With permission. Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House on our negotiations to leave the European Union.
Last week, I set out the details of the draft withdrawal agreement, which will ensure our smooth and orderly departure when we leave the European Union on 29 March next year. I also updated the House on the outline political declaration that set out a framework for the future relationship we want between the UK and the EU.
Last night, I met President Juncker in Brussels to work through the details of the full political declaration on this future relationship. We had good discussions, in which I was clear about what we need to ensure the best possible deal for the United Kingdom. We then tasked our negotiating teams to work through the remaining issues. As a result, the text of the political declaration has now been agreed between the UK and the European Commission, and I updated the Cabinet on that progress this morning.
The draft text that we have agreed with the Commission is a good deal for our country and for our partners in the EU. It honours the vote of the British people by taking back control of our borders, our laws and our money, while protecting jobs, security and the integrity of our precious United Kingdom. It ends free movement once and for all. Instead, we will introduce a new skills-based immigration system that is based not on the country people come from, but on what they can contribute to the UK. The draft text ends the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK. We will make our own laws in our own Parliaments, here in Westminster and in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, and they will be adjudicated on by UK courts. It means an end to sending vast sums of money to the EU, so we can take full control of our money to spend on priorities, including our long-term plan for the NHS, to which we have committed to spending over £394 million more per week by 2023-24. Just this morning, I was able to announce a major new investment in primary and community care worth £3.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023-24.
The text we have now agreed would create a new free trade area with the European Union, with no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions. That would be the first such agreement between the EU and any advanced economy in the world, which will be good for jobs. The EU said that the choice was binary—Norway or Canada—but the political declaration recognises that there is a spectrum, with the extent of our commitments taken into account in deciding the level of checks and controls. Crucially, the text we have agreed also has an explicit reference to the development of an independent trade policy by the UK beyond this partnership with the European Union, so we would have the ability to sign new trade deals with other countries, and capitalise on the opportunities in the fastest-growing economies around the world. We would be able to get on with that, negotiating deals during the implementation period and putting them in place immediately afterwards.
The deal would mean that we leave the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy, so let me be absolutely clear about what that would mean for fishing. We would become an independent coastal state, with control over our waters so that our fishermen get a fairer share of the fish in our waters. We have firmly rejected a link between access to our waters and access to markets. The fisheries agreement is not something that we will be trading off against any other priorities. We are clear that we will negotiate access and quotas on an annual basis, as, for example, do other independent coastal states such as Norway and Iceland. The trade agreement with the EU would also cover services and investment that will go further than any other recent EU agreements, and it would secure new arrangements for our financial services sector, ensuring that market access cannot be withdrawn on a whim and providing stability and certainty for our world-leading industry. We would also have a cutting-edge agreement on digital, helping to facilitate e-commerce and reduce unjustified barriers to trade by electronic means. There would be strong rules in place to keep trade fair and ensure that neither side can unfairly subsidise their industries against the other.
The text we have agreed with the European Commission also includes a new security partnership, with a close relationship on defence and tackling crime and terrorism to keep all our people safe. There would be a surrender agreement to bring criminals to justice no matter where in Europe they break the law and arrangements for the sharing of data, including on DNA, passenger name records and fingerprints. The new security partnership would also ensure close co-operation between our police forces and other law enforcement bodies. We would continue to work together on sanctions against those who violate international rules or commit atrocities. There would be joint working on meeting cyber-security threats and supporting international efforts to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorists.
Finally, as I set out for the House last week, the draft withdrawal agreement will ensure that we transition to this new and ambitious future relationship in a smooth and orderly way. It will deliver a 20-month implementation period, so that we have time to put our new future relationship in place and that businesses have time to prepare for it. It will protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU, so they can carry on living their lives as before. It will ensure a fair settlement on our financial obligations, less than half what some originally expected, and it will meet our commitment to ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and no customs border in the Irish sea.
The text we have agreed is explicit about the determination of both sides to avoid the backstop altogether by getting the future relationship in place on l January 2021, and, in the unlikely event that we ever did need the backstop, to ensure it is quickly superseded either by the future relationship or alternative arrangements. As part of this, there is an explicit commitment to consider facilitative arrangements and technologies that could avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. I am grateful to my right hon. Friends the Members for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) and for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) for their ideas on this. Preparatory work on alternative arrangements to avoid the backstop would begin before we leave, enabling rapid progress after our withdrawal.
I want to be very clear about the stage we have reached in these negotiations and the scale of what is now at stake. We have an agreed text between the UK and the European Commission. The text is today being shared with the leaders of the other 27 member states ahead of the special EU Council on Sunday. The negotiations are now at a critical moment and all our efforts must be focused on working with our European partners to bring this process to a final conclusion in the interests of all our people.
Last night, I spoke to Prime Minister Sánchez of Spain. We have been working constructively with the Governments of Spain and Gibraltar in the negotiations on the withdrawal agreement. We want this work to continue in the future relationship. But I was absolutely clear that Gibraltar’s British sovereignty will be protected and that the future relationship we agree must work for the whole UK family. Today, I met Chancellor Kurz of Austria, which currently holds the EU’s presidency, and later today and tomorrow, I will be speaking to other European leaders ahead of returning to Brussels on Saturday.
The British people want Brexit to be settled. They want a good deal that sets us on a course for a brighter future. And they want us to come together as a country and to move on to focus on the big issues at home, like our NHS. The deal that will enable us to do this is now within our grasp. In these crucial 72 hours ahead, I will do everything possible to deliver it for the British people. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for the advance copy of her statement. These 26 pages are a testament to the failure of the Tory’s bungled negotiations: 19 extra pages, but nothing has changed. The only certainty contained within these pages is that the transition period will have to be extended or we will end up with a backstop and no exit. It represents the worst of all worlds: no say over the rules that will continue to apply and no certainty for the future. There is no change to the withdrawal agreement, no unilateral pull-out mechanism, no concessions on the backstop, which would create a new regulatory border down the Irish sea. Did the EU not receive the amendments and improvements promised by the Leader of the House?
A little over a year ago, we were confidently told by the Government that by the end of the article 50 period we would have a trade deal. The International Trade Secretary said it would the “easiest in human history”. Instead, we have 26 pages of waffle. This empty document could have been written two years ago. It is peppered with phrases such as “the parties will look at” and “the parties will explore”. What on earth have the Government been doing for the past two years? They have managed less than one page a month since the referendum.
The Prime Minister said that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. It is clear from this document that, indeed, nothing is agreed. This is the blindfold Brexit we all feared—a leap in the dark. It falls short of Labour’s six tests. [Interruption.] This Government could have negotiated a new comprehensive customs union, giving certainty to business and securing the manufacturing industry and manufacturing industry jobs. Instead, they are more interested in dog-whistling on immigration. I hope—[Interruption.]
Order. When the Prime Minister delivered her statement, she delivered it to a largely attentive and courteous House. I could not care less what somebody, largely inaudibly and certainly irrelevantly, chunters from a sedentary position. The Prime Minister was heard in courtesy. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will likewise be heard in courtesy. If it requires the process to take a bit longer, so be it. If it requires it to take a lot longer, so be it. If it takes several hours, so be it. So give up, be quiet, behave—on both sides—and let us hear people speak.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I hope the Prime Minister will abandon the poisonous and divisive rhetoric about EU nationals jumping the queue. European Union nationals have contributed massively to this country, across all industry and public services, while this Government and this Prime Minister as Home Secretary built a hostile environment for non-EU immigrants.
Chequers has been chucked. There is no common rulebook and no mention of frictionless trade. Our participation is downgraded in a number of European agencies, or we are out of them in their entirety. After more than two years of negotiations, there is no clarity over our status with a range of European-wide agencies—the Erasmus scheme, the Galileo project, Euratom, the European Medicines Agency, the European Chemicals Agency and the European Aviation Safety Agency. On none of these do we know our final status.
Take, for example, section 107 of the document. It says:
“The Parties should consider appropriate arrangements for cooperation on space.”
Well, what a remarkable negotiating achievement that is! After two years, they are going to consider “appropriate arrangements”. This is waffle—the blindfold Brexit of a Government that spent more time arguing with themselves than negotiating for Britain.
On fisheries, the Prime Minister and the Environment Secretary have been saying that Britain will leave the common fisheries policy and become an independent coastal nation, yet this agreement sets an aspiration to establish a new fisheries agreement on access to waters and quota shares by summer 2020. That sounds to me like we are replacing membership of the common fisheries policy with a new common fisheries policy. It is clear—absolutely clear—that during what will now inevitably be an extended transition period, there will be no control of our money, our laws and our borders, or indeed, of fishing stocks for a very long time to come.
The Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street and said that a deal had been agreed between the UK and the European Commission and that it was now up to the EU27. Until this Parliament has debated and voted, there is no UK agreement. This half-baked deal is the product of two years of botched negotiations in which the Prime Minister’s red lines have been torn up, Cabinet resignations have been racked up and Chequers has been chucked. This is a vague menu of options, not a plan for the future and not capable of bringing our country together.
I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that in virtually everything he said in his response to my statement, he could not have been more wrong. Indeed, I did not believe that he had actually even read the political declaration that we have published today, as with the withdrawal agreement. He did quote one sentence, I think in an attempt to suggest that he had actually read the document. He said that it was an example of lack of detail. Perhaps if he had read some of the other aspects of the document, he would know that there is significant detail in it.
The declaration refers to
“no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors”.
No other major economy has that. It refers to
“liberalisation in trade in services well beyond the Parties’ …WTO…commitments and building on recent Union…FTAs”.
It refers to “equivalence decisions” on financial services. It refers to
“a Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement”,
“reciprocal arrangements for timely, effective and efficient exchanges of Passenger Name Records…and of DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data”.
It refers to enabling
“the United Kingdom to participate on a case by case basis in”
common security and defence policy
“missions and operations”.
There is plenty more—I could go on—but I think the right hon. Gentleman is beginning to get the message about this.
The right hon. Gentleman also talked about where he thought that somehow we had not achieved any changes. Let me be clear about some of those changes. I referred to at least one of them in my statement. The EU said that the choice was binary: Norway or Canada. The political declaration concedes that there is a spectrum. It says that “the extent” of our
“commitments…would be taken into account”
in deciding the levels of “checks and controls”. The EU said that we could not share security capabilities as a non-member state outside free movement and outside the Schengen area. The political declaration grants us direct access to some, and promises to enable many others. Those are further commitments than the EU has made to any non-member state. The EU said that we could not preserve the invisible customs border between Northern Ireland and Ireland without splitting our customs territory. The withdrawal agreement maintains the integrity of the UK’s customs territory. Again, I could go through some further points.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the common fisheries policy. This is where I began to think that maybe he had read the document but not understood it, or what lies behind it. If we are to ensure that we are able to continue to have access to the waters of other European Union member states, as we do at the moment, we will need to negotiate, as other non-EU member states do, an annual agreement on access to waters between the UK and the European Union. The point at the moment is that we are not able to do that as an independent coastal state, and in the future we will be able to do that as an independent coastal state.
