With permission, Mr Speaker, I shall make a statement on the Government’s plans for exiting the European Union.
Today we are publishing a Government White Paper on the UK’s exit from, and new partnership with, the European Union. The Government have made clear that they will honour the choice made by the people of the United Kingdom. On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union—no, that is wrong. On 23 June 2016, the people voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. It is just as well that I corrected that; I should have read this first, shouldn’t I? [Laughter.] Don’t worry, we have two more years to go—two years of this!
The House is currently considering a straightforward Bill that will give the Prime Minister the authority to trigger article 50 of the treaty on European Union and begin the negotiation over our exit. The Bill is not about whether or not we leave the EU, or even about how we do so; it is about implementing a decision already taken by the people of the UK in last year’s referendum. However, we have always said that we will detail our strategic aims for the negotiation and seek to build a national consensus wherever possible. The White Paper sets out those aims and the thinking behind them. It confirms the Prime Minister’s vision of an independent, truly global UK, and an ambitious future relationship with the EU.
That vision is based on the 12 principles that will guide the Government as they fulfil the democratic will of the people of the UK: providing certainty and clarity where we can as we approach the negotiations; taking control of our own laws and statute book; strengthening the Union by securing a deal that works for the whole of the UK; maintaining the common travel area and protecting our strong historic ties with Ireland; controlling immigration from the European Union; securing the rights for EU citizens already living in the UK and the rights of UK nationals living in the EU; protecting and enhancing existing workers’ rights; ensuring free trade with European markets, while forging a new strategic partnership with the European Union, including a bold and ambitious free trade agreement and a mutually beneficial new customs agreement; forging free trade agreements with other countries across the world; ensuring that the United Kingdom remains the best place for science and innovation; co-operating in the fight against crime and terrorism; and, finally, delivering a smooth and orderly exit from the EU. Those 12 objectives amount to one goal: a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union that works in our mutual interest. All of them are key, but let me highlight some of the specific issues in the White Paper.
The White Paper reiterates our firm view that it is in the UK’s interest for the EU to succeed politically and economically. That cannot be said too firmly: we want the EU to succeed politically and economically. We therefore approach the negotiation to come in the spirit of good will and working towards an outcome in our mutual benefit.
We recognise the EU’s principle of the four freedoms, so the UK will leave the single market. Instead, we seek a new strategic partnership, including a bold and ambitious free trade agreement and a mutually beneficial new customs agreement that should ensure the most free and frictionless trade in goods and services that is possible. That will be to our mutual benefit. As the White Paper notes, we export £230 billion of goods and services to the EU, while importing £290 billion of goods and services from the EU every year.
The White Paper also sets out how, after we leave the EU, the UK will look to significantly increase its trade with the fastest growing export markets in the world. Although we cannot sign new trade deals while we are still members, we can prepare—we are preparing—the ground for them. This means updating the terms of our membership of the World Trade Organisation, of which the UK was a founding member—it was GATT, the general agreement on tariffs and trade, in the first instance. Modern free trade agreements require mechanisms to resolve disputes and to provide certainty for businesses on both sides, so the White Paper examines the precedents in this area and makes it clear that we will negotiate an arrangement that respects UK sovereignty.
We recognise the need to provide clarity and certainty wherever we can during a period in which some uncertainty is inevitable. We will therefore bring forward another White Paper on the great repeal Bill, which will lay out our approach in detail. This legislation will mean the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972, while converting existing EU law into domestic law at the point of exit. That means that the position we start from—a common regulatory framework with the EU single market—is unprecedented. This negotiation will not be about bringing together two divergent systems, but about finding the best way for the benefits of the common systems and frameworks that currently enable UK and EU businesses to trade with and operate in each other’s markets to continue when we leave the EU.
The White Paper also sets out that we will take control of our own laws, so that they are made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, and ensure that we can control the number of people coming to the UK from the EU. The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK will come to an end. It will be for Parliament and the devolved legislatures to determine significant changes to reflect our new position.
I have said at this Dispatch Box that there will be any number of votes on substantive policy choices. To that end, the White Paper makes it clear that we expect to bring forward separate legislation in areas such as customs and immigration.
