My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, I would like to update the House on our negotiations to leave the European Union. First, I want to pay tribute to my right honourable friends the Members for Esher and Walton and for Tatton. Delivering Brexit involves difficult choices for all of us. We do not agree on all of those choices but I respect their views and thank them sincerely for all that they have done.
Yesterday we agreed the provisional terms of our exit from the European Union, set out in the draft withdrawal agreement. We also agreed the broad terms of our future relationship in an outline political declaration. President Juncker has now written to the President of the European Council to recommend that,
‘decisive progress has been made in the negotiations’,
and a special European Council will be called for Sunday 25 November. This puts us close to a Brexit deal.
What we agreed yesterday was not the final deal. It is a draft treaty that means we will leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way on 29 March 2019 and which sets the framework for a future relationship that delivers in our national interest.
It takes back control of our borders, laws and money. It protects jobs, security and the integrity of the United Kingdom, and it delivers in ways that many said could simply not be done. We were told that we had a binary choice between the model of Norway and the model of Canada—that we could not have a bespoke deal. But the outline political declaration sets out an arrangement that is better for our country than both of these, a more ambitious free trade agreement than the EU has with any other country. We were told that we would be treated like any other third country on security co-operation, but the outline political declaration sets out a breadth and depth of co-operation beyond anything that the EU has agreed with any other country.
Let me take the House through the details. First, on the withdrawal agreement, the full legal text has now been agreed in principle. It sets out the terms on which the UK will leave the EU in 134 days’ time, on 29 March 2019. We have secured the rights of the more than 3 million EU citizens living in the UK, and around 1 million UK nationals living in the EU. We have agreed a time-limited implementation period that ensures that businesses have to plan for only one set of changes. We have agreed protocols to ensure that Gibraltar and the sovereign base areas are covered by the withdrawal agreement. And we have agreed a fair financial settlement, far lower than the figures that many mentioned at the start of this process.
Since the start of this process, I have been committed to ensuring that our exit from the EU deals with the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. I believe this issue can best be solved through our future relationship with the EU, but the withdrawal agreement sets out an insurance policy should that new relationship not be ready in time at the end of the implementation period. I do not pretend that this has been a comfortable process, or that either we or the EU are entirely happy with all the arrangements that have been included within it. Of course that is the case; this is an arrangement that we have both said we never want to have to use. While some people might pretend otherwise, there is no deal that delivers the Brexit that the British people voted for that does not involve this insurance policy—not Canada-plus-plus-plus, not “Norway for now”, not our own White Paper— and the EU will not negotiate any future partnership without it.
As the House knows, the original proposal from the EU was not acceptable as it would have meant creating a customs border down the Irish Sea and breaking up the integrity of our United Kingdom, so last month I set out for the House the four steps that we needed to take. This is what we have now done and it has seen the EU make a number of concessions towards our position. First, the EU proposal for a Northern Ireland-only customs solution has been dropped and replaced by a new UK-wide temporary customs arrangement that protects the integrity of our precious union.
Secondly, we have created an option for a single time-limited extension of the implementation period as an alternative to bringing in the backstop. As I have said many times, I do not want to extend the implementation period and I do not believe we will need to do so. This is about an insurance policy. However, if it happens that at the end of 2020 our future relationship is not quite ready, the UK will be able to make a choice between the UK-wide temporary customs arrangement and a short extension of the implementation period.
Thirdly, the withdrawal agreement commits both parties to use best endeavours to ensure that this insurance policy is never used. In the unlikely event that it is needed, if we choose the backstop then the withdrawal agreement is explicit that it is temporary and that the Article 50 legal base cannot provide for a permanent relationship. There is also a mechanism by which the backstop can be terminated. Finally, we have ensured full continued access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK internal market.
