With permission Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the White Paper published today setting out the Government’s plans for legislating for the withdrawal agreement and implementation period.
On Friday 29 March 2019, the UK will leave the European Union, giving effect to the historic decision taken by the British people in the 2016 referendum. The Government are committed to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit. That is why we have already passed the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018—[Laughter.] The shadow Foreign Secretary is laughing. She and her party voted against the Bill, thereby undermining her commitment to give effect to the referendum. We are ensuring that the statute book functions after exit, whatever the outcome of the negotiations. I am grateful to this House and the other place for the many hours of scrutiny devoted to that vital piece of legislation. We are now embarking on the next step in the process of delivering that smooth Brexit for the people and businesses of this country.
Since last June, the UK has been negotiating with the EU to decide on the terms of our withdrawal. We have made substantial progress—on protecting the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU, deciding the terms of the financial settlement and agreeing a strictly time-limited implementation period. Most of the withdrawal agreement—about 80%, according to the EU—has now been agreed with our EU partners, and we have isolated outstanding issues for further focused negotiation. I will be meeting Michel Barnier again on Thursday to take forward the negotiations at this critical time.
We have already agreed a financial settlement, estimated at between £35 billion and £39 billion, which is well below the figures bandied around by some when we started this negotiation. The implementation period will be finite and will allow for the negotiation and conclusion of free trade deals. Many of these arrangements will of course require new domestic legislation to deliver them into UK law. That is why, last November, we announced our intention to bring forward a new piece of primary legislation to implement the withdrawal agreement in UK law.
Today, we are publishing a White Paper setting out our proposals for this important legislation, which will be introduced once the negotiations have concluded and Parliament has approved the final deal. Our expectation is to reach agreement in October.
Under the terms of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, Parliament will then have its say on the final deal. If it is approved, will we bring forward the legislation so that it can be in place for when we leave the EU on 29 March 2019. In setting out our proposals today, we are giving Parliament the opportunity to scrutinise our plans well ahead of the Bill’s introduction, given the need to enact the legislation in the time available and mindful of the importance of maximum scrutiny in this House.
By publishing the White Paper today, the Government are providing further certainty to people and businesses here in the UK and across the EU. It also sends a clear signal to the European Union that the United Kingdom is a reliable, dependable negotiating partner, delivering on the commitments it has made across the negotiating table. Of course, while we are making good progress, discussions are still ongoing in various areas, so some parts of the Bill will only become clearer as we settle the remaining parts of the withdrawal agreement. In the light of that, today’s White Paper focuses on those parts of the withdrawal agreement where the text is already agreed. I will take them in turn.
The UK’s first priority in negotiating its withdrawal from the EU was to reach agreement on the rights of citizens, including the 3.5 million EU citizens who live in the UK and who are valued members of their communities and play an integral part in the life of this country. Likewise, the approximately 1 million UK nationals who currently live in the EU are equally valued by their host countries and communities.
The agreement reached on citizens’ rights will allow EU citizens in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU, to live their lives broadly as they do now and enable families who have built their lives in the EU and the UK to stay together. The most important next step will be to provide a continued right of residence for those citizens. EU citizens lawfully residing in the UK on 31 December 2020 will be able to stay.
This month, the Home Office published further details about how EU citizens and their families can obtain settled status in the UK. That statement confirms that the settlement scheme will make it simple and straightforward for citizens and their families to secure long-term status in this country. The Bill will ensure that EU citizens can rely on the rights set out in the withdrawal agreement and can enforce them in UK courts. It will also establish an independent monitoring authority to oversee the UK’s implementation of the deal on citizens’ rights, thus providing further reassurance for citizens.
All EU member states must implement the agreement in full and provide certainty for UK nationals on the continent. As the Home Secretary stated recently, we now need to know more of the details of how each member state will fulfil its obligations and implement its side of the agreement. We will be pressing further for those details over the summer.
The next chapter of the White Paper deals with the strictly time-limited implementation period that the UK agreed with the EU in March. The UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019. After that, the implementation period on which we have agreed will ensure that people and businesses will have to plan for only one set of changes as we move towards our future relationship. From 30 March 2019 until 31 December 2020, common rules will remain in place, with EU law continuing to apply, and businesses will be able to trade on the same terms as they do now. During that period, we will not be a member state and will have the flexibility that we need to strike new trade deals around the world—something that many argued we would not be able to achieve in the negotiations.
