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“(1) In negotiating and concluding any agreements in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, Ministers of the Crown must consult, and take into account the views of, a Joint Ministerial Committee at intervals of no less than two months and before signing any agreements with the European Commission.
(2) In the course of consulting under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must seek to reach a consensus with the devolved administrations on—
(a) the terms of withdrawal from the European Union, and
(b) the framework for the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the European Union.
(3) Subject to subsection (4) The Joint Ministerial Committee shall consist of—
(a) the Prime Minister,
(b) Ministers of the Crown,
(c) the First Minister of Scotland and a further representative of the Scottish Government,
(d) the First Minister of Wales and a further representative of the Welsh Government, and
(e) the First Minister of Northern Ireland, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and a further representative of the Northern Ireland Executive.
(4) The Prime Minister may, for the purposes of this Act, determine that the Joint Ministerial Committee shall consist of representatives of the governing authorities of the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
(5) The Joint Ministerial Committee shall produce a communique after each meeting.”—(Jenny Chapman.)
This new clause would place the role of the Joint Ministerial Committee during Brexit negotiations on a statutory footing.
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
“(1) In negotiating an agreement in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, a Minister of the Crown must consult Scottish Government Ministers before beginning negotiations in any area that would make provisions applying to Scotland.
(2) A provision applies to Scotland if it—
(a) modifies the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament;
(b) modifies the functions of any member of the Scottish Government;
(c) modifies the legal status of EU nationals resident in Scotland, and Scottish nationals resident elsewhere in the EU;
(d) would have the effect of removing the UK from the EU single market.
(3) Where a Minister of the Crown consults Scottish Government Ministers on any of the provisions listed under subsection (2), or on any other matter relating to Article 50 negotiations, the discussions should be collaborative and discuss each government’s requirements of the future relationship with the EU.
(4) Where a Minister of the Crown has consulted Scottish Government Ministers on any of the provisions listed under subsection (2), the Minister of the Crown must lay a full report setting out the details of those consultations before both Houses of Parliament, and must provide a copy to the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.”
New clause 24—Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations)—duty to report—
“(1) The Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations) must publish regular reports on the impact of negotiations in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on the European Union on the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
(2) The reports shall be published at intervals of no less than two months, and a report must be published after every meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations).
(3) The reports shall include—
(a) a full minute from the most recent meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations);
(b) oversight of negotiations with the EU, to ensure, as far as possible, that outcomes agreed by all four governments are secured from these negotiations; and
(c) any other information that the members of the Committee, in concord, judge to be non-prejudicial to the progress of the Article 50 negotiations.
(4) The reports must be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and a copy of the reports must be transmitted to the Presiding Officers of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, and the Northern Irish Assembly.”
New clause 26—Agreement of the Joint Ministerial Committee on European Negotiation—
“The Prime Minister may not exercise the power under section 1(1) until at least one month after all members of the Joint Ministerial Committee on European Negotiation have agreed a UK wide approach to, and objectives for, the UK’s negotiations for withdrawal from the EU.”
New clause 139—Requirement for debate on process for exiting the EU—
“The Prime Minister may not exercise the power under section 1 until—
(c) the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament,
(d) the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales, and
(e) the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly have each certified that a debate has been held in their respective legislatures in relation to the First Report of the House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee, Session 2016-17, HC815.”
New clause 140—Meeting with the First Ministers of Devolved Administrations—
“The Prime Minister may not exercise the power under section 1 until—
(a) the Prime Minister has met with the First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to discuss the formal notification process and;
(b) the Joint Ministerial Committee has unanimously agreed to the Prime Minister making such a notification.”
New clause 144—Representation of devolved administrations in withdrawal negotiations—
“The Prime Minister may not exercise the power under section 1 until she has committed to ensuring that the devolved administrations will have direct representation in the negotiations relating to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU.”
New clause 147—Scottish Government ministers—
“For the purpose of Article 50(1) of the Treaty on the European Union the words ‘in accordance with its own constitutional requirements’ shall be deemed to require the inclusion of Scottish Government ministers in negotiations between the UK and the European Union on matters which would be reserved to the UK by virtue of any transposition from EU law but on which competence would otherwise be devolved to Scotland under any Act of Parliament.”
New clause 148—Welsh Government ministers—
“For the purpose of Article 50(1) of the Treaty on the European Union the words ‘in accordance with its own constitutional requirements’ shall be deemed to require the inclusion of Welsh Government ministers in negotiations between the UK and the European Union on matters which would be reserved to the UK by virtue of any transposition from EU law but on which competence would otherwise be devolved to Wales under any Act of Parliament.”
New clause 149—Northern Ireland Executive ministers—
“For the purpose of Article 50(1) of the Treaty on the European Union the words ‘in accordance with its own constitutional requirements’ shall be deemed to require the inclusion of Northern Ireland Executive ministers in negotiations between the UK and the European Union on matters which would be reserved to the UK by virtue of any transposition from EU law but on which competence would otherwise be devolved to Northern Ireland under any Act of Parliament.”
New clause 158—Continued levels of EU funding for Wales—
“Before the Prime Minister exercises the power under section 1, the Secretary of State must lay a report before—
(a) Parliament, and
(b) the National Assembly for Wales outlining the effect of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU on the National Assembly for Wales’ block grant.”
This new clause would require the UK Government to lay a report before the National Assembly for Wales outlining the effect of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on Welsh finances, before exercising the power under section 1. This would allow for scrutiny of the Leave Campaign’s promise to maintain current levels of EU funding for Wales.
New clause 159—Differentiated agreement for Wales—
“The Prime Minister may not exercise the power under section 1 until a Minister of the Crown has confirmed that Her Majesty’s Government will conduct a consultation exploring a differentiated agreement for Wales to remain in the European Economic Area.”
This new clause would require the UK Government to conduct a consultation exploring a differentiated agreement for Wales to remain in the European Economic Area, before exercising the power under section 1.
New clause 160—Endorsement of the final deal for withdrawal from the EU by the devolved assemblies—
“Before exercising the power under section 1, the Prime Minister must give a commitment that Her Majesty’s Government shall submit the terms of any proposed agreement with the European Union on the UK’s withdrawal to—
(a) the National Assembly for Wales,
(b) the Northern Ireland Assembly, and
(c) the Scottish Parliament and that the Government will not proceed with any agreement on those terms unless it has been approved by each of the devolved assemblies.”
This new clause would require the Prime Minister to commit to gaining the endorsement of the final deal for withdrawal from the EU by the devolved assemblies, before exercising the power under section 1.
New clause 162—Review into the UK constitution—
“Before the Prime Minister can exercise the power under section 1, the Prime Minister must commit to conducting a review into the constitution of the United Kingdom following the repatriation of powers from the European Union.”
This new clause would require the Prime Minister to commit to conducting a review into the constitution of the United Kingdom when leaving the European Union, before exercising the power under section 1.
New clause 168—National Convention—
“(1) Before exercising the power under section 1, the Prime Minister must undertake to establish a National Convention on Exiting the European Union.
(2) The National Convention shall advise Her Majesty’s Government on its priorities during negotiations with the EU on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
(4) Membership of the National Convention shall be determined by the Secretary of State and shall include—
(a) elected mayors,
(b) elected representatives of local government,
(c) representatives of universities and higher education,
(d) representatives of universities and higher education,
(e) representatives of business organisations,
(f) members of the Scottish Parliament,
(g) members of the National Assembly of Wales,
(h) members of the Northern Ireland Assembly,
(i) members of the European Parliament,
(j) other representatives considered by the Secretary of State to represent expertise and experience of British civil society.
(5) The National Convention must convene before—
(a) 12 months have elapsed after this Act has received Royal Assent, or
(b) the day on which Her Majesty’s Government declares that agreement has been reached on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, whichever is the sooner.
(6) The National Convention shall meet in public.
(7) The National Convention must, following its convening, lay a report before Parliament before—
(a) 15 months have elapsed after this Act receives Royal Assent, or
(b) the day on which Her Majesty’s Government declares that agreement has been reached on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, whichever is the sooner.”
This new clause would require the Government to establish a National Convention of representatives across of levels of Government, regions and sectors, to meet and produce a report recommending negotiating priorities, to better reflect the needs of the regions of the UK.
New clause 145—Differentiated Agreement for Scotland—
“The Prime Minister may not exercise the power under section 1 until a Minister of the Crown has confirmed that the United Kingdom will seek a differentiated agreement for Scotland to remain in the European Economic Area.”
New clause 150—Priority in negotiations: Northern Ireland—
“It must be a priority in negotiations for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU for the Prime Minister to seek terms that would not give rise to any external impediment to the people of the island of Ireland exercising their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, to then be treated as a member State of the European Union, if that is their wish, subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland.”
This new clause seeks to preserve the key constitutional precept of the Belfast Agreement, in respect of the principle of consent, applying to future EU membership of a united Ireland agreed by a referendum under the Belfast Agreement and the Northern Ireland Act 1998.
Amendment 88, in clause 1, page 1, line 3, at end insert
“, provided the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly is obtained prior to such notification regarding alterations to the legislative competence of that Assembly and the executive competence of the Northern Ireland Executive Committee, consistent with constitutional convention.”
This amendment would ensure that the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly to changes in the powers of the Assembly and powers of the Northern Ireland Executive would be obtained prior to triggering Article 50, consistent with constitutional convention.
Amendment 91, page 1, line 3, at end insert “following consultation with—
(a) the First Minister of Scotland,
(b) the First Minister of Wales,
(d) the Chair of the English Local Government Association the Mayor of London.”
Amendment 46, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“(1A) The Prime Minister may not notify under subsection (1) unless the Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly and National Assembly for Wales agree motions to consent to the notification.”
Amendment 55, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“(1A) The Prime Minister may not notify under subsection (1) until the Northern Ireland Executive has been formed following elections in Northern Ireland on
Amendment 60, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“(1A) The Prime Minister may not notify under subsection (1) until the British-Irish Council has met to discuss the immediate effect of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU on the United Kingdom’s land border with Ireland.”
Amendment 63, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“(1A) The Prime Minister may not notify under subsection (1) until she has addressed the Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly and National Assembly of Wales on the process of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU.”
Amendment 90, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“(1A) The Prime Minister may not notify under subsection (1) until she has confirmed that Her Majesty’s Government will publish a report into the powers repatriated from the EU to the United Kingdom and which do not fall within the Reservations listed in Schedule 7A of the Government of Wales Act 2006, outlining their impact on the competencies of the National Assembly for Wales.”
This amendment would require the UK Government to publish a report into the repatriated EU powers which fall under the competencies of the National Assembly for Wales before notifying under subsection (1).
Amendment 92, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“(1A) The Prime Minister may not notify under subsection (1) until she has laid before both Houses of Parliament an assessment of the powers expected to be repatriated from the EU to the United Kingdom which are within the competences of Northern Ireland Ministers and the Northern Ireland Assembly under the Northern Ireland Act 1998.”
Amendment 18, page 1, line 5, at end insert—
“(3) Before exercising the power under section 1, the Prime Minister must publish and lay before the House a report setting out how the devolved nations of the United Kingdom will be consulted with, and involved, in the negotiations in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on the European Union.”
Amendment 86, page 1, line 5, at end insert
“with the exception of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and section 2 of the Ireland Act 1949, and subject to—
(a) the United Kingdom’s obligations under the Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of Ireland of
(b) preserving acquired rights in Northern Ireland under European Union law.”
This amendment requires the power to notify withdrawal to be exercised with regard to the constitutional, institutional and rights provisions of the Belfast Agreement.
New clause 109—Provisions of the Good Friday Agreement—
“Before exercising the power under section 1, the Prime Minister shall commit to maintaining the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent Agreements agreed between the United Kingdom and Ireland since 1998, including—
(a) the free movement of people, goods and services on the island of Ireland;
(b) citizenship rights;
(c) the preservation of institutions set up relating to strands 2 and 3 of the Good Friday Agreement;
(d) human rights and equality;
(e) the principle of consent; and
(f) the status of the Irish language.”
New clause 4, tabled in my name and those of my hon. Friends, requires the Government to consult and take into account the views of a Joint Ministerial Committee at intervals of no less than two months and before signing any agreements with the European Union. The Labour party is trying to be reasonable in this new clause. We do not want to block Brexit, but to make sure that the Government do Brexit well. The new clause is very simple and, I think, very sensible.
Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales must be included and taken into account throughout the process by which the UK Government negotiate our terms of withdrawal from the European Union, and equally importantly, negotiate the framework for our future relationship with the EU. New clause 4 would place the Joint Ministerial Committee on a statutory footing. The Committee would include the Prime Minister, Ministers of the Crown, the First Minister of Scotland and an additional representative, the First Minister of Wales and an additional representative, the First Minister of Northern Ireland and their Deputy, and a further representative of Northern Ireland.
The Labour Party is committed to enabling the devolved Administrations to have their voices heard in this debate. Amendment 91, tabled by my hon. Friend Chris Leslie, proposes that, in addition, the London Mayor should be consulted—and Labour would, of course, support this position.
The hon. Lady talked about voices being heard. Her party’s position on Second Reading was to vote for article 50 so that Labour could come forward with amendments. Those amendments in the last round have just been defeated. If all the amendments are defeated, will Labour stick to the line of walking through the Lobbies with the Tories on Third Reading?
I have to say that the hon. Gentleman is incredibly defeatist. We intend to win with our amendments; we are not here to anticipate defeat. We have very sensible and very reasonable requests to put to the Government, and we expect them to accept our amendments.
In the Miller case, the Supreme Court decided unanimously that the devolved legislatures did not have a legal power to block the Government from triggering article 50, but that does not mean that devolved legislatures can be ignored. A veto does not exist, but it is only right for the Scottish Parliament and the Assemblies in Northern Ireland and Wales to be respected, and for the different desires, concerns, aspirations and needs of the devolved Administrations to be taken fully into account.
I had anticipated that intervention from the hon. Gentleman, consistent as he is in raising such points. If he will forgive me, I shall deal with it later in my speech.