The Brexit talks are about acting in the national interest, and that means making what I believe to be the right choices, not the easy ones. I know there are some who have said I should simply rip up the UK’s commitment to a backstop, but that would have been an entirely irresponsible course of action. It would have meant reneging on a promise made to the people of Northern Ireland during the referendum campaign and afterwards that under no circumstances would Brexit lead to a return to the borders of the past, and it would have made it impossible to deliver a withdrawal agreement. As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I have a responsibility to people in every part of our country and I intend to honour that promise.
By resolving this issue, we are now able to move on to finalising the details of an ambitious future partnership. The outline political declaration we have agreed sets out the basis for these negotiations, and we will negotiate intensively ahead of the European Council to turn this into a full future framework. The declaration will end free movement once and for all. Instead, we will have our own new skills-based immigration system based not on the country that people come from but on what they can contribute to the UK. The declaration agrees the creation of a free trade area for goods with zero tariffs, no fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all goods sectors. No other major advanced economy has such an arrangement with the EU. At the same time, we will be free to strike new trade deals with other partners around the world.
We have also reached common ground on a close relationship on services and investment, including financial services, which goes well beyond WTO commitments. The declaration ensures that we will be leaving the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy, so we will decide how best to sustain and support our farms and environment and the UK will become an independent coastal state once again.
We have also reached agreement on key elements of our future security partnership to keep our people safe. This includes swift and effective extradition arrangements, as well as arrangements for effective data exchange on passenger name record data, DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data, and we have agreed a close and flexible partnership on foreign security and defence policy.
When I first became Prime Minister in 2016, there was no ready-made blueprint for Brexit. Many people said that it simply could not be done. I have never accepted that. I have been committed day and night to delivering on the result of the referendum and ensuring that the UK leaves the EU absolutely and on time. But I also said at the very start that withdrawing from EU membership after 40 years and establishing a wholly new relationship that will endure for decades to come would be complex and require hard work. I know that it has been a frustrating process. It has forced us to confront some very difficult issues. But a good Brexit, a Brexit which is in the national interest, is possible. We have persevered and made a decisive breakthrough. Once a final deal is agreed, I will bring it to Parliament and ask MPs to consider the national interest and give it their backing. Voting against a deal would take us all back to square one. It would mean more uncertainty, more division and a failure to deliver on the decision of the British people that we should leave the EU. If we get behind a deal, we can bring our country back together and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.
The British people want us to get this done and to get on with addressing the other issues that they care about: creating more good jobs in every part of the UK and doing more to help families with the cost of living, helping our NHS to provide first-class care and our schools to give every child a great start in life, and focusing every ounce of our energy on building a brighter future for our country.
The choice is clear. We can choose to leave with no deal, we can risk no Brexit at all or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated: this deal, a deal that ends free movement, takes back control of our borders, laws and money, delivers a free trade area for goods with zero tariffs, leaves the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy, delivers an independent foreign and defence policy while retaining continued security co-operation to keep our people safe, maintains shared commitment to high standards, protects jobs, honours the integrity of our United Kingdom and delivers the Brexit that the British people voted for.
I choose to deliver for the British people. I choose to do what is in the national interest, and I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement today, although I have to say that I did not detect any great enthusiasm there. I am grateful for her statement at the beginning about timing. Last night, the usual channels agreed the normal arrangements for a Statement, with Back-Bench contributions for 20 minutes today and a more substantive debate of three or four hours on Tuesday, when noble Lords will have had the opportunity to read and consider the detail of the deal and the documents. However, with such significant developments this morning—four resignations so far from the Government, including the Brexit Secretary—it is clear that there is a crisis at the very heart of government. I am disappointed that the Government would not accede to our request for extra Back-Bench time today—I think that was wrong. However, we welcome a longer four-hour debate next week, when we can consider the deal in greater detail. Given the importance of the issue, and because that debate is instead of time today, will the noble Baroness the Leader confirm that she will lead the response next Tuesday?