To legislate for the implementation period, we must ensure that the UK statute book continues to reflect the relevant provisions of EU law, as it applies to the UK during this time-limited period. As the House will know, the current mechanism for bringing EU law into UK law is the European Communities Act 1972. Under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, the ECA will be repealed on 29 March 2019. As set out in the White Paper, the EU withdrawal agreement Bill will contain a time-limited provision so that parts of the ECA are saved until 31 December 2020. Those changes will ensure that our statute book functions properly throughout the implementation period, in accordance with the agreement that we have made with the EU.
Let me now turn to the financial settlement, the structure of which was agreed in December on the basis that it would sit alongside our future partnership. As we have said from the start, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. That is in keeping with article 50, and in keeping with the guidelines that have been given to the EU for the negotiation. We will have a framework for our future relationship with the EU, alongside the withdrawal agreement, and our approach to that future partnership is set out in the White Paper that we published earlier this month. There must be a firm commitment in the withdrawal agreement requiring the framework for the future relationship to be translated into legal text as soon as possible. It is one part of the whole deal that we are doing with our EU partners. Of course, if one party fails to honour its side of that overall bargain, there will be consequences for the whole deal, and that includes the financial settlement.
In addition, we have agreed an obligation for both parties to act in good faith throughout the application of the withdrawal agreement. The White Paper published today explains that the EU withdrawal agreement Bill will include a standing service provision to allow the Government to meet the commitments of the financial settlement. In the interests of transparency and oversight, the White Paper also includes proposals to enhance the existing scrutiny arrangements for the payments made to the EU.
The White Paper sets out our approach to delivering the withdrawal agreement and the implementation period into law, and I look forward to discussing all its proposals with Members in all parts of the House. It is a necessary part of leaving the EU and ensuring a smooth and orderly departure. It gives EU citizens living here, and UK nationals abroad, clarity and certainty that their rights will be properly protected; it will enact the time-limited implementation period, giving businesses greater certainty and giving the public finality with respect to our relationship with the EU; and it provides for the appropriate means for paying the financial settlement. Above all, with 80% of the withdrawal agreement settled with our EU partners, the White Paper is another key milestone on the United Kingdom’s path to leaving the EU. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Secretary of State for providing advance copies of his statement and the White Paper. I am glad to say that that was two hours ago, and it is much appreciated.
We will of course scrutinise the White Paper closely, but a quick reading reveals a number of important points. First, the gimmick of fixing exit day as 29 March 2019 in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act has already come unstuck. We warned at the time that it would not work and would need to be rubbed out and that large parts of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act would need to be amended. Here is the proof.
Paragraph 56 of the White Paper states that
“EU law will continue to have effect in the UK in the same way as now”
for the implementation period—that is, until December 2020—but section 1 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, which took 18 months to get through Parliament and received Royal Assent only 28 days ago, repeals the European Communities Act on exit day, 29 March 2019. The implementation Bill will amend section 1 of the withdrawal Act by saving the ECA, as the White Paper makes clear in paragraph 60. So the ECA is repealed, and before that comes into force, it is amended and saved. The Secretary of State says that just “parts of the ECA” are saved until 30 December 2020, but that is a huge understatement. Almost all of it is saved, with amendments not to the applicability of EU law, but to collateral issues.
However, not just section 1 of the withdrawal Act now needs major surgery. The other big ticket item in the Act was the much-vaunted “conversion of EU law” into our law—again, fixed by the gimmick of the date of 29 March 2019. We warned that that would not work, because the gimmick gets in the way, so it is going to be rubbed out. Paragraph 69 of the White Paper makes it clear that the conversion exercise is now not needed until December 2020.
Then, of course, there is the European Court. Just a few weeks ago, many Brexiteers cheered section 6(1) of the withdrawal Act, which would extinguish the role of the European Court on the fixed date of 29 March 2019. But not so fast: as we said at the time would happen, paragraph 80 of the White Paper preserves the full role of the European Court until December 2020. Again, the withdrawal Act will need major surgery.
