New Partnership with the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:51 pm on 17th January 2017.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 1:51 pm, 17th January 2017

When we started down this route, I said to the House that the Government had been given a national instruction that we would attempt to interpret in the national interest. That seemed to me to be the right approach. Rather than a 52/48 approach, it is an approach that encompasses everybody’s interests. I hope that we have done that today.

Keir Starmer is a very talented man, and his questions were as forensic as we would expect. He asked about membership of the single market, so we answered that. We laid out the claims on the customs union, which was another of his questions. He asked for detail to scrutinise the plan to see where we are going. Within the context of not undermining our negotiation, that is entirely what we have tried to do. I had hoped to see some Opposition Members support what we think is a responsible, thoughtful but realistic plan that takes on board the instruction that we have been given by the British people to take us out of the European Union, but in a way that preserves our interests as best we can, whether security interests, economic interests or whatever.

Let me deal with some of the specific points raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman. I will put aside my disappointment at the tone. He says that a free trade agreement will need to have a disputes resolution procedure. So it will; they nearly all do. It does not have to be the European Court of Justice, though. We can agree that he has just got the thrust of it wrong. As for the other things: tariff-free, I agree; impediment-free, I agree. Alignment of regulation? That may well be necessary in some aspects, but we will see as the negotiation develops. On goods and services, I agree. The hon. and learned Gentleman is not putting up any hurdle that, frankly, we do not intend to cross ourselves.

Now, on this question of threats, this was not a threat. It was the Chancellor saying in an interview, “Well, if you go down the route of a punitive approach, this is the consequence and this is what will happen.” Nations defend themselves. Nobody says it is what we want to do. It is specifically not what we want to do. We want the freest, most friendly possible relationship we can get, and that is what we will set out to do.

The other areas, including questions on matters such as criminal justice, home affairs issues and so on, will develop as we go through the negotiation. The Prime Minister is a very distinguished ex-Home Secretary—the longest-lasting Home Secretary in recent times—and she has as good a grip of our home affairs needs as the ex-Director of Public Prosecutions has. He can take it as read that we will, over time in this House and, most particularly, in the negotiating chamber with the Europeans, address all the issues he raised. I happen to think that they will have as much interest in resolving those issues as we do. The negotiation is predicated on us doing what is in the interests of everybody: ourselves, the Europeans and all our neighbours in our part of the globe. That is what we intend to do and what we intend to deliver on.