As the Government descend further into chaos, one thing has remained consistent: the Prime Minister’s approach of living for the moment—getting through today, and worrying about tomorrow later. That has not served her or the country well. But we should not forget that this situation is not entirely of this Prime Minister’s making. The entire Brexit process has been about the internal politics of the Conservative Party. It cost David Cameron and George Osborne their jobs—although the latter has done fairly well for himself since—and it could be about to cost the Prime Minister hers as well.
Last night, outside Downing Street, the Prime Minister claimed that the withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration had been agreed by “a collective decision of the Cabinet”, and yet this morning, so far, two Cabinet Members have resigned—I do not know whether there is an update on the figure yet. She has failed to unite her Cabinet again. She has failed to unite her party, with MPs reportedly rushing to submit letters to the chairman of the 1922 Committee. Watching the Statement in the other place, we have seen that she is failing to unite Parliament, where there is seemingly no majority for any course of action, other than opposing no deal.
So let us be clear about what is most important: the Prime Minister is failing the people of our country. Families, communities, businesses and workers will not be able to understand why the Conservative Party is behaving in this way, putting the economic well-being of the country behind petty infighting and personal ambition. As Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, said this morning, we need Parliament and the country to come together and find a real alternative to this agreement—a deal that the Prime Minister’s former adviser has labelled a “capitulation”.
Those who have welcomed the deal have either said it is “the best we can get”—faint praise indeed—or, as the CBI made clear, support the very measures that the Brexiteers have opposed: a long-term transition and frictionless trade. The draft agreement and political declaration published last night are exactly what we expected: vague promises of a future trade deal, but no clear road map as to how, or when, this will be achieved.
So, what has our sovereign Parliament been offered? The documents contain no commitment to a permanent customs union, despite the support of business and the trade unions; no detail on our future relationship with the single market, despite the EU being our biggest single trade partner; and no clarity regarding the terms on which the UK will continue to participate in EU agencies and internal security systems.
Your Lordships’ House worked hard to secure a meaningful vote for the other place, but the Government are telling parliamentarians that they must decide between this bad deal or no deal at all. It is a Hobson’s choice—that is, no choice. As many predicted, last night’s Cabinet marathon meeting has become a disappointing sequel to July’s Chequers summit. An agreement that has been toiled over for many months has yet again unravelled overnight.
On social media, I am known as @Lady Basildon. It is not just about my former constituency and my home, it is after a character in an Oscar Wilde play. As I watched the news of resignations unfold, a Wildean phrase came to mind—to lose one Brexit Secretary may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness. We now understand why the Prime Minister was not prepared to allow a vote in Cabinet. She could not because she did not have the support of her colleagues. She must have known how fragile the position was when she made her statement last night.
I have little time for David Davis and Boris Johnson. They failed in Cabinet to convince their colleagues of their so-called vision for Brexit or to come up with any viable alternative. They now stand back and attack the Prime Minister from the sidelines. Dominic Raab has criticised the deal but, again, offers no credible alternative. While many in the Cabinet, including, apparently, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House, voiced their concerns about the draft agreement last night, no alternative was offered at the meeting. It remains unclear exactly what Brexiteers want, other than to lead this great country off a cliff edge in a few short months’ time.
The situation will undoubtedly evolve in the coming hours and days. Noble Lords will use the expertise of this House to track developments. We will have our debate on Tuesday, but today, it would be helpful if your Lordships’ House were left in no doubt about the noble Baroness’s position. Does the Leader of the House give the Prime Minister and the draft withdrawal agreement her full support?
My Lords, I commiserate with the noble Baroness who had to repeat this Statement, because we know that she does not agree with it. It appears that she was one of 10 Cabinet Ministers who expressed severe reservations about the agreement. Will she explain her reservations in her reply? I think that the House would like to know.
There is a lot of real and mock surprise and indignation about the contents of the withdrawal agreement. Yet how could anybody reasonably expect it to be materially different from what has emerged? Once you accept a frictionless border in Northern Ireland, provisions such as those now in the agreement become inevitable. That was recognised by the Government in the agreement they reached with the EU last December and, incidentally, which they have spent the last 10 months denying. They have now reaffirmed that December commitment.
