Parliamentary oversight of negotiations

Part of Informal European Council – in the House of Commons at 7:45 pm on 6th February 2017.

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Photo of Richard Fuller Richard Fuller Conservative, Bedford 7:45 pm, 6th February 2017

I think my hon. Friend knows my view, so I will not dwell on that.

As I looked through the many amendments, I noted that they fall into three main categories: those that ask for or require scrutiny of the Government’s approach; those that seek to frame a position for the Government in the negotiations; and those that seek answers to an imponderable list of questions—most notably those from Chris Leslie. Each of those groups in turn is less worthy of the House’s attention. Scrutiny is relevant to how the House sees things proceeding, and I will listen carefully to what the Front-Bench team says about that. I am concerned, however, by some of the comments made by Sir Oliver Letwin to which he did not receive answers. The idea that we would involve the Government in the negotiations, then involve Parliament in the negotiations and then also involve the courts in the negotiations brings the words “dog’s” and “breakfast” close together very quickly.

On EU nationals here in the UK, many of the contributions to this debate have focused on the easiest side of the argument. My right hon. Friend Mr Harper mentioned prisoners in the UK, and under last year’s motion those prisoners who have committed crimes in this country would be guaranteed the right to remain. We may want to do that, but it is a hard case to make that we should do that while not giving any consideration to British nationals in other EU countries. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire might say, we would then seem to be losing our moral compass through legislation.

A number of Members have cited specific examples of where prisoners would already be guaranteed rights in this country. As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to reduce uncertainty as we go through the process of leaving the EU, and one practical way of doing that is by knowing what the circumstances are for each of our constituents who come to talk to us so that we can explain to them that there is no need for them to be concerned because their rights are secure—the proposal will not cover all of them, and it might not cover as large a proportion as my hon. Friend Robert Jenrick mentioned, but it is a practical example of where we can help to reduce uncertainty.

The third argument on this issue of EU nationals who have the right to remain here, upon which we all agree, is that we have focused all our attention on the Government Front Bench. Hardly anyone has mentioned Angela Merkel. As I understand it, and I get this from two very reputable newspapers—The Sun and the Daily Express—so it must be true, it was Mrs Merkel who said no to a deal. Where are the voices talking about pressing the German Government to make an agreement? I have heard plenty of speeches today about Donald Trump and how terrible we feel about his policies. Well, here is something that affects British citizens in another country and not a word from anyone.