European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:50 pm on 31st January 2017.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 12:50 pm, 31st January 2017

No, not for the moment.

The Prime Minister set out a bold and ambitious vision for the UK, outlining our key negotiating objectives as we move to establish a comprehensive new partnership with the European Union. This will be a partnership in the best interests of the whole of the United Kingdom, and we will continue to work with the devolved Administrations to make sure that the voices of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland continue to be heard throughout the negotiation process. I will come back to this point in more detail, so, if I may, I will take interventions on it a little later.

I made a statement to this House on 17 January about the negotiations ahead of us and I do not propose to repeat it, save to say that our aim is to take this opportunity for the United Kingdom to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than ever before. I also set out our 12 objectives for those negotiations. They are: to deliver certainty and clarity where we can; to take control of our own laws; to protect and strengthen the Union; to maintain the common travel area with the Republic of Ireland; to control immigration; to protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the European Union; to protect workers’ rights; to allow free trade with European markets; to forge new trade deals with other countries; to boost science and innovation; to protect and enhance co-operation over crime, terrorism and security; and to make our exit smooth and orderly. In due course, the Government will publish our plan for exit in a White Paper in this House and in the other place. [Interruption.] I hear the normal, noisy shouts from the shadow Foreign Secretary asking when. I will say to her exactly what I said to her in my statement last week: as soon as is reasonably possible. It is very hard to do it any faster than that.

On 17 January, the Prime Minister also made it clear that this House and the other place will have a vote on the deal the Government negotiate with the EU before it comes into force. Ahead of that, Parliament will have a key role in scrutinising and shaping the decisions made through debate in both Houses, and the work of Select Committees, including the Exiting the European Union Committee, whose Chair, Hilary Benn, is in his place.

Ministers will continue to provide regular updates to Parliament. Further, since our proposal is to shift the entire acquis communautaire—the body of EU law—into UK law at the point this country leaves the EU, it will be for Parliament to determine any changes to our domestic legislation in the national interest. But as the Prime Minister said, to disclose all the details as we negotiate is not in the best interests of this country. Indeed, I have said all along that we will lay out as much detail of our strategy as possible, subject to the caveat that it does not damage our negotiating position. This approach has been endorsed by the House a number of times.

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