What discussions he has had with Ministers in the devolved Administrations on renegotiation of the UK’s membership of the EU.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister discussed the United Kingdom’s renegotiation plans with the First Minister of Scotland during his recent visit to Edinburgh. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to all three devolved Administration leaders in the margins of the recent British-Irish Council. It is a regular agenda item at meetings between the United Kingdom Government and the three devolved Administrations.
The Minister will be aware that the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales have said that it would be unacceptable for any part of the United Kingdom to be taken out of the EU against its will.
Given that the Foreign Secretary is on the record as saying that the UK could leave the EU if treaty renegotiations are not to his liking, will the Minister say whether that opinion has been discussed with the First Ministers of the devolved Administrations?
I do not think the First Minister has ever been shy about making her opinions known to British Ministers. The key point is that British membership of the European Union is the membership of the whole of the United Kingdom. Our membership of international organisations is explicitly a reserved matter under the terms of the devolution settlements. Under this Government, the people of Scotland will at least have the right to a vote on whether they wish to stay in the European Union, which the hon. Gentleman’s party tried to deny them when it voted against the European Union Referendum Bill the other week.
As I said a moment ago, it was the United Kingdom that acceded to the European Union back in the 1970s, and it is the United Kingdom as a whole that will take the decision by the end of 2017 whether we wish to maintain that membership.
The Minister will be aware that Britain’s relationship with the EU is vital to the people of Gibraltar and to the people of the Crown dependencies that trade with the EU. Will he ensure that consultations take place with the Parliaments and Governments of Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man?
We will certainly want to take account of the views of the Crown dependencies and the British overseas territories. Of course, the people of Gibraltar will, under the Bill we have brought forward, be entitled to a vote when the referendum comes.
Apart from discussions in the margins of the British-Irish Council, will the Minister confirm whether there will be actual discussions as part of the agenda of the British-Irish Council involving the Government of the south of Ireland? An exit from the European Union would have a detrimental impact on business and energy relations north and south, and between Britain and Ireland.
The Government’s renegotiation is certainly regularly discussed whenever I or any of my ministerial colleagues talk to our Irish counterparts.
I intend to visit all three devolved Administrations later this year. I have no doubt that I will be able to engage in good conversations with political leaders in all three Administrations, so I can take clear account of their views.