Delivering a smooth, mutually beneficial exit, while avoiding a disruptive cliff-edge, will be the key. A never-ending transitional status is emphatically not what we seek, but a phased process of implementation for new arrangements—whether immigration controls, customs systems, the way we operate and co-operate on criminal and civil justice matters, or future regulatory and legal frameworks for business—will be necessary for both sides.
As the White Paper says, the time needed to phase in new arrangements in different areas may vary. As one of the most important actors in global affairs, we will continue to work with the EU to preserve UK and European security, fight crime and terrorism, and uphold justice. We must work more closely, not less, in those areas.
We will continue to seek to build a national consensus around our negotiating position, so we are talking all the time to business, civil society, the public sector and representatives of the regions. We have engaged the devolved Administrations in this process. While no part of the UK can have a veto, we are determined to deliver an outcome that works for the whole of our country. We continue to analyse the impact of our exit across the breadth of the UK economy, covering more than 50 sectors —I think it was 58 at the last count—to shape our negotiating position.
To conclude, the referendum result was not a vote to turn our back on Europe. It was a vote of confidence in the UK’s ability to succeed in the world and an expression of optimism that our best days are still to come. Whatever the outcome of our negotiations, we seek a more open, outward-looking, confident and fairer UK that works for everyone. The White Paper is available on the Government website. I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
Normally I would thank the Secretary of State for early sight of his statement, but this statement says nothing. A week ago at Prime Minister’s questions, the Prime Minister said that there would be a White Paper. Yesterday she said that there would be a White Paper tomorrow, and the Secretary of State now makes a statement saying that there is a White Paper, but as the White Paper was not delivered until a few minutes ago, how can meaningful questions be asked about it?
For months we have been calling for a plan; that was refused on the basis that there would not be a running commentary. Then the Government agreed to a plan but delivered a speech. They were forced to concede under pressure that there would be a White Paper, but now a White Paper has been produced too late in the day for us to ask meaningful questions of the Secretary of State in this session. That is completely unacceptable.
The first fight on Brexit is very clear: it is a fight about giving this House a meaningful role in holding the Government to account. The Government had to be forced by the Supreme Court to involve Parliament at all in the article 50 process. They have been forced to produce a White Paper, and they have been forced to concede a final vote. Before Christmas, the Secretary of State was standing at the Dispatch Box refusing to confirm that there would be a vote in this House at the end of the exercise.
The decision to leave was taken on 23 June last year. What matters now are the terms agreed under article 50, and the nature and extent of our new relationship with the EU. In her Lancaster House speech, the Prime Minister adopted a risky approach—a wish list with gaps, inconsistencies and an unacceptable fall-back position. Now we need time to debate this White Paper properly in this House and a vote on its contents.
On the question of votes, from flicking through the White Paper, I see that all that is said about the final vote, at paragraph 1.12, is that the final deal that is agreed will be put to
“a vote in both Houses of Parliament.”
We have tabled amendments for consideration next week that seek a meaningful vote—a vote in this House before a vote is taken in the European Parliament. Without such a vote, all hon. Members will have to watch on their screens the European Parliament debating our deal before we get to express any views about it. That is completely unacceptable and it demeans this House.
Finally, I note from a perusal of the White Paper that there is nothing that progresses the situation of EU nationals in this country. We have been calling time and again for unilateral action to be taken before article 50 is triggered, yet the White Paper disappoints on that front.
Let me start with the purpose of the White Paper: to inform all the debates—not just today’s—in the coming two years. The shadow Brexit spokesman is exactly right: what matters above all else is not the amour propre of the Labour party or whatever, but the terms that we get for this negotiation. That is about the future of Britain, and it is what this House should care about first and foremost.
The hon. and learned Gentleman talks about a meaningful vote, but I have not yet quite understood what he means by that. I have been here long enough to have voted thousands of times in this House and I have never yet voted on something that I considered not meaningful. Every vote in this House is meaningful.
There will be a meaningful vote at the end. The hon. and learned Gentleman makes much of the time that this has taken, but I have been saying for a long time to the Select Committee—its Chairman is not here—that it was inconceivable that we would not have a meaningful vote at the end of this process.
