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Global Britain

Volume 671: debated on Monday 3 February 2020

With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement on global Britain, following the Prime Minister’s written ministerial statement today.

Last Friday, 31 January, the United Kingdom left the European Union. Before then, for three long years, we had debated the European question. Members on both sides of the Chamber were weary and people out in the country were tired of the wrangling, so I think there is relief on all sides that the question is now settled. I know that the point of departure is difficult for many people—decent people who love their country and who did not want us to leave—so it is incumbent on this Government to show that leaving marks not an ending, but a bold new beginning. We take that responsibility very seriously.

When we ratified the withdrawal agreement, this Government and this Parliament finally delivered on the promise made to the British people over three years ago. We did that as a matter of democratic principle. We did it to keep faith with and to retain the confidence of the British people. In doing so, we sent a strong signal to the EU and to the world about our ambition and our resolve as we chart the course ahead. As one United Kingdom, we are now free to determine our own future as masters of our own destiny. We are free to reinvigorate our ties with old allies. We are free to forge new friendships around the world. As we seek those new relationships with friends and partners, the interests of the British people and the integrity of our Union will be the foundation stone of everything we do.

The Prime Minister’s speech this morning and the written statement to the House start us on that journey by setting out the Government’s proposed approach to our relations with the EU in 2020. The most important thing about 2020 is that having left the EU at the start of it, at the end of it we will fully and with absolute certainty regain complete economic and political independence. That is when the transition period ends, and it will not be extended.

We will have a new relationship with the EU, as sovereign equals, based on free trade. Between now and the end of the year, we will work with the EU to try to negotiate a free trade agreement, drawing on other recent agreements, such as the one between the EU and Canada. That should be the core of our future relationship. We will look to reach agreements on other priorities, including fisheries, internal security and aviation. These will be backed up by governance and dispute settlement arrangements appropriate to a free trade agreement, with no alignment and no role for the European Court of Justice, respectful of our democratic prerogatives. We hope we can agree. If we cannot, we will of course carry on trading with the EU in the same way as Australia and many other countries around the world—as a free country, collaborating where we can, and setting our own rules that work for us.

Of course, the EU is not our only trading partner, and at the same time we will be seeking to get agreements with other great trading countries around the world. We are delighted—in the words of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when he was here last week—that the UK is now front of the queue for a free trade deal with the United States. We expect to open negotiations with the US and other countries very soon—in that way we can broaden our horizons to embrace the huge opportunities in the rising economies of the future, where 90% of the world’s growth comes from. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade will set out more detail in a written statement later this week, and I will visit Australia, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia over the next two weeks.

At such a crossroads moment, it is fitting and timely that this Government will engage in a thorough and careful review of the United Kingdom’s place in the world, including through the integrated security, defence and foreign policy review. This review is an opportunity for us to reassess the ways we engage on the global stage—including in defence, diplomacy and our approach to development—to ensure we have a fully integrated approach, because now is the moment to look ahead with confidence and ambition, to signal to our future partners the outward-facing, trailblazing country that we intend to be.

We have a vision of a truly global Britain. The first pillar of our global Britain strategy will be to continue to prove that we are the best possible allies, partners and friends with our European neighbours. We are working closely with our European partners to find a political solution in Libya. We will continue to stand together to hold Iran to account for its systemic non-compliance with the joint comprehensive plan of action, the nuclear deal. We will work together to tackle shared threats and global challenges, whether it is Russia’s aggression, terrorism, rising authoritarianism, climate change or, indeed, health crises such as the coronavirus. It was our honour on Friday to bring home 29 other Europeans on the UK-commissioned charter flight from Wuhan, along with the 97 Britons, because we will always look out for our European friends, with whom we share so many interests. I am grateful to the Spanish Foreign Minister for Spain’s help in co-ordinating that effort and to the French Foreign Minister in relation to the flight that came home on Sunday.[Official Report, 5 February 2020, Vol. 671, c. 6MC.]

