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Negotiation Outcomes

Volume 635: debated on Thursday 1 February 2018

3. What steps his Department is taking to plan for different outcomes in the negotiations on the UK leaving the EU. (903663)

Across the Government, we are planning for all outcomes, including the unlikely scenario in which no mutually satisfactory agreement can be reached. Given the success that we have had in securing an agreement in the first phase of negotiations, we are confident that we will go on to reach a swift agreement on an implementation period and a mutually beneficial future partnership with the EU. We approach the negotiations anticipating success and a good deal for both the UK and the EU.

Given DExEU’s propensity to rubbish the Government’s own research, will the Minister commission the independent Office for Budget Responsibility to model the budgetary and economic impacts of the four departure options—World Trade Organisation rules, a Canada-style deal, the Government’s free trade agreement proposal and joining the European Free Trade Association—and then release this modelling to Parliament?

As my hon. Friend knows, the OBR’s responsibilities are set out in legislation, and we do not have any plans to change them. I am glad that she mentions EFTA. A number of colleagues have raised EFTA with me. It would be important to have a further debate on EFTA if she would like to table one, because I would like to hear from colleagues what problems they believe that EFTA would solve in relation to our relations with the European Union, given that Swiss bilaterals have been ruled out and we are looking for our own bilateral relationships. We do not propose to join the European Economic Area, which would be a bad deal for the UK.

I know that the Secretary of State is an early riser, but did any of the other Ministers listen to the former Chancellor, George Osborne, on Radio 4 this morning? What are they going to say about what he says about the fact that this country, especially the manufacturing sector, is doomed outside the European Union?

I do not accept the premise of the hon. Gentleman’s question. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to listen to the former Chancellor on Radio 4 this morning. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State says that he did. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me fondly of the time that I did listen to the former Chancellor on Radio 4, before I went on after him at the height of the campaign.

Does the Minister agree that it is important that we keep our skies as open as possible post Brexit? Can he provide any reassurance that he is engaging with the aviation sector to make sure that this industry can continue to thrive under any and all post-Brexit scenarios?

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. It is in all our mutual interests to ensure that aviation continues to be open and liberal. The Secretary of State for Transport is well apprised of the issues and is pursuing them.

The BuzzFeed papers tell us that the regions most damaged by a no-deal Brexit would be the west midlands, Northern Ireland, and the north-east. The people of these regions deserve better. Will the Minister take the opportunity to make it clear to certain colleagues sitting behind him that they are wrong and irresponsible to be talking up or wishing for a no-deal outcome?

To answer the hon. Lady very directly on her last point, as I said earlier, it is our policy to seek a mutually beneficial, deep and special partnership with the European Union, embracing an economic partnership, among other things, and we are optimistic about achieving that outcome.

The Minister will not say it, but I will: they are wrong and they are irresponsible to be doing so.

As well as certain regions being hit hardest, certain sectors are threatened severely by a no-deal Brexit. For example, the food and drink industry exported £9.8 billion-worth of goods to the EU last year. Once and for all, will the Minister rule out a no-deal outcome, commit to a transition on current terms and give industry the certainty it needs?

I find the hon. Lady’s question peculiar. She seems to be suggesting that I would adopt something other than Government policy. It is the Government’s policy to secure an implementation period on current terms; it is the Government’s policy to secure an economic partnership; and of course it is the Government’s policy to be responsible and prepare to exit the European Union under whatever circumstances may prove necessary.