The hon. and learned Gentleman’s last point was on EU nationals. I have a track record of defending the interests of people who are under pressure. Indeed, the last thing—pretty much—the leader of his party did was to go with me to Washington to get the last Brit out of Guantanamo Bay. I am not going to be throwing people out of Britain, and for the hon. and learned Gentleman even to suggest that is outrageous. Let me say this to him: I want the European Union nationals here to have all the rights they currently have, but I also want British citizens in Europe to have their rights. We owe a moral debt to EU nationals here, but we owe a moral and legal debt to the citizens of Britain abroad. We will protect both.
I deeply welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and the White Paper, which is most emphatically in our national interest. Tomorrow, the Heads of Government of the 27 other member states will convene in Malta, where they propose to make a declaration about their vision for the future of Europe. President Tusk’s letter of 31 January does not bode well. Will my right hon. Friend encourage the 27 to recognise that by promoting ever closer, more centralised and unreformed political union, they are creating the very circumstances that they claim to want to avoid and depriving themselves of the trust of the citizens they claim to represent? They are effectively going in the wrong direction.
My hon. Friend has led on this issue for about 30 years and has always had an honourable, straightforward and insightful view of the European Union. We have said that we are going to be a full member until the moment we leave, and that means being a responsible member. We will exercise our influence over what we think is the best interest of the European Union until the moment we leave, because we want the European Union to be strong, stable and effective. In these times of difficult international relations, we need the EU as an anchor, and that is the policy that we will pursue.
I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. He is not a man of few words, but he is perhaps a man of few meaningful words. This is just another panicked U-turn. When it comes to European matters, it is not much of an achievement to be the second most chaotic party in the Chamber. The Government have had seven months in which to pull this together, yet we got the White Paper only a minute before the Secretary of State got to his feet to make his statement. I concede that he is more experienced than I am, but it is striking that we are getting the White Paper after Second Reading of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill and two sitting days before its Committee stage. How are we to question him about the White Paper when we are given it just before he gets to his feet? I believe that that shows an astonishing disrespect for Parliament. He would not have put up with this were he not on the Government Front Bench.
What are the Government afraid of? They do not want to give us any opportunity for scrutiny, so there must be something they are afraid of. They do not have the courage of their convictions. Scotland voted to remain as the blue in the red, white and blue Brexit, so are the civil servants having to pull together all these last-minute policy changes? The Secretary of State said in his statement that the devolved legislatures would face “significant changes”. Does that mean that a legislative consent motion will now be required? This is a mess; it is a bourach. It is going to have an impact on each and every one of us, and people deserve better.
The hon. Gentleman says that this has taken seven months, but we have been in the European Union for 40 years. This is about reversing—well, not reversing but amending—and dealing with 40 years’ accumulated policy and law. He mentioned Second Reading, but that Bill will trigger the process. It does no more than to put into effect the people’s decision of 23 June last year, so I cannot see how he thinks the publication of the White Paper after Second Reading is problematic. There will be any number of occurrences in this House when the 50-odd Scottish National party Members will have a chance to hold the Government to account, to make their views known on policy, and to put forward the interests of Scotland, whether during the passage of the great repeal Bill or that of the other primary and secondary legislation that will follow on from it. I do not think he can complain about an absence of democracy in this respect.
Order. There is extensive interest in this statement, which I am keen to accommodate, but to do so will require brevity from Back Benchers and Front Benchers alike, especially in the light of the subsequent business, which is very well subscribed and to which I have to have regard. So it would help if we could have short questions and short answers.
I commend my right hon. Friend for the White Paper. The complaints about it not being detailed enough and arriving only at the last moment are of course nonsense. The Prime Minister set out most of its elements in her 12-point speech, and those who missed that should go back and read it again. They will see that its points are all reflected in this document. I want to ask my right hon. Friend about migration. The key concern in academia and in the high added value, low volume areas is that they should get a much earlier statement about how flexible any future permit system will be. Will he take that a little further and say that those areas will see next to no change, and that it is the low value, high volume areas that we need to control?
Order. Needless to say, people who were not here at the start of the statement should not be standing. That goes without saying; it is an established feature of our proceedings.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) is another Member of this House who has given a great deal of time and dedication to this issue. On migration, it is my job to bring the decision back to the House, but it is not my job to make the decisions thereafter. However, it is clear to me that the policies for controlling migration after our exit will be designed to further our national interest. Britain is a science superpower. We are the leading scientific centre in Europe, and as a result we will want to encourage the competition for talent to come here. The same will apply in finance, engineering, medicine and all the other areas in which skills are at a premium. We will want to attract those people, so we do not expect our policies to have any deleterious effects on industry at all.