I must also say to the right hon. Gentleman that what I have been doing throughout this process is looking at what are the best interests of the United Kingdom. Let us just go through his other challenge to this: the six Labour tests on Brexit.
“Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU?”
“Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities?”
“Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom?”
“Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime?”
Yes, it does. [Interruption.]
“Does it deliver”—[Interruption.]
Order. Mr Mahmood, we do not need you gesticulating. You are not a football referee or a linesperson. Calm yourself, man. The Prime Minister.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Does it ensure that it delivers a deal that is good for every part of the UK? Yes, it does.
Let me say to the right hon. Gentleman that this is a good deal for the United Kingdom. It delivers on the vote of the British people. It brings back control of our borders, our money and our laws. It protects jobs, it protects security, it protects the integrity of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman may want to play party politics; I am working in the national interest.
I of course appreciate enormously my right hon. Friend’s huge endeavours to deal with what has now emerged as a particularly toxic issue: the Northern Irish backstop, now bound into the withdrawal agreement. However, for all that effort and work, the reality is that this is not the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement will make it very clear that should we, even under these terms, struggle with a negotiation for a free trade arrangement and not complete that process, we will fall into the Northern Ireland backstop as it exists at the moment. That means that we will be bound by those restrictions that force Northern Ireland into a separate arrangement and us into the customs union. I simply say to my right hon. Friend therefore that I hope that she will now consider that none of this is at all workable unless we get the withdrawal agreement amended so that any arrangements we make strip out that backstop and leave us with that positive open border that we talked about.
The premise of my right hon. Friend’s question is that if the future relationship is not in place by 1 January 2021, and if in some sense there needs to be that interim arrangement, we would then automatically go into the backstop. That is not the case. The withdrawal agreement makes it clear that there is the alternative of the extension of the implementation period, but it also refers to these alternative arrangements, and, as I said in my statement, I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his proposals in relation to that matter and we are working on them. So it is simply not the case that we automatically fall into the backstop described in the withdrawal agreement.
Secondly, there are many instances in the document—I will not go through the full list—where it is clear that that arrangement, whether the extension of the IP, an alternative arrangement or a backstop, is there for a temporary period before we are able to put the future relationship in place. What the backstop and those alternative arrangements and the proposals amount to are what I think my right hon. Friend was talking about at the end of his question, which is our commitment to the people of Northern Ireland that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and that they will be able to carry on their business much as they do today. That, I hope, is what we are all striving to achieve in relation to this matter. There are a number of ways in which we can achieve that, as the withdrawal agreement and political declaration make clear, and we are working on all of them.
I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of her statement.
This Government really are spluttering forward in a haphazard, chaotic way. There are of course outstanding political concerns still to be addressed by the EU27 this Sunday. Central to this political declaration remains the matter of fishing rights—a matter critical to Scotland. A week ago, Scottish Conservative Members in this place wrote to the Prime Minister and said:
“At the end of the Implementation Period, we must be able to negotiate access and quota shares with the EU and other third countries independently...This means that access and quota shares cannot be included in the Future Economic Partnership.”
Paragraph 75 of the political declaration agreed today states:
“Within the context of the overall economic partnership the Parties should establish a new fisheries agreement on, inter alia, access to waters and quota shares.”
There we have it: Scotland’s fishing community is once again a bargaining chip used by a Tory Government in Brussels.
Worse, the detail in the draft withdrawal agreement has pitted fishing against aquaculture—access to waters versus access to trade—making plain once again that Scottish interests are expendable. When the UK entered the then European Economic Community, under the leadership of Ted Heath, the Conservatives traded away our fishing rights, and they have done so continuously since then. Scotland’s fishing rights—thrown overboard as though they were discarded fish. So much for taking back control; more like trading away Scotland’s interests.
This is an absolute dereliction of the promises Scottish Conservative Members and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs made to Scotland. Shame on them! Will the Prime Minister tell the House if her Scottish MPs and Secretary of State have agreed to this political declaration? Is it not the case that she has just lost further critical votes on the deal, because the Scottish Tory MPs could not possibly vote in favour of this sell-out of Scottish fishing interests?
I think it will help the right hon. Gentleman if I repeat what I said in the statement. We will become an independent coastal state with control over our waters, so our fishermen get a fairer share of the fish in our waters. We have firmly rejected a link between access to our waters and access to markets. The fisheries agreement is not something we will be trading off against any other priorities. We are clear that we will negotiate access and quotas on an annual basis, as do other independent coastal states such as Norway and Iceland. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman may choose to shout at me from a sedentary position, but I have to say that he devoted all his response to my statement in—[Interruption.]
Order. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman adheres very strongly to his position—it is in the nature of holding an opinion. But he must hear the response from the Prime Minister.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman devoted all his response to the issue of fishing. He is sitting there chuntering that this is a sell-out of Scottish fishermen. I will tell him what a sell-out of Scottish fishermen would be: the policy of the Scottish nationalists to stay in the common fisheries policy.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that this declaration is self-contradictory in that it insists on the sovereignty of both the EU and the United Kingdom legal orders, and that without control of our own laws and by surrendering to binding rules of the European Court, this declaration cannot be reconciled with the repeal of the 1972 Act or with the referendum vote? Will she further note that the European Scrutiny Committee has resolved to hold an inquiry into the Government’s handling and the outcome of these negotiations?
This political declaration asserts the sovereignty of both sides of the agreement—the United Kingdom and the European Union—because that is exactly what will persist. We will be a sovereign nation. We will no longer be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. There are circumstances where a point that is being looked at—for example, in arbitration—is considered to be a matter of the interpretation of European Union law. There is one body that interprets European Union law: that is the European Court of Justice. What we make clear is that, in those circumstances, the arbitration panel may ask the European Court of Justice for an opinion on the interpretation of European Union law; the arbitration panel will then consider its decision in the light of that opinion.
I am grateful to the Prime Minister for her movement in paragraphs 26 and 27, taking on board our proposals to use on the Irish border modern techniques and processes used elsewhere, but—there is a big but in this—as long as the backstop exists in a legally binding document, there is a danger that, should talks fail, the backstop becomes accepted and we have the horror of being in the customs union, the horror of Northern Ireland being split off under a different regime. As I saw in Washington this week, if we cannot control our tariffs and our regulatory regime, we cannot do free trade deals with other countries. At this late stage, will she consider withdrawing the backstop from the legally binding draft document and replacing it with the draft trade facilitation chapter and border protocol that we gave her earlier in the week, and making that legally binding so it could become the new backstop?
As I have indicated, I am grateful to my right hon. Friend and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) for the work they have been doing on this issue.
In the withdrawal agreement we negotiated a specific reference to alternative arrangements that enables us to work up those alternative arrangements such that they will be, as the name suggests, an alternative to the arrangements for the backstop, or would enable us to come out of the backstop if we had started down that route.
I continue to say to my hon. and right hon. Friends, and to Members of this House more widely, that it is the firm determination of this Government, and indeed it is the determination of the European Union, that we will work to ensure that we have the future relationship arranged and able to be in place by 1 January 2021. It is not the case that there is a sense in which the backstop is automatic. The backstop is not automatic. There are alternatives to the backstop, and the United Kingdom can choose those alternatives. There are pros and cons to those alternatives and, when the time comes, obviously the choice will measure those pros and cons, but what matters is that it will not be the case that the only way to deal with the interim period is through the backstop; it can be dealt with by alternative arrangements, or by an extension to the implementation period.
This is essentially an agreement to have an agreement, and it is full of worryingly vague aspirations. How, for example, can the Prime Minister justify paragraph 24, which relates to medicines, chemicals and aviation safety, where we currently have strong agreed co-operative standards? She has managed to negotiate an agreement to
“explore the possibility of cooperation”.
That is pathetically weak, and it will cause great anxiety to millions of people who depend on high standards of safety.
When we leave the European Union we will cease to be a member of certain European Union agencies. The right hon. Gentleman might have noticed that there is a strong reference to close co-operation in the text in relation to the European Aviation Safety Agency, which already permits a third country to have access to the agency. That is not the case with the European Medicines Agency or the European Chemicals Agency, which is why, as we identified in the White Paper published in the summer, it will be necessary to work on what should be the access arrangements to those agencies. The EASA already has a model that can be used, and the other two agencies do not. In relation to these negotiations, we are not able to put legal texts together until we have left the European Union and are no longer a member of the European Union—that, of course, is what we will be able to do when we leave on 29 March 2019.
The backstop ties the UK to the customs union and single market rules with no voice and an EU veto on our exit, while paragraph 23 of the political declaration makes that the starting point for future relations to build on. The top reason people voted to leave the EU was to take back democratic control over our laws. Is it not the regrettable but inescapable reality that this deal gives even more away?
This is my first opportunity to thank my right hon. Friend for the work he did as Brexit Secretary. [Interruption.]
Order. This is very unseemly. Everybody will get a chance to ask a question. The right hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab) has asked a question and the Prime Minister is answering it. Let us try to show each other some courtesy.
I say to my right hon. Friend that I have explained, in response to other right hon. and hon. Members, the point about the backstop—it is not the automatic route for dealing with a temporary period in relation to any gap that exists between the end of the implementation period in December 2020 and the future relationship coming into place. The political declaration is about that future relationship. There are important points that have been agreed within the withdrawal agreement that will ensure that we can get a good agreement in relation to borders and to our trade area when we become that independent state outside the European Union. He will be aware that, as is reflected in this political declaration, there is a spectrum and there is a balance between willingness to abide by rules and the necessity for checks at the border. It continues to be our ambition and our objective to get that frictionless trade at the border, because we believe that is important.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said last night that he did not like the backstop. He said that he does not think that the backstop is a good arrangement for our economy or a good arrangement for our Union. We agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the light of the political declaration, in paragraph 27, to which the Prime Minister referred, it is now clear that the EU is beginning to accept that there are alternative arrangements that can be put in place without the need for the backstop. I say to the Prime Minister that if she wants to have the support of my party for the withdrawal agreement, we need to see an end of the backstop and those alternative arrangements put in place.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. He started off by reflecting the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As I have said in this Chamber, and as others have said in this Chamber, none of us wants to see the backstop being used. The best way to ensure that the backstop is not used is to get the future relationship into place. There are all those alternative arrangements and we will be working on them, and I am happy to discuss with the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues what those alternative arrangements could be. But what is important is that we have within the document means by which we can guarantee to the people of Northern Ireland—and from the EU’s point of view it wants that guarantee in relation to Ireland—that trade across the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland can continue as it does today. That is the commitment we have made—no hard border—and that is what we will continue to be committed to providing.
Outside this House there is a much higher appreciation of the tenacity of the Prime Minister in pursuing a successful deal than we sometimes hear inside it. One of the principal worries, as we are hearing, has been that in some way we will be trapped forever, either in the backstop or in a customs union. What is there in this declaration and in the withdrawal agreement to calm those fears?