If the Government wish to proceed with article 50, and if SNP Members do not wish to proceed with it and that is the position of the Scottish Government, how are the United Kingdom Government meant to take this into account? What happens if someone takes into account the opposing view?
I agree that it is difficult. [Laughter.] I do not think it is funny, but it is difficult. Our amendment does not require consensus, and if the right hon. Gentleman reads it closely, he will see that it has been very carefully worded. The fact that consensus is not easy does not mean that we should not at least try.
Is there not a bigger issue here? Many of the areas that have heretofore been the responsibility of the European Union are entirely devolved within the United Kingdom—for instance, agriculture and environmental protection. There is no way in which the Government will be able to proceed effectively with a deal on behalf of the United Kingdom unless they have managed to take the devolved Assemblies and Parliaments with them.
Of course that is true. That is the spirit in which we tabled the new clause, and we hope it is the spirit in which the Government will consent to accept it.
I have given way a few times already. I shall make a bit of progress, and then I will be happy to give way again.
It is true that, as Sir Oliver Letwin pointed out, consensus may not be possible, but it is deeply desirable, and probably in the national interest. Although competing priorities may ultimately prevent it from being achieved, we really ought to try.
Is it not the truth that the hon. Lady knows, we know and the whole House knows that the Scottish National party has no interest in reaching consensus on this point, and no desire to do so? She knew that before she put her name to the new clause. Conservative Members will be saying, “Surely this is just a wrecking new clause.”
The hon. Gentleman needs to read the new clause a bit more carefully. It is clearly not a wrecking new clause. Nothing that it desires cannot be achieved. The fact that consensus may not be possible—although we have not even tried—does not mean that the interests of the people of Scotland ought to be ignored.
My hon. Friend is making a very strong speech. I support the desire of Labour Front Benchers to put these matters on a statutory footing, but does she agree that, particularly when Governments have come forward with a clear plan—as the First Minister of Wales has—and there are serious questions for the UK Government, the UK Government must come forward with some answers to enable a negotiation to proceed?
My hon. Friend is right. I am in danger of reading out my speech before I reach the part in question, but I can say that Wales has succeeded in reaching something close to a cross-party consensus.
I want to say more about the issue of Wales. The Government owe it to the people of Wales, Scotland—[Hon. Members: “Alex is being helpful.”] Alex is being helpful, I am told. I will give way to him.
I know that the hon. Lady, unlike Conservative Members, will have read the paper that the Scottish Government released before Christmas—Keir Starmer is nodding—but does she not remember that on
The Government owe it to the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to be as accommodating as possible. For example, the financial support for deprived areas that has benefited communities for decades is now in question. Whether or not the Government deal with this issue as part of the passage of this Bill, they need to know that the Labour party will fight hard for the grants to such areas to be secured into the future.
I have given way quite a lot and would like to make a little more progress. Many Members will want to contribute to the debate.
New clauses 23 and 24, in the name of my hon. Friend Ian Murray, which would receive Labour Front-Bench support should he be able to test the will of the House on the matter, strengthen further the role of the Scottish Government in making them a statutory consultee and require the Joint Ministerial Committee to report on negotiations. These are reasonable demands that the Government ought to seek to meet, and the same status should of course be offered to the devolved Administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland.
It is fair to say that the White Paper lacks substance or detail. That is particularly true on Northern Ireland. The land border, changes to competences and, perhaps most significant of all, the importance of ensuring continued adherence to agreements made as part of the Good Friday agreement and subsequent agreements must be maintained by the Government.
New clause 109, in the name of my hon. Friend Conor McGinn, states that the Prime Minister must recommit to the Good Friday agreement. I can see no reason why the Government should not wish to do so, and hope that the Minister will indicate whether or not he intends to agree to my hon. Friends’ amendments when he responds this evening.
The hon. Lady mentions the Good Friday agreement and the commitments in it, but as it was between the parties in Northern Ireland, the Government at Westminster and the Government in the Irish Republic, how do our discussions about Brexit have any impact on the Good Friday agreement?
What we are asking for, and what new clause 109 asks for, is certainty. I do not think that that is too much to ask.
These amendments do not seek to obstruct the passage of this Bill—not in the least. They are born of a view that Brexit will be better for all the people of Britain if all communities up and down the country are properly involved. The Government should not hide away from this scrutiny; they ought to welcome it. Labour is not arguing for a veto; we are arguing for inclusion. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are not just another stakeholder group to be consulted. The four Governments, although they are not for this purpose equals, must work together.
The hon. Lady speaks of veto. She will be aware—she mentioned this earlier in her speech—that the Supreme Court was unanimous on the role of the devolved Assemblies and that the decision should be taken by this place. We all agree on consultation, but she cannot possibly be speaking of veto, because if she does so, she is challenging the decision of the Supreme Court.
I am not going to take it personally that the hon. Gentleman was not listening carefully to the beginning of my speech, but if he looks at the record he will find that his worries are unfounded. He also might like to read the amendment that we have tabled and find that he has nothing at all to worry about.
I understand the gentleness with which my hon. Friend is responding to the various interventions, but may I quietly, politely and in a modest sort of way remind her that if we read the Good Friday agreement in as much detail as many of us in the House have done, we can see that the EU is mentioned throughout, in line after line and paragraph after paragraph? The role of the EU in the peace process was crucial and must continue to be so.
I am delighted to be able to afford the hon. Lady time to find her place. Should she not think about disaggregating the Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in these discussions, because they are all different, particularly Scotland? Perhaps it is time, if we are genuinely to trust the Scottish National party Government in Edinburgh, for them to revisit their claim during the Brexit campaign that Scotland could somehow remain part of the EU outside the United Kingdom or have fast-track access to EU membership. That was one of the most shameful myths peddled by any party in the House.
I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman is going to have to put his misgivings about the Scottish National party to one side and focus on the people of Scotland, because it is their voices that we must ensure are heard in all this. This is going to require genuine commitment and goodwill. I can see that the right hon. Gentleman is going to find that difficult. I only hope that the Minister does not find it quite so difficult. I am sure that he already appreciates where the First Ministers will be coming from, but he needs to commit, through these new clauses and perhaps by bringing forth his own amendments as the Bill progresses, to embedding the role of the devolved Assemblies within the process. This has already been proved by the First Minister of Wales and the leader of the Welsh nationalists, who, writing together, said:
“The challenge we all face now is ensuring that as we prepare to leave the EU we secure the best possible deal for Wales. Together, we intend to rise to that challenge.”
If they can put party political differences aside and work together for the benefit of Wales, surely the Government can step up to the same challenge by accepting these new clauses and amendments. That is the right way to strengthen, and not weaken, our Union, as the Prime Minister herself says she wishes to do.
I am grateful to you for calling me to speak, Ms Engel. I can see that Members are looking forward to this. There are a number of new clauses and amendments in this group, and Members will be pleased to know that I do not plan on speaking to all of them. I shall group them in a way that I think is sensible. There are some that are unnecessary, some that arguably do very little but run a risk of doing harm, and some that are outright vetoes on the process, which is completely unacceptable. There is one about a national convention, about which I will speak briefly, and a couple of very important ones about Northern Ireland, which I would also like to speak to.
Starting with new clause 4, to which Jenny Chapman has just spoken, I think my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin put his finger on it when he asked her about consensus. I think we need to explore this point further. The new clause proposes that
“the Secretary of State must seek to reach a consensus”.
My right hon. Friend pointed out that it was unlikely that any such consensus would be reached because the Scottish nationalists fundamentally disagree with our leaving the European Union. Not only that, but unlike the other First Ministers, they also do not wish to see a continuation of the United Kingdom—[Interruption.] They have just confirmed that verbally in the Chamber. So it seems unlikely that consensus would be reached. The problem with putting this new clause in statute is that it would then become justiciable, as my right hon. Friend said earlier. A court could then be asked to adjudicate on whether the Secretary of State had tried hard enough to reach consensus. Even if the court then ruled that everything was fine, this would still be just a way of delaying the process.
Did my right hon. Friend also notice that the Opposition spokesman referred to “embedding” the Scottish Government in the proposals? Does he agree that, roughly speaking, that is like Wellington being asked to embed Napoleon in his strategy for the Napoleonic wars?
My right hon. Friend has a much greater command of history than I do, but even with my limited reading I think he is probably about right.
My right hon. Friend Sir Hugo Swire asked the hon. Member for Darlington to distinguish between the First Ministers of the different devolved nations, and I think the distinction is that the First Ministers of Northern Ireland and of Wales wish to see the continuation of the United Kingdom, but the First Minister of Scotland does not. That is material to the sensibleness of proceeding with new clause 4.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for praying me in aid; he is absolutely right. My real point is that neither the First Minister of Northern Ireland nor the First Minister of Wales sought to mislead their own communities by suggesting that they can join the EU outside the UK, which is what the SNP suggested throughout the campaign.
On a point of order, Ms Engel. Was what Sir Hugo Swire just said in order? He accused the First Minister of Scotland of misleading the country by stating something that Members of this House in the Scottish National party have also said, so is he by extension accusing me and my hon. Friends of misleading the Chamber?
May I provide an example? Policing in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and policing in Northern Ireland is devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The consensus may be that the Government want to withdraw from the European Union and therefore from agencies such as Eurojust and Europol, but there might need to be a view on such issues so that a consensus can be reached to enable Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have devolved issues, to maintain policing at a local level with Ireland and other parts of the European Union.
I have no issue with the Government seeking to reach a consensus. There are two issues. One, as I think the hon. Member for Darlington accepted, is that reaching a consensus is likely to be difficult, but we should try. I have no problem with Ministers trying to seek a consensus, but the danger of putting that in legislation is that we then hand over to a court the adjudication of whether Ministers have sought that consensus or whether they have tried hard enough. Even if the court ends up reaching what I would consider the right conclusion of not interfering in the process, it seems an obvious route for delay. The Prime Minister has made it clear that she will seek to take into account the views of the devolved Administrations, but I would not want that to be put into the legislation.
While the right hon. Gentleman is talking about distinctions, I want to make another distinction as a reminder to him and the House: the Scottish National party is not the entirety of Scotland—[Interruption.] It might like to think it is, which is evident from the reaction from the SNP Members just now. New clause 4 is carefully worded and states that the Government should seek a consensus for building the negotiation with the European Union. That is about letting the Scottish people into the process, not the Scottish National party, and the right hon. Gentleman should distinguish between the two.
While the Scottish nationalists are currently in government in Scotland, I completely agree that they are not the same as the Scottish people. On the new clause, the representatives on the Joint Ministerial Committee are the First Minister of Scotland and a further representative not of the Scottish people but of the Scottish Government, so there will be two members of the Scottish nationalists whose expressed purpose, as confirmed here today, is to destroy the United Kingdom.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not understand how serious this issue is? Does he not understand that he will not have a UK if he keeps going on with arrogance, with intolerance and with insensitivity? We spent 30 years getting a peace process together. We do not want to see any more dead bodies. Quite simply, what is going on here, with the intolerance that some Members are showing, is scaring me. I am asking myself why I am in this place at all.
I have not been intolerant to anyone. I have taken interventions from both sides of the House, and I said in my opening remarks that I will address new clauses 109 and 150, which specifically refer to Northern Ireland. I simply have not yet had a chance to get to them. I am a great supporter of the Union of the United Kingdom and, when I was Immigration Minister, I worked very closely with the Government of the Republic of Ireland to facilitate the common travel area and the close working together of the peoples of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. I agree with the hon. Gentleman on that, and I wish to proceed on that basis.
Let me make some progress, because otherwise other Members will not have the opportunity to speak. I am pleased that Ian Murray was able to intervene on me. He is the lead name on new clause 23, on which I have a question. Subsection (2)(c) refers to
“the legal status of EU nationals resident in Scotland”.
It then refers to “Scottish nationals”. I do not quite understand what they are. I understand what UK nationals are, but I was not aware that there is a separate class of nationals of Scotland. Does he wish to explain to the Committee what they are? If for no other reason, not knowing what they are is reason enough to vote against the new clause.
“Scottish nationals” implies that they are somehow tied to Scotland other than by residence. If someone is English but happens to live in Scotland for five minutes, does that mean they are a Scottish national?
But the hon. Gentleman just said that his definition of a Scottish national is someone who resided in Scotland before moving overseas. It seems to me that someone does not need to have any connection with Scotland bar the fact that they lived there for five minutes. This seems a very poorly worded new clause that is not worthy of support.
I say gently to the right hon. Gentleman that his Government’s pushing through the programme motion means that we cannot have a full debate on these issues. Whether it is a beautifully worded clause or a badly worded clause, EU nationals should be given the right to stay by this Government today, and we should be fighting to make sure that UK nationals living in the EU have their rights, too. The Government could do that now and, if they did, we would not need to press these new clauses.
I will not address that issue now, as we debated it at length with the previous group of amendments. A number of colleagues spoke, so it has had sufficient debate.
The next grouping contains a number of new clauses proposing different mechanisms for giving different parts of the United Kingdom a veto on the entire process and, for that reason, I do not think they should be accepted. New clause 26, tabled by the Scottish nationalists, would effectively give the Joint Ministerial Committee a veto on the process. That means a single member of the Joint Ministerial Committee could veto the entire process, which would not be welcome.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not understand that, in presenting this proposal to the UK Government, the Scottish Government are very much seeking that consensus and compromise. We understand that the people of England have voted to leave the EU, and we do not seek to frustrate that, but what we ask is that this Parliament also recognises that not just the SNP but the Scottish Parliament has empowered the Government to act in our interests to make sure that we remain within the single market. That respect has to work two ways, and it is about the UK Government working with us. If they do not do that, we know what the answer is. Quite frankly, we should not be in this place.
I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me—and I am sure my colleagues on the Government Benches will find this slightly repetitive—but he said that the people of England voted and I must point out that that is not the case. There was a United Kingdom referendum, one of two referendums over the past few years, both of whose outcomes I respect. There was a vote by the people of Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom, so it therefore follows that the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU was a UK decision. It was a single vote and the UK decided to leave the EU. Scotland did not have a separate decision; it was a UK decision. I respect both referendums and I am going to proceed on that basis.