I cannot remember legislation that has needed such great revision and amendment before the relevant parts have even come into force. Of course, the provisions of the withdrawal Act that have come into force relate to delegated powers. During the 18-month passage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill through the House of Commons, it was acknowledged that it contained sweeping provisions packed with Henry VIII powers. They were supposed to be strictly limited by a two-year sunset clause. The White Paper now proposes that those clauses should be extended: sunset is now December 2022. On the face of it, paragraph 75 of the White Paper suggests that if there is no deal, the huge exercise of amending what will be hundreds of legislative provisions will be carried out through delegated legislation. I hope that that is not true, and I look to the Secretary of State for reassurance that that is not the implication of paragraph 75.
Then there is the elephant in the room: if there is no deal, there is nothing to implement. Can the Secretary of State tell us what is the legislative plan, to be in place by March next year, if there is no agreement on citizens’ rights—the Secretary of State said a lot about them—on the financial settlement, on Northern Ireland and on many other issues? If there are not to be sweeping delegated powers, what legislation will there be, and when, between now and March 2019?
There was no mention of Northern Ireland in the Secretary of State’s statement, and there is just a brief reference to it in the White Paper. I appreciate that elements of the Northern Ireland agreement are still being discussed, but with nothing substantive on Northern Ireland, the White Paper contains a huge gaping hole.
There are proposals on the financial settlement. The Secretary of State now seems to be saying that the EU will have to fulfil its side of the bargain, or we will not pay up. We have been down this track before. The Chancellor has previously dismissed that approach by saying:
“That is not a credible scenario. That is not the kind of country we are. Frankly, it would not make us a credible partner for future international agreements.”
So which is it: has it been agreed, or are we back to conditionality?
I have heard what the Secretary of State says about the withdrawal agreement being reached by October this year, but he knows that he is in a minority here and in Brussels. If agreement is not reached until November or December, how will the Secretary of State ensure that there is proper scrutiny of the implementation Bill, and will he guarantee that it will not be packed with wide-ranging Henry VIII powers?
We have a White Paper and we have time to scrutinise it, but we also have serious questions that now fall to be answered.
I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his welcome for the White Paper in general. He will appreciate that the decision to publish it now was a finely balanced one because the negotiations are ongoing, but ultimately it was deemed more important and more respectful to this House to provide the information and consult as early as possible.
On the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s point about the date of departure, I presume he welcomes and supports the implementation period. I have not heard any substantive suggestion how he might have done it differently; perhaps as he reflects he will have some, but otherwise calling the implementation period a gimmick when businesses have called for it and welcomed the certainty it provides is, I think, rather an indication that the Labour party is reverting to type.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman had nothing to say on citizens’ rights, nothing to say on welcoming the mechanism to secure the rights of EU nationals here and nothing to say on welcoming the mechanism to make sure UK nationals have their rights abroad protected. In relation to no deal, we will be prepared regardless of the outcome, as he knows. This is not the legislation being provided to that effect, as we are focused on getting the right deal for the UK and the EU.
In relation to Northern Ireland, the right hon. and learned Gentleman will have seen the White Paper on our future relationship with the EU and the arrangements for frictionless trade, which are not just important for businesses but will avoid any return to a hard border. Our position is that that provides a clear, workable model that maintains our commitments under the Belfast agreement and avoids any friction at the border, but also frees us up to strike free trade deals abroad.
On conditionality, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is a learned lawyer, but I have to say to him that as a matter of basic general international law, whether through the interpretation of treaties under the Vienna convention or customary international law, when countries sign up to a treaty, both sides must commit to the obligations on both sides; there is reciprocity. Of course, if one side fails to live up to its commitments, it is open to the other side to take proportionate measures, including in relation to financial means, to make sure good effect is given to the whole deal. That is what it takes to stand up for the interests of the United Kingdom; if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would roll over, it is a good job Labour is not handling the negotiations with the EU.
This White Paper is about delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit and one that respects the referendum. I gently say to the Opposition that it is not entirely clear that it is Labour’s overriding objective to give effect to the referendum. Straight after the referendum, the leader of the Labour party demanded the immediate triggering of article 50; with a similar lack of strategic foresight, Labour Members repeatedly voted against the EU withdrawal Bill, whose sole purpose was to deliver a smooth and orderly Brexit, including on Second Reading; and now the Labour party will not rule out a second referendum. It is clear that Labour Members are taking the opportunistic political low-ground, rather than rallying together to try to secure the best deal for the UK with our EU partners. The withdrawal agreement Bill is essential, and I hope that all who wish to see a smooth and orderly Brexit will support it and engage seriously on the substance.
