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House of Commons Hansard
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Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union
21 July 2016
Volume 613
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1. What discussions his Department has had with the devolved Administrations on the timescale for invoking article 50 of the treaty on European Union. [905999]

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4. What discussions his Department has had with the devolved Administrations on the timescale for invoking article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. [906003]

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13. What discussions his Department has had with the devolved Administrations on the timescale for invoking article 50 of the treaty on European Union. [906013]

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The hon. Gentleman will know that the Prime Minister has visited Scotland and Wales already and has made it clear that she wants to achieve the best possible deal for the whole of the United Kingdom on leaving the European Union. She has also made it clear that article 50 of the treaty on European Union will not be triggered before the end of the year.

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The Prime Minister has stated that Brexit means Brexit, and the First Minister of Scotland has stated that, for us, remain means remain. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the Scottish people have spoken and that therefore their sovereignty should be respected?

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The people of the United Kingdom have spoken and their sovereignty must be respected. The people of the United Kingdom have made their decision on whether to leave the European Union, and we will respect it.

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The Prime Minister has indicated that she will not trigger article 50 in the UK until there is a UK approach to Brexit. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that a legislative consent motion is required before the Government have the legal authority to trigger article 50?

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It is perfectly right, as the Prime Minister has made clear, that all parts of the United Kingdom, including the Governments of the devolved Administrations, should be able to participate in the process of developing the United Kingdom’s approach to these negotiations. That does not mean that any of the parts of the United Kingdom has a veto over this process: so, consultation most certainly, but veto I am afraid not.

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At a time when Brexit is already causing more than enough confusion, the Prime Minister is saying that article 50 will definitely not be triggered before the end of the year, but the Brexit Minister has said that it definitely will be. Will the Attorney General clarify for us who is correct in articulating present Government policy?

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No, I do not think there is any confusion. We must ensure that there is clarity about the United Kingdom’s position going into the negotiations, and that we have done that work before we begin them. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is for the United Kingdom Government to determine the point at which article 50 is triggered. We should do so when we are ready.

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Will the Attorney General tell my constituents in Kettering what invoking article 50 means? What is article 50? Where is it kept? Is it in a secret drawer in the Prime Minister’s office to which only the Attorney General has the key? Is it a letter that the Prime Minister signs, or is it the Queen who signs it? How will article 50 be invoked?

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I can assist my hon. Friend and his constituents to this extent. Article 50 is article 50 of the treaty on European Union and therefore copies of it are kept in all sorts of places. I am not sure whether there is one in my desk, but what it says is:

“A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention.”

As I have said, it will be for the UK Government to do that at a time of their choosing.

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I am quite happy with the Government consulting the devolved Administrations, but what concerns me is that we do not finish up being held to ransom by the Scottish nationalists. Whatever the Government try to do, they will never be able to satisfy the Scottish nationalists. Can the Attorney General please reassure me and my constituents, who voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union, that their wishes will not be frustrated by the Scottish National party?

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The Prime Minister has been very clear that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, and that means all of the United Kingdom, but, as I said earlier, it is very important that in the process of exiting the European Union all parts of the United Kingdom have an opportunity to contribute to the negotiations in which we will engage. That is the spirit in which the UK Government will approach this process.

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We have to be mindful that the EU referendum was UK-wide, so all parts of the United Kingdom were involved. I hope the Prime Minister will come to Northern Ireland; perhaps the Minister can confirm that. It is important to keep the grants and assistance that Northern Ireland receives.

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Indeed. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. I am sure the Prime Minister will wish to visit Northern Ireland very shortly, and she and we have clearly in mind the particular difficulties that will apply to the process in Northern Ireland because of the land border with the Republic of Ireland. The hon. Gentleman will have been present yesterday when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland dealt with this question. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is at the forefront of our minds and we will wish to make sure that we reach a satisfactory settlement.

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The new Brexit Minister has said that the UK may be able to stop EU migrants coming to the UK before we leave the European Union, while remaining in the single market. What is the legal basis for this pick-and-mix approach to European law? Does he think that this hubristic attitude will get the UK the best deal in the negotiations?

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The legal position is clear. For as long as we remain members of the European Union, the rights and responsibilities that attract as a result of that membership will persist, but it is open to the member states to negotiate different arrangements if they think it is appropriate to do so, and we will see, once article 50 is triggered, exactly how those negotiations play out. The legal position, as I say, is that the rights and responsibilities of member states, and of course of citizens of those member states, will persist for as long as we are members of the European Union.