The Secretary of State has said that we will have meaningful votes on a range of things. How can it be, then, that paragraph 8.43 of the White Paper commits us to leaving the customs union, which will have a devastating effect on manufacturing, without any analysis of the effects and with no impact assessment?
There has been considerable analysis of this—
Well, it is not in the White Paper.
Let me just finish my answer. The point is made in the policy paper that we want to have a customs agreement. That will follow directly as a result of the free trade agreement. If we are successful in getting low or zero tariffs in the free trade agreement, and no non-tariff barriers, we should succeed in getting a customs agreement that reflects that, and that makes it very straightforward to continue trading with Europe.
I think it would be wise to get to the end of the negotiations before we draw any conclusions on what conclusions we have come to. That would be the meaningful way to do it, although I think that those who use the word “meaningful” four times in a speech are being rather meaningless. The key point is that what we are after is the same thing that European Union members are after—arrangements that are good for them, good for us and good for the world.
My hon. Friend is exactly right. That is the aim of our policy. He is also right to suggest that, at the end, the House will be able to hold the Government to account and make a meaningful decision about the policy, but that will not be the only opportunity. There will be many points along the way when we will debate every policy issue that arises from the process—from customs agreements to immigration. The House will be very much in control of that.
In the 60 seconds that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) had to look through the White Paper, he was spot on to zone in on the obfuscation on page 11 about the lack of a meaningful vote for Parliament at the end of the process. There is no point in having a vote after the Secretary of State has already signed things off with the European Union, treating Parliament as some sort of afterthought. Will he rule out now the Government showing such contempt for Parliament?
This is my sixth statement to the House in less than six months—[Interruption.] Let me finish. The House will have the opportunity to vote on any number of pieces of legislation before we get to the end and then will have a vote to decide whether what it gets is acceptable. I cannot see how it can be made more meaningful than that.
On page 49 of the White Paper, the Government state:
“We have an open mind on how we implement new customs arrangements with the EU”.
It is important to be admirably clear so that everyone knows where we stand, so will the Secretary of State confirm for the avoidance of doubt that we are not only leaving the EU and the single market, but definitely leaving the customs union?
If my hon. Friend reads the rest of that chapter, he will see that we will exclude ourselves from the common commercial policy and common external tariff, which amounts to exactly what he says.
I welcome the principles in the White Paper, particularly around protecting and enhancing existing workers’ rights. Will the Secretary of State confirm that there is nothing to negotiate with the other EU countries on workers’ rights because they already exist in our law and will be protected? The people who have been going around saying that such rights are threatened should be told that they are not.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. The Government’s approach is to maintain every single piece of employment protection that exists now, which incidentally is much better than that of most European countries, and to enhance it. There should be no concern about that at all.
I urge the Secretary of State to give priority to the matters in chapter 6 of the White Paper on securing the rights of EU nationals. I have in mind a constituent who is an EU national and who has sadly been receiving cancer treatment for many years. I am anxious to be able to give her certainty as soon as possible that she will continue to have access to the NHS.
That is part of the point of doing this. We are talking about not only residents’ rights, but the right of access to healthcare. That matters both for Europeans in Britain and for Britons abroad. I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend.
“The end is not yet and the best is yet to be,” is a benediction that any Presbyterian on the Ulster Bench will welcome—even the Wee Frees who have clambered on at the end. I welcome the White Paper that the Secretary of State has produced today, in particular the three chapters that refer to the Union, to strengthening the relationship with the Republic of Ireland and to fighting and combating terrorism. Is he familiar with the commentary of Dr Ray Bassett, the former Irish ambassador and diplomat? He made it clear that Ireland’s position should now be about forging a new relationship with the United Kingdom, because the other 26 parts of the EU do not really listen to Ireland.
I am not familiar with that commentary, but I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s view about the chapter on the relationship with Ireland. One of the most important parts of the last seven month’s preparation has been striking a relationship with Ireland that ensures that we underpin the peace process, maintain the stability of Northern Ireland, keep an open border, and so on. It is incumbent on the British Government to be as helpful as we can to the Irish Government because they are in the most difficult position, so that is what we are doing.