Order. As expected, a very large number of Members are seeking to catch my eye. I would like to accommodate as many as I can, but I remind the House that there is a further ministerial statement to follow, another piece of business that may be short but is uncertain in length, and then a very heavily subscribed summer Adjournment debate. There is therefore a premium on brevity, now to be brilliantly exemplified by Mr Steve Baker.
The least worst of the negotiable mechanisms to deliver the implementation period was the one in the White Paper of repealing the European Communities Act 1972 but saving its effect with modifications to the end of the implementation process. Will the Secretary of State confirm that he is going to ask this Parliament—this House—to agree to that mechanism in the same vote that we are asked to sign up to the future relationship through that political statement?
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his statement, for advance sight of it and the White Paper, and for notice yesterday that the White Paper would be published today. It is nice when a White Paper is handed to Members in the Chamber in ways that do not involve the risk of decapitation, as was the case last week.
I am left wondering what would have happened if the Government had had their way and the House had risen five days ago. Would we have been left without a White Paper? Would the White Paper have been announced in a written statement to add to the 40 or so that have been sneaked out over the past few days without any attempt to allow for scrutiny by Members? The Minister says that publishing the White Paper now gives Parliament time to scrutinise it before the Bill is brought forward but, by my reckoning, there might be eight parliamentary sitting days before the intended date for publishing the Bill, and Parliament might well want to undertake other business in that time, too. Although there is a lot of time between now and the Bill’s publication, the odd timetable that this place sets for itself means not a lot of time for parliamentary scrutiny is being allowed.
I look forward to questioning the Secretary of State on the White Paper in more detail when he attends the Select Committee later today. Paragraph 23 of the White Paper refers to discussions with existing EEA countries about the UK’s future relationship with them. Do the Government hope to establish a unique and unprecedented relationship with those countries that is different from the unique and unprecedented relationship that we are going to have with the EU? If so, why should the EEA countries agree to that?
Paragraph 30 refers to the likely use of the immigration rules, rather than primary legislation, to ensure the ongoing rights of EU nationals living in the UK. Anything that gives legislative impact to the continuation of those rights sooner rather than later is to be welcomed, but does using that method mean that Parliament will not be able to amend the Government’s proposals? If we think they do not give sufficient protections to citizens, and this is being done under immigration rules rather than through primary legislation, will Parliament have the opportunity to strengthen that protection if it sees fit?
The Secretary of State has acknowledged that primary legislation will be needed to give effect to the financial settlement, but one or two members of the European Research Group might not be too keen on that settlement. What are the Secretary of State’s contingency plans if they rebel in the way they did last week? Will the Government just cave in? If not, what concessions do they expect to have to make to the hardliners to get this essential legislation passed?
I welcome the assurance in a number of passages of the White Paper that the usual conventions regarding the devolved Administrations will apply. Can we have an assurance from the Secretary of State now that this legislation will be normal, and that we will not need to appeal that it is abnormal, so that his Government do not ride roughshod over the rights of the devolved Parliaments simply because their assessment of what our people need is a bit different from that of those Parliaments? Or is this another situation in which if the devolved Administrations disagree with the UK Government, they will take us to court, rather than seeking a political agreement?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I think that the initial part of his statement was a backhanded way of welcoming the fact that we have got this out now so that Members of not just this House but all the devolved Administrations have a proper chance to scrutinise the terms of the withdrawal agreement Bill and the implementation period.
The hon. Gentleman asked about EEA nationals. We are engaged in diplomacy with our EEA partners and separate provision will be made for them. We hope to be able to conclude that reasonably soon.
I take on board the hon. Gentleman’s points about consultation with the devolved Administrations. We have been working closely with the devolved Administrations at official and ministerial level to prepare this White Paper. Ministers discussed proposals for the Bill at the last meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee on 5 July. Of course, we will respect the Sewel convention, although I accept the hon. Gentleman’s point that there are different views about how that will apply, and that is difficult to judge until we have the entire withdrawal agreement.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the immigration rules. The changes will be made by statutory instrument—that is the swifter, more flexible way to proceed in accordance with the White Paper—but the process will allow for the scrutiny of those rules in the normal way.
I hope that I have given the hon. Gentleman some reassurance. I look forward to engaging with him, and all the devolved Administrations and those representing them, as we go through this process.