Perhaps I can help the right hon. Gentleman to understand where Scottish National party Members are coming from. During the Scottish independence referendum, the leader of the Conservative and Unionist party, Ruth Davidson, told Scottish voters that the way to guarantee their EU citizenship was to vote to remain part of the UK. He enjoyed a cosy little exchange a moment ago about the First Minister allegedly misleading people, but it is clear that the leader of his party in Scotland misled voters during the independence referendum. Would he now like to take the opportunity to apologise for that misleading statement?
I would not. The leader of the Conservatives in Scotland—I am pleased to say that she is the Leader of the Opposition in the Scottish Parliament and the latest opinion polls are showing Conservative support rising and Labour support falling—campaigned strongly both for the maintenance of the UK and for the UK to remain in the EU. I was disappointed by the latter result, as was she, but I do not think she misled anybody and therefore I do not feel the need to apologise.
My right hon. Friend might not have had the chance to follow the Scottish independence referendum as closely as some of us. During that referendum the current SNP First Minister said that if the UK remained, the NHS in Scotland would be privatised. So if anyone should apologise for misleading the public, Nicola Sturgeon should.
As ever, my right hon. Friend hits the nail on the head.
Let me move relatively briefly through the other provisions. New clauses 139 and 140 would both, in effect, give a veto to different parts of the UK, and therefore are unacceptable.
When the right hon. Gentleman turns to the issues affecting Northern Ireland, will he take the opportunity to address the spurious point raised by Stephen Pound, who said that the Belfast agreement is peppered with references to the European Union? There is one such reference on page 16, and there are three references on page 7 to the European convention on human rights, which is nothing to do with the EU. Indeed, the references to the EU refer specifically to the mutual interdependence of the North South Ministerial Council and the Assembly. The hon. Gentleman is wrong to get into a lather over that matter.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for elucidating that for the House. Indeed, I detected from the expression on the face of the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Darlington, that she had not found that intervention from Stephen Pound entirely helpful. Perhaps she shares the view of Ian Paisley.
Finally, new clauses 160 and 161, tabled by the Welsh nationalists, talk about “future trade deals” and would also give a veto to the devolved Assemblies in the UK. On that basis, the House should not support them.
New clause 168 proposes a “National Convention”. As someone who has been involved in constitutional matters for some time, I could not help but smile at that, because when I was taking a number of constitutional items through the House, national conventions, conventional committees or some other variant were usually a way of delaying matters by involving a whole load of people in things. These were usually people who are already well involved in all those things, as most members of such conventions appear to be elected Members of some body or other. Those conventions seem an extraordinary excuse to make no progress whatever.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I look forward to discussing this matter further in my remarks later, but perhaps I could raise a point with him. I am sure he will appreciate, as I do, the paucity of quality debate about the referendum, which remains an issue. We need to engage people in the discussion over the next two years. We should not reach the end of the negotiation period with people saying they are as ill-informed at the end as they were at the start.
That is a helpful intervention, because the hon. Lady has tempted me to say a little more about her new clause, which I had not planned to do. I have looked at the membership of the national convention specified in the new clause, and it does not seem to involve any members of the public at all. It is all people who were very well represented in the referendum campaign: elected mayors; elected representatives of local government; people from universities and higher education; representatives of trade unions and trade bodies; representatives of business organisations; and Members of the Scottish Parliament—
Yes, them, along with Members of the National Assembly of Wales and of the Northern Ireland Assembly; plus Members of the European Parliament. Finally, it gets to “other representatives”, but not just any representatives of civil society—only those determined by the Secretary of State. Interestingly, the hon. Lady wants to give Ministers the job of deciding who should represent civil society, which seems remarkably generous of her, although rather self-defeating.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is vital to have the regions of England involved, as much as it is to have the nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland involved, in the national debate. I am sure that, on reflection, he will realise that there is great value in the idea of a greater national conversation in which elected representatives would be able to engage with their communities and represent their views.
To be honest, I thought there was quite a lot of national conversation last year. When I talked to my constituents, it seemed to me that by the end of that national conversation, they really did want to make a decision and move on. The most important thing that they want us to do is give notice under article 50 and start the negotiating process. The most common refrain I hear is from people who, because we had a referendum last year, wonder why we have not already left.
My right hon. Friend just ran through that list; does he agree that the people who were told that the referendum was an opportunity for them to express their opinion would find it perplexing, disturbing and not a little bit frustrating that new clause 168 would take that voice away from them and hand it back to people who are already very vocal?
On a point of order, Ms Engel. Mr Harper has been speaking for 22 minutes. Charming as he is, it seems that he has been filibustering the House, as he did in the previous debate, to prevent honest debate and opinion from being expressed this evening. What is going on?
As the hon. Gentleman is aware, there are no time limits at this stage of a Bill. There is a limited amount of time available, as Mr Harper knows. He has spoken at great length and he spoke at great length on the previous group. I have been listening very carefully and he has remained in order and spoken to the amendments and new clauses. There is nothing out of order in what he has said, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the mood of the House.
I have taken interventions from colleagues on both sides of the House, just as I did in the previous group, but I will take your admonition, Ms Engel, and not take so many interventions from now on.
I set out the points that I wished to cover at the beginning of my remarks. Colleagues who have been following carefully will know that I have only one point left, and I will cover it, because it is on the very important matter of Northern Ireland. Colleagues will be pleased to know that that is the last point I will make.
Two new clauses have been put forward on Northern Ireland. New clause 150 is about priority in negotiations, and it would ensure that people in Northern Ireland would have no external impediment to exercising their right of self-determination. Although it talks about bringing about a united Ireland, with which I do not agree, nothing in the process of exiting the European Union would have any impact on that. The legislation that governs the mechanisms available to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to do with border polls and so forth have nothing whatever to do with this process, so there is no need to accept this new clause.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He will recall that, even in his own remarks, he talked about the questions that were raised in the context of the Scottish referendum. I am talking about whether or not an independent Scotland would have easy or ready access to the EU or whether it would have to negotiate, brand new, under article 49. If Northern Ireland were taken out of the EU as part of the UK, no article in the Lisbon treaty allows for part of a former member state entering the EU. Anybody could raise a question mark over whether or not a referendum in that context would admit Northern Ireland into the EU as part of a united Ireland. The question mark could be raised because the German precedent might not apply. The Taoiseach addressed that point last summer, and the British Government need to take it on board.
The hon. Gentleman may be guilty of jumping quite a lot of steps in advance. There is no evidence that the people of Northern Ireland have any intention, at any time in the foreseeable future, of joining the Republic of Ireland. I think that this is a case of inventing theoretical problems to get in the way of what is a perfectly sensible process.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not recognise that the key wording in new clause 150 comes from the Good Friday agreement itself? The paragraph appears in the agreement not just once, but twice. It is in the constitutional issue section of the agreement and it is in the agreement between the British and Irish Governments. If it was good enough and important enough to be in the Good Friday agreement and to be endorsed by a referendum of the Irish people in the north and the south, why should it not be respected now when we are being asked to reflect on how English people voted in a referendum?
Again, I come back to what the hon. Gentleman just said about how the English people voted. If he looks at the separate parts of the United Kingdom, he will see that both England and Wales voted to leave the European Union. As I said earlier, this was a UK decision. The fact that different parts of the United Kingdom may have voted in different ways is not relevant. It was a United Kingdom decision, and the United Kingdom voted to leave.
I have one more new clause to talk to and then I will sit down.
New clause 109 talks about the provisions of the Good Friday agreement, and other agreements agreed between the UK and Ireland. It lists a whole load of issues. It seems to me that the free movement of people, goods and services and so forth on the island of Ireland and citizenship rights are not guaranteed by membership of the EU. In previous legislation, such as the Ireland Act 1949, it is clear that citizens of the Republic of Ireland and citizens of the United Kingdom have reciprocal —the word “reciprocal” is important—arrangements to live in each other’s countries and to vote in each other’s countries. Irish nationals in Britain can vote in our elections. If we were to go to live in the Irish Republic, we could vote in theirs. Those arrangements will be preserved when we leave the European Union. The new clause is unnecessary.
I am very disappointed to hear that the right hon. Gentleman is coming to the end of his contribution, because, judging from the communications that I am receiving from constituents and voters in Scotland, every word he says is putting our vote through the roof and greatly increasing the cause of a second independence referendum. I urge him and those around him please to continue in the same vein, as it is doing us the world of good.
Based on the Twitter trolling that I receive, I suspect that most people contacting the hon. Lady would already have supported the nationalists in the first place. With the successful campaigning efforts of my friend, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, it seems that those of a Unionist disposition in Scotland are very much moving to support the Conservative party in Scotland, which is why she is the Leader of the Opposition there.
I have been tempted to speak for longer than I had intended.
I hope that, after running through the new clauses and amendments in this group, I have set out reasons why all of them should be opposed by those who wish to trigger article 50. If any of them are pressed to a Division, I hope the House rejects them.
I will speak to the amendments tabled in my name and in the names of my hon. and right hon. Friends.
I take the House back to the morning of
Forty-eight hours after assuming office, the Prime Minister travelled to Scotland to meet the First Minister. Ahead of her visit, the Prime Minister directly addressed the people of Scotland, stating that
“the government I lead will always be on your side. Every decision we take, every policy we take forward, we will stand up for you and your family—not the rich, the mighty or the powerful. That’s because I believe in a union, not just between the nations of the United Kingdom, but between all of our citizens.”
That is what she said then, but I turn the Committee’s attention to page 3 of what can only be described as an executive summary, as opposed to a White Paper, in which she refers to “one nation.” Hon. Members across this House would do well to understand that, as long as the Prime Minister and the Government continue to believe that this is one nation, they will make no progress whatever in their relationships with the rest of the United Kingdom. We are not one nation; we are a Union of nations. The Government need to remember that.
I am going to do something that I have never done before—quote an extract from The Daily Telegraph. It reported on
“Theresa May has indicated that…she will not trigger the formal process for leaving the EU until there is an agreed ‘UK approach’ backed by Scotland.”
What does my hon. Friend think has happened to the Prime Minister’s commitment?
On that basis, is my hon. Friend surprised that the UK Government now seem willing to seek separate deals not for Scotland or Northern Ireland, but for the car industry in Sunderland and for the City of London?
I will come to that issue in a moment.
The Scottish National party’s compromise amendments propose a UK approach for all of “Team UK”, which is what the Prime Minister would like to think we are. I say the amendments are a compromise because that is exactly what they are. We fundamentally believe that the best future for Scotland and, indeed, the whole United Kingdom is to remain in the EU. But in the spirit of reaching a consensus—I object to people in this House who have suggested that we are not participating in the process—we have tabled 50 amendments, to which my colleagues and I will now speak. That is our involvement in the process. The First Minister of Scotland was clear that she was laying out a number of options. The ball is in the Prime Minister’s court.
In retrospect, does the hon. Lady regret the SNP’s peddling of the myth during the Brexit campaign that Scotland alone could somehow remain in the EU without any of the sanctions in the Lisbon treaty—joining the single currency of the euro and so on? Does she regret proposing that to the Scottish people as a fact, rather than as fiction, which is what it was?
The only myths in the independence referendum in Scotland were those peddled by the right hon. Gentleman’s friends in the Conservative party and those in the Labour party—that is where the myths came from. I am grateful to him for reminding the Committee, and indeed all those who are watching, that that is precisely the case.
The First Minister of Scotland has laid out a number of options, which are included in the paper my colleagues will refer to. However, I would remind hon. Members that, before the independence referendum, the Scottish Government produced a 670-page document called “Scotland’s Future”. We knew then, and we know now, that we can make a success of an independent Scotland. Hon. Members should compare and contrast that with page 65 of the so-called White Paper, where this Government are already talking about failure and
“passing legislation as necessary to mitigate the effects of failing to reach a deal.”
That does not instil much confidence in anybody.
Specifically on the amendments and new clauses, new clause 26—the teamwork clause—would, if accepted, mean that article 50 was not triggered until the Team UK approach was agreed by each individual member of the team. Is that not what the Prime Minister said? On that basis, I hope we will have support on both sides of the Committee for the new clause.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, whose interventions are always astute. I refer him to the wording of the new clause, which refers specifically to
“a UK wide approach to, and objectives for, the UK’s negotiations”.
Those are the Prime Minister’s words.
New clause 139 would require a substantive vote on this matter to be held in each of the devolved Parliaments prior to article 50 being invoked, further strengthening the democratic mandate for that action. New clause 144 sets out a mechanism to ensure that all devolved Administrations will have direct representation in negotiations on leaving the EU, enabling the negotiating team to have expert input from each constituent part of the UK. Given what we have seen so far, this Government are in need of some expert input. Following that, new clause 145 would set in legislation what we already understand to be possible and deliverable—the negotiation of a differentiated agreement for Scotland, so that it can retain its vital access to the single market by remaining part of the European economic area.
Amendment 46 further strengthens the role of the devolved Parliaments in this process, while amendment 55 would specifically ensure that the people of Northern Ireland are represented in this process by the newly elected Northern Ireland Executive following the upcoming election. Amendment 60 would ensure formal cross-border discussion of the Government’s proposal to maintain a frictionless land border with Ireland. Lastly, amendment 63 would give Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly and Welsh Assembly Members the same opportunity to hear the Prime Minister address them on Brexit as she afforded members of the US Congress who attended the Republican party awayday in Philadelphia last month. That is only fair.
We know from last week’s brief White Paper that the Government still believe there should be a special deal for Northern Ireland in our negotiations with the EU. A frictionless border between the UK and Ireland remains their priority. We also know that the UK car industry and the City of London, to which my hon. Friend Neil Gray alluded, have also been singled out for special attention in the negotiations. It is becoming clearer with each passing day that the Government will be willing to pay through the nose to secure a special arrangement where that is in their political or economic interests.
I hope my hon. Friend will press all these provisions to a vote, because everyone here loves trooping through the Lobby and exercising their parliamentary sovereignty. However, does she agree that a differentiated deal for Scotland, with Scotland retaining its access to the single market, would benefit the rest of the United Kingdom? The Government are very keen to retain a land border with the EU on the island of Ireland, so why would they not want a land border on the actual island of Great Britain so that England could trade over that border into the single market in Scotland?
