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 will update the House on negotiations between the UK and the European Union in November, reflecting our actions since the October Council. Both the UK and the EU recognised the new dynamic instilled in the talks by the Prime Minister’s Florence speech.
At the October European Council, the 27 member states responded by agreeing to start their preparations for moving the negotiations on to trade and the future relationship we want to see. The Council conclusions also called for work to continue, with a view to being able to move to the second phase of the negotiations as soon as possible.
It is, of course, inevitable that our discussions are now narrowing to the few outstanding—albeit important—issues that remain. Last week, our focus was concentrated on finding solutions to those remaining issues. As we move forward towards the December Council, we have been clear with the EU that we are willing to engage in discussions in a flexible and constructive way in order to achieve the progress needed. To this end, our teams are in continuous contact, even between the formal rounds. I now turn to the three, key, ongoing areas of discussions, and will outline progress made last week on each of these.
We have made solid progress in our ongoing discussions on Northern Ireland and Ireland. Key areas of achievement include: continued progress in technical discussions on preserving north-south co-operation; agreed joint principles on the continuation of the common travel area and associated rights; and drafting further joint principles on how best we preserve north-south co-operation under the Belfast agreement to help guide the specific solutions to the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland. Both sides also remain firmly committed to avoiding a hard border—a point we have remained clear on throughout. We also remain resolutely committed to upholding the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, in all its parts, and to finding a solution that works for the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland.
We have continued to hold frank discussions with our Commission counterparts about all these issues. But in this area we have also had to be very clear with our Commission counterparts that, while we respect their desire to protect the legal order of the single market and customs union, that cannot come at the cost of the constitutional or economic integrity of the United Kingdom. As I have said, we cannot create a ‘new border’ within the United Kingdom. This is an area where we believe we will only be able to conclude talks finally in the context of our future relationship. Until such time as we can do so, we need to approach the issues which arise with a high degree of political sensitivity, pragmatism and creativity. Discussions on these areas will continue in the run-up to the December Council.
We have continued to make good progress on citizens’ rights. Both sides are working hard towards resolution of outstanding issues. Last week, to respond to the request for reassurances by the EU, we published a detailed description of our proposed administrative procedures for EU citizens seeking settled status in the UK. As our paper demonstrates, the new procedures will be as streamlined, straightforward and low-cost as possible and will be based on simple, transparent criteria, which will be laid out in the withdrawal agreement.
While there remain differences on the issues of family reunion and the export of benefits, we have been clear that we are willing to consider what further reassurance we can provide to existing families of EU residents here, even if they are not currently living together in the UK. I believe that this paves the way to resolving the remaining issues in this area, and this was acknowledged by the Commission on Friday. There also remain some areas where we are still seeking further movement from the EU. These are voting rights, mutual recognition of qualifications, and onward movement for British citizens currently living in the EU 27. In all of these three areas, the UK’s offer goes beyond that of the EU.
Finally, the Commission has fallen short of the UK’s offer in relation to the right to stand and vote in local elections. This is a core citizen’s right, enshrined in the EU treaties. I have been disappointed that the EU has been unwilling to include voting rights in the withdrawal agreement so far. As a result, we will pursue this issue bilaterally with member states.
This week we have also sought to give further clarity on our commitment to incorporate the agreement we reach on citizens’ rights into UK law. This will ensure that EU citizens in the UK can directly enforce their rights in UK courts, providing certainty and clarity for the long term. We have made it clear that over time, our courts can take account of rulings of the European Court of Justice in this area to help to ensure consistent interpretation. However, we remain clear that, as we leave the EU, it is a key priority for the UK to preserve the sovereignty of our courts and, as such, in leaving the EU, we will bring an end to direct jurisdiction of the ECJ.