It is becoming increasingly fashionable to criticise the Northern Irish backstop as either a tactical blunder that we have made, or some kind of dastardly trick that the EU is playing on us, so will my right hon. Friend confirm that the backstop remains important precisely because we are a Government who take our obligations towards Northern Ireland seriously, who value Northern Ireland, and who will do nothing to undermine peace there or the integrity of the whole United Kingdom?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are two distinct issues at play here. We are absolutely committed to the Belfast agreement and to peace and stability in Northern Ireland. At the same time, it is unacceptable for a customs border to be drawn along the Irish sea, as that would be a direct threat to the territorial integrity of this country. I am sure that that is not what our European partners intend—there may be similar pressures in countries within the EU—but we are absolutely clear about our position on this.
Paragraph 24 states that
“all EU citizens lawfully residing in the UK”
by 31 December will be able to stay. Can the Secretary of State give the House and those 3.5 million European citizens an assurance that that commitment from the Government will still hold in the event of us leaving without a deal? Yes or no?
I apologise for the disruption that this is causing to the right hon. Gentleman’s evidence session, which I look forward to joining later.
We are very clear that, in the event of no deal, there would be no wholesale removal of rights of EU nationals in this country. We are absolutely committed to providing the reassurance and security that they need. That is the point of agreeing these aspects of the withdrawal agreement up front and publishing this White Paper—so that EU nationals here and UK expats abroad can see precisely not only the substance of their rights, but how they will properly be protected.
May I commend my right hon. Friend for restating so robustly that the payment of any financial settlement will be conditional on an agreement on the future relationship with the EU? Will he confirm that the necessary flexibility to accommodate that conditionality will be built into the Bill?
I am still unclear about the Secretary of State’s plans for the Northern Ireland backstop. If that is part of the withdrawal agreement, will it be legislated for in the legislation referred to in this White Paper—yes or no?
The Government are still maintaining that no deal is preferable to a bad deal. Over the summer, the Secretary of State will be going round the European Union selling the Government’s White Paper policy document, and in that he has my full support. However, if he were to fail, for whatever reason, would he accept the clear evidence that a customs union-based approach is still preferable to no deal?
I appreciate the way in which my hon. Friend tries to tempt me down that particular path, but I think that it is only right to prepare for all eventualities in relation to the money, to the operational contingency planning that we are doing, and to the legislative steps. Obviously our overriding focus is on getting the best deal, and I shall be spending the weeks and months ahead in Brussels, talking to Michel Barnier and his team, and focusing on that. I shall be out there again on Thursday, looking to achieve the best deal.
The Secretary of State said that the withdrawal agreement was 80% agreed, but he did not mention the biggest and toughest outstanding issue, which is that of the Northern Ireland border and customs arrangements. Will he tell us whether, in his discussions last week, Mr Barnier agreed to new clause 36 to the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, which was passed by this House last week and requires reciprocal differential collection of tariffs before the agreement can be put in place?
I have already mentioned our approach to the Northern Ireland issue. We believe that the proposals in the “Future Relationship” White Paper provide a sustainable, deliverable approach, and we want to make sure that we are aiming to achieve that. In relation to Michel Barnier, the negotiations are of course ongoing, and I will protect the integrity of the negotiating room, if the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me. Of course, there is nothing in the legislation that was passed previously—last week or otherwise—to prevent us from achieving the goals in this White Paper or, indeed, the previous one.
I welcome what the Secretary of State is doing to get the UK ready for Brexit. Will he confirm that as he travels around the EU this summer, he will be pressing EU member states to ensure that they are also ready so that we can leave the EU without disruption to those relationships?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, particularly in relation to the protection of UK nationals abroad in the same way as we are protecting EU nationals under UK law. We are setting up a monitoring authority, and the Commission will perform that function in relation to UK expats abroad. None the less, we want to ensure that the legislation and mechanisms are in place to give that security to UK expats.
The Secretary of State has said that the Government are committed to delivering a “smooth and orderly Brexit”. To that end, are they going to issue a White Paper and Bill to cover a no deal scenario, given that he and his colleagues say that that is a real and increasing possibility? Presumably such a Bill will be needed to cover all eventualities, from compulsory purchase orders to the creation of lorry parks and to establishing emergency warehouses for medicines and food.