As usual, my hon. Friend makes very salient comments, although I suspect they will fall on deaf ears, and we know what the result of that might well be.
The Scottish Government have been clear that they are willing to make fundamental compromises to ensure that we can agree a UK-wide approach. The Scottish Government’s White Paper, “Scotland’s Place in Europe”, sets out a series of options that could be taken if this House so wished, to protect the precious Union that Members talk about so often—to protect Scotland’s political, social and economic interests in Europe while also remaining part of the United Kingdom. It is now time for this Whitehall Government to start to treat Scotland seriously and with respect. We know that such a differentiated deal is possible. Only yesterday, the Secretary of State for Scotland, who I am delighted to see in his place, said during a BBC interview—well, not much about anything in particular, but we did get this from it—that it is “not impossible” to have a differentiated deal for the constituent parts of the UK. The amendments tabled by the SNP set out a framework for us to work together in the interests of Scotland to deliver this.
“Seek to agree a UK approach to, and objectives for… negotiations”.
I refer Mr Rees-Mogg, in relation to new clause 26, to those words of the Prime Minister. However, it simply was not acceptable for the Prime Minister to seem to dismiss the Scottish Government’s plan out of hand in her speech at Lancaster House before the JMC had even met to discuss it. The SNP does not believe that “involving” the devolved Administrations ends with the JMC. We want to see real, tangible efforts to develop a proposal acceptable to all of the UK, not just a toothless talking shop. That is why we have tabled an amendment calling for the devolved Administrations to have direct representation in the negotiations as we come to an agreed UK-wide deal.
Tomorrow the Scottish Parliament will vote on the triggering of article 50. The Prime Minister should respect that outcome. We also believe that the Prime Minister—
The hon. Gentleman has already made that intervention and was given an answer. Is it his position that the Scotland Act 2016 has no meaning—no value? Is it his position that notwithstanding the terms of the Scotland Act he is going to ignore the wishes of the Scottish Parliament and the other devolved legislatures?
I am not taking any more interventions. I have answered the hon. Gentleman’s question.
We also believe that the Prime Minister should not trigger article 50 before the Northern Irish Assembly election on
Such a deal is also essential for Scottish exports.
The hon. Lady is making a very passionate speech, but clearly if the pound devalues, that is very good for exporters, including exporters in Scotland. There are two sides to that coin.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, as ever, for his recognition of a passionate speech, although I wish he would pay more attention to the words that I am using while I am delivering it. Is it the Tory Government’s policy to continue with a devalued pound? Is that their vision for the economy of the United Kingdom? That is my answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question.
I am not going to give way just now, if the right hon. Gentleman does not mind.
In relation to Scottish exports, new figures published by the think-tank Centre for Cities last weekend show just how vital the EU single market is for Scotland’s four largest cities. Exports to the EU from Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow alone total nearly £7 billion. The report also stated that 61% of Aberdeen’s exports go to the EU, which shows the importance of that export market to Scotland. It is also essential to maintain Scotland’s skilled workforce.
I am not going to give way just now; allow me a few minutes to make some progress.
This morning, Holyrood’s cross-party Europe Committee published its latest report on Brexit, in which it recommended a bespoke Scottish immigration system—almost on cue; I believe, from memory, that that was something propagated by someone on the Government Benches during the campaign. We now know that those who campaigned to leave the EU, like those who campaigned against Scottish independence, were prepared to say anything to win the day and leave the rest of us to pick up the consequences. The findings of the report were based on extensive evidence heard by the Committee, which detailed the demographic crisis that Scotland would face without its EU citizens.
I have been listening very carefully to the points that the hon. Lady made with regard to Northern Ireland. If I heard her right, she indicated that until a new Northern Ireland Executive is established, the Government should not trigger article 50. Northern Ireland is at a difficult crossroads at the present time. If no Executive is ultimately established after
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point, which I understand. However, I would also ask: why is the whole United Kingdom being held to ransom by the Prime Minister’s selection of some random date, with no view to the consequences for the whole of the country? We are required to work to that date, but it came off on a whim.
A deal such as I have described is essential for the fishing industry. I mention the fishing industry because for too long it has been ignored by this Government, who have not stood up for it in Europe. The White Paper seems to confirm the worst fears of our fishermen, who now believe that without a specific Scottish deal, their interests will be negotiated away once again, as they have been before.
It is clear that a differentiated deal for the constituent parts of the UK is optimal; it is deliverable; and it is essential to protecting our interests. Now is the time for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to keep her promises to Scotland—as she said, a “UK approach” for all of “Team UK”. Be under no illusions; my colleagues and I were elected by our constituents to stand up for Scotland, and that is exactly what we will do. One way or another, Scotland’s interests will be protected.
The amendments and new clauses that we have tabled would strengthen the UK’s future negotiating position with the EU and provide a framework to serve the best interests of its constituent parts. Our proposals crystallise in legislative specifics the grand platitudes that the Prime Minister and others have spouted about Scotland’s place in the UK and our role in the process.
The hon. Lady referred earlier to the impact of the pound being devalued. Could she tell us which currency an independent Scotland would have? Would it be the pound, the euro or some other currency of her invention, or of the invention of Alex Salmond? [Interruption.]
As my colleagues are saying from a sedentary position, the right hon. Gentleman does not believe in expert opinion anyway. Perhaps he will agree—his mention of another independence referendum speaks to this fact—that the question that was posed to the people of Scotland in 2014 was about a United Kingdom different from the one that exists now. Of course, it is in the gift of the Government and Members from across the House to agree to our proposals. They offer a compromise position, if the right hon. Gentleman does not want another independence referendum. But if we do have one, the arguments will be put forward to the people of Scotland for them to make that decision. The proposals give the Government an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to respecting Scotland and the devolution process.
Quite simply, the UK is either a country that respects all its constituent parts or it is not—the question is as simple as that—and this Government need to decide today one way or another. We are waiting for our answer and, indeed, we are ready to respond, but if the UK Government decide to turn their back on the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament, voters in Scotland will be left under no illusion about how this Government intend to deal with Scottish interests in future negotiations. If the Scottish people can no longer trust the UK Government to act in their interests, it will be for the people of Scotland to decide the best way to rectify this unsatisfactory situation of an increasingly disunited kingdom.
I support the remarks of my right hon. Friend Mr Harper. I thought he took the Committee patiently through a number of important amendments tabled by Opposition parties, and he explained why some of them are needless because the Government are perfectly well intentioned in relation to the other parts of the United Kingdom and wish to consult very widely, and how some of them would be positively damaging because they are designed as wrecking amendments to impede, delay or even prevent the implementation of the wishes of the people of the United Kingdom.
My disappointment about both the Labour and the Scottish National party amendments is that there is absolutely no mention of England in any of them. To have a happy Union—I am sure the Scottish nationalists can grasp this point—it is very important that the process and solution are fair to England as well as to Scotland. I of course understand why the Scottish nationalists, who want to break up the Union, would deliberately leave England out of their considerations of their model for consulting all parts of the United Kingdom. That is deliberate politics, as part of their cause to try to find another battering ram against the Union.
In the case of Labour, however, I find that extraordinarily insouciant and careless. The Labour party is now just an England and Wales party, with only one representative left in Scotland and none in Northern Ireland. Yet it seems to be ignoring the main source of its parliamentary power and authority because it does not say anything in its amendments that would give a special status to England alongside Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and provide proper consultation throughout all parts of the UK. The Labour spokesman, Jenny Chapman—she spoke very eloquently, and in a very friendly way—did not mention the word “England”, and she had no suggestion about how England should be properly represented and England’s views properly taken into account in the process that is about to unfold.
May I assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he were minded to bring forward any amendments dealing with his concerns about England, we would give them serious consideration?
I have not done so, because I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean and Government Front Benchers that the Government will, of course, do a perfectly good job in consulting and making sure that all parts of the UK are represented, and I am quite sure that Ministers who represent English constituencies will want to guarantee that the view of England is properly considered.
If we take the referendum as a national, UK-wide referendum, we will of course take into account the views of everybody because we are following the mandate of the United Kingdom referendum, in which a very large number of English votes are rather important—
The right hon. Gentleman has indicted the Labour party and the SNP for not, in this group of amendments, addressing questions in relation to England. Does he recognise that the grouping is headed, “Devolved administrations or legislatures”?
I am well aware of that, and I am well aware that we have different arrangements around the country, but it is still an injustice to England that under the model proposed by Opposition Members, the biggest part of the Union by far would not be consulted on the same basis as the rest of the United Kingdom. I quietly remind them that to have the happy Union that I want, that all Government Members want and that, I think, a lot of Labour Members want, when we change the arrangements and have special arrangements for some parts, we have to make sure that they are fair to England as well.
We must reflect on what we were told in 2014, and that is that we were asked to lead the Union. If we are to have respect for this place, which we do, this House has to respect that the people of Scotland have given a particular judgment. This is about the House reaching a compromise not with us as SNP MPs, but with the people of Scotland. I cannot see why the Government and Conservative Back Benchers see that as so difficult. Quite frankly, if they cannot reach that accommodation with the people of Scotland, the people of Scotland will make their own conclusion.
Some of the SNP Members do protest too much. I seem to remember that they actively fought two referendums in recent years and managed to lose both of them. For my part, I am very happy with the result of both referendums; I managed to find myself on the winning side in both cases. I believe in respecting the views of the Scottish people, who decided that they wished to remain part of the Union of the United Kingdom, and in respecting the views of voters in the United Kingdom, who said they did not wish to remain part of the European Union. That is a very clear set of messages.
This Union Parliament, in the interests of the special Scottish considerations, said that only Scottish voters would decide whether Scotland stayed in the Union or not. Although many of us had strong views and were pleased that they decided to stay, we deliberately decided that it was appropriate to let Scotland decide, because in a democracy, a country cannot be in a union that does not volunteer freely to belong to that union. The Scottish nationalists, by the same logic, must see that people like myself—the 52%—have exactly the same view on the European Union that they have on the Union of the United Kingdom. There has to be voluntary consent. When the point is reached where the majority of a country no longer wishes to belong to the European Union, it has to leave.
I would have been the first to have said, had the Scottish nationalists won the Scottish referendum, that I wanted the United Kingdom to make all due speed with a sensible solution so that Scotland could have her wishes. I think I would have wanted rather more independence for Scotland than the Scottish nationalists, because I think that if a country is going to be a properly independent—
On a point of order, Sir Roger. I keep hearing the right hon. Gentleman talking about the “Scottish nationalist party”. I do not know what party that is, but the Members on these Benches belong to the Scottish National party.
I am delighted that another advert has been given for the Scottish National party. We understand the point that its Members are making: they are not happy with the result of either referendum. However, in a democracy, when we have trusted the Scottish people to decide whether they wish to leave our Union and we have trusted United Kingdom voters to decide whether they wish to leave the European Union, it is my view and the view of practically all my right hon. and hon. Friends, and many Labour MPs, that we need to respect both results.
The memory of the right hon. Gentleman serving as the governor-general of Wales is treasured because of his memorable attempt to sing the Welsh national anthem, but he did that job without the legitimacy of a single Welsh vote. Does he not recall that this House can now act as an English Parliament under the EVEL rules? However, that is a path to the break-up of the United Kingdom.
Yes, the United Kingdom, through this Parliament, has decided that there will be differential arrangements for different parts of the United Kingdom. To Scotland we have given a Parliament; to Wales and Northern Ireland we have given an Assembly; and to England we have given absolutely nothing. That, so far, is our constitutional settlement. We have accepted exactly what the SNP spokeswoman was seeking: special treatment for Scotland through a more powerful Parliament.
One of the disappointments about this debate on devolution is that the myriad amendments do not, as I understand them, deliver more devolved powers to the Scottish Parliament or to the Welsh or Northern Ireland Assemblies, yet that opportunity will be there for the taking as we proceed with the process of leaving the European Union.
I despair at the pessimism of so many people about this very exciting process of recreating an independent, democratic country. The SNP should understand that an area such as agriculture, which Chris Bryant wrongly told us was fully devolved —of course, it is not fully devolved but almost completely centralised in Brussels, which makes all the crucial decisions and budgetary dispositions, which we then have to execute—
The hon. Gentleman says it is now, but we are still in the EU, and that is the position we are about to change. This gives us a huge opportunity to devolve that power from Brussels. Some of it might go to the Union Parliament, some to the Welsh Assembly and some to the Scottish Parliament. That is to be decided, but would it not be a good idea if the SNP joined in positively the discussion about the appropriate areas to take those powers?
Does my right hon. Friend believe, like me, that the SNP will join in the discussion if, on exiting the EU, more money becomes available to spend in the UK? If more is spent in England, it will want a dividend for Scotland as well, through Barnett.
I suspect that that is exactly right. I look forward to the day when the SNP accepts the verdict of the Union and the wisdom of the majority of Union voters, and sees that there is more power in it for devolved Parliaments and Assemblies—and potentially more money, once we no longer have to send the net contributions—and that we have a great opportunity to develop the devolved version of Scotland that the Scottish people voted for, if not always the one that the SNP would like.
Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore join me and my colleagues in demanding that powers that might come back to this Parliament, in respect of agriculture and fisheries, be handed over to Scotland and that we get the money that should be coming to us? As part of that process, why does the UK Government not start by handing over the convergence uplift money from the EU that is supposed to come to Scottish farmers and crofters but which the UK has kept its filthy hands on?
It is not my job as an English MP to make that case, but I am glad that at last the SNP is making the case for an opportunity that would present, were it to allow us to get on with Brexit and create exactly that opportunity of more money for Scottish farmers.
Does my right hon. Friend share my puzzlement that the SNP is not welcoming back control over things such as fishing, or at least the possibility of getting it, but would prefer to leave it in Brussels? It would prefer to leave fisheries policy in Brussels, rather than grabbing the opportunity coming our way to sort out our own fishing resources.
