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Leaving the EU: The Union

Volume 638: debated on Wednesday 28 March 2018

1. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on strengthening the Union during the process by which the UK leaves the EU. (904617)

10. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on strengthening the Union during the process by which the UK leaves the EU. (904628)

The Government are unapologetically committed to the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom. As the Minister responsible for constitutional issues across the Government and as chair of a number of Cabinet Committees, I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues about such issues.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply and for his commitment to our precious Union. He knows that Northern Ireland will achieve a significant milestone on the day after the transition period: its centenary as part of this Union. Will he agree to meet me and some of my colleagues to discuss how best to advance the celebration and recognition of that achievement?

I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, as I am always happy to talk to the elected representatives of Northern Ireland constituencies here. It is important that we find a way to mark that centenary appropriately and do so in a way that is genuinely inclusive and recognises the sensitivities associated with many centenary anniversaries affecting the island of Ireland that have fallen in recent years.

Given that we are leaving the EU, will my right hon. Friend assure this House that he will do everything he can to preserve the single market of the United Kingdom, which is infinitely more important to many Unionist Members than the single market of the EU?

My hon. Friend is right. The United Kingdom’s common market existed well before we joined the European Union, and it will continue to exist after we leave. The living standards of people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland alike benefit from the existence and strength of the internal market of the United Kingdom, and the Government will do their utmost to protect and defend it.

Given that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill places additional and somewhat unwarranted restrictions on Scottish Government Ministers that do not apply to Ministers down here, does the right hon. Gentleman think that that strategy strengthens the Union or puts it at risk?

The withdrawal Bill, in providing for the transfer of considerable additional powers from Brussels to the devolved Governments in Scotland and Wales both strengthens devolution and upholds our constitutional settlement.

Does my right hon. Friend share my frustration at the actions and attitude of the SNP Government regarding clause 11 of the withdrawal Bill? While he has been working on an agreement with the devolved Administrations, they have been blocking, frustrating, agitating and doing everything in their power to manufacture a constitutional crisis in our family of nations.

One of the virtues that I have sought to cultivate in this job is patience, as well as endurance, so we continue talking to both the Scottish and Welsh Governments, but the allegations of a so-called power grab are completely unmerited.

Under a previous UK Government, up to 90% of the Welsh fishing quota was sold to foreign firms. This Union now has more than one Government, so what discussions is the Minister having with colleagues in the Welsh Government about the future allocation of the Welsh fishing quota?

One of the tasks that faces us, as the United Kingdom, as we leave the European Union is to devise the appropriate fisheries regime that provides a just result for fishing communities in all parts of the UK. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is looking forward to discussing that future with the devolved Administrations and with parliamentarians.