. The Statement repeated the catchphrase that they will seek an ambitious and comprehensive trade agreement with the EU. First, is that not what we have already? Secondly, are there not inevitably all sorts of attendant conditions to do with any trade agreement that are very similar to the arrangement with the arbitral role of the much-maligned European Court of Justice at present?
My Lords, I should set out that we intend to forge a new partnership with the EU that has different hallmarks from the relationship at the moment. To give just three examples, in our new relationship we will have the ability to take control of our borders, to be outside the ECJ and to be able to forge new free trade agreements with non-EU countries. That is the basis on which we will proceed.
My Lords, I welcome the fact that early on in the White Paper, Chapter 3 is headed “Strengthening the Union”. Did my noble friend see the statement made earlier this week by Mr Esteban González Pons, the leader of the ruling Spanish MEP delegation in the European Parliament? He said that if Great Britain leaves the EU, all of Great Britain leaves the EU completely. We know that Spain has problems in terms of Catalonia and the Basque country and that they cannot accept any kind of special solution for Scotland. Will my noble friend use the opportunity of the Joint Ministerial Committee to point out to the First Minister of Scotland that she must accept the result of the referendum, that the Spanish and others would veto any special deal, and that she should stop embarrassing Scotland by putting forward unworkable and confused policies and instead stick to her day job of trying to run a failing Administration?
My noble friend makes his remarks in his usual forthright manner. Clearly, the vote on 23 June was a vote for the whole of the United Kingdom. As the Prime Minister said, and I repeated today, our approach will be to negotiate in the interests of the entire United Kingdom, no part of which has a veto. We are looking at the proposals that my noble friend referred to and I hope that we will continue to have constructive conversations in the JMC.
My Lords, one subject that is not among the 12 principles and which I do not think has been covered in our own debates or reports is international development. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, quite rightly brought up European security and the Minister said that he could not disclose any details. Could he undertake to talk to his colleagues about international development? We have a substantial programme with Europe and want to know, in advance, what will happen to it.
The noble Earl makes a good point and I am happy to meet him to discuss it. My only point in response is that I do not wish to go into the mechanism of how we might achieve our aim. As I have said many times, where the national interests of the United Kingdom and the interests of member states across Europe coincide, we will obviously proceed with an open mind and will be willing to co-operate and collaborate where possible.
What happens if the Minister’s optimism is somewhat misplaced? Does he agree that, in the event that he is wrong, this country must go its own way? In particular, might he form the view that the country is best served by being in the EU? I have been a member of the Commission for a very long time, as has my noble friend. Is it not important that an alternative view is put forward to the House by this Minister? I am not sure whether he is capable of that, but I think he will have a duty to put it forward eventually.
My Lords, I think the noble Lord was suggesting that we somehow put forward a view to stay within the EU—if I understand him right. Obviously, that decision was made by the British public on 23 June.