Fishing is a prime example of a deeply damaging policy pursued over 45 years during our term in the EU. It has done a lot of damage to the Scottish industry, as well as to the English industry. Is there not a case for common cause here, to work on a Union-wide fishing policy, with appropriate devolution, so that we might all be better off and protect our fisheries better, ensure that more of the fish taken is landed and sold, ensure proper conservation, ensure a bigger Scottish, English and British component in the catch taken, and ensure proper and sensible national limits on our waters, which we have not been allowed to have in the EU.
The right hon. Gentleman will remember the famous civil service memo when Britain was negotiating entry into the Common Market that said that in the light of Britain’s wider European interests, “they”—the Scottish fishermen—were “expendable”. If that was the attitude on the way in, why will it not be the attitude of the British Government on the way out?
Because the British people have advised the British Government to be much more sensible on the way out than they were on the way in. As someone who opposed the way in and voted against it as a young man at the time, I am certainly not to blame for the enormous damage visited on the Scottish industry, which the right hon. Gentleman and his party have acquiesced in over many years by always saying that we should stay in the EU, which delivered that very bad policy for Scottish fisherman. I found, going around the country and making the case for our fishing industry, that this was an extremely potent issue, inland as well as in our coastal ports. It was a great sadness to me that so many stalwart defenders of the EU were prepared to sacrifice the Scottish and the British fishing industry.
I speak as the son and grandson of fish merchants, and I should point out that it was the Scottish nationalist party—[Interruption]—that wanted to keep us in the EU and to maintain the common fisheries policy, which has destroyed jobs and industries, and which is why 54% of people in the parliamentary constituency of Banff and Buchan voted to leave. [Interruption.]
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for making a powerful point and for making the Committee even noisier than I was able to make it by my modest remarks.
My final point—I am conscious of the time and I have taken a lot of interventions—is that a big confusion about single markets underlies the SNP amendments. We have this strange contradiction in their logic whereby staying in the single market of the European Union is crucial to the health of the Scottish economy, whereas leaving the single market with England, Wales and Northern Ireland would be fine as part of the process of independence. Far more of Scotland’s business, of course, is done with the single market of the United Kingdom than is done with the single market of the EU. Some SNP Members try to justify it by saying, “Well, of course we would be allowed to stay fully in the single market with the rest of the UK, so we would want to do exactly the same thing with the EU.” That would be a matter for discussion and negotiation, if there were to be a second referendum and if SNP Members were ever to get to the point where they could win one—two things that look extremely unlikely today.
SNP Members need to look very carefully at their contradictory position. My view in both cases is that what matters is access to the market, not membership of the market, because membership comes with budget contributions, acceptance of law making, acceptance of court powers and all the rest of it, which is true of our single market in the UK just as it is of the single market as designed in the EU. Successful independent trading countries just need very good access to markets, which is what can be got under most favoured nation rules under the WTO and probably even better access through the negotiation of a special free trade agreement. It should be much easier to negotiate a free trade agreement where there is already one de facto, because it is not necessary to remove tariffs that are difficult to remove. They have already been removed; we are just trying to protect them.
I thus urge the Scottish nationalists to think again about this issue and to understand that we are all on the same side: we want maximum access for Scottish whisky as well as for English beef or whatever the product. There is every possibility that we can achieve a good deal, and we are much more likely to achieve it without the amendments tabled by SNP Members, and with a concerted view from this place that we are going to get on with implementing the wishes of the United Kingdom voters. Their message to us is, “Just do it.” That should be the message from this week’s debate in this Chamber.
I rise to speak to new clause 109, tabled in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends. I shall also speak to amendment 86 and new clause 150, tabled in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Belfast South (Dr McDonnell), for Foyle (Mark Durkan) and for South Down (Ms Ritchie). I will be brief, because I want to allow Members from Scotland, Wales and, of course, Northern Ireland to speak on these matters.
Before I come on to my substantive point about my new clause, I want to say that as a Member of Parliament representing an English constituency, I hope that my hon. Friend Seema Malhotra gets a chance to speak to her new clause 168. In Merseyside and Greater Manchester, directly elected Mayors will be in place by the end of this May. My constituents in St Helens North, people in Greater Manchester, in the Liverpool city region and indeed people across the north-west of England will expect their views and those of their elected representatives to be taken into account as part of this process.
The Good Friday agreement is, for me, at the heart of progress made in Northern Ireland and with respect to relations between Britain and Ireland. The progress made over the last number of decades has been forged by and through our common membership of the European Union. In speaking to my new clause, I am of course cognisant of the fact that this debate is taking place in the context of the implications of the referendum held last May. I voted in this Parliament to hold a referendum; I took part in that campaign; and I lost. Those who argued for a remain vote lost. I respect that fact, and I voted accordingly last week. I want to be constructive about working with the Government to get the best possible Brexit that we can for my constituents and for the United Kingdom.
However, I am also cognisant of the need for respect to be shown to a different referendum, the one that took place in Northern Ireland in 1998 on support for the Good Friday agreement. On the same day, there was another referendum which resulted in Ireland’s withdrawal of its territorial claim over Northern Ireland. That goes to the heart of the amendments tabled by my hon. Friends in the Social Democratic and Labour party. So the people of Northern Ireland, through a referendum, endorsed the Good Friday agreement. Subsequent agreements have been made between the Governments of the United Kingdom and Ireland, supported by the efforts of my hon. Friends in all the Northern Ireland parties—and I call them my hon. Friends deliberately.
May I ask the hon. Gentleman a question about new clause 109? He is asking Her Majesty’s Government to commit themselves to the principles that are enshrined in the various agreements, but given that he accepts that they have committed themselves to all those principles—as, indeed, have Her Majesty’s Opposition—why is the new clause necessary?
I think it important to bear in mind the uncertainty that has been caused by the vote to leave the European Union, and the fact that the drafting and signing of the Good Friday agreement, and all the architecture surrounding it, were in the context of both the United Kingdom and Ireland being members of the European Union. Let me also say gently to my hon. Friend that people in Northern Ireland, like people in Scotland, voted to remain in the European Union. The vote that I cast in the House on article 50 was based on the vote in the United Kingdom as a whole, but I think that that is worth bearing in mind as well.
I hope that the Government will commit themselves to ensuring that some of the provisions of the Good Friday agreement will remain in place when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, and to upholding them in both letter and spirit. The first, which is the most practical and obvious, is the free movement of people, goods and services on the island of Ireland. Trade and tourism have increased. People in the United Kingdom, in Ireland and, indeed, in the world as a whole do not lead their lives, or inhabit their communities, on the basis of boundaries. I see very little difference between crossing the boundary between my local authority in St Helens and the local authority in Knowsley and crossing the border between Derry and Letterkenny, or between Newry and Dundalk.
My second point concerns citizenship rights, specifically in relation to Northern Ireland, although my new clause 108, which was included in the previous group, refers to the status, rights and privileges of the Irish community in Great Britain. As the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Ireland and the Irish in Britain, I would welcome an assurance from the Government. Migration from Ireland was taking place before we simultaneously joined the European Union. Although Irish citizens will still be EU citizens after the UK leaves the EU, it would be good to know that the rights, status and entitlements that they have enjoyed through legislation and through custom and practice over the last century—and for many centuries—will be maintained.
This is also about the rights of people who were born in Northern Ireland to choose to be Irish or British, or to choose to be both. I choose to exercise both those rights; some people choose to exercise, exclusively, one of them; but I think it important for those who wish to be Irish citizens, and will be EU citizens, who reside in and were born in Northern Ireland to be very much in the Government’s thoughts as they negotiate our withdrawal.
The third point is about the preservation of institutions relating to strands 2 and 3 of the Good Friday agreement, namely the North South Ministerial Council and the north-south bodies. The north-south bodies deal with, for instance, food safety, trade and business, inland waterways, the Ulster Scots and the Irish language. One would imagine that when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, the Special EU Programmes Body, which was set up to distribute European Union funds, will cease to exist. It was set up under strand 2 of the Good Friday agreement, which was passed by a referendum, and which is enshrined in legislation passed by the House of Commons.
In the context of strand 3, I think it crucially important for east-west relations between the United Kingdom and Ireland to continue. There is a new dynamic following devolution and the creation of the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish and Welsh Governments, who play a role in the British-Irish Council and in forums such as the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly. It is absolutely critical that this engagement continues. Taking on board the point of Ian Paisley, these engagements are taking place in the context of our joint European union, which has made all of this just so much easier. That is an indisputable fact.
One area that concerns me greatly in terms of the UK leaving the EU is the Good Friday agreement’s provisions on human rights and equality, given the Government mood music around the European convention on human rights. That is of course separate from and outside membership of the EU, but it is worrying that the Government have intimated that they would seek to roll back or reverse some of the commitments given on human rights in terms of both Northern Ireland in relation to this new clause and people across the UK as a whole.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be very appropriate if the Minister tonight confirmed that the Government are not going to leave the European convention on human rights and the Council of Europe, because there are strong feelings on both sides of the House about that and about leaving our place in the world somewhat exposed? It is important that the Minister gives an undertaking on that tonight.
I agree entirely and pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for the valuable and important work she does in representing this place on the Council of Europe; we are very lucky to have her in that position.
On the principle of consent, having previously alluded to the Irish Government withdrawing their territorial claim, there is now no dispute—the Good Friday agreement makes this clear—by any parties in the Northern Ireland Executive or any parties in this House about the fact that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom until such time as the majority of people there decide otherwise. That is what is enshrined in the principle of consent, but it is for people in Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland as a whole to exercise that. My slight concern is that Northern Ireland leaving the European Union is a constitutional change that has been done without the consent of people in Northern Ireland, because they voted to remain. That again unsettles what has been a very delicate political balance that both Labour and Conservative Governments have sought to protect.
The new clause moved by the hon. Members for Foyle (Mark Durkan), for South Down (Ms Ritchie) and for Belfast South (Dr McDonnell) goes to the heart of this as well. There is no provision for a part of a country that leaves the EU to re-join the EU. We must be explicitly clear on that, in respecting the principle of consent. If the wishes of people in Northern Ireland change and they wish to join a united Ireland, provision should be made for them to immediately become members of the EU, having expressed their wish to join the rest of the island of Ireland in a union.
Finally, it is very important to maintain the status of the Irish language. It is a full EU recognised language, and particular reference is made to it in the Good Friday agreement in terms of its being a regional and minority language.
I have tried to be constructive in my amendment, and I hope that what I have said tonight is constructive. I have huge respect for hon. and right hon. Friends from Northern Ireland. I understand that on this we will have different views, but in doing so I seek to protect the Good Friday agreement and the peace process, which I believe has given me and many others like me opportunities that we would not otherwise have had.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I congratulate Conor McGinn for his considered and well-made speech; it was a pleasure to listen to it. I know that time is of the essence and I will therefore speak briefly to Plaid Cymru’s amendments in this group; they are new clauses 158, 159, 160 and 162 and amendment 90. With your permission, Sir Roger, we hope to press new clause 158 to a vote.
The Bill as it stands will be the biggest job-killing Act in Welsh economic history. It may be short, but it is loaded—loaded with a Brexit that pays no regard to the promises made during the vote leave campaign. This is not a Bill that ratifies the referendum result; it is a Bill that endorses the UK Government’s Brexit plan. We do not accept that the Prime Minister’s extreme Brexit is what drove people to vote leave. They were swayed by a torrent of false promises, and new clause 158 is designed to hold the Brexiteers’ feet to the fire. It would allow for proper scrutiny of the Government’s plans to uphold their pledge of continued levels of funding for Wales before triggering article 50.
The hon. Gentleman represents a rural constituency, as do I. Would he like to remind the House of the promises that were made to our rural communities, especially bearing in mind the fact that 90% of our exports go to the single market?
The hon. Gentleman has made a point that I shall make later in my speech. We were promised absolutely no detriment; that pledge was made to the people of Wales.
I wholeheartedly support new clause 158. It is a shame that my new clause 157 was not selected; it had a similar intent. Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that, despite repeated questions to the Government, they have refused to guarantee that Wales will not be left a penny worse off as a result of leaving the European Union?
That is a pertinent point, and I am happy that colleagues will support us in the Lobby if we get the opportunity to vote on my new clause later.
The UK Government’s White Paper, which was published only last Thursday, was a complete whitewash in relation to those pledges. Unsurprisingly, it made no commitment to uphold the funding pledges, which were no doubt very persuasive in Wales during the referendum. Let us remember that the estimated net benefit—I emphasise “net benefit”—to Wales from the EU in 2014 was around £245 million, or £79 per head. We will not accept a penny less from the UK Government, because that was the specific pledge by the leave campaign in our country. Not one single penny less.
Just over a week before the vote, amid huge publicity, the leader of the Conservatives in Wales said that
“funding for each and every part of the UK, including Wales, would be safe if we vote to leave.”
I, too, will be supporting the hon. Gentleman’s new clause 158 in the Lobby this evening if a vote is called. I would also have supported new clause 157. He is making an important point. Does he agree that the Joint Ministerial Committee would be a vehicle for the Welsh First Minister, on behalf of the Welsh Assembly, to make that case and hold the Government to account?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s intervention, and I will be supporting the new clause tabled by the Labour Front Bench if it is pushed to a vote. He is completely right. At the moment, UK Government Ministers might as well go into those Joint Ministerial Committee meetings with their iPods on and their headphones in. They are not going to listen to a word that the Welsh or Scottish Governments say, or to the representatives from Northern Ireland. There is no leverage to what is discussed in those JMC meetings. We need to firm up those processes.
The extreme Brexit favoured by the UK Government takes no account of the geographical economic divergence that exists within the British state. The Welsh economy is heavily driven by exports, and two thirds of our goods go to Europe. To willingly block those vital economic arteries would be an act of calamitous self-harm, given that 200,000 jobs in Wales are sustained by our trade with Europe. As someone whose job it is to represent the interests of my constituents and compatriots, I have a responsibility to do all I can to mitigate this Bill’s intentions.
