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Exiting the EU

Volume 627: debated on Tuesday 11 July 2017

2. What steps his Department is taking to help support and deliver an effective departure for the UK from the EU. (900339)

14. What steps his Department is taking to help support and deliver an effective departure for the UK from the EU. (900351)

My Department continues to support EU exit negotiations, and the Government work to strengthen our relations with partners worldwide. As a champion of free trade, we will continue to seize the opportunities afforded by Brexit and guarantee our long-term global prosperity.

Businesses in my constituency are seeking to make the most of the opportunities that Brexit provides for them, but can my right hon. Friend assure me that he will work closely with the Department for International Trade and the Department for Exiting the European Union to ensure that businesses that are already trading with the single market are helped to build new export markets for their goods and services around the world, to secure their continued prosperity?

Absolutely. I congratulate my hon. Friend on what I believe is her first question—I think it is a very good one. She can reassure her constituents that not only will the excellent companies in her constituency be able to continue to enjoy free trade with the rest of the European Union—with the EU27—but they will, of course, have the additional opportunity afforded by the new free trade deals that we will be able to strike with countries around the world. I am pleased to say that they were queuing up to make that point to the Prime Minister at the G20 in Hamburg.

Today is the feast day of St Benedict, the patron saint of Europe, who famously warned about “murmuring in the community” against the abbess. Will my right hon. Friend please proclaim that we do not want any murmuring from anyone against our vision of an open, free trade Europe—the best possible free trade deal, leading the world towards free trade and untold prosperity?

My hon. Friend has made an excellent point. Members on both sides of the House know very well that 80% or 85% of us were elected on a very clear manifesto pledge to come out of the European Union, to come out of the single market and—as the leader of the Labour party has said—to come out of the customs union as well. Nothing could be clearer than that. I think that what the people of this country want us to do is get on and deliver a great Brexit, and I have no doubt that, with the support of Opposition Members, we can achieve it.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree with the Chancellor and the First Secretary of State that we shall need a transitional period of at least three years during which we will remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice?

Order. My apologies to the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), who rose momentarily after his right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw)—cue him being called second, but I am sure he does not mind.

I am grateful, Mr Speaker.

In March, the Foreign Secretary said that leaving the EU with no deal would be perfectly okay. Last month, however, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that that would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain. Given that the two positions are clearly completely contradictory, who should the British public believe?

I think that what the British public can take from both the Chancellor and myself—and, indeed, from the vast majority of Labour Members, as I understand their position—is that we all want to get on and do the deal, to do the best deal possible, and to leave the EU.

What lessons does my right hon. Friend take from the Australian Government, who negotiated free trade deals with China, Japan and South Korea in very short order by focusing on trade itself rather than getting bogged down in disputes with regard to standards, legalities and regulations?

I agree very much with what my hon. Friend has said. I think that, with a bit of gumption and a bit of positive energy, there is no limit to what we can achieve, and we should get on and do it. Of course, we cannot ink in the free trade deals now, but we can certainly pencil in the outlines.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman was reported as saying that,

“the transition rules could involve the European Court of Justice for a limited time…that’s all a matter for negotiation.”

That is the quote that was reported. So can the Foreign Secretary confirm this change in Government policy, and set out the rationale behind it?

We are in a negotiation whose objective is to come out from under the penumbra of the European Court of Justice, and outside the EU legal order, and that is what we will achieve.

Since we joined the Common Market on 1 January 1973 until the date we leave, we will have given the EU and its predecessors, in today’s money in real terms, a total of £209 billion. Will the Foreign Secretary make it clear to the EU that if it wants a penny piece more, it can go whistle?

I am sure that my hon. Friend’s words will have broken like a thunderclap over Brussels and they will pay attention to what he has said. He makes a very valid point; the sums that I have seen that they propose to demand from this country seem to me to be extortionate, and I think that to “go whistle” is an entirely appropriate expression.