It is not my intention to pre-empt the Committee stage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill but what I say next will have some relevance to it. It is clear that we need to take further steps to provide clarity and certainty, both in the negotiations and at home, regarding the implementation of any agreement in UK law. I can now confirm that, once we have reached an agreement, we will bring forward a specific piece of primary legislation to implement that agreement. This will be known as the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill. This will confirm that the major policies set out in the withdrawal agreement are directly implemented in UK law by primary legislation, not by secondary legislation under the withdrawal Bill. This also means that Parliament will be given time to debate, scrutinise and vote on the final agreement that we strike with the EU. This agreement will hold only if Parliament approves it.
We expect this Bill to cover the contents of the withdrawal agreement, including issues such as an agreement on citizens’ rights, any financial settlement and the details of an implementation period agreed between both sides. Of course, we do not yet know the exact details of this Bill and are unlikely to do so until the negotiations are near completion.
I should also tell the House that this will be over and above the undertaking that we have already made to bring forward a Motion on the final deal as soon as possible after the deal is agreed, and that we still intend and expect such a vote on the final deal to happen before the European Parliament votes on it. There cannot be any doubt that Parliament will be intimately involved at every stage.
Finally, on the financial settlement, the Prime Minister’s commitment made in her Florence speech stands: our European partners will not need to pay more or receive less over the remainder of the current budget plan as a result of our decision to leave. The UK will honour the commitments we have made during the period of our membership. This week we made substantial technical progress on the issues which underpin these commitments.
This has been a low-key but important technical set of negotiations, falling, as it has, between two European Councils. This is now about pinpointing further technical discussions that need to take place and moving forward into political discussions and decisions. We must now also look forward to moving our discussions on to our future relationship. For this to happen, both parties need to build confidence in both the process and indeed the shared outcome.
The United Kingdom will continue to engage and negotiate constructively as we have done since the start, but we need to see flexibility, imagination and willingness to make progress on both sides if these negotiations are to succeed and we are able to realise our new partnership. I commend this Statement to the House”.
I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement, and I give the warmest of welcomes to the announcement that the withdrawal agreement will now be implemented by means of primary legislation—something for which this House has long argued. However, there remain serious questions in regard to the withdrawal Bill and the current negotiations.
First, what on earth is this gimmick of an amendment to fix, down to the exact minute, the timing of our departure from the EU? Is it a panic measure for the Prime Minister to reassure doubters in her own party that she can deliver a workable Brexit—a response perhaps to the Johnson/Gove letter—rather than a serious piece of British legislation or diplomatic sensitivity, or was she jinxed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, or is it to undermine the opposition amendment that it should be Parliament, not a Minister, that decides the exit date?
Certainly, the government amendment would have Parliament fix the date, but it would decide it now, well before the withdrawal deal is complete, with imperfect knowledge of what will be needed by way of preparation or even whether a more suitable date, such as 5 April—the traditional start of our tax year—is available and with no thought to what might be happening at the time. It does not allow for an earlier date, nor does it give any room for manoeuvre for, for example, another foot and mouth crisis, a general election or some other national issue, let alone any decision by the 27 to extend the talks by a few days if they thought that we were on the edge of a breakthrough.
More seriously, it cuts across the Prime Minister’s Florence speech, which envisaged that should there be a “heads of agreement” on our future relationship with the EU by March 2019, we could contribute to the EU budget for a period, during which we would abide by existing EU processes, including of course the ECJ for some matters. However, Clause 6, with the Government’s new amendment, would disallow this from 11 o’clock on 29 March 2019. Will the Minister agree that it is for Parliament nearer the time to fix the date, not the Prime Minister or even Parliament now, regardless of the interests of business, consumers, the pound or any other contemporary event?
Secondly, on what basis are the Government negotiating if they are blind to the costs and benefits of each option? We thought they had done their homework but we are told now that perhaps those 58 impact assessments do not exist—they certainly have not been read by all the Ministers. Without these, on what basis are the Government taking decisions about this country’s future?
Thirdly, will the Minister say whether the Government will heed the excellent advice of his predecessor but one, the noble Lord, Lord Bridges? He has called for “honesty and clarity” and that,
“Ministers should stop pretending an implementation period will begin at the end of March 2019”.