That brings me to new clause 159, which would require the Government to explore a differentiated deal for Wales within the European economic area. The unprecedented task that lies ahead for the UK will inevitably require flexibility and, indeed, imagination. We have made it clear on a number of occasions that if the UK Government give us the assurance that Wales will keep its membership of the single market and the customs union, we will support the Bill. The Government have already conceded, rightly, that flexibility will be required to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The joint Welsh Government-Plaid Cymru White Paper makes the case for the continuation of full participation—that is, membership—for Wales in the single market and the customs union.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the extraordinary attitude taken by the Government and the Prime Minister today on the status of the United Kingdom is entirely false? The United Kingdom does not exist as far as agriculture is concerned. The powers are exercised by the Welsh Government and the EU. If this goes through, it will be an attempt by the Government to take back powers that have already been devolved to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The hon. Gentleman is correct, as always, and I will come to that point later in my speech when I talk about shared competence and some of the constitutional reforms that will have to be made following Brexit.
In a similar manner, concessions have reportedly been made in certain sectors of the economy. We have already heard about Nissan in Sunderland and, as we would expect, the City of London. New clause 159 calls on the Government to show Wales a similar level of consideration by committing to consult on a territorial exemption when the Prime Minister drags the UK out of the single market.
Last week, I asked about guarantees about tariffs, specifically that there be no tariffs on Ford engines built in my constituency and exported out of Wales. I was told that there was no guarantee but that there was a commitment. Is a commitment good enough for Wales? Is it good enough for the United Kingdom given that we are now £1.8 trillion in debt—a national debt that is growing by more than £5,000 a second?
The hon. Lady is right to mention the fears about Ford because it is a major employer. I pay tribute to her for having the courage of her convictions when she voted against the Labour Whip last week.
Vote Leave campaigned on a platform of sovereignty, claiming that it wanted decisions made as closely to the people as possible. New clause 160 would allow precisely that by requiring the National Assembly for Wales to endorse any final agreement on the terms of exiting the European Union, thereby ensuring that Wales is fully involved in the process and that its needs are met. The Supreme Court ruling, which concluded that the Sewel convention holds no legal weight, confirms our long-held suspicion that devolution, and the principles it champions, is built on sand. Indeed, the UK Government went out of their way in their submission to the court to emphasise the supremacy of this Westminster Parliament over the devolved Parliaments. Within the UK, it seems as though some Parliaments are more equal than others. Indeed, the Supreme Court ruling is why new clause 160 is necessary. If the British state is a partnership of equals, this is an opportunity for the UK Government to prove it.
The Prime Minister obviously recognises her political duty to consult with the devolved Administrations—if only to save her own reputation. After all, she does not want to go down in history for breaking up two unions. Without the leverage of a vote on the final terms, Wales’ input holds no weight. The Brexiteers are ploughing ahead with the hardest of brutal Brexits. The Prime Minister’s “plan” speech on
New clause 162 and amendment 90 deal with repatriated powers and the constitutional future of the British state. On the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, powers will be repatriated to the UK, as mentioned by Paul Flynn, and a determination will need to be made about powers in devolved areas. At the moment, there is little experience within the British state of shared competence. Serious thought and consideration must be given to the future of the UK’s constitutional structures. If not, we are in danger of constitutional turmoil.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Does he agree that the problem with some speeches from Government Members is that they simply do not get that this is not a unity constitutional state anymore? We have separate Administrations, for example. How will the UK’s internal single market work? Have the Government given any thought to such matters? I do not think they have. Does he agree?
In all the hon. Gentleman’s remarks, he skates over the fact that it was a referendum of the United Kingdom. The people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. What is more, the people of Wales voted to leave the European Union. He ought to respect the people of Wales, who made that decision as much as did the people of the United Kingdom.
I am not questioning the referendum result. I am trying to work out what happens next in the interests of all the people I represent in Carmarthenshire and the people of my country, Wales.
Powers repatriated that straddle both devolved and reserved subject areas must be dealt with effectively, and the National Assembly must retain its autonomy. By “taking back control” the Prime Minister must not mean rolling back on devolution. New clause 162 would provide an avenue for that by committing the UK Government to conduct a review of the UK’s constitution.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the likely rejection of his amendment by Government Members, along with their put-down of every attempt to get some meaningful consultation with Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, belies a deep arrogance? They actually think that this process means that British Ministers can override Ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on matters that pertain to those countries.
I agree exactly with the hon. Gentleman, but I would go further. My great fear is that Brexit will be used by the UK Government and by the Conservative party to derail and undermine devolution in its entirety.
I hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but does he agree that what we need more than anything else at this moment is mutual respect of the devolution settlements and that we should do our best to achieve consensus wherever possible?
I fully agree with the hon. Gentleman. The amendments tabled by the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Labour endeavour to achieve that, and it is a source of great regret tonight that they have been taken so badly by Government Members.
I do not usually make a habit of quoting the leader of the Conservatives in Wales, but in this instance he has made another fitting statement, and I will hold his party to account on it. He said in an LBC interview last month:
“No, this won’t be the last Wales Bill…. Brexit will require devolution changes to realign those responsibilities.”
There we have it. A devolution settlement meant to last a generation, and which received Royal Assent only last week, is already redundant.
I finish by reiterating that on
I have listened to the debate with interest, but I had not intended to contribute, so I will be brief because other Members want to speak.
I say to Alex Salmond, the ex-leader of the SNP, that 17.4 million people voted to leave. The majority of the amendments that we are faced with this evening are wholly vexatious and are intended to frustrate the will of the people. What aspect of these three simple English words do the SNP not understand: “You lost twice”?
My hon. Friend Margaret Ferrier just predicted exactly what the right hon. Gentleman was about to say, because apparently he said it a day or so ago. Does he remember the result of the general election in Scotland? Fifty-six out of 59 seats. Does he remember the result of the Scottish election? Nicola Sturgeon was resoundingly returned as First Minister of Scotland.
I like having a helpful intervention, which gives me another chance to remind the Committee that 17.4 million people across the UK voted for this result. The one thing that would be bad this evening is if we were to accept any of these amendments, because that would lead to uncertainty. What we need is clarity. After the vote last week, businesses, investors and those in jobs across the land need clarity and certainty, so I suggest that the SNP gets back to the day job. Look at the primary schools where literacy rates are declining. Look at the universities where the number of people from less well-off backgrounds is declining. Look at the great hospitals that are not performing. Look at the mess the SNP made of its police reforms. Go back and work on the day job.
Another narrative is creeping into this evening’s debates. It concerns Northern Ireland and is rather more serious than the pantomime of the SNP. I refer to some comments have been made about the potential threat to the peace process, and I wish to put another point of view. The people who should be given the most credit are the incredibly brave professional people in our security forces who, under the most extraordinary provocation and in difficult circumstances, held the line and held the peace, which allowed the peace process to take place. I also pay tribute to all those in all parties in Northern Ireland who worked on the peace process; to the two leading parties in the UK, the Conservative party and the Labour party, which took a bipartisan approach; to the two main parties in the Dáil, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil; and to the two main parties in Washington, the Democrats and the Republicans. That extraordinary unity of purpose, over many years, has brought Northern Ireland to the better place it is in.
When I was shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I went to Northern Ireland every week for three years, and when I was Secretary of State I went every week for two years. In five years, I do not recall having a single meeting with any EU official; I do not recall any visit to Brussels on any issue. Obviously, the two years I spent at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs were a complete contrast, as about 90% of what DEFRA does is implement EU law. So I wish to correct the idea about what would happen should the UK bring back powers and the money to this place. Obviously, there were significant EU funds, so we will have shedloads of money coming back, which we will continue to spend.
I wish to put on the record again the fact that in five years neither I, nor my right hon. Friend Sir Hugo Swire, my stalwart Minister of State, can remember a single meeting with an EU official. That just puts into perspective the importance of the EU. I recall having the German ambassador to a successful dinner at Hillsborough where we talked about investors, but I honestly cannot recall a meeting with the EU. I did come in after the settlement had gone through and perhaps Labour Members who were involved remember interventions, but for me the key players in this were the UK security forces, the two main parties here, the two main parties in Dublin and the two main parties in Washington.
The right hon. Gentleman used the term “shedloads”. Will he tell the House how much “shedloads” is? Is it more or less than the £350 million for the NHS that was plastered on that now infamous bus?
The latest figure I saw was about £10 billion, so significant funds from the EU pass through the UK Government and those funds could be either spent at the same level or increased should we wish to do so. I therefore do not see that the money side will destabilise the peace process. We have heard talk that the process is unhelpful for Northern Ireland, but it has moved on to a completely different position. The main thing to concentrate on in Northern Ireland is getting the economy moving, and that is where the real efforts should be. It is also worth thinking about the position of the Republic—
Yes, I am perfectly happy to accept that. That was in the negotiation before I arrived. I worked closely with the former Member for St Helens South when he was Secretary of State and I was his shadow. As shadow, I spent a lot of time going to Dublin, talking to both parties, and to Washington, and that continued when I became Secretary of State. The point I am making is that in the time I have been around, the EU has not played a key negotiating role. Money has been going in that we can easily replicate and the peace process has moved on. I want to correct the narrative that the EU played a key role in the whole process.
It is interesting that the Republic of Ireland is now moving on as well. I had interesting letter from Anthony Coughlan, the associate professor emeritus in social policy at Trinity College, Dublin. He has produced an interesting paper on why Brexit should be accompanied by Irexit—Ireland exit. To give the House a feel for it, the third paragraph of his letter says:
“Now that the Republic has become a net contributor to the EU Budget, and the fact that it will be doing nearly two-thirds of its foreign trade with English speaking countries outside the EU when the UK leaves, as well as for the other reasons set out in the report, it is clearly in its best interests that it should leave the EU at or around the same time as the UK does.”
That shows that there are forward-thinking people in Dublin, and brings attention to the extraordinarily close relations we currently have with Dublin, which will continue.
We have clear indications in the White Paper about the common travel area. There will be continued close relations and close movement, which is to the advantage of all citizens in Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a lot of the changes and things that must happen in future will have to come from the EU? We need article 50 to go through quickly so we can get on with it, but we need the EU to start looking after Ireland and fighting their corner so that we can all work together to find the best solution.
I am not sure that the words “looking after Ireland” will be that welcome in a proud independent state, but the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. He has taken the point I made: uncertainty is not good for Northern Ireland, and I shall happily vote against all the amendments, because they would lead to uncertainty. If EU funds have been provided, we can pick them up. The key players are the two main parties in this House, the two main parties in the Dáil, and the two main parties in Washington. Those are the real guarantors of the peace process. With that, I look forward to voting against the amendments.
The real guarantors of the peace process were the people of Ireland when they voted by referendum in May 1998 to choose and underpin the agreement. Neither of the two main parties in this House had a vote in that referendum, and nor did the two parties in Washington, so let us be clear on who the real guarantors are. In the context of a debate in which we are told we have to go by the imperative of the referendum that took place on
Mr Paterson says he does not want uncertainty, but as far as the Good Friday agreement is concerned, the uncertainty is being created by Brexit. Neither he nor anyone else in this House should be surprised when they start to hear that the negotiations that take place after the Assembly elections will not just deal with the questions of scandal, the lack of accountability and transparency, and the smugness and arrogance displayed by the parties in government, but will go to the core of the implications for the agreement as a result of Brexit.
The fact is that although the Good Friday agreement has been wrongly dismissed by others, the EU is mentioned in it. It is there in strands 1 and 2—one of the most expansive references is in relation to the competence of the North South Ministerial Council; it is there in strand 3; and, of course, it is there in the key preamble of the agreement between the Government of the UK and the Government of Ireland, which refers to their common membership of the EU. As John Hume always predicted, that provided both the model and the context for our peace process.
It is no accident that when John Hume, who drove so much of the principles and method into the Good Friday agreement, was awarded the Nobel peace prize—well, just look at that speech and how many references there were to the signal role of Europe and the special contribution it had made and would make, and to the role that the experience of common membership of the EU would play. That is why he said:
“I want to see Ireland—North and South—the wounds of violence healed, play its rightful role in a Europe that will, for all Irish people, be a shared bond of patriotism and new endeavour.”
When he enunciated those words in 1998, he was not talking about a new concept. We can look across the Chamber and see the plaque commemorating Tom Kettle, a former Member of this House who gave his life in the first world war. Before that war, he said that his programme for Ireland consisted in equal parts of home rule and the 10 commandments. He said:
“My only counsel to Ireland is, that to become deeply Irish, she must become European.”
Before he gave his life in the war, he said:
“Used with the wisdom that is sewn in tears and blood, this tragedy of Europe may be and must be the prologue to the two reconciliations of which all statesmen have dreamed, the reconciliation of Protestant Ulster with Ireland, and the reconciliation of Ireland with Great Britain.”
That reconciliation was best achieved and best expressed when we had the Good Friday agreement, which was so overwhelmingly endorsed in this House and in the referendum of the Irish people, north and south of the border. We know that some people did not endorse it, and that some people have held back their endorsement and refused to recognise that referendum result. Some of them are the same people who are telling us now that we have to abide by the referendum result in respect of Brexit and that we have to ignore the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland in respect of remaining in the EU. It is the same as when they said that we had to ignore the wishes of the people in Northern Ireland in respect of the Good Friday agreement.
No one should be under any misapprehension that there are implications for the Good Friday agreement. When we hear this lip service that we get from the Government, the rest of us are meant to lip synch along with it and talk about frictionless borders and the common travel area. All those things about the border experience and the common travel area predate the agreement itself, so if we address those issues and those concerns, we must understand that the terms in which they are addressed are not reliable and that they are not relevant to protecting some of the aspects of the agreement itself, which is why the amendments in this group that we have tabled are so important.
Mr Harper has already referred to new clause 150, which appears on page 75 of the Order Paper. We have also tabled a key amendment, amendment 86, to which Conor McGinn referred when he addressed new clause 109. There are also amendments 88 and 92, which deal with questions around the competence of the devolved Assembly, and the need for consent in respect of any changes to the competence of that Assembly or of devolved Ministers. Those amendments are not about the question of the Assembly giving consent to the triggering of article 50, so it is not about the same question that went to the Supreme Court—but it is about issues and principles that were addressed and are expressed in the judgment of the Supreme Court that too many people have sought to ignore.
