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Brexit: EU Commission

Volume 793: debated on Wednesday 10 October 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the outcome of their last meeting with the European Union Commission to discuss Brexit.

Following extensive negotiations, the UK and the EU are close to concluding a withdrawal agreement, which sets out the terms of the UK’s orderly exit from the European Union. Negotiations are progressing and we remain confident of a deal this autumn.

I thank the Minister for that optimistic Answer, but as these ghastly negotiations proceed it is highly likely that the EU will ask the Government to remain in both the customs union and the single market. Are the Government aware of this and preparing the ground for this event?

I am not sure whether I would describe the negotiations as ghastly. We think that they are constructive and we are looking to get a deal, but we have made it clear that we will not be remaining in the single market or the customs union.

My Lords, was it the confidence of the Government, of which the Minister just spoke, that induced them yesterday to advertise for:

“Resilience Advisers: EU Exit Readiness and Response Support to Local Preparedness”,

in the event of a no-deal Brexit? Is that intelligent, prudent anticipation on the Government’s part or is it anticipation of utter chaos?

It is sensible contingency planning by a responsible Government. As I have said on numerous occasions, we do not want no deal. We hope to negotiate a deal and are working hard to do so, but if we are unsuccessful there will be no deal and we need to make the appropriate preparations. That is presumably why we are advertising these posts and why we published our technical notices.

Does my noble friend the Minister agree that in the world of grown-up politics, difficult compromises have to be made on both sides of the table? Does it not increasingly look as if those compromises are being made and that we may end up with a deal that will be in the interests of the European Union and this country, while not satisfying the extreme views in the world of childish politics?

I agree with my noble friend that compromise is necessary, which is what led to our White Paper proposals. The UK’s position has evolved and we have put forward a compromise. It is only right and reasonable to expect that the EU compromises in exchange for that.

My Lords, is it the Government’s intention that the common travel area between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom will continue after Brexit? Will Irish people crossing the border into Northern Ireland—the United Kingdom—be required to present a passport?

My Lords, in the Statement that the Minister repeated yesterday, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU said:

“On the future relationship, we continue to make progress … although there is still some way to go”.—[Official Report, 9/10/18; col. 65.]

Does the Minister therefore now expect a draft statement on the future relationship to be available for the Council meeting next week? If not, when does he expect it?

I am afraid I am unable to give a precise timescale at the moment. We are negotiating. At this moment our negotiating teams are meeting in Brussels and we are confident of a deal. As soon as we have one that we can share with the noble Lord, I will be sure to let him know.

I note that the Minister continues to use the words “implementation period”. Will he now admit that after the end of March we will still be in negotiations and it will be a transition period because negotiations will be carrying on and we will not have the sort of deal that simply needs implementing? Does he agree that in future it is about a transition not an implementation period?

No I do not agree with the noble Baroness. It is an implementation period. We expect to agree the withdrawal agreement and the future economic partnership in the next few weeks—in the autumn—and the implementation period will be about implementing that deal.

My Lords, on Monday the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that the Government would seek precision in the future framework—that is, the terms of the relationship between the UK and the EU post 2020. Will my noble friend therefore confirm that the Prime Minister will sign an agreement only if it sets out precisely and clearly the exact terms of trade in goods and services that will exist between the UK and the EU post 2020?

Of course I agree with the Prime Minister: we are looking for a precise deal and a precise statement of what the future relationship will be.

My Lords, a couple of hours ago I went to a meeting in this House organised by the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, at which a paper was handed to everyone which said that Brexit presents a unique opportunity for Britain’s fishing industry and that the great advantage would be that UK policy on fisheries would be determined in the UK. That is a splendid idea; I think it is called taking back control and I wonder whether the Minister agrees?

As on so many of these matters, the noble Lord speaks great sense, unlike most of the rest of his party. One of the great advantages of Brexit is that we will leave the common fisheries policy, one of the great environmental disasters of our time. We will be an independent coastal nation and we will determine our own fishing policy in future.

Will the Minister address a question raised in the press this morning about a danger to do with lambs and sheep being exported to Europe after Brexit, whether it is a hard or a negotiated Brexit? A logjam in the ports or on the ships may mean that sheep and lambs will be held for days on end in inappropriate circumstances. What are the Government doing to address that?

There were concerning reports. All live exports to Europe need to have a journey log approved by the Animal and Plant Health Agency. We would not approve a journey log in the unlikely event of disruption at the borders. Animals would instead be kept on farms or be redirected to abattoirs in the UK.

My Lords, earlier this year, speaking on behalf of the Government, Mr David Davis said that in their negotiations with the EU the Government were committed to obtaining the exact same benefits that we now enjoy as a full member of the single market and the customs union. Does the phrase “exact same benefits” still represent government policy?

We are committed to obtaining the best possible deal for the United Kingdom, and we are negotiating hard to achieve that, as any Government should.