Perhaps I should let the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, speak for himself, but it is too tempting to read out his words. He reminded the Government that implementation implies a treaty, well beyond the withdrawal deal, which will take years to negotiate and requires consent around the 27 parliaments. He urged the Government to clarify what they want to do with this supposed new-found freedom and to put some urgency—that is the word he used—into negotiations on the future framework.
Finally, on Northern Ireland, I wonder if the Government are regretting their “rash and reckless” ruling out of continued membership of the customs union. Even as the Government accept the introduction of a UK-EU border, albeit as “seamless and frictionless” as possible, they must realise that achieving this outside the customs union is a serious challenge. Had the Prime Minister not ruled out membership of the customs union, albeit from outside the European Union, then the apparently intractable conundrum in Northern Ireland might have been avoided, without David Davis having to reassert in this Statement his understandable rejection of a “new border” within the United Kingdom.
This week saw the commemoration of 11 November, a World War I date but, for my generation, with World War II resonance, and a reminder of all that the EU has done to end conflict in western Europe. We also commemorated the 9 November 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and everything that the EU did to bed-in democracies in former Soviet territories, as earlier it had done with the former dictatorships in Spain, Greece and Portugal. I therefore ask the Minister how much the UK’s continued and future role in such developments will be ensured after Brexit, and how much this part of diplomacy features in Ministers’ thinking as they negotiate our future relationship with continental Europe.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for repeating the Secretary of State’s Statement to the other place.
The Secretary of State seems to suggest that there has been a lot of activity and progress in recent weeks. That seems to be rather at odds with everything we have been hearing from Monsieur Barnier and the EU 27. One wonders who has been misled or has misunderstood what has happened in the past few weeks. The Secretary of State suggested that there has been a narrowing to only a few aspects of the remaining issues, which he then goes on to talk about: the budget and what the United Kingdom will have to pay as the divorce settlement; the rights of EU citizens; and the question of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Those are the same three issues that we have been looking at ever since the decision to leave the European Union was taken in June of last year. The idea that there has been a narrowing in these areas is interesting, but it is not yet clear what is really meant. In particular, in the context of the budget, we have heard frequently that the clock is ticking. However, while the clock is ticking, the value of sterling is falling—and every time sterling falls, the amount of money that the United Kingdom will owe in euros rises.
Instability in the Government is hugely damaging to the United Kingdom’s negotiations. What is the Prime Minister doing to ensure that her Government become more stable and secure and give a clearer sense to the 27 that they know what they are doing and that they have the same clarity of purpose as the 27? The Secretary of State suggested that it is important that both sides have confidence in the process and the shared outcome. However, the 27 have a clarity of purpose—we know what they are looking for—but do they know what the United Kingdom is looking for? It is not yet clear that they do.
The United Kingdom has been given two weeks to sort out our budget offer. What plans have Her Majesty’s Government put in place to ensure a solution so that, by December, progress can be made in phase 2? At present we have heard nothing at all from the Secretary of State. Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the loop? Is his input being asked for, or is the “flexible and constructive” approach that the Secretary of State is looking for required only of the Prime Minister, with the back-seat drivers of Gove and Johnson telling her what she should say or think?
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, suggested, some thought is being given to putting 29 March 2019 in the Bill. Is that perhaps to do with the Brexiteers trying to pull the Prime Minister’s strings? Putting the date in the Bill is surely one of the worst things the Government could do. It would tie the Prime Minister’s hands and we should not support it.
In June, when we had the unnecessary general election that was supposed to be a Brexit election, the idea was that we would have a strong and stable Government leading the negotiations. How fanciful that now seems. Can the Minister assure us that the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and the whole Cabinet are united in pushing, with one voice, for the best outcome for the United Kingdom? Do they have clarity of purpose? In getting the best deal for the United Kingdom, can they reassure in particular the citizens of Northern Ireland that the deal will be for the whole of the United Kingdom, and that our kingdom will remain united? It is not the European Commission that is jeopardising the integrity of the United Kingdom but Her Majesty’s Government’s unwillingness to have an agreement that will allow Ireland to remain without a closed border.
