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Volume 783: debated on Tuesday 4 July 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of their 2017 manifesto commitments, what are their criteria and specific objectives for Brexit; and how they intend to forge a deep and special partnership with the European Union.

My Lords, the objectives for our partnership with the European Union are as the Prime Minister set out in her Lancaster House speech on 17 January, the White Paper of 2 February and the Article 50 letter. Supporting our exit from the European Union is a cross-Whitehall effort. We are conducting negotiations in a constructive manner to ensure a strong and prosperous Europe with the UK as its closest partner.

I thank the Minister for that reply. The Government have reportedly dropped their cake-and-eat-it approach to Brexit negotiations, but freelancing by individual Ministers is creating an even more dizzying pick-and-mix confusion. The fisheries, financial services and pharma sectors are getting this treatment as well as cars. What, if any, coherent partnership framework—the word mentioned in the manifesto and the Queen’s Speech—is all this fitting into? Is the Prime Minister actually in charge?

My Lords, yes, she is, which is why she has formed a series of Cabinet sub-committees to consider the full range of issues—some of the crucial issues, as the noble Baroness pointed out, that this country needs to address as we leave the European Union and as we look at the implementation period. Our overall objective is to ensure that there is no cliff edge and that we have security for all those practising business, whether agribusiness or financial services. That is why this is a true cross-Whitehall effort. It is not easy, and it is not necessarily the way Whitehall has worked in the past—but it does now.

My Lords, in order to put one misused phrase to flight, does my noble friend agree that it is perfectly possible to have your cake and eat it but that you cannot eat your cake and have it?

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House why the Government have not put forward their proposals for the framework, as required by Article 50, for the future relationship, and when they will get round to doing so?

My Lords, we have set out our framework from the point of view of the objectives in, for example, the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech, repeated in the White Paper. That is the framework to which we are working and the one which our colleagues in the European Commission see as part of our negotiations. We have already had one round of those negotiations, and are looking forward to the second, starting on 17 July.

My Lords, how many EU nationals in the UK have the Home Office removed under article 14.4(b) of directive 2004/38 because they did not satisfy its work requirements? Does not this provision enable EU nationals not in work to be returned home while the UK still remains in the single market and the customs union?

My Lords, I will certainly seek advice from the Home Office on the specific statistic, if that is to hand, but the noble Lord quite rightly points to all the issues that need to be considered as we work through our offer on citizens’ rights—the rights of EU citizens who are here and have played a very valuable role in our economy but also the rights of UK citizens who live overseas. Our recent paper on this seeks to address some of those issues. These are the matters that we are discussing, not just at headline level, but in minute detail, with our colleagues in the Commission.

My Lords, is it possible to negotiate an agreement to facilitate barrier-free single market participation on the basis of allowing the free movement of working people taking up specific jobs? Would that be within the Government’s negotiating criteria?

My Lords, the negotiating framework looks very carefully at how we can ensure that we will continue to be able to recruit the brightest and best here and that those who have employment in specific fields where they need to go across borders are able to do so. That underwrote of course some of the paper on citizens’ rights which we published recently. The noble Lord raises an issue which goes to the heart of all the considerations about how we then protect employment rights. Protection of employments rights was one of those 12 principles which were set out so clearly by the Prime Minister.

My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Baroness has talked about partnership. Does she agree with her DExEU colleague, Steve Baker, that the EU is an “obstacle” to world peace and “incompatible” with a free society? Is that what her department thinks?

My Lords, I have to say I am thoroughly enjoying working with my colleague Steve Baker. He brings a different perspective on many matters, but all of them constructively, as a Minister. It is a real pleasure to work in a department where everyone is focused on one thing, and one thing only—getting the best agreement for the UK and the European Union, because that is the one that will work.

My Lords, does the Minister not agree that it is a little anomalous that so far the only detailed paper we have from our side is that published last week on status, whereas on the European side there are a plethora of papers putting forward their views? Does she not think that it would be desirable that on for example scientific co-operation, justice and home affairs, and foreign policy and security issues, some piece of paper could emerge into the light of day setting out the British Government’s extremely positive objectives in these fields, and does she not feel that that would help to create a positive atmosphere in the negotiations?

My Lords, the noble Lord is right to point out that it is important to be able to set out issues such as that, but we must do so in a way that is in sync with our negotiations across Europe. Further papers were released by the European Commission just at the end of last week, which I have read, and we will be responding to those shortly. I hope we will then be able to share those more widely.

My Lords, in response to the International Relations Committee’s Middle East report, where we raised the issue of the importance of bilateral relations with our EU partners, the Government said that,

“until the Government’s negotiations on exiting the EU have concluded, there will be no decisions on specific post-Brexit arrangements”.

Is there any evidence that the Government have a clue where they are going? Should we be worried? Is Steve Baker helping?

My Lords, we work closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—my own department until recently—and clearly the Ministers there look very seriously at this issue, particularly at a time of the remembrance of the Balfour declaration. I assure the noble Baroness that the security issues across that region are crucial to us, which is why the Prime Minister made it clear that security co-operation must be a vital part not only of the first tranche of discussions, which they are, but of the agreement to be reached.