21. Will the Secretary of State ensure, in a spirit of co-operation, that the final Brexit deal is endorsed by the devolved Parliaments before it is signed? (900358)

As the hon. Gentleman knows very well, we work closely under the Joint Ministerial Committee to bring in the devolved Administrations and make sure the great deal we are going to get has their endorsement and approval.

Further to the question by the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), did my right hon. Friend hear the report on the “Today” programme this morning that other European leaders were making it clear that they would not accept a deal on any terms, and does he share my view that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the birth of what I believe is his sixth child. He makes a very good point about the negotiating stance of our friends and partners across the channel. They do sound at the moment pretty hard over, as we say in the Foreign Office, but I have no doubt that in the fullness of time a suppleness will descend, and a willingness to compromise, because, after all, a great Brexit deal, a great free trade deal, and a deep and special partnership is in the interests of both sides of the channel.

Given the Prime Minister’s appeal to these Benches to help her out today, where does the Foreign Secretary think there are areas for compromise?

As I have said before, the striking thing about this debate is how much unanimity there really is between the two sides of the Chamber on these fundamental questions, and I have been very struck that the leader of the Labour party seems to be very much on all fours with the objectives of the Brexit—[Interruption.] He very much agrees with the position we are taking, and I hope to see him in the Lobby with us.

I hate to disagree with the Foreign Secretary: while he is right to say that the Leader of the Opposition is fully behind the Government and those on the Conservative Benches are fully behind the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, the Opposition are hopelessly split on this issue, and is that not hindering the Government’s negotiating position?

It is not for me to comment on the ability of the Labour leader to control his own party. I take it that Labour Members are all following official Labour party policy, which is to come out of the EU and the single market. If they are not, they can stand up now and, by their questions, betray their real position, but as far as I know they are supporting the will of the British people as expressed last year. If they wish to dissent from that, now is the time.

May I start by welcoming the new Foreign Office Front Benchers to their positions? Back in July last year, they chastised me when I wrongly accused them of being an all-male team. If only I had waited a year, I would have been correct after all.

Talking of female Tory MPs, the hon. Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) used a disgusting, racist phrase in her comments at the East India Club, and I hope the Foreign Secretary will join me in condemning them; I hope he will agree that derogatory, offensive language deriving from the era of American slavery has no place in modern society. But the hon. Lady was at least trying to ask a valid question—a question about what would happen if Britain failed to reach a deal on Brexit. So may I ask the Foreign Secretary to answer that question today? Can he explain what that no deal option would mean for the people and businesses of Great Britain?

As I said before, the chances of such an outcome are vanishingly unlikely, since it is manifestly in the interests of those on both sides of the channel to get a great free trade deal and a new deep and special partnership between us and the European Union. That is what we are going to achieve.

I thank the Foreign Secretary for that answer, but unfortunately it leaves us none the wiser. This is slightly baffling because it was, after all, the Prime Minister—the Prime Minister for now, at least—who decided to put the no deal option on the table. She could not stop using the phrase during the election campaign. But now, when we ask what it would mean in practice, the Government refuse to tell us. The Foreign Affairs Committee said in December:

“The Government should require each Department to produce a ‘no deal’ plan, outlining the likely consequences…and setting out proposals to mitigate potential risks.”

It went on to state that anything less would be a “dereliction of duty”, and that we cannot have a repeat—

Order. I apologise for interrupting the right hon. Lady but she really does need to bring herself to a single-sentence question, because there are lots of colleagues who want to take part. She is normally very succinct, but today is an exception. Return to form!

Given that a plan for no deal would be worse than that dereliction of duty, will the Foreign Secretary spell out publicly what no deal would mean? If he is not prepared to tell us that publicly, can he reassure us that at the very least he has a detailed private plan to manage that risk?

There is no plan for no deal, because we are going to get a great deal. For the sake of illustration, I remind the right hon. Lady that there was a time, which I am old enough to remember, when Britain was not in what we then called the Common Market.