It is hugely important that the future relationship is clarified. That can be done only if Her Majesty’s Government have their own view of what that relationship should be. Can the Minister tell the House what the Government’s view is? Is there any clarity of purpose?
Finally, on citizens’ rights, many of us will welcome the idea that Her Majesty’s Government would like EU citizens to be able to vote in local elections. However, the Secretary of State points out that this is one of the rights of EU citizens that is enshrined in the treaties. Yes, it is—many of us passionately believe that we wanted to keep, still want to keep and do not want to throw away the rights of EU citizens. Does David Davis agree with us? Is he reluctant to see British citizens lose their citizenship rights? Would he prefer that the United Kingdom should remain part of the EU treaties? Have we made a huge mistake? Should we retain citizens’ rights by simply not leaving the European Union?
I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayter and Lady Smith, for their questions. I will deal with them all in turn. Both noble Baronesses asked me about the amendment on the date, tabled in another place. The amendment was in response to amendments tabled by Members of the House of Commons—led by a Labour Member of Parliament, I think—saying that the Government should clarify the exact leaving date. That date was triggered also by the submission of the Article 50 notification letter—approved by both Houses—and will be two years from then. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, is very keen to abide by EU treaties; as she well knows, the two-year date is set down in them, unless it is extended by the unanimous vote of the other 27 EU members. We are leaving the EU on 29 March 2019, implementing the result of the referendum that was also approved in both Houses.
We recognise the need for specific solutions to the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and we have made good progress in the negotiations. We have proposed that the UK and EU seek to agree text for the withdrawal agreement that recognises the ongoing status of the common travel area and associated reciprocal arrangements. We have developed joint principles on this, and are drafting joint principles and commitments that will guide the solutions drawn up in the second phase. Both sides agree that the Good Friday agreement on citizenship rights must be upheld, and we are committed to working together on how that is best codified.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked me a number of questions. We have a good record: we have compromised in all the areas that the EU has thought to negotiate on. Now it is about time we saw some compromise from the EU side. We have compromised on both our budget offer and citizens’ rights. It would be nice to see some support from the parties opposite for the UK position. In terms of the budget, billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money are involved. Are the Opposition saying that we should just hand over a cheque and agree to whatever the European Commission demands? Of course we have to negotiate. The Prime Minister made a very generous offer in her Florence speech, involving considerable amounts of money. Now it is for the EU side to reciprocate with a budget offer of its own. We are very clear that, in all these areas, as set down in the EU negotiations, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. These areas cannot all be sorted until there is a final agreement on the shape of the agreement and future customs arrangements, which will also help to enlighten our discussion on the border in Northern Ireland.
I thank my noble friend for the Statement. I welcome in particular what he said about the European Court of Justice. Can he clarify what exactly is meant in the Statement? He says that we will bring to an end the direct jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice but at the same time he says that our courts can take account of the rulings of the ECJ in this area to help to ensure consistent interpretation. Can he expand on that and explain how the Government think that will work? Secondly, can he say something about the timing of the withdrawal Bill: when does he expect it to be available to Parliament; when will the vote take place; and will that be closely linked to the vote on withdrawal, which I think is a separate matter?
On the issue of the ECJ, I do not want to go any further than the Statement. We will end the direct application of the European Court of Justice in the UK. That is entirely right—we would not expect a foreign court in any other country or organisation to have effect on UK citizens or the UK judicial process. We expect the debate and vote on the withdrawal Motion to take place before the withdrawal Bill—but of course we cannot have a withdrawal Bill until we have an agreement to withdraw from.
My Lords, I agree that the offer made by the Prime Minister in her Florence speech on the financial settlement was generous. Will the Minister confirm that any such settlement will be paid over a number of years, not as a capital sum, and must be contingent on satisfactory progress on other aspects of our future relationship?