If the outcome on the transitional period and the backstop are predictable, I am genuinely shocked at the outline of the political declaration. In some ways, this is a much more important document because it covers our long-term relationship with the EU, not just the position during the transitional phase. I had expected the document to be layered with fudge, but I could not imagine that it would be so vague and unspecific—a mere seven pages.
It is vastly less detailed than the Chequers agreement, which listed some 68 programmes or bodies by name of which the UK wished to remain a member post Brexit. This document mentions hardly any. I believe that we are to get a somewhat extended version next week but, based on the seven pages we have before us today, it is unlikely to answer any of the difficult issues which remain. Fisheries and the European arrest warrant are but two of the myriad tricky issues that are clearly nowhere near being resolved. I cannot believe that the country would accept this pig-in-a-poke Brexit.
However, it is clear that we are not going to get to the point where these things matter, because the agreement document bears all the hallmarks of Monty Python’s dead parrot. It is bereft of life. In her statement last night, and again this morning, the Prime Minister admitted for the first time that there are three possible outcomes to the Brexit process. We can accept her deal, we can crash out without a deal, or we can remain. The noble Baroness has said many times that remain was not an option. The noble Lord, Lord Callanan, has probably said it hundreds of times.
Or thousands, I stand corrected. That was never true. At least the Prime Minister now accepts reality. I am not by nature an avid reader of the Daily Express, but I caught its front page today and I agree with its headline: “It’s a deal—or no Brexit”. I agree. And given that it is now abundantly clear that the current deal has zero chance of passing through the Commons, and we know of course that the Commons would never vote for a ruinous no-deal outcome, remain is now the only viable option. This will of course require a referendum to get the endorsement of the people.
The Government are spending hundreds of millions of pounds preparing for a no-deal outcome, which they know will not happen. Will they now spend the extremely modest amount needed to prepare for a referendum, to be held next spring, which will put the Government’s deal to the people with an option to reject it and remain in the EU? Given that we have been told from the Dispatch Box umpteen times that a prudent Government prepare for all possible contingencies, and that they now accept that this is a possibility, would a failure to do so now not be a dereliction of duty on the Government’s part?
First, I am very happy to tell the House that I fully support the Prime Minister and I back this deal. I would not be standing here if I did not—and I am very grateful that everyone seems so happy to see me.
The noble Lord and the noble Baroness asked about the outline political declaration. Negotiations will now continue to finalise the full political declaration, focusing on adding detail, defining further what balance of rights and obligations should apply in the context of trading goods and identifying which additional operational capabilities should be prioritised for consideration in the context of internal security. We are determined to conclude a full political declaration by the end of November, bringing the Article 50 negotiations to a close. Once agreed, we will bring that deal to Parliament. We have agreed, as the outline document shows, the scope of a future relationship, signalling the ambition on both sides. We have agreed to the creation of a free trade area for goods, combining deep regulatory and customs co-operation with zero tariffs and no fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all goods sectors—the first such agreement between an advanced economy and the EU. Common ground has been reached on our intention to have a close relationship on services and investment, including financial services; on the desire for wide-ranging sectoral co-operation, including on transport and energy; and on fisheries, recognising that the UK will be an independent coastal state.
The noble Lord asked about the European arrest warrant. He is correct that it is still under negotiation, but the EU and UK have agreed to swift and effective arrangements enabling the UK and member states to extradite suspected and convicted persons efficiently and expeditiously. Both the UK and EU recognise the continued importance of close and effective operational co-operation and recognise the risks of reverting to the Council of Europe conventions. I am afraid to say to the noble Lord that we will not be holding a second referendum.
My Lords, can my noble friend assist me? The deal that has been agreed involves spending £39 billion in return for having less say over employment policies, agricultural policies, environment and taxation. It has resulted in headlines across Europe—the most dramatic perhaps being in Ireland:
“Victory in Dublin, chaos in London”—
and the humiliation of our country. How can it be presented as being in the national interest to have brought about such a circumstance?