I do not think that I have ever said that this is an increasing risk, but it is certainly a real risk. As the time for the deal approaches, the only responsible thing for us to do is to ensure that we are ready for all eventualities. Without going into some of the more hair-raising examples that the right hon. Gentleman has highlighted, I think it is right to ensure that we are ready for all eventualities by having the logistical infrastructure and legislation in place. I hope that we will have his support.
I thank the Secretary of State for coming to the House at the earliest opportunity to give us the chance to scrutinise the White Paper. I have not had a chance to read it myself, so will he confirm that the Prime Minister’s principles of ending the free movement of people, of not giving billions of pounds each and every year to the EU, and of making our own laws in our own country, judged by our own judges, are not broken by the White Paper?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to get back to the key overarching objectives. I believe that, with this White Paper and the previous one, the full strategy can be seen in the round. Yes, we have had to take a pragmatic as well as a principled approach, but it is faithful to the referendum in the three key areas that he describes.
The Government have promised that the House will have all the information and data that it needs to make an informed choice when we take the critical vote in the autumn. Will they therefore produce an impact assessment on the political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and the EU well in advance of our taking that critical vote?
I wish the Secretary of State a productive summer—it could be a very interesting one. The EU has a poor track record when it comes to trade deals generally, which is why we trade with the majority of the rest of the world on World Trade Organisation terms. What assurances can he give us that, in the run-up to the publication of the White Paper, we will be meaningfully preparing to leave on no trade terms and that the White Paper’s proposals will have the dexterity to ensure that the preparation is in place in time?
My hon. Friend is right to raise that aspect of the arrangements. We are working closely with all the other arms of Whitehall, including the Department for International Trade, and we are ensuring that we have the right flexibility. The advantage of the implementation period in the White Paper is that it is finite, so that those who want to see an end to the eternal haggling with the EU and want some clarity about the end-state relationship will have that provided. During the implementation period, we will be free to negotiate and to conclude free trade deals with other countries beyond the continent.
Is the Secretary of State aware that he has just set alarm bells clanging in the homes of around 3 million EU citizens living in this country? When he answered the question about what would happen in the event of no deal by saying that there would be no wholesale removal of rights of EU nationals in this country, what did he actually mean? Will he put in writing what he means in the next 24 hours so that those people do not have a horrendous summer thinking the worst about what could happen in the event of no deal, with their rights not being protected?
I do not share the hon. Lady’s gloomy assessment. When the detail of the White Paper is made clear to EU nationals here, the focus will be on their substantive rights and the mechanism by which they will be able to rely directly on them in UK courts. There will be an independent monitoring authority not just to take up complaints, but to take legal action. If the negotiations do not reach fruition, separate legislative provision will be made in the normal way through the Home Office. However, we will move quickly to secure the position of EU nationals.
We swallowed the fairly hideous implementation period compromise on the promise of a smooth transition to a good end state. Now that the opening offer on the end state does not pass the public’s sniff test, why should we approve both when we are asked to in the autumn?
I share my hon. Friend’s passion and respect his views. If he looks at the package in the round—at the finality that the implementation period provides; at the ability to give effect faithfully to the referendum and to take back control of our borders, law and money; at our ability to trade more liberally and energetically with the growth markets of the future; at the wider political context, both in this House and beyond; and at the nature of the support we need to carry the country with us—I hope that he will appreciate that we are taking a principled, pragmatic approach to leaving the EU, and that he will be able to get behind it.
The Secretary of State said that UK nationals in the EU will be able to
“live their lives broadly as they do now”.
Will he confirm that the existing rights to move freely between EU countries and to work and study in other EU countries will apply to all UK citizens currently living in France, Germany, Estonia, Poland and elsewhere?
When the Secretary of State meets the remaining 27 EU Governments over the summer, will he be highlighting the fact that they have a significant trade surplus with the UK and that it is therefore in everyone’s best interests that a comprehensive trade deal is accomplished?
I think that many European businesses are well aware of that. On Friday, we had a meeting at Chevening with a whole range of leaders of businesses small and large, and there was widespread positive feeling about our negotiating position and many offers to help. It will not be just me going around the capitals of Europe; there will be a lot of support from businesses trying to ensure that we get this deal in the principled, pragmatic way that has been set out in the White Paper.
In the Secretary of State’s previous incarnation, he campaigned for the repeal of the Human Rights Act and its replacement with a Bill of Rights. Despite campaigning vigorously since 2009, he failed to secure his objective, and the Government have now ditched the policy. What makes him think that he can finalise the remaining 20% of the withdrawal agreement and solve the difficult question of the Irish border in a matter of months?