The noble Lord makes a very good point from the benefit of his experience. These are matters that will be determined during the ongoing negotiation.
My Lords, I very much welcome the Statement. Will my noble friend clarify one small point on one word, “implementation”? My understanding is that we will not be able to negotiate the new relationship with the EU under Article 50. Therefore, when it comes to implementing measures via the Bill, those measures would refer solely to the transition.
We cannot conclude the final trade deal until we have left the EU, but we are very clear that we want to get the heads of agreement and its terms sorted before we leave.
My Lords, at present, European citizens resident in this country have their basic rights protected by the European Court of Justice. The Government intend to take that basic right away and, as I understand it, substitute our own courts, with a rather vague and difficult to understand obligation relating to the Luxembourg court. Will the Government accept that in doing all that, they are making the rights of European citizens in this country less well protected than at present?
My Lords, no, I would not accept that. We have one of the finest judicial and court systems in the world. I, along with many other citizens, am perfectly happy for our rights to be guaranteed by our ancient and well-respected judicial system. We do not need to have the ECJ telling us how to do that.
My Lords, will the Minister clarify a point concerning the new primary legislation, which, if I understand correctly, will represent the entry into our domestic law of the commitments we reach on withdrawal? Would that have to be completed before the date the Government wish to put in for our exit? Otherwise, we would not be capable of ratifying the withdrawal agreement. Will he also clarify a point on the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice? Is he quite sure that what the Prime Minister wisely proposed in Florence for what was effectively close to a standstill for about two years will, in the eyes of our 27 negotiating partners, require us to accept the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice during that period?
My Lords, we cannot have a withdrawal Bill until we have a withdrawal agreement, so the date of the Bill will depend on when we can make a withdrawal agreement. As to the noble Lord’s second question, I cannot speak for what our partners expect us to want to do.
The Minister said we had given many concessions to the European Union. He is right, we have, but that is because we went into this ill-prepared and without a strategy. Listening him, it is very hard to be convinced that we have a strategy even now, because I cannot see how this process will lead to a successful outcome for the United Kingdom unless we are much clearer about money and the transition arrangements.
I think we have made excellent progress on all those issues so far in the negotiation. We have made very generous offers on the three issues the EU said it wanted to talk about first: Ireland, citizens’ rights and the budget. We are waiting for our partners to reciprocate with the generous proposal we have made.
My Lords, I ask my noble friend the Minister to comment on the ruling of the Supreme Court in this matter:
“The 2016 referendum is of great political significance. However, its legal significance is determined by what Parliament included in the statute authorising it, and that statute simply provided for the referendum to be held without specifying the consequences. The change in the law required to implement the referendum’s outcome must be made in the only way permitted by the UK constitution, namely by legislation”.
Does that not mean that, while we obviously wish the Government well in the negotiations, the final outcome will be judged by Parliament?
Of course, we have said that Parliament will get a final vote on the withdrawal agreement, and we have just announced that there will be legislation to implement that. Parliament also voted for Article 50 to be implemented and the EU notified that we are leaving the organisation on 29 March 2019.
My Lords, the Statement refers to the negotiations regarding the right to stand and vote in local elections. Given that European Union citizens can also stand and vote in Scottish Parliament elections, and the franchise for Scottish Parliament and Scottish local government elections is wholly devolved to the Scottish Parliament, can the Minister clarify the Government’s position with regard to standing and voting in the devolved elections and whether the Scottish Government have been involved in this particular part of the negotiations?
We are having regular discussions with the devolved Administrations. The Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and civil servants in Northern Ireland were informed of our proposals to introduce the withdrawal Bill.
My Lords, further to what my noble friend said about fixing the date of withdrawal and to what the noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones, said, can he confirm that the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case brought by Gina Miller confirms in precise terms that Article 50 is irreversible, in contrast to what the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, has said?