I am afraid that I do not agree with my noble friend’s assessment. We have agreed the principles of the UK’s smooth and orderly exit from the EU, as set out in the withdrawal agreement, and agreed the broad terms of our future relationship. We are delivering on the result of the referendum; we will be leaving the EU; and, going forward, we will be developing a strong partnership with the EU that will last for decades to come.
My Lords, in the choice between democratic and material values in 2016, the people of this country voted by a clear majority to reclaim democratically accountable self-government. Is it not now incumbent on those who speak and vote on their behalf in Parliament to do likewise and to reject this deal, which fails to allow us the governmental autonomy that the people of our country ought to have?
Again, I am afraid that I disagree with the noble Lord. This deal is bringing back autonomy to this country, and it should be supported.
My Lords, we have not heard from the Cross Benches; I think we ought to hear from them.
Perhaps the Minister can tell me what is meant by the letter from Mr Raab, which said that he could not support the declaration because,
“the regulatory regime proposed for Northern Ireland presents a very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom”,
whereas the Statement from the Prime Minister says that,
“the EU proposal for a Northern Ireland-only customs solution has been dropped and replaced by a new UK-wide temporary customs arrangement”.
Which is the situation?
The EU proposal for a Northern Ireland-only customs solution has indeed been dropped and replaced by a UK-wide temporary customs arrangement which protects the integrity of the UK. However, there are regulatory elements necessary to avoid a hard border that will apply to Northern Ireland only, including product standards on industrial goods and agricultural products, as well as regulations strictly necessary to maintain the single electricity market on the island of Ireland. There are already some regulatory differences between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The House will know that there is a limited amount of time. We ought to hear from the Liberal Democrat Back Benches.
My Lords, the Statement says that,
“the broad terms of our future relationship”,
have been agreed in the outline political declaration. How can the Minister justify that assertion when that very short outline is nothing more than a shopping list? There are hardly any verbs in it. For instance, on fisheries, which my noble friend mentioned, it talks about the aim of the,
“establishment of a new fisheries agreement on, inter alia, access to waters and quota shares”.
That tells us nothing about the detail, which is a crucial issue. Can the Minister explain how on earth we are going to get from this to something more substantive in the next week or so? What is the process? At the moment there is no flesh on the bones.
As I said in response to questions from the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, work will now begin on a fuller political declaration that will be published after the November summit.
My Lords, quite frankly we could do with more time. If the 2016 vote was about anything, it was about taking back control—that was the slogan and that was what the vote was about. This deal leaves us with less control, less power and less influence in Europe and the wider world for an indefinite and prolonged period. As the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, pointed out, as regards our domestic regulations and laws it leaves us with no voice, no vote and no veto. How can the Government possibly contemplate trying to take this through Parliament when it is the absolute opposite of what the people voted for, rather than taking it back to the people and letting them decide?
As I have said, having agreed the withdrawal agreement, we will now be able to talk about moving on to our future relationship, which will bring back exactly the kinds of powers and develop exactly the kind of relationship that the noble Lord is talking about. The withdrawal treaty is about leaving the EU; we can now look forward, having agreed that, to an excellent future relationship together.
My Lords, paragraph 4 of Article 129 of the withdrawal agreement makes the future arrangements for this country crystal clear. It says that,
“during the transition period, the United Kingdom may negotiate, sign and ratify international agreements entered into in its own capacity”.
That makes it very clear where the future lies, and perhaps contradicts what was said earlier. As the Labour Opposition Front Bench here in the Lords is so vastly superior to the Labour Opposition Front Bench in the other place, does my noble friend think that it might, on the day, support the withdrawal agreement or at least abstain?
My noble friend is absolutely right that, under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, the UK will be free to negotiate, sign and ratify FTAs during the implementation period and to bring them into force from January 2021. I have no doubt that we will have many useful discussions in this House about the future relationship with the EU, and I look forward to them.