There are several elements that I would suggest to my right hon. Friend would calm those fears. First, there are many statements within the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration that explicitly recognise that the backstop, should it be necessary, would only be a temporary arrangement. Indeed, article 50, which is the legal basis for the withdrawal agreement, cannot establish a permanent relationship. That is reflected in the text and that is accepted by the European Union. There are also, as I have just explained, the alternative arrangements that can be put in place and the possible extension to the implementation period. But the best route to ensuring that those concerns are calmed is to ensure that we work to get the future relationship, as set out in this political declaration, in place by 1 January 2021 so that there is no need for any interim arrangement at all to provide our guarantee and commitment to the people of Northern Ireland.
Unlike the withdrawal agreement, this political declaration is not legally binding. Although it may now be 26 pages as opposed to seven, it still does not provide the House with clarity and certainty about our future economic relationship with our biggest, nearest and most important trading partner. Is it really going to take the defeat of her deal to persuade the Prime Minister that she cannot achieve frictionless trade while leaving the customs union and the single market, and that therefore, sooner or later, a different approach is going to have to be found in order to secure the future of our economy and the jobs that depend on it?
We have of course put forward proposals that would enable frictionless trade to be achieved outside the customs union and outside the single market. That is not something that is accepted by everyone in the European Union—I fully accept that—but we have in the future negotiations the ability to continue to work for our objective of achieving that frictionless trade. The right hon. Gentleman talks about concern about uncertainty into the future; I have to say to him that the thing that would create most uncertainty in the future is a failure to take and agree a deal that is going to be good for the UK, that delivers on the vote of the people in the referendum, and that does so while protecting people’s jobs and security.
May I regretfully point out to my right hon. Friend that of course nothing in this political declaration changes the hard reality of the withdrawal agreement, which gives the EU a continuing veto over the unilateral power of the entire United Kingdom to do free trade deals or to take back control of our laws? May I therefore respectfully suggest that we can accept the generalities and the self-contradictions contained in this political declaration, but we should junk forthwith the backstop upon which the future economic partnership is to be based, according to this political declaration, and which makes a complete nonsense of Brexit?
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will recall the discussions we had earlier in the year when we were agreeing the temporary customs arrangement as our proposal for the basis on which we would ensure that we guaranteed the commitment for the people of Northern Ireland, and, indeed, obviously elements of that have been reflected in what we see in the withdrawal agreement. There are various arrangements that we can put in place, as I have said to others who have questioned me so far in this statement in relation to the backstop. I say to my right hon. Friend that the future relationship that we have set out in the political declaration ends free movement, ends sending vast sums of money to the European Union every year, and ends the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice here in the United Kingdom, and it enables us to hold an independent trade policy and to negotiate trade deals around the whole of the world. I know that my right hon. Friend has in the past expressed his desire to have all those elements available to the United Kingdom, and that is what this deal delivers.
As has been said, this is a declaration of aspiration and a charter for years of uncertainty. It is not the comprehensive free trade deal that the Prime Minister promised we would have before exit day in her Lancaster House speech. Having broken that promise, can she now guarantee that that comprehensive free trade deal will be finalised by the end of the transition period, because so far this gives no certainty whatsoever to our businesses?
On the contrary, if the hon. Gentleman looks at the comments that have been made by business in relation to the declaration—that were made, in fact, in relation to the outline political declaration last week—he will see that organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses are very clear about the certainty that is provided for businesses looking into the future. When he looks through the political declaration and, indeed, through the withdrawal agreement, he will also see the firm commitment on both sides to ensuring that we work to put in place that legal text. Yes, it is the case that we cannot have the legal text on the future agreement until we have left the European Union, and one of the elements towards the end of the political declaration, as the hon. Gentleman will have seen, sets out the commitments in relation to working on that for the future. I say to the hon. Gentleman that what is important is that we have here a political declaration that is fuller than the outline that we published last week and that sets out very clearly a deal for the UK that is good for the United Kingdom and good for jobs.
I do not believe that this is a good deal for Britain and I do not think that many young people in our country think that this is a good deal for Britain at all. Does the Prime Minister accept that, if the meaningful vote is lost, and if this House votes also against exiting the EU with no deal, the only right option then is to go back to the people and allow them to have a final say, including young people—[Interruption.]
Order. People should not be shouting out. The right hon. Lady is asking the Prime Minister a question. Have the manners to listen.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I think that young people would like to be listened to in this debate as well. I was asking the Prime Minister whether, if the meaningful vote is lost and if this House, as I believe it will, votes against a no-deal exit from the EU, the Government intend to come back with an alternative proposal on how to break the deadlock, and why would that not include going back to the British people to ask them their views?
Of course, we have set out in legislation the procedure that would be followed were the meaningful vote to be lost in this House. My right hon. Friend asks about going back to the people in a second referendum. I say to her, as I have said now on many occasions here in this House, that this House and this Parliament overwhelmingly gave the British people the choice as to whether or not to leave the European Union. The people of Britain voted to leave the European Union. I believe that it is important that politicians do not turn around and say, “Well, what do you think now? Would you like to think again?” but say, “You voted to leave and we will deliver that Brexit—that leaving of the European Union.”
The Prime Minister told us in her concluding remarks that she wants to “move on” to focus on the big issues such as our national health service, but how does she expect to move on when she has signed up to a deal that does nothing for our services sector? Our services sector comprises 80% of our economy and includes things such as retail banks, leisure and tourism. Can she give our country today a guarantee that our UK services sector will enjoy the same access to the single market that it enjoys today?
If the hon. Lady looks at the sections that we have on the services sector, she will see that the arrangements we have in the political declaration go beyond any that have been offered to any other non-member of the European Union.
May I say to my right hon. Friend that a number of people I speak to are fully in admiration of the determination that the Prime Minister has shown over these very difficult negotiations, doing something that no other Prime Minister has ever been tasked with doing? Will she explain to the House a little bit more? If this agreement—the 585 pages of the withdrawal agreement and today’s document, which has been agreed with the Commission—is rejected, does she think that the six paragraphs offered by the Opposition are the alternative?
First, I thank my right hon. Friend for his opening remarks. Secondly, I say no. The Opposition have set these six tests, but at no stage have they set out what their plan for an alternative arrangement with the European Union would be.
When questioned over whether any deal is financially worse than EU membership, the Chancellor said late last night that it is not only about the economics. I have news for the Prime Minister: we say that it is all about the economics. The people can now see that the British Government are swivel-eyed in their determination to rip the UK out of the single market and the customs union. Is it not time to take the deal back to the people and let them decide what matters most?
I responded on the issue of the second referendum when I responded to my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening). On the question of the economy, this is a deal that protects jobs and livelihoods across the whole of the United Kingdom.
Is not the lesson of this long negotiation that, when you try to unravel yourself from an international rules-based system because you do not like the rules, unless you want chaos, you start creating a completely new set of rules, many of which are in fact as binding and onerous on this country as any that we had before? In that context, the backstop—I have to say this to my right hon. Friend—is a constitutional anomaly of the first order because it makes the EU the guarantor of a bilateral treaty between ourselves and Ireland on which the people have never been consulted. I urge her in those circumstances, if she wants to go ahead with this, to put her deal to the people of this country and to offer them the alternative of remaining, because the one big eye-opener that one sees from all this is that, however hard she has tried, at the end of the day, we will be in an international rules-based system because that in fact is where our national interest lies.
My right hon. and learned Friend has heard my response about asking the people in a second referendum what their views are. What we have negotiated is an arrangement with the European Union that continues a close partnership between the United Kingdom and the EU. I believe that that is the right thing for us to do and that coming out of the EU will enable us to develop even closer partnerships with other countries around the world through our trade deals and, indeed, through other means of support and the work we will be able to do with them on security and defence. It is also important, given our geographical position and given that the EU is our nearest trading neighbour, that we continue to have that good relationship with the EU, and that is what this delivers.
Will the Prime Minister now admit that extending the aspirations into a political declaration that is 19 pages longer than the original series of aspirations is not actually a deal? When will she reach a deal so that, when we vote to leave through the withdrawal Act, we will know where we are leaving to? And whatever happened to frictionless trade? It is not mentioned at all in her list of aspirations.
The position, as I have mentioned to others, is that it is of course not possible for us to agree the legal text of our future relationship with the European Union until we have left the European Union. If the hon. Lady looks again at the text, she will see that it clearly expresses what we have expressed previously in relation to trade—that there is a spectrum, there is a balance between commitments that are given on rules and the issue of the checks that take place at the border. It remains our intention as a Government to work towards that frictionless trade.
There are clearly parts of this document that are positive and that I welcome, but my grave worry is that it will never come into effect anyway. The EU is unlikely to agree a new economic partnership with us because the withdrawal agreement locks us into paying the £38 billion and also commits us to a backstop that has us obeying EU rules and applying its customs rules without our having any say in them.
I recognise my right hon. Friend’s concern about the backstop, but the reality of the position from the European Union is the complete opposite. There are those in the European Union who actively believe that the backstop would be an advantageous place for the United Kingdom to be—advantageous because, in their eyes, it has that access to the market of the European Union without any payment and without free movement. That is not a position they actively want us to be in. That is why both sides have made it clear throughout the document that we do not want the backstop to come into place at all and that were it to come into place it would only be temporary.
I congratulate the Prime Minister, because she has managed to satisfy her immigration obsession and to deal with the EU queue jumpers. Is it not the case that what we do to them they will do unto us? Her agreement aims to provide visa-free travel only for short-term visits to the EU. Is it not the case that the rights the Prime Minister and I have enjoyed to live, work and love in a continent of 27 nations will be denied to the next generation of young people?
As the hon. Gentleman knows full well, what we will be doing in relation to immigration is bringing an end to free movement once and for all. We will have an immigration system based not on where somebody comes from but on the contribution they can make to this economy. That will be good for the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland.
May I welcome this political declaration, particularly paragraph 77 on the global co-operation enshrined in this agreement? Does the Prime Minister agree that we must continue to work more closely than ever with our European partners, even when we leave the European Union, on trans-border issues such as climate change, trade protectionism and all the other issues that we have to deal with together and cannot deal with singly?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why it is important that we have that section in this political declaration. We are leaving the European Union; we are not leaving Europe. It will make sense for us to continue to co-operate with our European partners on a whole range of issues that affect the whole world and on which our being able to work together will be important in terms of how we can address those issues and resolve them—as he suggests, that includes issues such as climate change.
Poorer, with less control, and years and years of more uncertainty. [Interruption.] In her heart of hearts, does the Prime Minister honestly think that this is what people were voting for two and a half years ago?
I think that a number of my colleagues, when the right hon. Gentleman started talking about being poorer and having more uncertainty, thought that he was describing a Labour Government. I think that what people voted for was to bring an end to free movement, and to take control of our borders, our money and our laws, and they wanted us to do it in a way that protected their jobs, protected their security and protected our United Kingdom—and that is exactly what this deal does.
One of my constituents who was on the other side of the referendum vote has written to me today saying that it appears that the UK’s Brexit requirements are being achieved, or as close to that as is going to be achievable. He wants to applaud the Prime Minister and her team for their negotiation, and says that anyone who votes against this deal would actually be voting against the referendum result and the interests of the country. May I put it to the Prime Minister that I think that that is representative of many people in all parties throughout the country?
