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Brexit: Negotiations

Volume 792: debated on Thursday 6 September 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what individual representations they have received from other European Union member states about the present state of negotiations for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.

My Lords, alongside negotiations with the European Commission, the Government have regular engagement with EU member states to explain our position. In all the UK’s engagement, it respects the unity of the EU 27. Member states have welcomed the White Paper as a serious proposal for negotiations and share our desire for an ambitious deal. We will now hold continuous negotiations with the EU to secure a good deal.

I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. I urge him not to listen to the doom-mongers on this issue who constantly talk about crashing out and falling off the cliffs. I ask him to sell the idea that this Brexit is a very positive effort. We are going to be able to trade globally after Brexit, not least with the other European countries.

Further to that—oh gosh, I have had one of those moments. Ah, I know what I wanted to say—it is the most important bit, really. Perhaps noble Lords can see that I have a bad eye and have had quite a bump; it is amazing what Remainers will do to stop you asking Questions. I return to the fact that the Chequers proposal is quite clearly dead in the water and not going to work, whereas “Canada plus plus plus” is supported by us and by Mr Barnier and Europe. It seems the obvious way forward. In order to get the initiative back on track and make Brexit the success that it can be, I urge the Minister to press that kind of agreement.

I thank my noble friend for his questions. Of course the Government share his desire for Brexit to be the success that we know it can be. We remain committed to the Chequers proposals and are negotiating on them. As the Prime Minister has said, the problem with a CETA-style arrangement is that it would mean a significant reduction in the access that we currently enjoy to each other’s markets. Crucially, of course, it would mean customs and regulatory checks at the border, particularly the Northern Ireland border. So we remain committed to our proposals and to making Brexit a success.

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that we can and do trade globally now; that countries such as Germany and France—which, for example, already export more to China than we do—can do so from within the EU; and that what is being put forward here is a completely false choice between trading with Europe and trading with the rest of the world?

We have never said that it is a choice between the two. Our ambition is to do both. Of course we can trade with the rest of the world. The question is whether we can do it more efficiently with trade deals with our partner allies across the world. The EU has been uniquely bad at negotiating trade deals with many of the other big economic blocs across the world—for instance, China, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and so on.

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, only to the extent that Chequers is dead. As reported by George Osborne’s Evening Standard, the French Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau,

“scoffed at British media reports that her boss President Emmanuel Macron was softening to the Prime Minister’s proposals”.

Instead of trying to dodge, weave and divide and rule, could the Government not just concentrate on honest and competent negotiating?

We are concentrating on honest and competent negotiating. In fact my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for DExEU is actually in Brussels today meeting with Michel Barnier. I have met the French Foreign Minister and she certainly did not say that to me. The Latvian Foreign Minister said that Chequers constitutes a good ground for trying hard to reach a deal, the Danish Finance Minister said it was a realistic proposal for good negotiations and Michel Barnier said he was also confident that we would reach a deal.

Will the Minister consider following an objective that I have stuck to for many years, which is never to take any notice whatever of anything said by George Osborne?

The former Chancellor speaks with great authority because of the excellent job he did in managing the country’s economy. We take his—and all—contributions extremely seriously.

My Lords, does the Minister not realise at long last that all the 27 member states think the Government are bonkers?

My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that we have to get those who are opposed to our proposals to leave the European Union used to the idea that the people of this kingdom are well capable of running their own affairs? We did it successfully for rather a long time before our friends on the continent got round to the idea. We have constantly, over the centuries, had to come to their rescue against the dictatorships which have sprung up on the continent. This is another case of a dictatorship springing up on the continent from which we have to break free.

I am delighted to say that, in his advancing age, the noble Lord has lost none of his robustness. I am not sure I quite share his sentiments but we are committed to Brexit. In future, we want to be a nation in charge of our own laws, our own borders and our own money. This is what Brexit is all about. This is what people voted for and that is what we will deliver.