I can confirm that. It is also stated by the European Commission that Article 50, once invoked, is irrevocable unless there is political agreement on it.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the notice given in March this year in relation to Article 50 was not a notice of withdrawal but a notice of intention to withdraw? Does he appreciate that our distinguished colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and the vast mass of distinguished legal authority are of the opinion, therefore, that such a notice can be withdrawn unilaterally? Will the Government, especially in the light of today’s Statement, no longer hide behind any artifice to try to delude the public into believing that they have no view on that matter? Will they come clean and state that they accept totally that that is the situation?
My Lords, no, I will not confirm that, because it has been stated by legal opinion on this side of the water and in the EU that Article 50 is not revocable. It all flies in the face of the results of the referendum. It is fine for Members of this House to say that we should just ignore the result, but 17.4 million people voted to leave the European Union in one of the largest democratic exercises that we have ever held. If we think that democracy is at a low ebb in this country, let us imagine what would happen if we ignored what happened in that referendum.
My Lords, my noble friend will of course acknowledge that 48% of people did not vote that way, but perhaps I may ask him one specific question. He has several times said today that good progress has been, or is being, made. If that is so, that is very good, but can he tell us one single thing on which there is now agreement?
We have made good progress on a number of issues. There are many areas of agreement; for instance, on proposals on citizens’ rights—I could read them all out if my noble friend wanted to stay for 20 minutes afterwards.
My Lords, can the Minister explain the benefits of putting the date in the Bill, given that many noble Lords have raised the problems that may arise?
The Government are responding to many representations made from all sides in the other place—many amendments have been submitted. We have said that we will listen to opinion and we are doing precisely that.
My Lords, to the question asked earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, about the impact of leaving on our relationship with the European court—although the noble Lord could perhaps have altered his emphasis a little—the Statement says that we intend to bring an end to the “direct jurisdiction” of the European court. I presume that we will therefore have to find some way of having a court of arbitration which will mediate between the EU and the UK—incidentally, it will impact on the sovereignty and integrity of the British judicial system, because that is what courts of arbitration unavoidably do across a whole range of issues. Are the Government confident that they can square that circle, or do they think that taking ourselves out of the European Union and out of the European court, where we currently have a judge, will leave us stronger rather than weaker in our obedience to international law and our ability to negotiate it to our advantage? The US Commerce Secretary has suggested that when we leave the European Union, the Americans will simply expect us to accept US regulations without any say on a range of problems. Is that the sort of situation we will be in?
My Lords, of course, if our manufacturers export to the United States, they have to accept American legislation; if they export to China, they have to accept Chinese legislation. Once the agreement is made, there will have to be some form of arbitration, but that is to be negotiated.
My Lords, if we reach a successful accommodation, as we all must hope, in phase 1, we have to move phase 2—a negotiation of unparalleled complexity. The Prime Minister will have heard today a clamour from British and European business for clarity about what the endgame is, yet we understand that the Cabinet has yet to meet to discuss what it wants to achieve from this second-phase negotiation. When will the Cabinet meet, unite and decide?
My Lords, I shall not comment on internal government discussions, but it is very clear that we want a full and comprehensive free trade agreement with our European partners.
My Lords, does my noble friend think that the behaviour of the EU negotiators and the rather arrogant attitude of people such as Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Juncker have led to a feeling among the population who voted to remain in the EU that they should perhaps leave instead? My impression is, and most commentators seem to think, that the British population is moving much more towards a position of leave rather than of remain. Perhaps people in this House should accept the decision of the British people and not try to revisit it.
I would certainly agree with that, although I do not hold out hope that they might. Yes, of course, there has to be compromise on both sides. We have made very reasonable proposals, including moving on some very sensitive issues. We are waiting for a reciprocal response from the other side of the negotiations.
My Lords, the Minister offered to read out a list of points where agreement has been reached. For UK citizens living abroad and EU citizens living here, it would be immensely useful if he did so, because they have serious planning to do.
Rather than detain the House, I would be happy to write to the noble Baroness and publish the response. We have been very open about the areas on which we have reached agreement. They have been well publicised, but I will write to her with further details.