I thank my hon. Friend for bringing his constituent’s views to the House today. I think that, when every Member of this House looks at the meaningful vote, they will have to ask themselves precisely the question that that constituent has asked—does this deliver on the vote, and does it do it in a way that is good for the United Kingdom? I think the answer is unequivocally yes.
The Prime Minister seems to imply in paragraph 27 that the new facilitative arrangements and technologies to prevent a hard border are new. They have been around for some time, and customs officials—all sorts of people—have written about this. The fact is that the Prime Minister’s team have not looked at this seriously until very recently. Even at this late stage, could I say to the Prime Minister that the backstop has no need to be in a legal agreement, and that it should be taken out and we should get on with getting the kind of changes that would make a hard border impossible?
The hon. Lady is right that of course there have been ideas around for some time in relation to the way in which customs and the treatment of customs is developing with today’s technology, but there are further technological solutions that I think will be available. On the question of no hard border, we have a commitment to no hard border, but I believe it is important that we also try to work to ensure that businesses and people in Northern Ireland are able to carry on their business and their daily life much as they do today. This is about no hard border but it is also about our overall commitment to the people of Northern Ireland.
May I refer my right hon. Friend to paragraph 134 of the proposal on the question of interpretation of Union law, which gives authority to the Court of Justice of the European Union? Why is there not a similar paragraph giving the right of interpretation of UK law to the UK courts, or is it implicit that European Union law is senior?
It is not the case that European Union law is senior. It is the case that we have consistently said, throughout all the negotiations, and made it clear at various points, that the court of one party cannot have jurisdiction over the other party. But the body that interprets European law is the CJEU. As this makes clear, the arbitration panel can decide to ask the CJEU for an opinion on the interpretation of EU law. UK law is interpreted, indeed, by United Kingdom courts. The arbitration panel, when it comes to making its decision—had it referred the ECJ to give an opinion on a matter of European Union law—would take its decision in the light of that opinion.
The Prime Minister knows that this is a complicated and historic time for us all—we are deciding the future of our country—but she also knows that most honest MPs would say, “We haven’t had a chance yet to evaluate this.” She knows, too, that by Sunday many people—the economists, the pundits, the think-tanks—will have evaluated it. If that is possible—and will happen—why can the British people not have the chance to evaluate it properly once they know whether it is a good deal?
I think the hon. Gentleman has heard my answer to that question in response to earlier questions. I refer him to that answer.
Will my right hon. Friend please confirm that she intends to ensure that the treaty envisaged in the political declaration will include a provision analogous to article 50 of the treaty on European Union to enable the United Kingdom, should it so wish, to withdraw from that arrangement?
As my right hon. Friend knows, we have already said that, in looking at a future treaty, it is important to do a couple of things. He talks about being able to bring a treaty to an end, but it is also important, because we accept that over the years trade relationships will develop and change and that administrative arrangements will change, to have a regular review mechanism in place, so that as those changes take place, it is possible to make changes to the agreement.
Was not the Prime Minister’s fundamental mistake triggering article 50 without getting a commitment to conclude a future trade agreement before exit day? As a result, is she not asking the country to trust her—to take a leap in the dark—entirely on the basis of this flimsy, unenforceable set of political words? We face year after year of further negotiations. Or can she now tell us when the negotiations on the future trade arrangement will conclude?
The hon. Gentleman has heard me mention in response to other questions the determination and commitment of both sides to ensuring that those negotiations take place such that the future framework is in place at the end of December 2020. He complains that we triggered article 50 when we did. I remind him that the Leader of the Opposition wanted to trigger article 50 the day after the referendum.
The Federation of Small Businesses, the CBI, the vast majority of members of the Institute of Directors and even the Ulster Farmers Union are all saying they support the withdrawal agreement. Should those of us who care about the jobs and economic security of our constituents not support, it too?
I agree with my hon. Friend. The important thing is that the deal delivers on the vote of the referendum, while protecting jobs and the security and livelihoods of people up and down the country.
Can we be clear what a deal is and what it is not? A deal is what we have at the moment—I happen to think it is a very good deal. This is simply a piece of paper full of meaningless waffle. It is not legally binding; it has nothing about frictionless trade; it has lots about the ECJ, even though the Prime Minister claims it does not; and it cuts off opportunities for our young people and their futures. The Government Benches behind her are emptying. When will she realise that the only way out of this crisis is by putting it back to the British people in a people’s vote?
The hon. Gentleman says that what we have now is a deal. What we have now is membership of the European Union, and the British people voted for us to cease that membership and leave the European Union.
I welcome paragraph 53, which talks about
“entry and stay for purposes such as research, study, training and youth exchanges”,
which is incredibly important for professionals and young people in my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend also confirm that once we leave the common agricultural policy—another important issue in my constituency—we will have as close and as frictionless trade in agricultural goods as possible?
I am happy to confirm that. The exchanges that my hon. Friend referred to are indeed important, particularly for young people and young professionals. We will be leaving the common agricultural policy. Obviously, we will be putting in place our alternative proposals for support for the agricultural sector, and we will be looking to ensure that we have the ability to move agricultural products and goods across the border as easily as possible.
If the Prime Minister will not apologise to EU citizens for accusing them of queue jumping, I do so on her behalf. To make amends, will she confirm that there are no circumstances in which she will inflict no deal on the country, and will she offer everyone a people’s vote, to get us out of this Brexit quagmire, which she has created?
I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave earlier.
Paragraph 23 makes provision for us to be in the single customs territory provided for in the withdrawal agreement. Paragraph 135 states that we could be fined for not following EU law. Which normal independent country has an ambition to enter into that kind of relationship with the European Union? Mexico? Canada? Japan? What other country would want to submit to these kinds of arrangements?
My hon. Friend will see that we also say in paragraph 23 that this economic partnership will
“ensure no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors, with ambitious customs arrangements”.
As I said in my statement, that is something that no other country has been offered by the European Union. This is a deal that delivers on the vote, but also protects jobs and security around the UK.
For a £39 billion divorce fee, the British people are being offered the prospect of years, if not decades, of wrangling over sectors such as transport, chemicals and nuclear. The ECJ will be the final arbiter in any decision, with the ability to impose fines on us. The Prime Minister is going to this summit pretending that she can get this deal through Parliament, when she knows she cannot. Is it not time to stop the madness and put this back to the people in a vote, so that they can reject it?
In response to the hon. Lady’s final question, I refer her to the answer I have given to other right hon. and hon. Members. There is much else I could say about the other details in her question, but I will simply make this point. This deal does not make the European Court of Justice the final arbiter on any dispute.
The Prime Minister mentioned that there is an explicit and welcome reference in the document to the UK pursuing an independent trade policy, including the ability to sign new trade deals with the rest of the world. Does that include specifically the ability to conclude free trade agreements?
Yes. We will have the opportunity to conclude free trade agreements with countries around the rest of the world. As I hope my right hon. Friend sees, this aspect has been inserted in the full political declaration to make absolutely clear that we will have an independent trade policy.
By contrast to the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees- Mogg), I am pleased to see the Prime Minister recognise the role of the European Court of Justice, because this agreement explicitly states that we will not only respect its integrity and agree to binding rulings, but consider financial compensation for when they are broken. Can she tell us a bit more about how she intends to influence the decisions of the ECJ, given the impact that this will have on British businesses and British jobs?
What is absolutely clear is that in the future relationship we will have with the European Union, the European Court of Justice will not have jurisdiction here in the United Kingdom. It is possible that the hon. Lady is thinking of the circumstances put in place in the withdrawal agreement in relation to either those cases that are pending in relation to the European Court of Justice and Union law before we leave, or those cases that relate to activity that has taken place under European Union law while we were a member of the European Union, in which case it will be possible for those cases to continue to be taken as they would have been had we remained a member.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on getting alternative arrangements into the narrative, which is a very considerable achievement indeed. Given articles 174 to 178, to what extent does she think that the independent arbitration panel ultimately will be able to determine if and when the conditions for alternative arrangements have been met?
My hon. Friend has clearly made a careful study of the withdrawal agreement. He will know from the withdrawal agreement that the process that will take place is that, if we are in the backstop and believe we have alternative arrangements—whether the future relationship or another arrangement—that mean the backstop is no longer necessary, that will be a matter initially to be discussed between the United Kingdom and the European Union through the Joint Committee. It would be possible then, if there were no agreement and there was concern about good faith in relation to this, for that matter to be arbitrable before the arbitration panel. Of course, it is not for me to set out the sort of decision that the arbitration panel will take; it would be for it, at that point in time, to determine whether either side had been failing to act in the way in which it was intended.
In sector after sector, these proposals represent a downgrading of UK power and influence compared with what we have now. That is one side of the equation here, but I want to ask the Prime Minister about the other side of the equation. Can she look the House in the eye and say that these proposals will make the country economically better off than continuing with our current arrangements?
I do not agree with the first part of the right hon. Gentleman’s question. I believe that actually, as an independent state outside the European Union, the United Kingdom will continue to play a very key role in a number of multilateral organisations around the world, such as the United Nations and NATO. More than that, we have already started to extend our partnership to countries around the world where we have not had the same extent of partnership as a member of the European Union and to look forward to us outside the European Union. I think the right hon. Gentleman has probably asked me the question about the economics previously. Outside the European Union, I believe it is important for us not only to have a good trade relationship with the European Union—that is what this deal delivers—but to be able to develop those trade relationships around the rest of the world.
Will the Prime Minister help those of us who want to try to help her in this vote? She knows that what we are worried about is that we will be trapped for years in a customs union. She tells us that this backstop is temporary, so can she give me this commitment? Given that the Vienna convention makes it absolutely clear that a sovereign state can abrogate any part of a treaty with an international body when it likes and that this Parliament cannot bind its successors, if by the end of this Parliament—or the due date of the end of this Parliament—or by 1 January 2022, we are still trapped in these arrangements, will she assure me that she will abrogate those treaties and we will become an independent nation again?
The premise of my hon. Friend’s question is that we would be in the backstop by 1 January 2022. I repeat to my hon. Friend and to others, first, that it is our intention and the intention of the European Union to work to ensure that the backstop need never be brought into place. There are many references throughout the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration that make clear the temporary nature of the backstop, should it be exercised. But of course, as I said earlier, even if an interim arrangement were necessary, it would be the case that alternative arrangements—the extension of the IP—could be in place instead of the backstop.
My hon. Friend asked me about the due date for the end of this Parliament—the general election in 2022. What I am very clear about is that it is my firm intention that we will be firmly in our future relationship with the European Union by the time of the next general election, such that we are able to look the British people in the eye and say, “You gave us an instruction to leave the European Union, and we have delivered.”
The outline declaration last week referred to Europol and Eurojust, but they are not mentioned in this declaration. All we have is the Prime Minister saying:
“There would be a surrender agreement”.
Frankly, given the loss of British influence that there will be—even though we continue to participate in security arrangements of different kinds, we are not actually making any decisions—this is an apt description, is it not, of the whole document: a surrender of influence agreement for our country?