The next pillar of our global Britain strategy will be the UK’s role as an energetic champion of free and open trade—to boost small businesses, cut the cost of living, create the well-paid jobs of the future for the next generation, provide more consumer choice and to raise UK productivity, which is so important for our “levelling up” agenda right across the country. The pursuit of shared prosperity has an essential role to play in our approach to development policy, too. As we maintain our 0.7% commitment on development spending, we need to find better ways of making sure it contributes to long-term and sustainable economic growth. As we demonstrated at the UK-Africa Investment Summit, we believe the UK has a unique and competitive offer to tackle poverty and help poorer nations benefit in a way that benefits us all over the longer term.

Finally, the third pillar of our global Britain will be the UK as an even stronger force for good in the world. Our guiding lights will remain the values of democracy, human rights and the international rule of law, and we will lead on global issues that really matter, such as climate change. That is why this year we will host the UN climate change summit, COP26, in Glasgow. We will lead by example and rise to the challenge by harnessing all the British talents in tech, innovation and entrepreneurialism to find creative solutions to global problems. We will champion the great causes of our day, as through our campaign to give every girl access to 12 years of quality education. We will defend journalists from attack, stand up for freedom of religion and conscience, and develop our own independent sanctions regime to tackle human rights abusers head on. Together, united, we can show that this country is so much bigger than the sum of its parts.

I know the hon. Gentleman does not like that commitment, but it is what the Scottish people voted for.

The 31st of January was a day that will be etched in our history. It has been hard going, and I know that many good people on both sides of the House and all sides of this totemic debate still bear the scars of the last three years, but now is the time to put our differences aside and come together, so together let us embrace a new chapter for our country, let us move forward united and unleash the enormous potential of the British people, and let us show the world that our finest achievements and our greatest contributions lie ahead. I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the Secretary of State for the advance copy of his statement.

The Foreign Secretary is right that the last three years have been difficult and divisive for our country. He is also right that leaving the EU does not mark an ending. We have left the EU, but Brexit is far from done. As he knows, the next stage is more difficult—agreeing our future relationship in all the areas he set out, and in more besides—and we will continue to be dogged by the central dilemma that was at the heart of much of the wrangling over the last three years: will the new relationship be determined by the economic interests of our country or by the ideological commitment to break with the European social model that drove so many of the Brexit enthusiasts? I am sorry to see that today’s statement and the Prime Minister’s comments over the weekend suggest that ideology has trumped common sense.

Difficult decisions lie ahead for our country, and if the Government are serious about bringing people together we need reassurance that they will conduct the next stage of negotiations in an open and accountable way—and not by banning journalists from their political briefings, as they apparently did earlier this afternoon. The Government stripped Parliament’s role in providing accountability from the withdrawal agreement Act, so will the Foreign Secretary at least commit to publishing all negotiating texts and proposals and reporting to Parliament on each round of negotiations? [Interruption.] I want to see this Parliament in no less a place than the European Parliament, as the EU negotiators will. Will he also set out exactly how the three devolved nations will be consulted at every stage of the process?

The country is faced with two options—two opposite destinations: we can either form a new and close relationship with our biggest trading partners, or open the door and lower our standards by pursuing the damaging trade deal with Donald Trump that the Foreign Secretary welcomed in his comments. [Interruption.] I see the faces of some Government Members. They may change when the farmers whom many of them represent respond to Trump’s ambitions for that trade deal, which would damage not only farming but manufacturing, lower standards and expose our public services to real risks. As Government Members might have noticed, this weekend the UK’s former ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch, made it clear that Trump would aim to force the NHS to pay higher prices for pharmaceuticals. The NHS itself has expressed concern about that.

The reckless pursuit of a Trump trade deal is limiting the Government’s aims in their negotiations with the EU. We started with a commitment to the “exact same benefits” as we currently enjoy with the EU. That was scaled back to “frictionless trade”. Now it is either a damaging Canada-style deal or leaving without a deal—rebranded as an Australia-style deal. Do the Government still recognise their own analysis from 2018—the Foreign Secretary will note that the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), is sitting behind him—which shows that a Canada-style deal would lead to a 6.7% reduction in our GDP, while a WTO-style deal would lead to a 9.3% hit, hurting every region and nation of our country?

Business will be alarmed by the casual way in which the Foreign Secretary talks about leaving without an agreement, and other sectors—such as universities, which are critical to our future—will be concerned about the fact that they were not mentioned at all in his statement, or in the written statement from the Prime Minister. Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the Government will press for association with Horizon Europe and continued participation in Erasmus?