My Lords, as regards Northern Ireland, will the Minister confirm or deny that the Commission has proposed to bring forward something analogous with China and Hong Kong or China and Macau? Is this true and, if so, is it helpful?
A number of proposals have been flying around and I am sure that the noble Lord would not expect me to comment on the basis of leaked documents, but we have been very clear about our objectives. Those objectives are shared by us, by the Irish Government and by the European Commission; we just need to find a practical and realistic way to bring that into effect.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that CETA is not a “perfectly good starting point” for any trade agreement with the EU—to quote the words of the Secretary of State, David Davis? CETA has no chapter on services, which represent 80% of our GDP, and our trade with the EU is eight times larger than Canada’s. Surely we need to be much more ambitious in protecting the UK economy and jobs in any Brexit trade deal.
We have been very open that we do not want to copy any existing agreement. We want a bespoke, made-to-measure agreement that is suitable for both ourselves and the EU, because free trade benefits both sides. We think that an agreement is achievable. If both sides show commitment and willingness, we can work towards it and we should be able to achieve it.
My Lords, how many delegated powers, and indeed clauses, will now be removed from the existing withdrawal Bill to satisfy the indication given today that powers which should be in primary legislation will be in primary legislation under the Government’s revised approach?
I am sure there will be lots of discussions and negotiations on all the clauses in the withdrawal Bill in the other place, and I am sure that we might have one or two suggestions to make in this House also.
My Lords, the Minister led with the discussions in Ireland. As the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said, there was a paper floating around using a parallel with Hong Kong and Macau, as if we are some kind of colony. May I say to the Minister that I do not agree with his assessment that there is agreement between the UK Government and the Irish Government? The Irish Government are contradicting the position of the UK Government by saying that we need to remain in the single market and the customs union. Mr Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s rapporteur, is saying the same thing. They are both wrong, and if that is where we are today, we have a lot of work to do. Will the Minister please confirm that our UK Government will make it absolutely clear that we will not allow an internal border to be created within the United Kingdom? If our time and effort, at this stage, is still being spent arguing about that fundamental point, we have a very long way to go.
The noble Lord speaks with great authority on this subject and I am happy to confirm to him that we will not agree to the imposition of an internal border in the UK.
My Lords, can the noble Lord help me? If we crash out of the EU without agreement, as is quite possible, where would that leave European citizens in this country and British citizens living in the EU? What would their legal position be?
My Lords, we hope that we will be able to get an agreement, but if we are not, they will be subject to the same rights as they are at the moment under the British courts.
My Lords, on the point raised a moment ago about Northern Ireland, surely we already have a perfectly satisfactory arrangement between the Republic of Ireland and Britain, on the one side but not on the other, in that anyone flying into the Republic of Ireland from Britain is required to show their passport. People flying from the Republic of Ireland into Britain are not required to show their passports. From Britain to Ireland, you are required to show your passport, but not from Ireland to Britain. Of course, as a lot of people travel who are not EU citizens, scrutiny of passports is desirable. The idea that scrutinising passports forms a hard border is nonsense: it is no more a hard border, or denying the rights of people in Northern Ireland, to ask them to show their passports than it would be if Members of your Lordships’ House refused to wear their passes on the grounds that they have the right to be here anyway, so why should they wear them?
My noble friend makes an important point. The UK and Ireland benefited from a common travel area long before we were both members of the European Union.
My Lords, before we finish I ask the noble Lord to look at the report in Hansard of what he actually said. If I heard him correctly he said that the Supreme Court ruled that Article 50 was not revocable. My recollection was that it did not opine on this, and that it took from both sides, as I think is being acknowledged around the House: the Government said this, Gina Miller’s side said that, and it did not opine on it. When he has looked at his actual words in Hansard, should they need correction, perhaps he would either make a Statement or write to the House.
I will certainly look at that, but I am also aware of a European Commission statement that Article 50 benefits from similar arrangements.