No, it is not. The hon. Gentleman specifically mentioned two agencies in relation to security matters. We have been discussing and negotiating, and he will see in the results of those negotiations on the political declaration a growing recognition on the part of the European Union. At the beginning of this process the EU felt that it could not give the United Kingdom access to certain security arrangements or arrangements that deal with criminal justice, because we would be a third country. However, we made the case—which the EU accepted—that it is in its interests as well as ours to ensure that we have access to those arrangements, to keep people safe across the EU.
Earlier this morning I visited year 5 in Danemill Primary School in Enderby, before rushing back to London. The year 5 children asked me questions about Brexit. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to tell them that the deal she is proposing is in their best interests to ensure a brighter future for them and the whole United Kingdom?
First, I commend the pupils of Danemill School whom my hon. Friend visited this morning on the fact that they asked him questions about Brexit, and I reassure them, and him, that this deal sets us on a course for a brighter future. For those pupils, this is about their future; it is about jobs and opportunities for them, and that is what the deal delivers.
This deal keeps the common fisheries policy after Brexit. We will still have the rules, but no way to influence them. No freedom of movement means that our fish processing industry will lose half its workforce. Trading access to our waters for trade access is exactly what fishing federations argued against, and what the Prime Minister’s Secretary of State for Scotland said would make him resign. Has he gone yet? Will the Prime Minister admit that this deal is a disaster for Scotland and for our fishing industry, which has been sold out once again by a Tory Government? What does she say to families in Scotland whose livelihoods will be destroyed by this Government?
I suggest to the hon. Lady and her Scottish nationalist colleagues that they listen to the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, which said the following:
“The declaration gives the UK the power to assert its position as an independent costal state with full, unfettered sovereignty over our waters”.
I have drafted, negotiated and indeed enacted scores of dispute resolution clauses over my years, and I can tell the Prime Minister that this one will work—in fact, it will even allow us to get out of the withdrawal agreement if the EU does not play ball. Despite all the wrinkles that hon. Members may find, this is a choice between an agreement that the EU will accept and certainty for our constituents, or playing Russian roulette with their security, jobs and earnings. We should all think twice before playing politics.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and I recommend this deal, which I think is the right deal for the United Kingdom. A failure to accept it will mean more uncertainty and division, and frankly it just takes us back to square one.
Let me call the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon), whom I hope the whole House will unite in congratulating on her election as President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
Thank you for those kind words, Mr Speaker, and let me therefore ask an appropriate question of the Prime Minister. In the section on foreign policy, defence and security, paragraph 107 talks about considering appropriate arrangements for co-operation in space. Many space assets are vital for the defence and security of the country. How will all parties to this agreement ensure that whatever arrangements are made do not weaken the NATO alliance, and that they ensure that any capability is available for the future security and defence of the whole alliance membership?
First, let me add my congratulations to the hon. Lady on her election as President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. She refers to what will be possible within NATO and the capabilities available to NATO. We remain committed to NATO, as we always have been, as the secure element of our defence. We have had to take some decisions including, as she will be aware, a key decision about some future capabilities in relation to Galileo, because what was being offered by the European Union would not have given us sufficient ability to be part of and participate in that system. That is why we decided to take our own decision and go it alone in that area.
But it is a wish list, isn’t it?
No, this is a commitment on both sides to the future relationship that we will now be negotiating into legal text. As my right hon. Friend will I am sure recognise, there is a linkage between the withdrawal agreement and this political declaration that makes clear the importance of both sides putting their best endeavours into ensuring that this future relationship is negotiated in legal text and available by the end of December 2020.
The political declaration contains some interesting additions from last week’s draft, including paragraph 54, which states:
“The Parties also agree to consider addressing social security coordination in the light of future movement of persons.”
That sounds as though EU nationals working in the UK under the terms of the agreement could continue claiming benefits from our benefits system. Can the Prime Minister clarify?
This is in relation to some very specific issues, which I am happy to write to the hon. Lady about.
As I serve on a Select Committee with the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon), may I join the whole House in congratulating President Moon on her appointment?
Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I have read both documents. I was the Conservative party spokesman on the Lisbon treaty in 2008, a bagatelle of a mere 300 pages, so I believe that perhaps I have understood the withdrawal agreement. The political declaration—I would like the Prime Minister to confirm this—is not in any way legally binding. The withdrawal agreement is. It is a draft treaty, which as the Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee knows, would bind us under international law. The problem I have is that the Prime Minister has, at the Dispatch Box, repeatedly made commitments that we would leave the customs union. That is in our election manifesto, yet in this draft treaty we would remain in the backstop and we could only leave if the EU let us—the so-called “Hotel California” dilemma. Moreover, she has said that she would never contemplate a border down the Irish sea, yet the withdrawal agreement contemplates exactly that. Prime Minister, why have you repeatedly made commitments at the Dispatch Box and then done the opposite? And when will the meaningful vote—[Interruption.]
Order. I think the right hon. Gentleman is concluding his question.
I just asked the Prime Minister when the meaningful vote will be. Will it be before or after Christmas?
On my right hon. Friend’s last point, discussions are taking place in the normal manner on these matters. There is a balance we need to address between ensuring there are sufficient days of debate for this House coming up to the meaningful vote, and recognising the timetable we need to be aware of in relation to getting the withdrawal agreement Bill through on the basis of a positive vote.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will not be surprised that I do not accept some of the points he made in his interpretation of the nature of the document we have before us. We will be leaving the customs union. He is absolutely right that I have said that at the Dispatch Box. I have said it elsewhere and I am happy to repeat it now at the Dispatch Box. That is the point of the future framework we are setting up. We have to put this into legal text. He is right about the difference between the two documents, although we have the linkage clause in article 184 of the withdrawal agreement in relation to the best endeavours to put this in place. I responded earlier in relation to the backstop. But it is the future framework—and the future relationship—we want to see in place on 1 January 2021 that will ensure that we do not remain in the customs union and we do not remain in the single market, and that we are able to do the things and take the judgments and have control in the areas that people voted for when they voted in the referendum.
Further to the Prime Minister’s last answer on the meaningful vote, will she make it clear that she and her new Brexit Secretary accept the recommendations of the Procedure Committee to have the votes and debates on amendments before the debate and vote on the main motion?
The hon. Lady will recognise that there are certain matters that are for the House, but I repeat the point I have made in this Chamber before on a number of occasions. If you asked members of the public, “If Parliament is asked to vote on the deal that the Government have brought back from Europe, what do you expect Parliament to vote on?”, I think they would expect Parliament to be able to have a vote on the deal. We have been clear that a motion may be amendable, but people will want to know the view of Parliament on the deal as it is brought back from Europe.
I welcome this declaration and, in particular, the strong and explicit commitments to ensure that free movement will end, that the country will have the freedom to strike trade deals around the world, and yet that we will forge a strong and close economic partnership with the European Union. Is that not exactly what business wants? Is not the withdrawal agreement’s provision for a transition period what business wants, and should not those of us who wish to implement and honour the referendum decision recognise that this sets the path towards a pragmatic and orderly Brexit and that we should think very carefully before rejecting it?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The withdrawal agreement allows for that implementation period. That is exactly what business had requested and what will give business the certainty that it wants. I think that is exactly one of the aspects that every Member of this House will wish to consider when they come to the meaningful vote.
My constituents who voted to leave the European Union want me to oppose this deal because for them it does not reflect the aspirations of sovereignty and control that were promised during the referendum. My constituents who voted remain want me to vote against this deal because it does not deliver the economic security that led them to vote remain, and I think all of them are horrified by the notion that this country would be locked into protracted negotiations for years, if not decades. When the Prime Minister goes to the European Council this weekend, will she be honest with the other countries that this deal does not have the support of the House of Commons? And when will she wake up to the reality, which is that if she wants to see this deal in practice, it is right, for both principled and pragmatic reasons, to ask the people, “Do you want to proceed with Brexit as it is being delivered, or would you rather remain in the European Union?”? What is she afraid of?
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave earlier.
The reason why the 2016 referendum was the largest democratic exercise that this country has ever seen was that that campaign engaged people who were marginalised and disillusioned and who did not participate in our democratic process. Many of those people in the months and years since that vote have written to me, and I imagine to many other colleagues, expressing their concern that somehow what they voted for would not be delivered. I have written back to them, based on the excellent speeches that the Prime Minister has made and on the promises that both Front-Bench teams made in their manifestos last year, promising that it would, but it strikes me that where we are today is maybe not where the Prime Minister hoped we would be when we started off. Would it not be more candid to say to the British public that this deal is not where the Prime Minister hoped we would be when she assumed office after the referendum?
Obviously, when we go through negotiations, compromises are made on both sides—that is the nature of a negotiation—but I have kept my focus on delivering what I believe were the key issues that, as my hon. Friend said, many people who had never entered the democratic process before voted for when they voted to leave the European Union.
I think that key for many people was bringing an end to free movement, and this brings an end to free movement. I think that the end of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and the end of sending those vast amounts of money to the European Union every year were two other key factors that people voted for. That is what this deal delivers, but it does so in a way that does protect their jobs. I think that the people whom my hon. Friend talks about—those who, up and down the country, felt marginalised all too often in the past—want to see a Government who are protecting their jobs and livelihoods, but are also setting a course that will give a brighter future to them and their children.
Last night the Chancellor of the Exchequer conceded on national television that the Government’s “worst of all worlds” Brexit will make the country much poorer than the current position of being a member of the European Union. Does the Prime Minister agree with the Chancellor?
I have been asked the same question by one of the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues, in relation to our economic future. Life will be different outside the European Union—of course it will be different—but what is to our economic advantage is being able to negotiate our own trade deals around the rest of the world, as well as having a good trade deal with the European Union. That is what this deal delivers. It is good for the UK, and it is good for jobs.
Without informed consent, there is no valid consent. Following the publication of the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration, we now have a much clearer idea of what Brexit looks like, which allows people to weigh up the risks and the benefits. That is what informed consent is all about. Does the Prime Minister accept that we have reached an impasse in the House, and that now that we are in a position to ask people for their informed consent, it really is time for a people’s vote on this final deal?
As I have indicated to a number of Members—obviously I have answered the question about a people’s vote before—I strongly believe that having asked people in this country to determine whether or not this country should remain in the European Union, we, as their elected representatives, should recognise the feeling that was expressed in that vote and should deliver for people on that vote, and that means delivering leaving the European Union.
The problem is that there are no guarantees that things will be as good as they are now. NHS patients get new drugs six months earlier because we are a member of the European Medicines Agency, but the declaration just says that we will “explore the possibility” of future co-operation with the EMA. Would not patients be better off joining my kids writing their wish lists to Santa tonight than relying on this wish list from the Prime Minister?
There is an assumption in relation to some of these issues, such as our recognition of the role of the European Medicines Agency in the political declaration, that somehow this is only about the UK asking the European Union. Actually, what we are looking at in relation to these matters—the EMA and the European Chemicals Agency, and, indeed, the European Aviation Safety Agency—is, in a number of areas, what is in the mutual interests of both sides, the UK and the European Union. An awful lot of work is done here, in the UK, by our pharmaceutical companies in terms of placing drugs on the European market. There are benefits to both sides of our being able to keep that co-operation in the European Medicines Agency.