Labour will continue to press for a relationship with our European partners based on common regulation and a level playing field, for a new place in the world based on internationalist values, and for a future with equality and social justice at its heart.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks about the importance of moving beyond the divisions of the referendum. However, I think I am right in saying that not one member of the shadow Cabinet is here to address these issues. [Interruption.] I apologise. There is one. However, the shadow Foreign Secretary and the shadow Brexit Secretary are busy debating the Labour leadership, although this is an important moment for Members in all parts of the House to look at the future direction of this country.

The hon. Gentleman talked about parliamentary scrutiny. We have made it absolutely clear—the Prime Minister made this point on Second Reading of the Bill that became the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020—that Parliament will be kept fully informed about the progress of the negotiations. Both Houses will have access to all their usual arrangements for scrutinising the actions of the Executive, and the Government are confident that Parliament will take full advantage of those opportunities. We will also ensure that there is full engagement with the devolved Administrations.

The hon. Gentleman made a number of other points, and I have been listening to his more recent remarks, including those made since the election. He has said that the Labour party should have organised an out-and-out campaign for Remain during the election campaign. That suggests to me that the hon. Gentleman, and indeed the Labour party, have still not quite “got it” that there is a referendum result, a democratic will, that must be respected. We will not move on from this debate, let alone grasp the opportunities of Brexit, if the hon. Gentleman and the Labour party stay stuck in that rut.

It was not clear to me whether his attack on our proposals and ambition for free trade agreements was just the tired, old anti-Americanism that is harboured in the Labour party, or whether he is actually against free trade in itself, but he does not seem to believe in democracy and he does not seem to believe in free trade, and at points during his remarks he did not seem to believe in the potential of this country.

Let me now turn to the hon. Gentleman’s specific points about a free trade agreement with the United States. Let us be absolutely clear, as we have already been: the national health service is not on the table during those negotiations. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is pointing and asking about pharmaceutical companies. The pricing of UK medicine is not up for negotiation. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says that that is not what the ambassador says. It is what this Government and this Prime Minister say.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the free trade agreement with the United States, but he made no mention of the prospects for an ambitious FTA with Japan, Australia or New Zealand, or of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Is he against those as well? It seems to me that he is pitting himself against a huge opportunity for this country to grow its trade, boost its small businesses and ease the cost of living for consumers, and that is a step back, not forward, for the United Kingdom. He also mentioned forecasts. I think that there is a degree of healthy scepticism about some of those forecasts.

The United Kingdom and the Government are not passive observers. It is incumbent on us—through our approach to the economy, through an ambitious approach to free trade and through getting the right immigration policy—to ensure that we grasp the opportunities, and we on this side of the House are absolutely committed to grasping those opportunities and making a full success of Britain in every quarter of the Union.

The hon. Gentleman referred to business sentiment. We have seen purchasing managers index data on manufacturing today, which was positive at 50 points. The EY ITEM Club has identified an increase in business confidence, and the International Monetary Fund has increased its forecast for the UK. We are confident that we can make a success of Brexit. I am only sorry that the Labour party is still looking over its shoulder.

My right hon. Friend’s statement made only a passing reference to the agreement on internal security for the future. Unlike the Labour party, I do not expect the Government to publish their full negotiating mandate, but will they publicly make much clearer their intentions for that treaty in regard to key instruments that keep us safe, such as PNR—passenger name records—the Prüm convention and Schengen information system II? What is the final date on which that treaty can be agreed, such that it will become operational on 1 January 2021?

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for the work that she has done in this area. For more detail, I can point her in the direction of the Prime Minister’s written ministerial statement. She will know from her own experience of negotiating with the EU that there are difficulties because it claims that access to some of the instruments will be conditional on accepting free movement. I know that she will agree that we must bring an end to free movement. However, I accept that data sharing, extradition and our relationship with Europol and Eurojust are important elements of our law enforcement co-operation, and we will be looking forward to securing appropriate relations with the EU.