I always argued that we should stay within the European convention on human rights, but that we should look at how it is implemented in UK law. However, the Government’s position is clear on that. More broadly, the hon. and learned Lady is quite right to point out the time pressure that we are under, but we have set out a principled but pragmatic approach. We are bringing extra energy to the negotiations. I am going out to see Michel Barnier again on Thursday and will be offering to see him regularly throughout the summer. If that good will, pragmatism and energy are reciprocated, we will get a deal in October.
I am expecting there to be a lot of celebrating on 29 March 2019 in Willenhall and Bloxwich. Will the Secretary of State confirm that one of the things that the people will be celebrating will be the opportunity to make free, independent trade deals for the first time in decades?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The point is that the growth markets of the future will be areas such as Latin America or Asia, and that has also been confirmed by the European Commission’s analysis. This is not just a UK position; it is widely shared.
The Secretary of State and other Conservative Members have said many times that no deal is better than a bad deal, but the Foreign Secretary said yesterday that no deal would be economically challenging. However, with still no evidence of what the Government have put in place for a no deal Brexit, will the Secretary of State please take this opportunity to give manufacturers in Batley and Spen advice on how to prepare for a potentially chaotic economic crisis?
We are broadly aligned in trying to strive to get the very best deal with the EU—that is where my overriding focus is—but I say gently to the hon. Lady and other Opposition Members that it would be deeply irresponsible to fail to prepare and plan for all eventualities when we are in a negotiation and when things depend on the good will and the ambition on the other side.
Further to paragraph 104 on page 28 of the White Paper, will my right hon. Friend confirm that payment of the £35 billion to £39 billion that he cited is conditional on the final deal? After all, as he has said, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
If my hon. Friend looks at the White Paper, he will see that the principle of conditionality is written into it and is mentioned in several different paragraphs. It is a common principle of international agreements and international diplomacy when a deal is struck that both sides commit to adhering to and fulfilling their side of the bargain. If they do not, there are consequences for the rest of the deal.
I welcome the White Paper, especially the commitment that the EU will not be getting a penny of our money if it refuses to come up with a fair trade arrangement that suits both sides. On that issue, is the Secretary of State aware that the Taoiseach said this week that he had been assured by the EU that there will be no need for any physical infrastructure along the Irish border even in the event of no deal? If that is the case, is that not proof that the issue is overhyped and that there is no need for a backstop arrangement that breaks the Union? Will he assure us that he will not accede to such an arrangement?
I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that if both sides go into this with sensitivity, understanding and the commitment to avoid any return to any infrastructure at the Irish border, we will be in a much better place. The most important thing is that the proposals in our White Paper on the future relationship provide a sensible model that guides us towards the end state during the implementation period.
I appreciate that the Secretary of State is trying to make the Government’s position clear and simple for people to understand, but there is still a lot of confusion out there. One area that confuses my constituents is whether we will be able to conduct independent trade deals under the Government’s proposals, so will he clarify that?
I can tell my hon. Friend that not only will we be able to negotiate, but we will be able to conclude deals. The Department for International Trade is now embarking on a series of consultations about the substance of those free trade agreements so that the public and his constituents will understand the value and importance that the agreements will bring to the country.
I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Will the Secretary of State please commit to meeting the Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Margot James), who in a recent meeting with me and the Musicians’ Union agreed about the need for there to be some form of visa so that musicians and others in the creative and other industries, including sportspeople, can continue to tour the EU? Paragraph 26 on frontier workers does not deal with self-employed people who need to tour the EU.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on his statement. Several constituents who are EU nationals have raised concerns with me about their rights after we leave the EU. Will he therefore tell the House what he intends to do to spread the message that is in the White Paper so that EU nationals are aware of the steps that the Government are taking?
There is the substance of the rights, which we have set out and made clear in the White Paper, and a mechanism and procedures will also be available to EU nationals. We will ensure that that information is widely disseminated both through materials and through the work that the Home Office will be doing in the coming weeks and months.
The Secretary of State knows that parliamentary arithmetic seems to be against the British Government. If they fail to get approval for their withdrawal agreement, they will face four options: they could extend article 50 in order to renegotiate; they could move a motion of no confidence to allow the formation of an alternative Government or another general election; they could call a second referendum; or they could crash out without a deal. Which option would he prefer?