The Prime Minister had already told the House that we would be giving away a minimum of £39 billion to the EU. We have learnt today that the implementation period might be extended, which would mean billions of pounds more of taxpayers’ money being given away to the EU in return for a wish list. How does the Prime Minister square that with her red line that we are not giving billions of pounds to the European Union?
First, I did not say that it would be a minimum of £39 billion. The financial settlement that has been achieved in the withdrawal agreement is for £39 billion That £39 billion is less than half what a number of commentators and others were suggesting—including from the European Union—at the beginning of that negotiation.
It is right that there is a difference between the backstop and the extension of the implementation period, in that in the implementation period I think there would be an expectation of payments, and in the backstop there is no financial obligation. That is one of the reasons why it is not attractive to the European Union for us to be in the backstop. But the decision in relation to those, or, indeed, the alternative arrangements that are developed, would be a decision for the United Kingdom. It would be for the United Kingdom to determine which of those we wished to be in, were it necessary—as my hon. Friend knows, I want it not to be necessary—to cover an interim period before we were in the future relationship.
The Prime Minister says that she has changed the minds of EU countries on data sharing to enable continued security co-operation, but rather than any mention of the second generation Schengen information system, the strongest language in the declaration, in paragraph 87, is that:
“The Parties should consider further arrangements appropriate to the United Kingdom’s future status…such as exchange of information on wanted or missing persons…with the view to delivering capabilities that, in so far as is technically and legally possible, and considered necessary and in both Parties’ interests, approximate those enabled by relevant Union mechanisms.”
I put it to the Prime Minister that that tortuous, weak language suggests that we are not going to remain part of that incredibly important system to which we gained full access when she was Home Secretary.
We have indeed moved the European Union on. As I said earlier, it started from the position that we could not share security capabilities because we were a non-member and that position has changed. The hon. Gentleman referenced SIS II. A number of hon. Members have raised concerns about SIS II and the European criminal records information system. They provide for the exchange of information on wanted or missing persons and objects and of criminal records, which is exactly what is referenced in the text in paragraph 87. It does not name SIS II and ECRIS, but it does refer to the information that is exchanged within those two bodies. It might help the hon. Gentleman if I point out that SIS II was technically a Schengen-based system, and as a member of the EU outside Schengen it took a lot of negotiation for us to get into SIS II even within the EU. What we have here is a recognition that we can put arrangements in place to ensure we are still able to exchange the very data that are exchanged in SIS II.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the substantial progress she has made since last week, not least the inclusion in paragraph 23 of the statement that economic partnership should ensure no tariffs across all sectors, which will be vital to my midlands constituency with its manufacturing industry. A critical issue to my constituents, 60% of whom voted “out”, is whether we will truly regain national self-determination by 1 January 2021. Can she reassure me on that point, please?
My hon. Friend is right: I am sure that is what many people voted for, and that is what this future relationship will deliver. As I have indicated, obviously we have to negotiate the legal text of that future relationship, but there is every commitment and determination to ensure that that is in place by 1 January 2021. This deal will deliver that sovereignty that my hon. Friend looks for.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that the political declaration is not legally binding and is merely the basis of at least one more year of protracted negotiations with our European partners?
As I have explained, we still have the legal text to negotiate in relation to this document. [Interruption.] We still have the legal text to negotiate in relation to this document! What we have is a linkage between the withdrawal agreement in article 184 and the work that will go forward in relation to this. But, yes, there is further negotiation on the legal text of this document. I have been very clear about that in answer to a number of questions.
I thank the Prime Minister for her steadfast focus on jobs throughout these negotiations. Paragraph 32 talks about
“the temporary entry and stay of natural persons for business purposes”.
Businesses and people in my constituency have said that this is incredibly important in relation to both manufacturing and services. Can we ensure this paragraph is as strong as possible in the agreement, because it underpins hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country?
We recognise the importance of the temporary arrangements for businesses around the country. We will have that in mind when we continue the negotiation of the legal text, but I recognise that that temporary stay is important for many businesses, including those in my hon. Friend’s constituency.
The hallmark of this process has been slogans and empty platitudes, and I am afraid that this document just continues that run of poor form. May I draw the Prime Minister’s attention specifically to paragraph 24, which says:
“The Parties will also explore the possibility of cooperation of United Kingdom authorities with Union agencies such as the European Medicines Agency”.
May I remind the Prime Minister that in July this House voted to remain part of the European Medicines Agency? She will remember it because the amendment was proposed by her neighbour, the hon. Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee). Why is she ignoring the will of the House?
We are not ignoring the will of the House. We recognise what was expressed by this House back in the summer. We will be negotiating on the legal text in relation to our future co-operation with the European Medicines Agency, the European Chemicals Agency and the European Aviation Safety Agency.
May I thank the Prime Minister for siding with my constituents, who trusted this Government’s and the Opposition’s manifesto commitments to leave the European Union, as they voted to do? It is obvious that there are concerns about the backstop in this House and across the country. She has done brilliantly well to negotiate more stuff in. May I ask her to press a little a bit harder on Saturday?
I thank my right hon. Friend for reminding the House that something like 80% of Members of this House stood on a manifesto to leave the European Union, to deliver on the vote of the referendum, and I hope all Members will recall that when they come to the meaningful vote. He is right about the concerns expressed in relation to the backstop, and I recognise those concerns. That is why we have been looking at alternative arrangements that could be put in place, and we will continue to work on those.
I think we should celebrate the largest democratic vote in our history and be determined to implement leaving the European Union, but I have to say that after two and a half years, I am disappointed that the Prime Minister has come back not with a deal but with the preconditions for a negotiation, and expects the House to vote on it. The fact is that the European Commission, the European Parliament and the other 27 countries are more satisfied than this House is with what the Prime Minister has proposed to them. I do not believe from what the Prime Minister has said so far that she is guaranteeing the future sovereignty of this country. To take just one example, she talks about regulatory alignment. That means we will not be able to adjust our regulations and laws to enable our industries—biological and agricultural industries—to benefit from our independence.
Paragraph 138 makes it clear that
“it is the clear intent of both Parties to develop in good faith agreements giving effect to this relationship”.
The hon. Gentleman refers to sovereignty. The contents of the political declaration are a recognition that there is a balance between the question of checks at the border and the degree to which rules are accepted and operated on both sides of that border. What we set out in the White Paper we published in July was a recognition of that and a proposal that frictionless trade came with a commitment to a common rulebook, but with a parliamentary lock, so that it would be a decision of the UK—of the UK Parliament—to choose to diverge from those rules.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that divergence from those rules such that products were manufactured not in line with the standards and regulations operating in the European Union would have an impact on access to the market of the European Union, just as it would under any other agreement we made with other parts of the world. We will be sovereign—this deal delivers that sovereignty—but if it is in place, it will be for this House to decide where it wishes to go in relationship to the rulebook that enables access to a market versus divergence and a sovereign decision.
As the Prime Minister has said, beyond this place people are just desperate that we get Brexit over and done with. I have met many people in my constituency who greatly admire the resolve she has shown in pursuing this deal in recent weeks. Does she agree that they will look very dimly if we grind ourselves to a standstill here by pursuing ideological perfection, rather than accepting the very good and pragmatic?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is for us in this House to look pragmatically at what will deliver for the British people. That is what I have done in this deal, and it is what I believe the deal delivers for the British people. He is right that we should remember the many people up and down the country who want us to get on with this and build that brighter future.
The Prime Minister has spent much of the past two years wrangling with her own MPs and allowing the hard Brexiteer tail to wag the Tory dog. The result we now see is a blind Brexit in which 44% of UK trade will be dependent on the fulfilment of a wish list. Will she now concede that this level of fundamental risk to every nation and region of the UK and every sector of the UK economy is not what anyone voted for in June 2016?
What people voted for is for us to leave the European Union and to bring control of money, borders and laws back to this country, and we are doing so in a way that protects jobs and livelihoods up and down the country.
There is much here that is reassuring to my constituents working in the health, aerospace, automobile and nuclear energy sectors. They are people who see, above all, the need for sensible compromise to achieve continuity, rather than disruption, when we leave the European Union. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the big divide now is between them and those who would risk anything for no deal or no Brexit, putting at risk every chance of achieving a deal that few may love but most could live with?
My hon. Friend is right. Most of our constituents up and down the country will want Members of Parliament to deliver on the vote to leave the European Union by ensuring that we leave the European Union, while also looking at considerations around their jobs, their livelihoods and their futures. It is this deal that does both, protecting jobs while also delivering on the vote.
The police have agreed that the most important instruments for our security are the second-generation Schengen information system, the European arrest warrant, ECRIS, Europol, Eurojust and European investigation orders. Is it not the case that, without full membership of those organisations or access to those databases, we are blinding law enforcement in its fight against organised crime and terrorism?
The hon. Lady gives a list of what she thinks are important security arrangements. She left out Prüm and the passenger name records, which are incredibly important in dealing with organised criminals, solving crimes and dealing with terrorists. We are clear that we are working on the arrangements that will enable us to exchange the very type of information that is exchanged in SIS II and ECRIS.
I put aside my fear of the backstab agreement and come straight to the point. My right hon. Friend is right that we do not want another referendum; we want to see the benefits of the one we had. To that end, I thoroughly welcome what she said about negotiating deals during the implementation period. Can she assure us all that those deals will come to fruition, even if the implementation period is extended?
Those deals would come to fruition. I think the point is that, in an extended implementation period, there would continue to be an issue about the ability to put those deals into practice, which may be the issue my hon. Friend is raising. That is one of the factors about an extension of the implementation period. Whether we should be balancing the backstop versus that or alternative arrangements, would have to be taken into account.
The Prime Minister will be aware that my party colleagues and I profoundly disagree with her on the Ulster protocol, or the backstop agreement, but we recognise that she is working very hard to square an elusive circle, and we pay tribute to her for seeking to overcome that great difficulty. If paragraphs 26 and 27 of the declaration mean anything of substance, does she accept that there would therefore be no need for the Ulster protocol or backstop? Can she confirm what she meant in page 5 of her statement today, that the backstop will be “quickly superseded”? Can she quantify what “quickly” means?
The hon. Gentleman is right in this sense: the alternative arrangements or indeed the extension of the implementation period could be chosen as a means of ensuring that the backstop was not put into place. I talked about the period of time for which the backstop would be in place, were it ever used, and it is absolutely clear in a number of ways throughout this document that it is only intended to be temporary, because it is intended to cover an interim period before the future relationship comes into place. The best way for us to be able to guarantee our commitment to the people of Northern Ireland on having no hard border is through our future relationship, which will be the permanent relationship and which will ensure that we deliver on that commitment.
The majority of my constituents voted to leave the EU. Many of those people are among the thousands of workers in my constituency who work in manufacturing or in the logistics industry, which completely depend on being able to move goods across borders. My constituents voted to get control of our money, laws and borders, but I am sure that in doing that they were also expecting that manufacturing industry and logistics would be able to continue to operate properly, so that we maintain their jobs and can create more jobs in the future to go with them. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that that is exactly what she is trying to achieve in the work she is doing on behalf of the British people?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Many people, his constituents and others, voted leave in order to bring back control of our money, laws and borders, but of course they also have wanted to ensure that those jobs were there for them and their children in the future. Our support for manufacturing industry is an important part of that and that is exactly what this deal delivers.