I thank the Secretary of State for giving me early sight of his statement. He said that the UK would “look ahead with confidence” and “signal to future partners” that we were “outward-facing”. May I disagree? I think that all these plans risk making the UK a smaller, more insular and more isolated place. He also spoke about a “truly global Britain” and about being the “best possible allies” with the EU, but I fear that that was rather contradicted when the Prime Minister said in his written statement today that there would not be “any regulatory alignment” at all, even on the efficacy of medicines.

The Prime Minister also said that there would be no

“supranational control in any area”

of UK policy. The World Trade Organisation has an appellate body—a dispute resolution body—the European Free Trade Association has a court to deal with disputes, and even the much-vaunted CPTPP has an investor-state dispute resolution mechanism. Unless the English language has changed, every single one of those bodies and mechanisms has supernatural effect—[Laughter.] It may well be supernatural as well! Every one of those bodies has supranational effect. Does the Secretary of State not understand that if our putative trading partners insist on formal dispute resolution mechanisms or institutions, our saying no might risk the UK being seen as abandoning the international rules-based system? Does he not understand that rejecting formal dispute resolution mechanisms or institutions when our partners insist on them will make it harder, not easier, to strike deals? Does he not understand that if the UK reverts to WTO rules—the UK’s favoured option outside any real agreements—the WTO has an appellate body, a dispute resolution body, that is supranational in its effect, thus rendering the red lines laid out by the Prime Minister this morning utterly useless before the ink is even dry on them?

The hon. Gentleman referred at the outset of his question to an approach that was smaller, insular and isolated, but I am afraid that that sounds like the Scottish National party’s recipe for the people of Scotland. The Conservatives want one United Kingdom proceeding forward and ready to grasp any opportunities, including for the Scottish people, and including ensuring that we have full control over our fisheries as an independent coastal state—one thing that he would clearly be willing to sacrifice at the drop of a hat. Although it is understandable that the SNP, given the views of its leadership, calls for more and more powers to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, it is astonishing that it wants to give up power to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels through what he calls dynamic legislative alignment. There is a total contradiction in his position.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the dispute resolution mechanism. The UK Government will approach the negotiations in the same way we did for the withdrawal agreement—although this will be tailored to free trade and areas of security co-operation—and will ensure that there is a track for negotiated diplomacy to resolve problems through political resolution. As for arbitration, where it is necessary, the common practice is that both sides appoint arbitrators and appoint a chair. What we will never do—the EU calls for this and the SNP seems to endorse it—is allow one side’s judicial institutions to have control over the dispute resolution mechanism for both sides. That would be entirely lopsided and a fundamental abdication of responsibility by any responsible Government, and we will not go down that path.

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman will continue to make in his own way the blinkered arguments for a second referendum in Scotland. In the meantime, we will continue to work in the full interests of the whole United Kingdom and take this country forward together and united.

My right hon. Friend will have welcomed how our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister handled the recent Iran emergency and will agree that his work in bringing together two other European powers into the E3 was extremely impressive. Does my right hon. Friend have any views on a few more of the institutional tie-ups that Lord Hague recommended to the Foreign Affairs Committee in the previous Parliament? Although global Britain works beautifully in reaching out, perhaps we could look at and grow some of our more immediate bilateral partnerships.

My hon. Friend makes some good points. Of course, the E3 co-operation lies outside the formal structures of the EU, but it worked effectively in the recent Berlin conference on Libya, and we also worked closely on triggering the DRM under the joint comprehensive plan of action. By working in co-operation with our French and Spanish partners on the coronavirus evacuations and chartered flights, we have shown that bilateral relations provide ample opportunity to prove that we will be even stronger neighbours, partners and allies in the years ahead.

In the Prime Minister’s other written ministerial statement this morning on the closure of the Department for Exiting the European Union, he said:

“Those of its functions which are still required have been transferred to relevant government departments.”

Will the Foreign Secretary tell the House to which Department and which Minister responsibility for the negotiations on our future relationship with the EU has been transferred? The Exiting the European Union Committee will be keen to hear from him or her as soon as they are identified.

Of course, people from a range of Departments were siphoned into DExEU when it was created. We have taken back a significant number of DExEU officials into the Foreign Office, and the Minister for Europe and the Americas, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher), talked to them earlier today. They will be integrated into the wider functions of Government in the usual way.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement and the Prime Minister on his.