Paragraph 8.43 of the White Paper makes it clear that we want to leave the customs union so that we can negotiate free trade agreements “around the world.” If we leave the customs union, we will be bound by an external tariff unless we negotiate otherwise. Is that the correct position?
Generally speaking, a most favoured nation arrangement applies under WTO rules, but countries are generally allowed to make free trade agreements at whatever level they seek. We want to ensure that as many of the existing EU free trade agreements carry straight over, which will also be lower than MFN rates.
Given the old-age dependency ratio and its importance for the public finances and given the absence of the concrete information in paragraph 5.9 of the White Paper, what level of net migration to our country does the Secretary of State anticipate across future years?
The Government’s policy is that migration will be at a sustainable level. The point to understand here is that such decisions are made on a year-by-year basis. It is not Government policy to make the British economy suffer as a result of labour or talent shortages or anything else. It is perfectly proper for a Government to want to control their own migration policy and not leave it open-ended. The solution to the problem the hon. Lady cites is not just not managing the problem.
When the Government serve notice on the European Union under article 50, will they take that opportunity to frame the negotiation by making it clear that we expect to agree the framework of our future relationship, as specified in article 50? Otherwise, we will effectively be negotiating the divorce arrangements in the dark, and the European Union would not be observing the principle of sincere co-operation.
My hon. Friend refers to the need to negotiate ongoing arrangements in parallel with the departure arrangements. As he says, article 50 refers to having regard to ongoing arrangements, and a negotiation on departure arrangements cannot be concluded before the ongoing arrangements have been concluded. I have already made that point to Michel Barnier, my opposite number, and I think the Prime Minister has made that point to a number of her opposite numbers around the European Union. This will be the first issue that we need to resolve at the beginning of the negotiations, so my hon. Friend is quite right.
Will Parliament get a vote on the Government’s intended final deal before the deal is struck with the European Union?
I suspect that the final vote here will be before the final ratification in the European Union. Its ratification process is much slower than ours will be.
I want to put it on the record that I am extremely pleased that the White Paper has been published, and I thank the Secretary of State and his team for listening to hon. Friends and our calls for a White Paper. Will he join me in sending a message to my constituents to feed in their views? In the spirit of listening to his hon. Friends, will he also clarify whether the Government will consider formal reporting back to the House?
I am not quite sure what my hon. Friend means by formal reporting. I have visited the Exiting the European Union Committee once and will be appearing in front of it again, and this, as I said, is my sixth statement to the House. We come to the House at every possible opportunity to tell Members what is going on. There will be subsequent debates, including substantive debates on policy. There will undoubtedly be other Brexit debates—more are planned already—so there is no question that the House will not be fully informed. That we are somehow not paying attention to the Opposition is an illusion—a chimera—that they like to run out. We have given them a White Paper and answers about the customs union and the single market. I do not know how much more open I can be without being dissected.
The Government seem to be in a constant state of delayed reaction, but we finally have the White Paper. It contains a statement on strengthening trade with the world that reads like a tweet, and a conspicuous amount of space that is totally blank. Does that reflect the Government’s thinking on Brexit?
The Government’s thinking on Brexit is very clear. If someone disagrees with it, that does not mean that it does not exist. That is the problem that SNP Members have had all the way through this process. They just do not like it—[Interruption.] Sure, half a page is blank. Wonderful. I think that is the case in every book I own.
I welcome the White Paper and hope that it heralds unity both in our party and in the country on our approach to leaving the European Union. May I therefore commend to all Members yesterday’s speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt)? He was the epitome of grace and magnanimity.
I agree with him entirely on both counts.
Does the Secretary of State accept that the best way to continue the benefits of the common systems and frameworks that enable UK and EU businesses to trade would be to stay in the single market and rejoin the European Free Trade Association? Does he also accept that, for UK businesses to have continued access to the single market, there will need to be mechanisms to ensure that UK regulations do not diverge from EU regulations? Can he explain what happens to sovereignty then?
The answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s first question is no, because, again, membership of EFTA would put us within the reach of European regulations and the European Courts. Frankly, that would take away what influence we do have. We have laid out in the White Paper what is the best relationship, which is a customs agreement and a free trade agreement. Bear in mind that we are starting from a position of identity. He makes a good point about maintaining that identity, and we will publish proposals on that in due course, but this is what we are going to do. It is perfectly possible to go the route I am talking about without rejecting the decision of the British people on 23 June last year.