My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the Governments of Wales and Scotland have, as a post-Brexit objective, an ongoing involvement in the EU single market? In view of the fact that Northern Ireland has been accorded such a facility, will she confirm that it is equally negotiable for Wales and Scotland, or is Northern Ireland being treated differently?
No. As we said, the EU proposal for a Northern Ireland-only customs solution has been dropped and replaced by a UK-wide temporary customs arrangement that protects the integrity of the union.
My Lords, it is Labour’s turn to speak.
The Minister lays great stress on what might be summarised as “There is no alternative”—a phrase that we have heard somewhere before. This slogan is patently inaccurate. I know that the Minister would like it to be the case, but is she not obliged to consider alternatives as they are presented?
The Prime Minister, supported by the Cabinet, has brought forward this deal, which has been negotiated with the EU, and it is the deal on the table. There will be a Council meeting later this month for both parties to agree it, and it will then be put to Parliament, which will, I hope, support it.
My Lords, I applaud the efforts of the Prime Minister in getting us this far, but I fear that my misgivings about what would happen in this process have been proven all too true—namely, the political declaration is meaningless waffle and, worse still, it is laced with the cyanide of the backstop. I understand what my noble friend says about us wishing to get more clarity in this political declaration, so maybe she can now tell the House what it means when it says that the future relationship will,
“build on the single customs territory”?
What does that mean? Does it mean that we will remain in some form of customs union with the European Union?
No. It means that we want a frictionless border, and we will continue to work on that. However, once we leave the EU, we will be able to negotiate free trade agreements across the world and become a truly global Britain.
My Lords, did the Minister note the poll that took place on Tuesday—the biggest poll carried out since the referendum, consulting some 25,000 people—showing strong and growing support for letting the people have the final say, including increasing support in marginal Conservative seats and support among Labour members by a margin of no less than 59% to 41%? In the light of this, if the Government are concerned to listen to the voice of the people, is it not right that in the immediate future the alternative to no deal, which is where we are heading, is to let the people have the final say?
I am afraid to say to the noble Lord that we have heard from the people. The people voted to leave the European Union. We are coming forward to a deal which will deliver that, and we will work on a bright relationship with the EU going forward.
My Lords, the Prime Minister’s Statement speaks of bringing the country back together. Does the Minister believe that this is a credible and achievable aim? If so, how will it be brought about?
Yes, I do believe it is credible and achievable. It is something the Prime Minister has been focused on. She is delivering Brexit. We have a deal. We will bring that deal to Parliament. We hope Parliament will support it, and we will bring the country back together in a strong relationship with the EU going forward.
My Lords, during the debate, much was said about our precious union. Does the Minister agree that, in fact, the precious union will be destroyed by this deal if it goes through—although that seems unlikely. Surely Northern Ireland has now been pushed on to a ledge and into no man’s land. This is not an acceptable way to protect the precious union.
With the greatest respect, I am afraid I disagree with the noble Lord. Protecting the union and ensuring that we uphold the Good Friday agreement has been central to much of the negotiations, and the Prime Minister has been absolutely clear about that. That is delivered by the fact that we have got rid of the Northern Ireland backstop, and we have a new, UK-wide temporary customs arrangement which does protect the integrity of our union.
My Lords, in the referendum campaign the most prominent leader of the Brexit side, Mr Boris Johnson, famously said that we can have our cake and eat it too. Another prominent leader, Michael Gove, said during that campaign that, the day we leave, all the cards will be in our hands. In the light of events, does the Minister feel the British public were given honest and responsible advice on that occasion?
I respect the British people. They made a decision for us to leave, and we are delivering on that decision.
My Lords, the Minister’s Statement said that we are going to re-establish an independent foreign policy and, at the same time, close and continuous security and foreign policy co-operation with the members of the EU. How do we reconcile that? Will we be allowed to say no whenever we feel like it but the others will be compelled to collaborate with us, or are we actually talking about sharing sovereignty and security despite the rhetoric of independence?