Looking at the service sector, given that the EU has made next to no effort in most of the trade deal arrangements that they have negotiated to put any special pressure for a regulatory position for the UK in financial services, does my right hon. Friend now think that the EU will reference enhanced equivalence, as in the paper written by the lawyer Barnabas Reynolds, which the Treasury accepted? Will my right hon. Friend be proposing that to the EU as the way forward when it comes to regulation?

Our ambition is to include comprehensive obligations on market access and fair competition in relation to—

The Prime Minister’s adviser, David Frost, is leading the negotiations. If the hon. Gentleman was paying attention, he would know that already. As for financial services, we are willing to look at regulatory and supervisory co-operation arrangements as long as they can be done on the basis of equivalence. I am aware of the paper to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) refers, but the matter is already in the political declaration. Obviously, as we proceed with the second phase of the negotiations on the future relationship, we will want to ensure that the EU lives up to its side of the bargain in that area.

As the Foreign Secretary embarks on his review of the world, will he remember individual cases affected by our foreign policy—including that of my constituent Luke Symons, who, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is being held captive by the Houthis in Sana’a? The family have been in touch with the Foreign Office about concerns for his welfare and mental health. Can the Foreign Secretary assure me that maximum efforts are being made to secure Luke’s release?

I can, and I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his tireless efforts on behalf of his constituent. It is a difficult case, but we will continue to do as much as we can to support the family and to secure release. The consular teams in the Foreign Office, as well as the missions and the geographic departments, work very hard on this. A lot of the consular work takes place beneath the surface, privately; the exercise of diplomacy has to be done out of the public limelight, almost by definition. But I assure the hon. Gentleman that we work tirelessly to secure release in cases such as this.

Will the Foreign Secretary give a cast-iron guarantee that under no circumstances will the territorial sovereignty of Gibraltar be part of any type of negotiation as part of the trade agreement? Will he also confirm that any free trade agreement with the EU—and, indeed, the rest of the world—in future will include benefits for all our overseas territories and the Crown dependencies?

I thank my hon. Friend, who has been a tireless champion of not just Gibraltar but all the overseas territories. We are absolutely clear: the UK will not exclude Gibraltar from our negotiations with the EU. We will negotiate on behalf of the whole United Kingdom family, and that includes Gibraltar.

If the concept of a global Britain is to have any meaning and value, surely it must have respect for human rights and an international rules-based order at its heart. With that in mind, will the Foreign Secretary reconsider the unqualified support he gave to President Trump last week in respect of the so-called peace plan for Palestine? Will the right hon. Gentleman repudiate the proposed annexation of the west bank and at long last support the recognition of a Palestinian state?

I gently say to the right hon. Gentleman that I do not think he has read the detail of this. Whatever else he may disagree with, the one thing that the plan put forward by the US included was a recognition of and commitment to a two-state solution. We have been absolutely clear that that is the only way in which the conflict can be resolved.

We support a plan and a mechanism to get the parties out of the destabilising vacuum and void that there has been of late, and around the table. The plan is only the point of departure. I share some of the concerns expressed around settlements; I think there is also a question around the status of Jerusalem. But above all, rather than just rejecting the plan, it is important that we try to bring the parties together around the negotiating table. That is the only path to peace and to a two-state solution.

The Prime Minister’s speech was really clear in giving examples of how far above the level playing field the UK already is. In seeking a Canada-style free trade agreement, along the lines of what I think is chapter 15 on financial services equivalence, will the Foreign Secretary tell us a little more about what is mentioned in the written ministerial statement—the structured withdrawal of equivalence for financial services and who would arbitrate on that?

We have said not only in the written statement but in the political declaration that we want financial services to proceed on the basis of the kind of co-operation that involves recognition of the equivalence of regulation. We think that is the best approach for the UK but also for the relationship with the EU.

The dispute resolution mechanism will be tailored to the different fields and sectors covered by the FTA and the broader areas of co-operation. However, in the case of binding resolution, we have been clear that that would involve arbitration with both parties contributing. Typically, a chair is selected by the arbitrators who have been nominated, and that does not involve the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

If the 15-year damage to our economy is not to be the 6.7% or 9.3% respectively for the so-called Canada deal or no deal, which the Government are now trying to rebadge as an “Australian deal”, what is it? And why have the Government changed their mind?