Will my right hon. Friend inform the House of how the legislation, and the White Paper in particular, will hopefully help to protect and enhance Gibraltar’s unique position and of the progress he is making towards a free trade deal between us and Gibraltar? I understand that such a deal can happen before we leave the EU.
The Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), gave evidence to the House of Lords on precisely that—indeed, on all the dependent territories—and it can be taken as read that we will rigorously protect their interests.
The Secretary of State observes that the UK was a founding member of the WTO, but he forgets that we were the driving force behind the completion of the single market. Does he understand how angry British business is that he has abandoned the single market before negotiations even start?
In these debates, membership of the single market and access to the single market are often conflated. What British business wants is unfettered access, and what German, French and Italian business wants is unfettered access to our market. That is what we seek to produce.
Can the Secretary of State confirm that we will be coming out of the Prüm framework and building a new relationship on data sharing to fight crime and terrorism that ensures that my constituents’ most personal data are no longer subject to the ECJ?
As we are coming out of the European Union, that will happen almost by definition, but that is not to say that we will not be making new arrangements. The Prüm framework covers data exchange, DNA and so on, and it is very clear in our minds that we will be making new arrangements to keep terrorism, crime and so on under control. We will no doubt protect my hon. Friend’s constituents from the ECJ.
The Local Government Association has been asking for meetings with Ministers about the impact of these processes on councils and on how more powers can be devolved, yet in the Secretary of State’s statement I did not hear a single reference to local councils. I cannot see a single reference in the White Paper, having read through it very quickly. Will he now commit the Government to having meaningful discussions with the LGA, and will he commit to the principle of subsidiarity, too?
There is only so much I can do in a limited statement. The Minister of State has already met the LGA, and he has sent out invitations to local councils so that he can talk to them. In the last statement, or maybe in the one before, I said that I am willing to meet the mayors of the various regions of the country after they are elected in the next round. It must be taken as read that we are not putting the regions to one side. The very first public meeting I had after becoming Secretary of State was with people in Blackburn, Lancashire.
There are three British ambassadors in Brussels. Does my right hon. Friend think that the staff of our ambassador to the European Union will be enhanced, or indeed might his post be scrapped, after we leave the European Union?
I assume that my hon. Friend is talking about our permanent representative to the European Union, who has 120 brilliant staff, and they all work for me. I do not know what our representational arrangements will be, but he is referring to an ambassador to Belgium, an ambassador to NATO—I assume—and an ambassador to UKRep. We will undoubtedly have close relationships with the European Union thereafter, so it will be a pretty sizeable embassy I should think, but it will not be what it is now.
Our current membership of the single market is governed by the European economic area agreement. The Government contend that we are a member of the EEA by virtue of our membership of the EU—that may or may not prove to be the case—but can the Secretary of State be clear about the implications of our domestic legislation in that regard, specifically the European Economic Area Act 1993? Will the Government repeal that Act? If so, when? Will we get a vote?
As it stands—as far as I can see, having gone through this quite carefully—once we are outside the EU, the question of whether we automatically cease to be a member of the EEA becomes a legal empty vessel. We will look at that. If we do propose to withdraw from the EEA, we will come back and tell the House.
When European subjects have come to my surgery to talk about their rights, they have left in agreement that those rights must go hand in hand with the rights of UK subjects living in their own country. I hope the Secretary of State has got the message.
I have got the message and, incidentally, so have the leaders of most of the countries with the most people here. They also understand that we have to protect the rights of British people at the very same time as we protect the rights of their citizens. There is no question that it is not going to happen. The question is when it will happen, and we are trying to do it as quickly as possible.
We welcome the White Paper, particularly chapter 4 on our links with Ireland, including on trade, security and the wish for unfettered access, but at the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs this week a customs specialist said that, for trading in goods, there will have to be border points either between Northern Ireland and Ireland or, much worse, between Scotland and England and the island of Ireland. Will the Secretary of State guarantee that we are not going to have hard borders of that type?
We are not going to have hard borders. I will take the question on two different levels. First, the common travel area has existed since 1923 and, in that respect nothing will change. On goods, there will be the softest, most invisible and most frictionless border we can find. There is a lot of technology these days, ranging from automatic number plate recognition through to the tagging of containers, with trusted trader arrangements across the border, and such things operate between Norway and Sweden, the US and Canada, and so on—countries with very amicable relations and very open borders—and we will do the same with Ireland.