As the outline political declaration shows, we have reached consensus on key elements of our future internal security partnership—as I mentioned, on extradition, data exchange, fingerprints, DNA, vehicle records and passenger name records. On foreign, security and defence policy, we have agreed arrangements for consultation and co-operation on sanctions, participation in missions and operations, defence capability development and intelligence exchanges. As I said, now that we have agreed the withdrawal agreement, we will be able to get into the detail of the future relationship. Both sides are very clear that security is a key area in which we want to continue to have a very strong partnership.
My Lords, the Minister has confirmed that, as of 29 March next year, the United Kingdom will leave the common agricultural and fisheries policies. As it stands today, there is a complete vacuum on what the policies of this country will be for agriculture and fisheries. Negative instruments are being proposed, and the Agriculture Bill is completely policy free. What timetable do the Minister and the Cabinet propose for putting before this House the five or six remaining Bills and the thousands of statutory instruments that have to be adopted before we leave?
As my noble friend rightly says, we have an Agriculture Bill; a fisheries Bill will come soon. Legislation will continue to be put forward in the House, and we now move towards talking about our future partnership. But we will now also have the capability to decide our own agriculture and fisheries policies as we leave the EU.
My Lords, I urge the Minister not to repeat the fiction that it is either this deal—almost certainly dead in the water—or no deal, which would be disastrous. Parliament has the power, the opportunity and, I would submit, the duty to take back control of this whole disastrous saga, including the option of a people’s vote giving the people a final say on whether they want to remain in the European Union. All the alternatives before us at present are far inferior to that.
I have been quite clear that we will not be having a second referendum. We have had a people’s vote, and we are now delivering on that. However, the noble Lord is absolutely right that the withdrawal agreement and implementation treaty will be brought forward to the House and there will be opportunity for both the House of Commons and this House to scrutinise it and discuss it. It will be for Parliament to pass it.
My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that the question of immigration was a major factor in the referendum. Can she explain why these documents, apart from dealing with the rights of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa, are virtually silent on this important issue?
We will end free movement when we leave the EU, which means that we will develop our own independent immigration policy. We will bring forward a White Paper setting out those thoughts shortly.
My Lords, there is consensus across the House that this deal will not get a majority in the other place. What is the Government’s plan B? As we see it, a no-deal scenario happens automatically, unless the Government and Parliament decide to stay in the EU until a deal can be reached or decide to organise a second referendum. What do the Government make of the more hysterical claims of Brexiteers about Northern Ireland, which has been the pinch point all along? I am thinking especially of the claim that there are no trading, constitutional or legal differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, when we all know that there are already significant differences on agriculture, animal checks, future corporation tax, abortion and same-sex marriage—I could go on.
I am not going to prejudge what the other place does in relation to its decision on this deal. As noble Lords have rightly said, it will have a vote on this deal. We believe it is the best deal and we will be encouraging the other place to support it, and I believe that it will.
My Lords, one of the consequences for our fisheries is that the negotiations will lead to the regulation of fisheries in a non-discriminatory manner and to the putting in place of an agreement on quotas and access to waters which will continue after the transition period. Does that not indicate that the promise made by Brexit supporters to fishing communities, that Britain would have total control of its fishing waters and unlimited access to the fish regardless of international agreements, was not realistic?
No. We will retain and bring back access to our own waters. We will deliver on the referendum.
My Lords, under the proposed deal, during the implementation period the UK would be subject to all EU rules, including on freedom of movement. Why then does my right honourable friend the Prime Minister continue to rule out membership of the European Economic Area and the European Free Trade Association as an alternative interim state?
We have negotiated an implementation period, and that is what we shall deliver to ensure that we do not have a cliff edge. We will negotiate a strong new partnership with the EU, which will serve us both well in the future.