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Leaving the EU: Contingency Plans for No Deal

Volume 646: debated on Wednesday 12 September 2018

8. What contingency plans his Department is making for no deal being reached on the UK leaving the EU. (906836)

The Cabinet Office has developed contingency plans for exit-related policy areas that are within our remit, such as public procurement, and we also work with other Government Departments on their plans. These preparations are a sensible precaution in case of the unlikely event that the UK should leave the European Union with no deal.

I thank the Minister for that answer. If our country is not ready for a no-deal scenario, we are simply not in a position to credibly negotiate with the EU, so will he ensure that colleagues across Government work as hard as they can to maximise the completeness and credibility of their plans?

Yes. A no-deal scenario is not what we expect, and it would certainly be an unwelcome outcome. It is not what we want, but it is right that we should take these sensible precautions. All Ministers around the Cabinet table and their teams are working hard to ensure that those plans are developed and ready.

As the chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover has said, a deal is vital for west midlands, and indeed UK, manufacturing. What plans do the Government have to ensure that the funding currently provided by the European Investment Bank to UK manufacturing businesses and infrastructure projects will continue after we leave the EU?

We are looking at various proposals, including the creation of a UK prosperity fund, to replace those funds that are currently disbursed via the European Union. My hon. Friend reminds us of the importance, in our negotiations, of seeking to achieve frictionless trade so that the just-in-time delivery systems that cross national frontiers can be sustained to the benefit of business here and in the EU.

Does the contingency planning that the right hon. Gentleman’s Department is doing include warning Departments what they would need to do if Parliament were to vote for a final say on the deal?

I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that, in voting for the referendum Bill and supporting the article 50 process, the great majority of Members of this House accepted that the decision of the British people in 2016 should be final. However we campaigned, I think that that remains the case.

Does the Minister agree that the difficulties of contingency planning should not be added to by this obsession with a mythical hard border, which no one wants, cannot be implemented and could be circumvented with ease by everybody in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic?

As the Prime Minister has repeatedly said, ensuring that there is no hard border on the island of Ireland is a fundamental principle of this Government’s negotiating strategy, along with ensuring that there is no customs barrier between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what work has been undertaken to ensure that UK-wide frameworks are ready in the event of no deal?

We are continuing intense discussions at official level with the Scottish and Welsh Governments and the Northern Ireland civil service. It is in the interests of every part of the United Kingdom that those frameworks are ready, so that the benefits of the UK single market can continue to be felt by consumers and businesses in Scotland and everywhere else in our country.

Following on from that question, what are the implications for the proposed common frameworks of not having a deal on exiting the European Union? No matter how complicated and chaotic the discussions become, will the Minister give an assurance that they will not be used as an excuse to force through arrangements without the consent of the devolved Administrations?

On the hon. Gentleman’s second point, it remains our intention to do everything that we can to work with the agreement of the devolved Administrations and not to have to use the powers in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 unless necessary. However, whether there is a deal or no deal, there will still be a need for UK-wide frameworks to ensure that the UK single market is preserved when powers have returned to this country from Brussels.

With just weeks to go until the negotiating deadline, it is clear that the Government are putting more and more focus and effort into planning for a no-deal scenario. Will the Minister therefore tell the House when the Government plan to put the interests of the country ahead of the interests of the Brexit extremists in the European Research Group?

Anyone who has worked with this Prime Minister knows that what motivates her every single working day is the interests of the people of every part of the United Kingdom. In publishing the technical notices and the guidance to business on a no-deal scenario, we are doing exactly what the European Commission and other EU Governments have done. It is the responsible course of action to take.