We are absolutely confident that the approach we are taking allows us to grasp the opportunities, including in relation to free trade and in making sure we have full control over our own laws and are fully economically and politically independent.

Around the world protectionism is growing, and the UK has a duty to be a vocal advocate for free trade across the globe. So what reassurance can my right hon. Friend give businesses and manufacturers in my constituency that we will do just that and that free trade will become the backbone of British foreign policy?

My hon. Friend will have heard the Prime Minister’s speech this morning, and I am sure it will repay reading. He is clear that at a time when there is protectionism around the world, there is a real case and place—and this would be a real unique selling point for us—for the United Kingdom being a champion of liberal, global free trade. That will have advantages not only for the businesses in my hon. Friend’s constituency but for the low-income and middle-income families who appreciate and feel the cost of living pressures, because of the way this increases choice and reduces prices at home.

Hosting the global climate conference COP26 is a huge opportunity for Britain to tackle the climate emergency and play an international leadership role. So why is this mired in chaos and confusion? The Prime Minister has failed to chair a single meeting of the climate Cabinet Committee and now he has sacked the conference president. Why is that? What are the Government going to do to play that leadership role that we all need to see?

The leadership role is seen, first, in the actions we are taking in decarbonising the UK economy; secondly, in being the first major economy to commit to net zero by 2030; and thirdly, in showing the international leadership. We do not just want the country together; we want to bring other countries together, and that is why we are hosting COP26. I pay tribute to the work Claire Perry did. As we move forward to this more intense lead-up to COP26, it is right that there is full ministerial responsibility over the negotiations and over the leadership of the COP.

Trade is important, but so are our values. Will the Foreign Secretary commit to ensuring that our values of freedom of speech, a free press, an independent judiciary, and paying great attention to tackling modern slavery and other such international crimes, are front and centre in all that this country does in the coming months and years?

I can reassure my hon. Friend, and not just with the campaign for media freedom, which we are leading along with our Canadian friends; we have that emphasis on protecting journalists and whistleblowers, who shine a light on the worst injustices in the bleakest corners of the world. I do not know whether he is in the Chamber, but I pay tribute to the Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti), and we will be taking that work forward. We are also introducing a separate new autonomous sanctions regime to make sure that the worst human rights abusers in the world can be held to account, through visa bans and asset freezes.

Tackling the climate emergency must be core to trade policy, yet the lack of specific Government proposals looks miserably weak compared with the European Commission work on carbon border tariffs and the European Parliament ruling out trade deals with countries not signed up to the Paris agreement. The Foreign Secretary keeps going on about how Britain is going to be leading the world in tackling climate change, so let us prove it: can he say whether or not the Government will commit to going at least as far as those two EU proposals? No more waffle, no more rhetoric—will he or will he not?

We have set out our proposals, and we are committed to that ambition: reducing to net zero by 2050; continuing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions; and bringing together innovation, technology and entrepreneurs to provide British answers to the climate change challenge. Of course, with our Italian co-hosts, we are also leading the COP26 conference in November.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, as an independent coastal state, our UK fishermen will be given priority over catching any fish stocks in our 200-mile to median line limit?

We automatically take back control of our waters and others’ right to fish in them at the end of 2020. We will be leaving the common fisheries policy, so we will be an independent coastal state. In line with the practice of other such states, the agreement we do with the EU will provide a framework for annual negotiations on access and quotas. I hope that gives my hon. Friend and her constituents the reassurance they need.

In aerospace, aviation, engineering, food, farming and ceramics, the organisations that represent those who employ millions of workers have expressed serious concern over what happens if the Government get it wrong. Will the Secretary of State undertake that the Government will, in the next stages, fully engage those industrial organisations and the unions that represent the workers concerned, not least because if the Government get it wrong—there is a real risk of that—tens of thousands of workers will pay the price with their jobs?

I do not share the hon Gentleman’s pessimistic outlook, but it is important that all areas of civil society, including the unions, are engaged and can feed in their views on all the different sectoral aspects he mentioned. The hon. Gentleman talked in particular about aviation; we believe that there is mutual benefit in an air-transport agreement that covers market access to air services, aviation safety and security. That is just one of the wider areas of co-operation that we will look to take forward with our EU partners.