The White Paper is an impressive document, for which I thank the Secretary of State—the Venn diagram on page 48 is particularly insightful. He will know that the European Union has concluded a pathetically small number of free trade agreements with other countries, but there are some. Will he confirm that there will either be a continuity arrangement with those countries on Brexit or that the agreements will be the basis for an accelerated relationship with those very few countries?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade has already been in touch with the most important countries to us—South Korea and others like it—and they all seem very keen both to maintain grandfather rights and to improve on the deals and make them much more tailored and specific to both our interests.
The White Paper says that the great repeal Bill
“will preserve EU law where it stands at the moment before we leave the EU.”
The White Paper goes on to say that it foresees two pieces of primary legislation, but that:
“There will also be a programme of secondary legislation under the Great Repeal Bill to address deficiencies in the preserved law”.
What deficiencies does the Secretary of State have in mind?
As the great repeal Bill will pass through European law—the acquis communautaire—in its original wording, it might refer to European institutions when it should refer to British institutions. For example, it might say that local government has to publish its procurement contracts in the Official Journal of the European Union, which would no longer be appropriate—it would be more appropriate to publish them on the Government website. Secondary legislation will be principally aimed at such technical concerns. Major areas of policy change will primarily be addressed in primary legislation, which is why we cited those two examples.
I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s constructive approach. In that light, I draw his attention to a report by the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, which highlighted European businesses’ financial reliance on the City, expressed concern if that access were to be disrupted and urged negotiators to approach the issue in a constructive and open fashion.
And we fully intend to do so, as we think it is in the interests of both ourselves and the European Union, because we do not want anything that causes instability in the eurozone, any more than we want anything that damages the City.
Remarkably, the White Paper does not contain a single reference to Eurojust or any real indication of our future co-operation with the EU on criminal justice matters. That raises the question: if something so significant has been omitted, what else is missing? Never mind a White Paper, this is a lightweight paper.
The hon. Lady worked hard to get her soundbite out. The White Paper contains a whole section on justice and home affairs, and we have made it very plain, over and over again—I even said this in my statement at the beginning—that we intend to maintain closer co-operation with Europe, not have less co-operation, on security, crime and intelligence matters. We must understand that Europe has a great deal to gain from this, because we are the intelligence superpower in Europe—we have the most powerful intelligence agencies—and therefore on things such as tackling crime and terrorism we are very important to them, as we think they are to us, too.
Significant discussion has already taken place between the Prime Minister and the Welsh Government following last June’s referendum, and there has been discussion in the Welsh Parliament, and I very much welcome that. In the interests of UK unity, Wales’s interests must be taken into account, including through discussion of this White Paper. Will the Secretary of State guarantee Wales’s involvement and that it will continue to feature in all our discussions? We accept, of course, that there can be no veto.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right in what he says, and this has been our approach. We have had a number of meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee, two of them chaired by the Prime Minister and three of them chaired by me. We have been to Wales to see the Welsh Government to talk about some of these issues. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State is appearing before the Welsh Parliament—
The Welsh Committee—sorry. He is appearing before the Committee on 14 February, I believe. We are taking the interests of Wales extremely seriously. We will operate this negotiation so that no part of the UK loses—that is the aim.
If we are leaving the single market and the customs union, will the Secretary of State give a guarantee to my workers at Ford and at Tata Steel, who make the steel for Nissan cars? Two thirds of both Ford and Nissan cars are exported to the EU, so will he guarantee that they will have tariff-free access to the EU markets? Or is this only a promise to negotiate and seek?
This is a negotiation, but if the hon. Lady reads the White Paper, she will see that it sets out that European exports of goods and services to us total £290 billion, whereas ours to them are worth £230 billion. So they clearly have a strong interest—as strong an interest as we do—in tariff-free goods access, because for them goods are a much bigger part of it as well. The disparity is more than £60 billion, so there is every reason to expect that we will succeed in what we are intending to do, which is protect the jobs of her constituents.
My right hon. Friend will recall that at last week’s Brexit questions I asked about the seafood sector, and I can tell him that it will be particularly pleased with the comment in paragraph 8.16 giving it full support. However, he will also be aware of the long-standing grievance of the fishing communities up and down the country following their being sold out in the original negotiations. Will he reiterate yet again that that will not occur on this occasion?