The Prime Minister has talked again about there being a spectrum of future relationships with our closest and largest trading partners, but is it not the truth that, stripped back to essentials, and despite the incredible vagueness of this document, this is firmly leading us towards a Canada-style free trade arrangement, rather than any alternative model; that that is widely understood to be an act of economic self-harm; that it will leave this country poorer; and that absolutely nobody voted in the 2016 referendum to be poorer?
I made it clear in the statement that, obviously, the European Union started from the position that there was a binary choice between the Norway model or the Canada model, but it has accepted that there is a spectrum in relation to these matters, where there is a balance between rights and obligations. That is what is clear within this document. We retain our ambition, our commitment, our objective of having frictionless trade. As I said earlier, not everybody in Europe has accepted that, but we continue to work on that and we continue to maintain that objective, because it is about protecting jobs.
The overwhelming vote to leave the EU in my constituency was a vote against politics as usual and a vote to bring back control of our money, borders and laws to this country. Like it or not, the reality is that the Prime Minister’s deal is the only practical way to deliver that. So does she agree that voters should be appalled when they see people place narrow party interest above the national interest and risk subverting our democracy itself with talk of a second referendum?
I agree with my hon. Friend; he is right. He said that many people in his constituency voted against politics as usual. They will be surprised to see politicians playing politics with this issue in this Chamber. Every Member of this House must consider the interests of constituents, the need to deliver on the vote of the people to leave the European Union and to do so in a way that is in the best interests of our constituents.
Following on from the point made by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones), the west midlands economy is largely about manufacturing and it relies very much on the free movement of labour, particularly for research and development in the universities, such as the one in Coventry. I have received a lot of letters from constituents who work at those universities or in the national health service, and they are concerned about the free movement of labour and that they might not be able to move as freely as they want backwards and forwards. Can the Prime Minister give some reassurances about those jobs and about the situation regarding those people?
Free movement will come to an end, but what we will ensure is that we have an immigration system that is skills-based. I think that would reflect the concerns that the hon. Gentleman has expressed in his question. So it will be about the contribution that people can make here to the United Kingdom, and the Home Office will look, within that, at ensuring that the system in place is as easy to use and efficient as possible.
The Prime Minister is absolutely right to say that we should take no lectures from SNP politicians about fishing, because we know all too well that they want to drag our fishermen right back into the common fisheries policy. Can she confirm that the UK will be sitting down unfettered at the negotiating table as an independent coastal state by December 2020 and on an annual basis thereafter?
That is certainly our position. That remains our position. Of course a reference within the fisheries section—I think it is in the fisheries section—refers to the desire to have those arrangements in place by July 2020, such that they are in place for the consideration of fixing access and quotas for 2021 and thereafter.
On financial services, the Prime Minister said that equivalence would not be withdrawn on a whim. Will she tell the House what she meant by that? At the moment, equivalence for a third country can be withdrawn by the European Union at 30 days’ notice, as Switzerland is now experiencing. Will it be different for the UK?
Yes. If the right hon. Gentleman cares to look at the language in the political declaration, it is clear that what we are negotiating for financial services does in fact go beyond what is available elsewhere.
Yesterday in the Treasury Committee, we took evidence from Mr Thompson, the chief executive of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. He said that it would take 24 months from the moment of certainty to put in place a new customs system. He said that that moment of certainty could be next July, in which case we would have six months of transition, or six months of backstop. Can the Prime Minister tell us which would be selected, as well as how and by whom? If there is no moment of certainty, because there is ultimately no agreement despite the best endeavours of both sides, will there be a risk of our ending up in an extended transition period, effectively a form of “Hotel California”? How do we resolve that particular risk?
I have not had an opportunity to look at the transcript of the evidence that was given by HMRC yesterday. It was clear when we published our proposals on customs in the summer that the facilitated customs arrangement within that would be capable of mainly being in place by 1 January 2021, albeit that the repayment mechanism in that system would take longer to put into place. What my hon. Friend will see throughout this document is the clear intent and determination of both parties to ensure that we negotiate these arrangements in relation to customs and the free trade area, and indeed the overall future relationship, such that it is in place by 1 January 2021.
We want a permanent customs union, to support jobs in the UK. Paragraph 23, on tariffs, in today’s document commits to
“build and improve on the single customs territory”.
How will the Government do that?
There are a number of features of that single customs territory that are important in looking at customs arrangements for the future. For example, it has normally been said that it is not possible to have good customs arrangements with the European Union without free movement, but that single customs territory allows us do exactly that—to divide those two freedoms.
I am pleased that paragraph 24 recognises the importance of our relationship with a number of EU agencies, especially as some of my local businesses have emphasised the importance of the role of the European Chemicals Agency. Will my right hon. Friend expand on how she sees our relationship with the European Chemicals Agency developing as we leave the EU, in order to reassure my local businesses?
This is important, and we recognise the significance of these agencies, each in their own way, to businesses in the United Kingdom. As I indicated in an earlier response, there is currently no model for third country representation or participation in the European Chemicals Agency, and that is precisely why it is necessary for us to carry on working with the European Union to see on what basis and under what conditions that participation can take place.
We have heard at the all-party parliamentary group on textiles and fashion, which I chair, that the industry has grave concerns about services, intellectual property rights and brand control. Instead of “Choose Life”, there was a newly designed T-shirt about the Prime Minister’s deal bearing the slogan “Fashion hates Brexit”. Can the Prime Minister reassure this massive industry, which contributes £21.9 billion to our economy annually?
I recognise the significance of that industry to our economy. Representations from the industry have been made to me, particularly about issues such as the future immigration system that we will put in place and the concern about ensuring that people of high skills will still be able to come to the United Kingdom to participate in and help to develop the industry. Our immigration system will indeed be skills-based.
Does this political declaration negate the legal status of the backstop, which will be enshrined in a legally binding international treaty?
My hon. Friend knows that the withdrawal agreement is indeed a legal document and that the legal text around the political declaration has still to be negotiated. There is a linkage between the withdrawal agreement and the political agreement, as set out clearly in the withdrawal agreement. With regard to the backstop, it is clear that, were we to be in it, it would be only temporary, but also that that is not the only option if it is necessary to have an interim arrangement to provide for our guarantees for the people of Northern Ireland prior to the future relationship coming into place.
Article 8 of the withdrawal agreement says that the UK will not have access to EU networks after we leave. That clearly contradicts the political declaration and its weak references in paragraph 24 to common regulations. Will the Prime Minister finally come clean with the chemicals, aviation and medical sectors referred to in the political declaration and admit that she has not the first idea how to deliver what they all need?
As I have said in response to a number of other Members who have raised this issue, there is currently no model for the participation of a third country in the European Chemicals Agency or the European Medicines Agency, which is why it is necessary for the negotiation to take place to ensure that we can, because it is in the interests of both sides —the United Kingdom and the European Union—that such participation is available in future.
The Prime Minister has repeated yet again today that we will leave the European Union on 29 March. She has also frequently repeated that no deal is better than a bad deal. The 70% of my constituents who voted to leave are even more determined that they want that to happen. Will she assure them that in the event that the agreement was rejected by the House, the Government would hold fast and ensure that we did indeed still leave on 29 March?
I give my hon. Friend the assurance that as far as I am concerned we are leaving on 29 March 2019, and that is what this Government are working towards. My hon. Friend will be aware that some voices around the Chamber would prefer us not to leave on 29 March 2019—[Interruption.] I hear the odd yes from Labour Members on that—but I am clear that we will be leaving on 29 March 2019.
The Prime Minister said in her statement:
“The EU said that the choice was binary—Norway or Canada—but the political declaration recognises that there is a spectrum”.
I would like to hear what the Prime Minister’s spectrum is. Bearing in mind the range of views across the House, that spectrum should surely keep all the options open; otherwise, this political declaration is already past its sell-by date.
Actually, the document makes clear what that spectrum is. As I have referred to on other occasions in response to questions, there is a balance between checks and controls and the acceptance of rules and regulations.
Hon. and gallant Members on both sides of the Chamber will be familiar with the term mission command. They will also be familiar with the importance of regularly restating the mission. Will my right hon. Friend therefore restate for the House today that any Government led by her will have as its mission that we will take back control of our money, borders, laws and trade policy, that we will honour the result of the referendum and that we will do so without putting our economic growth or the integrity of this United Kingdom in jeopardy?
I am very happy to give my hon. Friend the commitment that that is absolutely our mission.
Breaking up is clearly quite hard to do, but at least the Prime Minister has a sum in mind to pay out, but what about our pan-European families where there is a break-up and the stress of that situation, where we have children who are trying to seek access to parents and where we have lone parents trying to get assets and payments for their children? Are we really only to explore options, confirmed in paragraph 58,
“for judicial cooperation in matrimonial, parental responsibility”.
Is that genuinely as far as we can go to make that helpful for families?
No, what we want to do is ensure that, when we have the legal text in place, we are able to see the co-operation, which I recognise is over a matter of concern—a matter of concern to the families to which the hon. Gentleman refers—and it is a matter that has been raised by the legal sector.
Lincolnshire has a proud military heritage. A number of my constituents have contacted me with their concerns about news reports of the European army. Will my right hon. Friend reassure me and them that nothing in this withdrawal agreement will require our British forces to join a European army?
I am very happy to give my hon. Friend that absolute commitment. Indeed, it is the United Kingdom within the European Union that has been arguing against the creation of a European army. We are very clear that the bedrock of defence for Europe is NATO. There may be ways in which the European Union can act on the defence field that complements NATO, but there is no question of any British personnel joining the European army.
Earlier this afternoon, the Prime Minister admitted to this House that she had failed to negotiate Britain’s continued involvement in the Galileo satellite project. Will she tell the House how much it will cost this country to develop an alternative because of her failure?
In any negotiation, there are two sides. There were reasons why the European Union did not want the United Kingdom to be part of Galileo on the basis on which we felt that it was right for us to participate. At that point, a decision has to be taken. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that the real failure would have been to say that we would remain in Galileo on a basis that did not permit us to have guarantees in relation to our security. It is better for us to say that we would do it ourselves and ensure that security.
Electric pulse fishing by Dutch trawlers off the East Anglian coast is devastating our fisheries and should stop now. Can the Prime Minister confirm that there is nothing in the political declaration that undermines the cornerstone of the Fisheries Bill that, in future, we will control access to our waters and will be able to stop this abhorrent practice?
As I said earlier, we will be an independent coastal state. We will be negotiating that access to our waters in our own interests, but, as my hon. Friend will see within the fishing opportunities section of the political declaration, we are very clear that we need to work to ensure that fishing is at sustainable levels. That is in the interests of all fishermen to ensure that the industry can survive and be sustainable into the future.
The Prime Minister’s deal has succeeded in uniting people who have written to me who voted to leave and who voted to remain, and that position is reflected in this House in opposition to the deal. Given that there is no prospect of this House voting through her deal and no prospect of this House voting for no deal, what is the contingency plan that she is making?