Will the Government confirm that the European Union has misjudged the mettle of this Government and country in thinking that we are going to give away our fish again and accept all the EU’s laws in return for a free trade agreement that it needs more than us? I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement, and say no more concessions.

I think I agree with all my right hon. Friend’s points. We were asked by the EU to make a choice and we have chosen a Canada-style agreement. It seems to many of us that the EU would like to cherry-pick by giving us the level of access of a Canada-style agreement while wanting the level of alignment of a Norwegian-style agreement. That is not on the table.

If we diverge from EU standards to secure a US trade deal, that will have huge consequences for Northern Ireland. Many in the US Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, have said that they will never ratify any infringements of the Good Friday agreement, and they have said so publicly. Will the Secretary of State explain how the situation will be resolved?

It has already been materially resolved. When I was out in Washington, I met many members on the hill from all sides of Congress, including Richie Neal, who chairs the Friends of Ireland caucus. We were able to show that, with the changes we have made to the withdrawal agreement and the protections and safeguards for the Good Friday agreement, we are protecting the situation in Northern Ireland. We have strong support on both sides of the aisle in the US for the approach we have taken and, indeed, for US-UK free trade agreement. I hope that the hon. Lady will now get behind it.

Will the Foreign Secretary assure the House in clear, explicit terms that under no circumstances will there be any role for the European Court of Justice, that there will be no acceptance of EU rules, and that there will be no weakening in our resolve to impose tariffs if the EU will not conduct a fair and free negotiation? In the words of our former Prime Minister, “No. No. No.”—and this time we will back the Prime Minister.

We of course enter the negotiations with a spirit of optimism, ambition and good will, but we also want to be clear. I think a question was asked earlier about the EU side not understanding what is and is not up for negotiation. We are not going to allow the European Court of Justice to adjudicate disputes that affect the United Kingdom. That is not global practice and it would be totally lopsided. Equally, in relation to a level playing field or other areas of high alignment, we have been absolutely clear—the Prime Minister was this morning—that we will have full economic and political independence and full control over our laws.

The Foreign Secretary says that he wants a Canada-style free trade agreement and claims that FTAs never include level-playing-field obligations, but article 23.4 of the EU-Canada FTA clearly states that

“it is inappropriate to encourage trade or investment by weakening or reducing…labour law and standards.”

Will the Foreign Secretary be honest with the British people and state clearly that free trade agreements always include level-playing-field obligations?

I know that the hon. Gentleman follows these things carefully. Of course, the article in the EU-Canada agreement to which he refers is a hortatory recognition of the importance of strong labour laws; it is not legislative high alignment. That is precisely the kind of approach that the UK would take.

What I hope we can still call the Prime Minister’s tour de force this morning laid out clearly that he did not believe we needed any further treaties or institutions to cover security, foreign and defence issues, but to avoid any misunderstanding will the Foreign Secretary confirm that agreement on data protection is going to be vital, not only for security issues but for wider service export interests? We currently have a considerable service surplus in our trade with the EU.

My hon. Friend is right that data is important. We are, of course, looking at the data adequacy process. Given the high level and high standards of UK regulation and laws in this regard, we are confident that, whatever approach we agree on in relation to the deal, we will be able to secure it in order to safeguard data-sharing both among businesses and individuals, but also, as he says quite rightly, in relation to law enforcement and wider areas of security.

The Foreign Secretary knows that the WTO and its dispute resolution system are operationally dysfunctional, because the US will not appoint appellant judges. Does he accept that, if we drift away from the protection of the laws, the rules and the courts of the EU, our jobs will be put at risk and our financial services, in particular, will disperse? We are already seeing the currency down 1%. Will he focus on keeping us aligned, rather than moving to a system that does not work?

I certainly agree that there is a case for WTO reform and for making sure that it can be an effective mechanism for resolving disputes. We want the WTO to work effectively. We want to be a champion of reform and liberalisation within the WTO. The answer though is not then to abdicate our responsibility through legislative high alignment with the EU.

Every one of the Nobel prizes in the sciences awarded this year was awarded not to an individual, but to a group of people from different countries and different institutions. It is clear that creative genius is international. Will my right hon. Friend tell us how British scientists can continue to operate in international, global and European networks?