As a supposed co-guarantor of the Good Friday agreement, the UK Government are meant to have a duty to protect and develop that agreement. Indeed, various Ministers have told us that they have no intention of allowing Brexit to undermine the agreement. If that is so, there should be no difficulty in having that commitment in the Bill. Politically, we all have to conclude from the Supreme Court judgment that no matter what principles have been agreed or established, none of us can have recourse to their legal adherence without their explicit inclusion in legislation and/or a treaty. We therefore have a duty to be vigilant against any legislative terms that could be used to relegate the crucial importance of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and/or the Belfast agreement more widely.
Those sponsoring and supporting this Bill do so arguing the need to respect the outcome of the referendum on
The hon. Gentleman is talking about some extraordinarily challenging and difficult issues, which could have some very serious implications in Northern Ireland. It seems to me that it is our duty—all of us who want to see Northern Ireland prosper and go forward—to recognise the fact that the UK is exiting the EU and that we have to make the most of it. Will he commit to the House that he will not make divisions over Brexit a part of the SDLP campaign during the Northern Ireland elections?
The right hon. Gentleman has some neck to ask the Social Democratic and Labour party not to make divisions over Brexit an issue in the election. The wishes of the people of Northern Ireland, which were clearly expressed in the referendum last year, are being ignored. Are we now also to tell the people, “Ignore your own wishes”? The right hon. Gentleman obviously expects a party like the SDLP, which honourably fought a campaign to remain, to say, “Ignore your wishes. Set them aside. You have to be slaves to the impulses of a vote in England in response to some crazy argument.”
Clause 1(2) denies any regard whatever to protecting the constitutional, institutional or rights provisions of the Good Friday agreement or their due reflection in the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which is why we tabled amendment 86. Clause 1(2) seeks to ensure that that Bill is not restricted by any other legislation whatever. Amendment 86 would create an exception for the Northern Ireland Act 1998. Crucially, it would uphold the collateral principles in the other part of the Good Friday agreement, which is between the Governments of the UK and Ireland, and is not fully reflected in the 1998 Act. The amendment would also exempt section 2 of the Ireland Act 1949 from the override power in the Bill or its outworkings. I admit that the amendment would act as a boundary to the powers provided to the Prime Minister by clause 1(1) and would galvanise the protection for the agreement but, given that the Prime Minister is trying to tell us that she would observe those boundaries, why should she fear that being on the face of the Bill?
New clause 150 draws on key language from the Good Friday agreement, as I made clear to the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean. It is intended to ensure that any future UK-EU treaty—we are told that the Government want to negotiate a new UK-EU treaty—will make explicit reference to upholding the fundamental constitutional precept of the Good Friday agreement, which is the principle of consent that affords a democratic route to a united Ireland if that ever becomes the wish of a majority of people in Northern Ireland. In the case of any such future referendum, no uncertainty whatever must hang over Northern Ireland’s direct admission to the EU as a consequence of a vote for a united Ireland. Nor, indeed, must there be any uncertainty over Ireland’s terms of membership of the European Union.
Such uncertainty was deployed during the Scottish independence referendum, when people said, “Don’t make assumptions about Scotland having an automatic place in the EU or that it will be easy. Article 49 will make it very difficult.” The difference for Northern Ireland is that it does not have the choice of becoming a new state. Under the Good Friday agreement, its only choice is membership of the United Kingdom or membership of a united Ireland. That agreement was made at a time when both countries had common membership of the EU. Any future referendum will not take place in that situation. Lots of people can place question marks over whether Northern Ireland would have straightforward entry to the EU in that context. Under the terms of the Good Friday agreement, that could constitute an external impediment to the exercise of that choice or even to the choice of having a referendum.
The Taoiseach identified this issue at the MacGill Summer School last year. It will be an issue for the Irish Government, as one of the 27 member states, when they negotiate their side of the treaty. It would be an odd position for the Irish Government as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday agreement to want this to be reflected in a new UK-EU treaty. This is not just an issue for the British Government as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday agreement; it should be something that they are equally and comfortably committed to.
Let us remember that the key precept of the principle of consent and the democratic choice for a united Ireland, as reflected in a referendum in 1998, was the key point that turned it for those people who had locked themselves on to the nonsense idea that they supported violence sourced from a mandate from the 1918 election. That was the key for quite a number of people to say, “Physical force has no more place in the course of Irish politics.” Physical force is now parked because the Irish people as a whole have, in this generation, by articulated self-determination, upheld this agreement, and that gives them the right, by further articulated self-determination, to achieve unity in the future. Anything that diminishes or qualifies or damages that key precept will damage the agreement. People need to know the difference between a stud wall and a supporting wall: just knocking something through because it is convenient and gives a bit more space might be grand and might do, but if at some future point, when other pressures arise, things start coming down around us, people should not complain. We have to be diligent and vigilant on these matters.
I would also point out that the German precedent, which some people have told us would apply automatically, would not apply. That was under a different treaty. We should also remember that the German precedent partly relied on the fact that the West German constitution, recognised by the then EC treaty, included a territorial claim of jurisdiction over all of Germany—that the basic law applied. That is not the case now in respect of Ireland, because articles 2 and 3 were changed, rightly and properly, in the context of the Good Friday agreement. Those things should not be confounded because of the way in which Brexit takes its course over the years to come. That is why we have to take care of these things now. It is not just the Taoiseach who raised this issue last summer; it is quite clear that the Joint Oireachtas Committee of the Doyle and the Seanad is also prioritising it, and I believe it will feature in one of the Committee’s reports.
I advise Ministers that amendment 86, and quite possibly new clause 150, will also be tabled in the House of Lords. They will be tabled by Lord Murphy—Paul Murphy who piloted the 1998 Act through this House. He also chaired the strand 1 negotiations. Everybody thinks George Mitchell chaired all the negotiations to do with the Good Friday agreement, but he did not chair strand 1, which included some of the most detailed negotiations. Paul Murphy chaired strand 1, and he represented the British Government for most of the time in the strand 2 negotiations as well. If someone of his experience and insight—both from that time and from the role he played as Secretary of State—can see the importance of this and the salient, crucial need to protect the agreement through something such as amendment 86 and new clause 150, who are people in this House to dismiss that point, that experience and that insight, as well as dismissing the clear wishes of the people of Northern Ireland?
Finally, I want to address amendments 88 and 92, which make provision for any change to the legislative competence of the Assembly or to the executive competence of the Executive to require the assent of the Assembly. They address issues that found expression in the Supreme Court judgment. There has been a false shorthand around the Supreme Court judgment that has basically said that no aspect of Sewel can ever apply in any way, and that is not what the Supreme Court actually said. At paragraph 151, it said:
“we do not underestimate the importance of constitutional conventions, some of which play a fundamental role in the operation of our constitution. The Sewel Convention has an important role in facilitating harmonious relationships between the UK Parliament and the devolved legislatures.”
The point is a simple one: if this House does not uphold this convention at this time on such an important change in the governance of Northern Ireland, what, then, is left of that convention?
We need to remember that the Good Friday agreement is based not just on the principle of consent but on the promise and the exercise of trust and reliable adherence. We have a situation now where this Parliament is not being seen to keep its side of what was assumed to be the bargain and the understanding in the compact between all the people of Northern Ireland and the people of Ireland, and between the Governments of these islands. That is why we have tabled amendments 88 and 92.
On amendment 92, I want Members to understand that it is important that the Government indicate that they understand what new changes there will be to the competency of the Northern Ireland Assembly and when those will happen. If, as we are being told—this came up in exchanges between hon. Members from Wales—the great repeal Bill, when it comes, involves competencies over rights or environmental standards being held in some sort of holding pattern here before subsequently being devolved, that could do serious injury to rights protections and promises under the Good Friday agreement. If we have dilution of those rights or standards before devolution, the Northern Ireland Assembly will not be able to top them back up to the pre-existing EU standards without cross-community support, which will probably be denied courtesy of the DUP, just as it has abused and misused the parallel consent principles—the petition of concern—to block other rights. A mechanism that was meant to be there to protect rights has actually been used to frustrate rights. We have to make sure that in the journey of the transfer of powers and competences from Brussels to the UK, it is clearly a case of “Devolution, straight to devolution, do not pass Go, do not collect £200”, and that there is no dirty work at the crossroads in relation to diluting rights and standards. That is why these issues are being addressed.
That will be a key issue in strand 1 and it will become an issue in the negotiations that take place after the election. Those negotiations will touch on the petition of concern itself, but also the context that has been created by Brexit in terms of further powers that might be coming to the Assembly. Similarly, as Conor McGinn said, the question of strand 2 will arise in the negotiations, because the Good Friday agreement made a commitment that there would be at least six implementation bodies, on a cross-border basis. The six that were created after the Good Friday agreement were, by the insistence of the Ulster Unionist party, which was the only Unionist party negotiating by that stage, all related to areas that dealt a lot with European funding or dealt with questions of common compliance with European standards. If we no longer have common European funding or the issues of common compliance, then the rationale for those existing bodies has gone and there will have to be six new bodies. That opens up a whole area of negotiation. It brings us essentially into a review of the Good Friday agreement.
Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that before there are any new bodies or any more reviews, the priority for the people of Northern Ireland should be to get a working Assembly and re-elect a working Executive to get on with running Northern Ireland, so that all these things can then be dealt with? Without that, there will be no more devolution of anything it seems.
Yes, and my party and I are fully pledged to doing that. Nobody worked harder to create the principles and the precepts of the agreement and to get those institutions established and up and running—and we did so, I have to tell Mr Paterson, with very good assistance from the EU. As someone who was a Minister in Northern Ireland—both a Finance Minister and a Deputy First Minister—I had many negotiations with many people in the EU, including Michel Barnier, who was very constructive and helpful in relation to a number of funding issues. Yes, he had his particularisms about which one had to be careful and understand where he was coming from, and certainly his officials had to understand where he was coming from, but it was a useful and constructive contribution—one of many—from the EU.
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that if article 50 is triggered we will no longer have InterTradeIreland, Waterways Ireland, Tourism Ireland, and the six bodies that were set up by the Belfast agreement? I do not see any threat to them from triggering article 50.
I point out to the hon. Gentleman that it was his party that said, “If we are going to go ahead and agree these implementation bodies, the cover has to be that the way in which we can show that they meet our test of mutual benefit is that they deal with matters that largely transpose EU business and involve questions of common compliance.” There is the Food Standards Agency, and Waterways Ireland and the Loughs Agency have some environmental compliance issues—and of course there is also the question of EU funding. As the hon. Member for St Helens North said, the role of the Special EU Programmes Body is not going to exist if no common EU funding is to be available any more.
If the rationale and justification for the existing bodies is wounded and weakened, then those of us who negotiated and supported the agreement have the right to say, “We’ve already had nearly 20 years of this limited area of implementation co-operation. It now needs to be developed and expanded as the agreement promised it could be.” If the existing bodies are wounded and winged by the fact of Brexit, if they limp along and struggle for relevance, then clearly there must be—in the context of a review at least of strand 2, if not the wider agreement—negotiations on new bodies. Those negotiations, as we know, will not find themselves unlinked to other issues and factors as well. Some hon. Members of this House have hummed to themselves that Brexit has no implications for the Good Friday agreement, and that as long as they say that they will consult Ministers and that they do not want border posts, no other damage has been done. They do not understand the politics that went into the agreement, and they do not understand the politics that will upset the workings of that agreement because of the implications of Brexit.
That is why if people have a care for the Good Friday agreement, they should have no problem with amendment 86. If people vote against amendment 86 on Wednesday, they will be voting against the idea that we can have the Good Friday agreement at the same time as pursuing Brexit.
Order. I have no power to impose time limits on Committee stage debates. A lot of Members wish to speak. Back-Bench contributions to this debate will have to end at 11.45 pm to allow the Front Benchers any time at all to wind up. It is patently obvious that not all Members are going to get in. I urge extreme brevity, please.
It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Sir Roger, and to follow Mark Durkan. Whenever he speaks, he gives us an interesting perspective on how politics is going in Northern Ireland. It seems to me that Sinn Féin might be doing slightly well at the moment.
We are talking about a matter that is important not just for Northern Ireland but for the whole United Kingdom, and I particularly want to address new clause 4. My right hon. Friend Mr Harper set out cogently the lack of consensus in respect of the devolved Administrations. The drafters and presenters of the new clause know very well that consensus is almost impossible to achieve, as the shadow Minister admitted.
Less focus has been given to subsection (1). The new clause would operate after article 50 has been triggered. The risk is that having triggered article 50, negotiated with the European Union and thought that we had a deal, the machinery might prevent us from closing that deal. The new clause might have the unintended consequence of making any deal hard to achieve, because it contains a whole mechanism for having two months before signing any agreements and needing to seek to achieve consensus before entering any agreements.
The best way forward is to have a clean Brexit with a clean Bill that simply puts article 50 through and lets the Government get on with it. The Government have already said that they are going to involve the House in what is happening and in the negotiations. It is a United Kingdom reserved matter and a United Kingdom decision, and it would be wrong, as a matter of principle, for this important negotiation and decision to be hamstrung by the risk that consensus could not be achieved.
We have already spoken about the validity of the devolved Administrations in issues relating to the European Union. Does the hon. Gentleman not respect the existence of the devolved Administrations, elected as they were by referendum? Does he not recognise that new clause 4 is a very moderate clause, and that consensus should be sought? Why are the Government seeking to oppose it?
Of course I respect the devolved Administrations. I respect the constituent nations of this country, I respect my constituents and I respect the fact that the people of Wales voted to leave the European Union. It is important that referendums that take place in this nation are respected. That goes for the Scottish nationalist party as well, which disrespects every single referendum.
Does the hon. Gentleman not recognise that 62% of people in Scotland voted to remain in Europe? If he respects the nation and the people of Scotland, why do the Government that he supports not compromise with the Scottish people and the Scottish Government and allow us to achieve what we voted for, which is to remain in the single market?