The Secretary of State makes much of the process and joked that we might be at this for another two years, yet in that time the unelected and unaccountable House of Lords will have more influence on the implementation of the White Paper, and the negotiations and relationships that we must forge for trade agreements, than the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. How does that strengthen the Union?
That is simply not the case. As I just said, we have regular monthly meetings with the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive—when they are in play—and we are taking what they say very seriously. We will not agree with everything they say, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. The Scottish Government’s paper was presented at the last meeting and there were areas of agreement on employment protection and on environmental protection, but disagreement on the concept of a “carve out” on the single market and a discussion about how the devolution would work. That hardly constitutes not paying attention to the Scottish Government.
I welcome this White Paper and I am glad the Government have listened to Members. EU nationals play a vital part in our universities, workplaces and families. Although I support the need for some control on freedom of movement, will he ensure in negotiations that workers, students and family members find that our borders remain open if they are from the EU? After all, control does not mean arbitrary restrictions.
Absolutely, control does not mean slamming the door. As I said, it is in the UK’s interest to keep attracting talent, and if we attract talent, we attract the families—that goes without saying. Earlier, I was asked whether I could promise something that is to be negotiated, but this is something we will decide in this House, for the first time, in a couple of years’ time.
One crucial and reasonable question for the Secretary of State to answer is: how does he see frictionless, unfettered trade with the EU continuing after we have signed free trade deals with other countries? Surely the greater the divergence between ourselves and the single market in external tariffs and standards, the greater their need at some point to impose customs checks on us.
Obviously, we need to seek to maintain some sort of standard parity, be it by a measure of equivalence or by something else, depending on the product. The area where the deals outside and the deals with the European Union conflict is on rules of origin. We will have to have a good rules of origin scheme, just as any other free trade area has. For example, the Canadian treaty has specific rules of origin and we will need to do the same. But that is a very small burden by comparison with the sorts of things people are worrying about, if we get the customs agreement we seek.
When, if ever, does my right hon. Friend think the EU will issue an equivalent White Paper, setting out with equal clarity the agreed negotiating objectives of the 27 other members?
My hon. Friend’s question sort of answers itself, but I hope that it will be once the EU has received the article 50 letter from us—so in April or May. It will receive that letter in March and will respond in April or May.
I know that today is groundhog day, but why are we exiting the customs union in order to recreate the customs union?
It is to create a customs agreement; it is in order to enable us to develop free trade agreements with that huge portion of the world where there is very fast growth and we have a strong market presence. Some 40% of our trade, or as much as we have with the EU, is with areas where we do not have free trade agreements. So this is a very large area and it is growing, sometimes twice as fast as the EU is. We are taking this approach for the future opportunities. People often talk about the implications of the referendum for young people, but the biggest implication is the prospect of jobs in the future, many of which will come from global markets, not just European ones.
A lot of the politicians in EU states say that they are against torture, but do they not recognise that the fact that they are not willing to come to a deal with my right hon. Friend about EU citizens being allowed to stay, live and work here and British citizens being allowed to stay, live and work in the EU countries is a form of mental torture and trauma that they are perpetrating upon them? Will he redouble his efforts to get this deal done as quickly as possible and to make the announcement as quickly as possible? If only one or two countries are holding out, for whatever reason, will he be prepared to name and shame them, so that their citizens here can bring pressure upon them to get that deal done?
I will certainly do the first half; I will certainly redouble my efforts, although they are pretty intense in any case, to ensure that this happens quickly. My hon. Friend is right that we are talking about just a few countries. I suspect their reasoning is the communautaire reasoning of not starting anything before the negotiations start, and I hope this will be rapidly resolved thereafter.
Does not the fact that so many Members from both sides of the House who wanted us to remain in the European Union nevertheless last night voted to trigger article 50 set a fine example that Members of the unelected upper House would do very well to follow?
I was sitting there calculating whether my right hon. Friend’s question today was longer than his speech yesterday, and I think it was.
Yes, I hope Members in the upper House do pay attention. The Bill is a manifestation of the will of the people—nearly 17.5 million people—and I would expect the upper House, which quite properly has its place and its rights, to respect that will.