The issue of 5G and high-risk vendors has raised the importance of making sure that the UK has the right fiscal regulatory approach to encouraging tech investment in this country so that, for both the present and the future, it is an area of competitive advantage. When we co-operate and collaborate with our North American friends, our Five Eyes friends and our European friends, it is important to ensure that we have the collaborative approach and the mobility arrangements through the tax and the research and development incentives to boost tech nationally. It is important that we work with our like-minded friends and partners.

Does the Secretary of State agree that sensible deals such as lowering the bourbon tariff from the US to facilitate lowering the whisky tariff for all the United Kingdom, including for my own Echlinville Distillery in Kircubbin in Strangford, is the way to make the most of what we can achieve on the global market?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. That is just one area where a free trade agreement with the US and, indeed, with other countries around the world—particularly with the markets of the future and the growth opportunities of the future, in the Asia Pacific area—can create benefits for all quarters and for all nations of the United Kingdom.

After three years of Brexit distraction, it is wonderful to hear a Foreign Secretary who is determined to see Britain play a more influential role on the international stage. To that end, does he agree that the forthcoming security review will prove to be an inflection point in determining the impact of the growing threats that we face, the aspirational role that the UK aspires to play, and the subsequent hard and soft power upgrade that we will require to fulfil that ambition?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question and congratulate him on his recent election to the Select Committee. I agree with all the aspects that he raised. We want to make sure that we look at foreign policy and all its elements in the round, from security to development. We want to make sure that, as we move forward—leaving the European Union is a point of departure, not the point of arrival—we are global champions of free trade, good strong allies and neighbours not just with our American allies and friends, but with our European friends, and, above all, an even stronger force for good in the world.

Given that 10p in every pound that this Government spend comes from the financial services sector, will my right hon. Friend ensure that that sector is a key priority in trade negotiations ahead?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right—financial services are a critical part of the UK economy. In the political declaration, clear arrangements are envisaged to make sure that we can strengthen financial services, both in the UK and into the European Union, and in particular I hope that the arrangements that we will pursue around equivalence will give effect to that.

Those of us on the SNP Benches are told continually that we are privileged to be part of the world’s most successful union of nations, yet I could detect no reference whatsoever to the devolved Administrations in the Secretary of State’s speech. What will his negotiating strategy be with the devolved Administrations as he seeks to take forward his vision of global Britain?

I am glad to say that, beneath all the political froth, in my time as Brexit Secretary and from what I have observed since, the devolved Administrations have played a vital role in feeding in their priorities, making sure that the Government can update them on the process, the trade-offs and the competing interests that inevitably inform an international negotiation. I know that that will continue as we move forward.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there seem to have been hints from the Government that they will put more effort into the United Nations in future as part of global Britain, and in particular that we should put more effort into peacekeeping and that sort of activity in the United Nations? That will increase our soft power within a great organisation.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, not for his role in the House, but for his experience and role in peacekeeping operations. I particularly remember him giving evidence to the Yugoslavia tribunal, in my time in The Hague, as an expert witness. He is absolutely right, and as we leave the European Union, while we want to maintain strong relations with our European friends and partners, we also want to make sure that NATO is fit for the future, and is strengthened and reinforced, given the changing threats that it faces. As he so rightly says, there is also an increasing role for an even more ambitious approach in the United Nations on human rights, but also on peacekeeping.

Successive Prime Ministers have come back from the European Council and boasted, quite rightly in many cases, how well they have done persuading the whole of the EU to adopt sanctions in relation to Russia. How are we going to do that when we are no longer sitting in the room?

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. We will have the freedom to have a more autonomous approach to sanctions. [Interruption.] It is not quite true, if he looks at the competence of the EU. In relation to human rights abuses, we will set out our proposals shortly, but we have an interesting opportunity, working with our Canadian and wider Five Eyes partners, as well as with our bilateral partners who are closest to us on human rights issues, to provide, cement and reinforce an even broader coalition of like-minded countries that will hold dictators and despots to account for the worst abuses.

For those whose questions have not been taken, we will certainly try to get you in in a future statement. I call the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the right hon. Nick Hancock.