I am here recommending this deal. All Members of the House of Commons, when they come to the meaningful vote, will have to consider their duty to deliver on the vote of the British people to leave the European Union and to consider the jobs of their constituents up and down the country. This deal protects those jobs and delivers on that vote.
I have listened intently to what my right hon. Friend has said on fishing. This afternoon, the deputy EU Brexit negotiator, Sabine Weyand, tweeted:
“We need an EU-UK fisheries agreement that covers both access to waters and market access”
as it is in the best interests of both sides. As this document is not binding, will my right hon. Friend provide a cast-iron guarantee today, and in writing to me so that we have it in black and white, that any fisheries agreement will never link access to our waters with single market access and that the UK will determine who fishes in our waters, when they fish in our waters and what they fish in our waters?
My hon. Friend has identified that this is an issue on which there are strong feelings in the European Union. We have rigorously resisted attempts to link these two issues. He asked me to write to him, but I am tempted to say that what I said in my statement was that the fisheries agreement is not something that we will be trading off against any other priorities. That is not just in a letter from me to him; it will be in Hansard. I hope that he will take some comfort from that.
Two hundred of my constituents—people who are highly skilled and who regulate chemicals for the agricultural sector—will lose their jobs if this deal goes through. Why should they back her?
The hon. Lady has made a statement there, and I am not sure about the nature of the jobs that she mentions. We are clear about the importance of our agricultural industry and of our negotiating on the European Chemicals Agency, if that is one of the issues that she was talking about. This is a deal that is good for the UK because it is a deal that protects jobs.
Although I commend my right hon. Friend for her extraordinary energies, given that the whole basis of this declaration is trust, does she trust the European Union and how, ultimately, will it be held to its side of the bargain?
We have negotiated in good faith. As for holding people to their side of the bargain, my hon. Friend will see that action can be taken through legal measures if we were to believe that the European Union was no longer acting in good faith.
I am looking at a statement from @ScotTories that said:
“Let me be absolutely clear: As we leave the EU, we need complete control over UK fishing. #NonNegotiatable”.
In a reply to the BBC, one hon. Member was asked whether the final deal would affect how they might vote in the meaningful vote, and they said that it would and that it would be very important. How will the Prime Minister explain the whole Scottish backstab to @ScotTories, because the deal is not about complete control, is it?
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman read Hansard to see the references I made to fishing and the commitments that this Government made to the fishing industry.
My question will not live up to the build-up. Seven out of 10 of my constituents, young and old, voted to leave the European Union, and two things are very clear from talking to them this weekend. First, they are sick of remainers telling them that they did not know what they voted for, and they are also tired of some Brexiteers telling them what they will accept in our exit from the European Union. I encourage the Prime Minister to press on as she is doing.
Secondly, and more importantly, perhaps, for where this House seems to be heading, my constituents are sick and tired of hearing people talk of a second referendum. This was not talked about by the remain or leave side during the referendum campaign and would amount to a betrayal of that vote in 2016. It would be an establishment stitch-up that might please some in the metropolitan elite and their wealthy overseas backers, but it would be a gross act against democracy. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that the Government will put forward no legislation for a second referendum in any way?
I am very happy to give my hon. Friend that commitment, and he is absolutely right. That is why I have said, as I have said before, that any second referendum would not be a people’s vote but a politicians’ vote.
There is a strange sense of déjà vu and, indeed, anti-climax in this document after more than two years. The words “shall be decided” occur 127 times, and paragraph 147, at the end, states that a high-level conference will be convened at least every six months, with no guarantees of anything. That is a possible Brexternity. At what date and time will these negotiations ever end? With both this and with last week’s so-called deal, will the Prime Minister not just admit that she is flogging a dead horse?
I have made clear before that we will be working to ensure that the future relationship can be in place on 1 January 2021.
I spent eight years of my life campaigning against European integration and for a referendum, and I never thought the day would come when I held in my hands a negotiated, detailed plan of the British Government to leave the European Union—it is a huge achievement.
As I decide what I think about this deal, I think about three things, Prime Minister. First, I think about your incredible success in breaking the European Union’s red lines and in securing tariff-free access to the European Union’s internal market without paying in £10 billion every year and without having to give up control over immigration. That is a huge thing that the European Union has moved on, and we should recognise that. The second thing I think about is the fact that every single business group is backing this deal, and the Marxist shadow Chancellor is against it. The third and final thing I think about is that I have listened all afternoon to people saying again and again that they are going to try to stop Brexit. Does the Prime Minister agree that if the people who want to stop Brexit are successful, a large number of people in this country will feel that our democracy has been profoundly undermined?
I absolutely agree with what my hon. Friend has just said. If this House were to stop Brexit, the British people would feel that it was a gross betrayal of the trust that we had shown in them and they had shown in us. I believe that it is a matter of our integrity as politicians that we deliver on the vote that we gave to the British people, when they told us, in no uncertain terms, to leave the European Union.
The withdrawal agreement worsens the situation for the UK in terms of EU state aid, leaving the UK legally bound by European Commission decisions. Currently, the European Commission waves through state aid cases case by case, but that will not be so for the UK, with our economy and major industries permanently disadvantaged. At the same time, workers’ rights and environmental protections seem not to have any of the same types of protection. Was this negotiated by the Prime Minister, or was it at the behest of the EU?
We have made this clear on a number of occasions, and the proposals that we have put forward are very clear about non-regression in relation to workers’ rights. We already, in some areas, have higher standards on workers’ rights than other countries in the European Union, and we have, as a Government, been working to enhance workers’ rights in a number of ways, not least in our response to the Matthew Taylor report. It was this Government who banned exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts—a matter that the Labour party spoke about for many years but failed to do anything about.
EU citizens currently make up 17% of UK academic staff, and many universities are concerned by the Government’s plans to roll out tier 2 visas to EU citizens after Brexit. This means an average three-month delay between job offer and job take-up. Universities tell me that this will have a detrimental impact on their ability to continue to compete on the world stage. So what does the Prime Minister say to our universities, such as Goldsmith’s in my constituency, about her plans to maintain their global competitiveness?
I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham).
With regard to transport, the previous Brexit Secretary admitted that he did not understand the criticality of Dover. Shamefully, it took from June 2016 until just last month before the Transport Secretary bothered to go and visit the port of Dover. After two years of the Transport Secretary promising an aviation agreement, he now admits that talks have not even begun. Does this not prove, first, that there are no plans in place for no deal; and secondly, that this absolute ineptitude means that there is no way that this Prime Minister would be able to negotiate proper agreements in an implementation period?
There are plans in place for no deal, and the Government are continuing to work on those.
There is something in this document that gives me hope. In paragraph 125, the British Government have committed, in deciding the strategic direction for the future relationship, to encouraging civil society dialogue. According to the European definition, that means speaking to the public. If the Prime Minister will not commit to a general election or a people’s vote, how will she seek to take the views of the British people on this proposal? If she does not, does that not show that the words in the paper are worthless?
The British people gave us their view on our membership of the EU in June 2016, and we are delivering on it.
For all the Prime Minister’s bluster, this political declaration underlines that 18 months of shambolic negotiations have produced embarrassingly little. Parliament looks set to be asked to vote and agree to a blind Brexit and to a deal that, despite what she claims, does not protect jobs, rights or the economy. When will she wake up to the reality that any deal she brings to the House cannot command the support of the House and will leave the country poorer?
This is the right deal for the UK. It delivers on the vote while protecting jobs, livelihoods, security and our Union.
The Prime Minister has recently said two things. On the one hand, she has said that the UK will definitely be leaving the EU on 29 March next year—in fact, she repeated that today. On the other hand, she has said there is a risk—or, as many of my constituents would call it, a chance—of no Brexit. How can those two statements coexist as opinions in her mind without causing a major malfunction?
Very simply: I am clear that we will be leaving the EU on 29 March 2019, but there are some voices across the House that want to frustrate that. That would betray the vote of the British people.
I genuinely believe that this is a bad deal for the north of England. Manchester airport in my constituency caters for 30 million passengers, but the Prime Minister’s favourite rhetoric is about ending free movement. Does she not acknowledge that that works both ways? Why on earth should I vote for a deal that restricts the right of workers to travel and work abroad?
The UK will end free movement and put in place its own immigration system for people from across the world, including from EU member states. Of course, the arrangements that other member states put in place will be a matter for them. We have clear arrangements for the sort of short-term visits—tourist and business visits—that are an important part of the movement the hon. Gentleman talks about.
Speaking as the newest Member, I can say that from day one I have been bombarded with correspondence from constituents requesting a people’s vote. The Prime Minister continually states that this is a good deal for the UK—not the best deal or a brilliant deal but a good deal. If she is so confident, there is no reason not to go for a people’s vote.
I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave earlier.
In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), in relation to Schengen, the Prime Minister admitted that it was incredibly difficult and took a long time to negotiate an agreement with the EU when already in the EU. If that is so, how on earth does she think it will be easy, straightforward or quick to negotiate all the hundreds, if not thousands, of agreements implied in this document?
First, it is in the interests of both sides to have that access. Secondly, the fact that we did negotiate membership of SIS II, despite our not being a member of Schengen, shows it is possible to negotiate such a thing when both sides see that it is in their interests.
If the Prime Minister is so proud of this document and the withdrawal agreement and believes that it is what people voted for, why does she not seek to strengthen her really terribly weak negotiating hand by putting it to a people’s vote, along with the alternative of staying in the EU? And before she gives another glib answer about this being what politicians want, I should say that almost 3,000 of my constituents have written to me with their concerns about Brexit. They deserve the courtesy of a proper answer.
I have answered the question about a people’s vote on a number of occasions, and the hon. Gentleman will be able to see that answer in Hansard.
I have listened closely to the answers that the Prime Minister has given to questions about relationships with agencies such as the European Medicines Agency. People think that this is a deal, but it is not; it is the start of a long and complex negotiation. She will know that representatives of the life sciences sector have said that it is essential for our future that we have full membership of these agencies. Are they wrong?
As I said in an earlier answer, the declaration states that
“it is the clear intent of both Parties to develop in good faith agreements giving effect to this relationship”.
The hon. Gentleman talks about the life sciences sector. This Government have been putting together a life sciences sector deal. We recognise the importance of the life sciences sector, and it is our modern industrial strategy that is delivering for the life sciences sector.
If we are being honest, the majority of Members are at an age where they have more yesterdays than tomorrows, but there are millions of young people out there whose opportunities will be curtailed as a result of Brexit. I want to ask the Prime Minister a question that I have been asking since I entered the House. Will a first-year student at Lochend High School in Easterhouse still be able to enjoy Erasmus by the time they leave high school?
We have referred to the continuing ability for us to participate in programmes, and Erasmus is one of those that we had in mind, but of course, we have to look at the conditions that would be required for our continuing membership of Erasmus. I challenge the hon. Gentleman, because I do not believe that the futures of young people are in any way restricted as a result of our decision to leave the European Union. Indeed, the way in which we will build new relationships around the rest of the world could enhance the futures of young people and the opportunities open to them.