It will be incumbent on hon. Members on both sides of the House to think very carefully about how they vote when it comes to the meaningful vote. Unless it is approved and we have a deal, we will not be able to give effect to it. Not only would that be a serious position, but hon. Members on both sides of the House would be held to account for how they voted.
I understand my hon. Friend’s concern, and I hope he will be reassured that the implementation period will be finite and much shorter than some had been arguing for. We think that strikes the right balance between allowing businesses to make one change to the rulebook and making sure it is a reasonably finite, limited period, for the very reasons he has expressed.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. You are a star, and I am sure you know how to do your scone correctly, too.
The Secretary of State will be aware of the importance of the fishing industry to Torbay and across the south-west. Can he therefore confirm that, by 2020, the UK will be negotiating its own fishing policies as an independent coastal state?
I am pleased that the new Secretary of State is planning to meet Michel Barnier much more frequently than his predecessor did, and I welcome this new sense of urgency. On the conditionality of the financial settlement, when the withdrawal agreement is ratified in October, or whenever it is, the UK’s payment will be obligatory. Will he confirm that the future relationship, at that stage, will be covered only by a declaration, which will not be obligatory on either party?
We set out a lot of the detail on how we will handle the financial payment in the White Paper, and I urge the right hon. Gentleman to reflect on the detail. We cover the substance, the sequence and the mechanism for paying it and for making sure that, at all moments, this House has proper scrutiny. If he has any particular suggestions in relation to that, I would be interested to hear them.
I welcome this White Paper and, in particular, the announcement of robust legal mechanisms to secure the rights of EU citizens who have done such an enormous job in the local economy and in the wider community of Cheltenham and elsewhere, but there are a million British citizens living overseas in the European Union. Will the Secretary of State provide a little more information on the steps he will be taking this summer to ensure that British citizens enjoy reciprocal and equivalent rights?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We want a very clear message for EU nationals in this country: we value them, we welcome them, and not only do we want them to stay but we are making provision to ensure they are secure in their rights. In relation to UK expats abroad, the withdrawal agreement will, in the same way as it does for EU nationals here, provide substantive rights. The Commission will perform the role of the monitoring authority, as set out in the White Paper, and of course it will be incumbent on each individual EU member state to make sure it provides direct access and redress in its courts, in the same way as we are doing in our courts for EU nationals.
One GP has been working in Grimsby since 2004 through the EU diploma equivalence scheme. Is that scheme covered by chapter 2C of the White Paper, and will that GP need to take any action between now and March 2019 to enable her to continue to work freely in our NHS?
Given the White Paper’s underwhelming commitment to EU citizens’ rights in the UK, and given the Secretary of State’s most unconvincing reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), can the Secretary of State give the sort of assurance on EU citizens’ rights being maintained in this country that they and, above all, British businesses need?
I am not sure which bit of the reassurance provided in the White Paper the hon. Gentleman finds underwhelming. He did not mention any in his question, but if he would like to write to me, I look forward to addressing it. I gently suggest that he reads the White Paper first because, actually, the substantive rights and the procedural mechanism for securing them are set out very clearly.
Given the problems the Government confronted in section 11 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, does the Secretary of State agree it is a little disappointing that the negotiations with the devolved parties are not encompassed and enshrined in this White Paper?
We have worked very closely with the devolved Administrations at official and ministerial levels. Ministers discussed proposals for this Bill at the JMC on 5 July. The Sewel convention will apply in the ordinary way. I appreciate there will be different views on its application, and we do not know quite how it will look until we have the whole deal agreed. I look forward to working very constructively and sensitively with all the devolved Administrations.
A very happy recess to you, Mr Speaker. It is quite embarrassing for the Government that they are already having to amend their European Union (Withdrawal) Act, which is only a month old and was passed without legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament. Does he believe that the customs Bill and the Trade Bill will also have to be amended by the withdrawal agreement Bill?
I gently say to the hon. Gentleman that we made it very clear when we passed the European Union (Withdrawal) Act that we would have to consider the subsequent terms in the light of the negotiations. I would have thought he would welcome the implementation period, welcome the certainty it gives to Scottish businesses and to businesses across the UK, and welcome it as a finite bridge towards our end state of leaving the EU and taking back control of our laws, our borders and our money.