The hon. Gentleman should know that the biggest single market that Scotland is part of is the United Kingdom; that is its biggest single market. [Interruption.] Some Members are telling me to answer the question, so let us look at the record of the Scottish nationalists when it comes to referendums. In No. 1, the alternative vote referendum, they backed a yes vote and they lost. They will not respect that. In No. 2, they backed an independence referendum—they lost. They will not respect that either. In No. 3, they fought on the United Kingdom-wide referendum we have just had—it covered the United Kingdom that the people of Scotland voted to remain a part of—and they will not respect its outcome. Now, they are blustering that they will have another independence referendum, even though over half the people of Scotland say they do not want one, and although they know they will lose it by the same margin as they lost it last time.
I want to conclude my remarks by saying that it is high time the Labour party respected the fact that the people of Wales and the people of England voted to leave the European Union, it is high time that the Scottish National party respected a referendum—it has, despite the interesting explanation given by its former leader, disrespected three referendums—and it is high time that we have a clean Brexit with a clean Bill and that we send the Bill to the House of Lords unamended.
I am grateful for the chance to speak in this important debate about how we can engage more with the devolved Administrations and legislatures in relation to our future discussions and negotiations.
I want to speak to my new clause 168, which calls on the Government to establish a new national convention to advise Her Majesty’s Government on their priorities during negotiations with the EU on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. It calls on Ministers of the Crown to take into account the views of the national convention before signing any agreements with the European Commission on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. I propose that the national convention should convene representatives from across different levels of Government, the regions—including, in case anybody has missed this, all the English regions—and various sectors to meet and produce a report recommending negotiating priorities that would better reflect the needs of the regions of the UK.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Secretary of State for Brexit said there would be some kind of meeting in York, where the Government would bring together representatives of the regions. That was some time ago, and since then we have heard nothing about it. That would fit in completely with her idea of a national convention, so it would be helpful if the Minister put some flesh on the bones of what the Secretary of State was talking about.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Indeed, the lack of engagement with the regions has been highlighted in the work of the Exiting the European Union Committee.
The Secretary of State actually said that he would get
“the mayors of the north to come and have a meeting in York”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 619, c. 802.]
That was a very vague statement. My concern is that it does not seem to provide any clarity about how the Government are going to engage with regions that will not have elected Mayors by May, such as the north-east. Indeed, such Mayors will be elected only in May, which will be far too late for these negotiations.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. It comes down to how much the Government are really committed to and interested in hearing from differing voices across the country as we move forward. That is why I want the convention to include elected Mayors, representatives of civil society and local government, and MEPs—they have great expertise and experience—as well as representatives of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly of Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly.
I will make some progress first.
The national convention would include a wider set of voices, each with an important contribution to make to the debate, including universities and higher education representatives, business organisations, trade unions, trade bodies and other representatives of different sectors.
The referendum demonstrated the alienation that many people feel from politics as a whole. The result showed a nation split down the middle. Seven out of 10 18 to 24-year-olds voted remain, while two thirds of over-65s voted leave. Cities tended to vote remain, while small towns and rural areas tended to vote leave. England and Wales voted leave, while Scotland and Northern Ireland voted remain.
We need to have a way in which the expertise of our many long-standing Members of the European Parliament can be shared with the nation. I am not saying that I would have one or the other. What is important is that there is a continuing dialogue and that we engage the nations and the regions across the country in a far more diverse debate than we are currently having.
I will make some progress, because we have only a few moments left and other Members wish to speak.
Yesterday in my constituency, I held a roundtable with people who voted leave and those who voted remain, from people in their 20s to those in their 80s. It was a useful discussion that engaged people in the choices and dilemmas ahead. They said why they voted leave or remain. Their reasons included the commitment of £350 million for the NHS, housing and immigration, particularly opening up immigration from non-EU countries, including Commonwealth countries. Many felt that they did not understand the implications of Brexit, nor what the risks might be.
I am afraid that we are running short of time.
People wanted more information and more debate. One person even asked me what article 50 was. The level of understanding is very low and it is vital that we continue to engage people. People had a vote in a referendum, but going forward there is no forum for people to understand and engage in the journey we are on.
The national convention that I propose would fill an important gap. It would give English cities and regions a voice alongside Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a strong national conversation about where we go next. It would recognise and harness the expertise of our councillors and the vast experience and expertise of many other sectors and, yes, our MEPs.
Brexit will have different effects on different communities, sectors, regions and nations. The needs of farmers in Cornwall will be different from those of the nuclear industry in Cumbria, the media and tech sectors in Manchester, the financial services in Scotland and London, and car manufacturing in the north-east. Those differences should be shared and those needs should be understood in a public forum. In evidence to the Exiting the European Union Committee, on which I sit, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union admitted that not enough had yet been done on regional engagement.
Many of us were deeply disappointed with the quality of the referendum debate. The setting up of the national convention would inform and shape a mature national debate during the negotiation period and help unite the country. New clause 168 is an opportunity and a test for the Government. If they are serious about a Brexit that works for everyone, they should welcome this opportunity to take the discussion out of Whitehall and engage the country.
Can the hon. Lady clear something up for me? She is proposing a national assembly, the purpose of which is to advise Her Majesty’s Government on their priorities, and its report would not be received, according to proposed new subsection (7), for 15 months. Is she saying that we wait 15 months—in which case she wants simply to delay—or is she saying that the report would come after the negotiations are over?
Perhaps I can clear this up. The maximum time is to encourage engagement over the period of the negotiations, assuming that they last for two years. This is a process to engage the regions and nations far more effectively in a national conversation. If there is one thing that this debate and the referendum outcome have taught us, it is that people want to be listened to.
I rise to speak in support of amendment 46, which stands in my name and that of my hon. Friends, but before that I would like to take the opportunity to thank Conservative Members who have spoken this evening for their quite extraordinary display of hubris and contempt towards amendments, laid by several different parties, that simply seek to make sure that the reality of the modern British constitution and devolved settlement is respected. Those of us who believe that Scotland would be better off managing its own affairs as an independent member of the EU will have received a huge boost this evening from their behaviour. It was a pleasure to listen to the speech of Mark Durkan. I am sure he will forgive me if I say that I suspect that the cause of a united Ireland has also received a boost this evening. I very much hope so.
I will be brief so that others from my party might have a chance to speak. The purpose of amendment 46 is to require the Prime Minister to obtain the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Irish Assembly before she triggers article 50. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to correct Mr Vara and his woeful misunderstanding of what the Supreme Court did, and did not say, in relation to legislative consent motions. It said that, as currently framed in the Scotland Act, it is not legally enforceable. It did not say that it had no meaning whatsoever. The hon. Member for Foyle quoted paragraph 151 of the judgment, and I very much suggest that Conservative Members read the judgment, rather than simply taking from it what they want. It said:
“The Sewel Convention has an important role in facilitating harmonious relationships between the UK parliament and the devolved legislatures. But the policing of its scope and the manner of its operation does not lie within the constitutional remit of the judiciary”.
Order. I ask the hon. and learned Lady to take her seat. I have been very kind in bringing in the SNP, and I ask that she not take advantage of the time—[Interruption.] Order. I wanted to share the time, so I hope that she is coming to an end, so that we can get one more speaker in, as I promised I would do by allowing her to speak.
The purpose of the amendment is to require the Government to do what they said they would do when they introduced the Scotland Act, which was to make the Scottish Parliament the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world, and give it a say in a process that will fundamentally affect the rights of Scottish citizens and Scottish business. [Interruption.] I noted that Government Members were given as much time as they wanted to make their points, and I intend to take as much time, as is my right, to make my points.
Order. I think that the hon. and learned Lady’s speech has come to an end. Let us now please hear from the Minister.
Mr Salmond, you should know better. [Interruption.] Order. One second.
On a point of order, Mr Hoyle. It is clear that my hon. and learned Friend Joanna Cherry had not resumed her seat, Sir. Being in the Chair accords you many privileges, but you cannot reinterpret the wishes of an hon. Member who is on her feet.
As the occupant of the Chair, I have the right to make decisions in this Committee. [Interruption.] Just a moment. I rightly wanted to bring in the hon. and learned Lady, which I did. When the SNP Whip comes and asks me to give a couple of minutes to ensure that the SNP has another voice, which I did, I certainly do not expect advantages to be taken of the Chair on the agreement that I met. That is the issue. Sit down.
Calm down, Mr Wishart. This is a very serious matter. It is so serious that I want to hear what the Minister has to say in response to where we are. It is very serious and I want to hear it.
Order. Tempers are running quite high. We need to calm it down. In fairness, I have been very generous in coming into the Chair—[Interruption.] Mr Wishart, we do not need any extra help for the moment. Let me say that I want to hear, and Mr Salmond would expect to hear, what the Minister has to say in response to the opening speeches. I believe Mr Salmond would have wanted answers. The fact is that this Committee wants to hear what the Minister has to say. The last thing I wanted to do was to take up time dealing with points of order. In the end, if we do that, we will not hear from the Minister. I understand that you, Mr Salmond, may have used some unparliamentary language to me, but I am sure that you are not that kind of person and I am sure you did not do so.
I am saying that I am sure that was not the case. I did not accuse you; far from it. Let us now get the Minister on his feet.
Thank you, Mr Hoyle.
We have heard from all four corners of the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] Everyone who has spoken in the debate agrees on the importance of engaging closely with the devolved Administrations and legislatures as we embark on the forthcoming negotiations.
On a point of order, Mr Hoyle. I have to say that I have great respect for you as the Chairman, but I hope you can understand the frustration that we all feel that only two SNP Members have been called to speak in this debate, which is important for the future of Scotland and our position within Europe. I am asking what you can do, Mr Hoyle, to make sure that the voice of the people of Scotland is heard correctly in this debate. It has not been heard this evening.
I assumed my place in the Chair, and I have tried to ensure that a second SNP voice was heard, and we were listening to that. That is what I agreed to, and that is what I have done. In fairness, I think the SNP has done better than it was going to otherwise, in which case, let us hear what the Minister has to say.
Engaging with the devolved Administrations and discussing their priorities is exactly what the Joint Ministerial Council on EU Negotiations was set up for. It brings together the constituent parts of the United Kingdom to discuss each Government’s requirement for the future relationship with the EU, and to seek a UK approach to and objectives for article 50 negotiations.
I recognise the spirit in which Jenny Chapman presented the new clause, and I recognise her and her party’s dedication to the Union. However, the JMC is not a legislative or statutory body, and it would not be appropriate to change that in the way new clause 4 proposes. I say that not only for the reasons given by my right hon. Friends the Members for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) and for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) and my hon. Friend Charlie Elphicke, but because it provides a neutral forum for confidential discussions, which this new clause would undermine.
When it comes to the new clauses and amendments, we take very seriously our responsibility to ensure that we get the best deal for every part of the United Kingdom—Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and indeed, as my right hon. Friend John Redwood said, England—as well as for the UK as a whole.
I am delighted that the Minister has been able to give way. I wonder whether he and other Ministers will take it on board that Members who tabled amendments in all good faith have not even been able to speak to them because of the programme motion tabled by the Government. The Government have been forced kicking and screaming by the Supreme Court to the Chamber to present the Bill. It is about time that they thought again, and gave us more time for debate
The House voted for a programme motion, and that programme motion has been followed by the Chair.
We have not yet made final decisions about the format for direct negotiations with the European Union. That is a matter for the Prime Minister, representing the interests of the whole United Kingdom. Moreover, it is important to recognise that there are two sides to the negotiation, and we cannot say for certain how our side will progress until we know how the EU side will approach it. In the context of amendments 46, 55 and 88 and new clause 140, it is important to note that Supreme Court ruled—I quote from the summary—
“Relations with the EU and other foreign affairs matters are reserved to UK Government and parliament, not to the devolved institutions.”
The summary went on to state:
“The devolved legislatures do not have a veto on the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU”.
While that provides welcome legal clarity, it in no way diminishes our commitment to working closely with the people and the devolved Administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as we move towards our withdrawal from the European Union.
I have made it clear that the Government will negotiate on the right approach for the whole United Kingdom. I pay tribute to Conor McGinn, who made a passionate speech, and to Mark Durkan. They made important points about the significance of the Belfast agreement and its successors. I must emphasise to them that the position of the UK Government remains unchanged. Our absolute commitment to those matters is reflected in our White Paper, which mentions the Ireland Act 1949, as well as a commitment to the common travel area and our bilateral relations with the Republic of Ireland. While I accept all the points that the hon. Member for St Helens North made so well about the importance of respecting those agreements, I can assure him that the Government respect them, and I do not think that his new clauses are necessary.
We have heard a range of suggestions from Members on both sides of the House about how to engage the devolved Administrations and, indeed, every part of our United Kingdom. The Government will continue to do that through the JMC process, which is firmly established and which functions on the basis of agreement between the UK Government and the devolved Assemblies. We have also heard suggestions for huge constitutional reforms which are beyond the scope of the Bill. New clause 168 proposes that the Government establish a national convention on exiting the European Union. Amendment 91 requires a duty to consult representatives at every level of government, regions and the sectors.
I have already spoken about the role of the JMC, and Ministers throughout the Government are organising hundreds of meetings, visits and events involving businesses in more than 50 sectors across the United Kingdom. They are consulting a number of representatives, including the Mayor of London, who is mentioned in some of the amendments. New clause 168 would get in the way of those established processes, and the idea of a national convention would cause unacceptable delay to a timetable that the House has clearly supported.
We are committed to engaging closely with the devolved Administrations and all parts of the country to secure a deal that is in the best interests of the whole United Kingdom. However, as the Supreme Court ruled, relations with the EU are not a devolved matter, and no part of the UK is entitled to a veto. I urge Members not to press their new clauses and amendments, so that the Bill can make progress in the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole.
The Minister opened his remarks by saying that the JMC was not on a statutory footing. That is precisely the point of our new clause. He has given us warm words and platitudes about his respect for the devolved Administrations, but I am afraid they are not enough, and we will press the new clause to a Division.
Question accordingly negatived.
More than seven hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings, the proceedings were interrupted (Programme Order,
The Chair put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (
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