“Before issuing any notification under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union the Prime Minister shall give an undertaking to—
(a) lay before each House of Parliament periodic reports, at intervals of no more than two months on the progress of the negotiations under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union;
(b) lay before each House of Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable a copy in English of any document which the European Council or the European Commission has provided to the European Parliament or any committee of the European Parliament relating to the negotiations;
(c) make arrangements for Parliamentary scrutiny of confidential documents.”—(Matthew Pennycook.)
This new clause establishes powers through which the UK Parliament can scrutinise the UK Government throughout the negotiations.
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 20—Financial services—reports—
“As from the day on which this Act comes into force the Secretary of State shall, at least once in every six months, lay before Parliament a report stating what, if any, steps are being taken by Her Majesty’s Government to defend and promote the access to European markets for the UK financial services sector as a consequence of the exercise of the power in section 1.”
This new clause would seek regular reports from Ministers about the impact of withdrawing from the European Union on the UK financial services sector.
New clause 22—Competition Policy—
“Following the exercise of the power in section 1, Her Majesty’s Government shall make an annual report to Parliament on its policy regarding state aid, government intervention in industry and fair competition arising from the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from European Union competition regulations.”
This new clause seeks the publication of an annual report from Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the competition policy consequences of withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 29—Reporting to Parliament—
“Before exercising the power under section 1, the Prime Minister must undertake to report to Parliament each quarter on her progress in negotiations on Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union and Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.”
This new clause puts a requirement on the Prime Minister for quarterly reporting during the negotiating process.
New clause 51—Approval of White Paper on withdrawal from EU—
“(1) This Act comes into effect after each House of Parliament has approved by resolution the White Paper on withdrawal from the EU.
(2) The White Paper must, in particular, provide information on—
(a) the nature and extent of any tariffs that will or may be imposed on goods and services from the UK entering the EU and goods and services from the EU entering the UK;
(b) the terms of proposed trade agreements with the EU or EU Member States, and the expected timeframe for the negotiation and ratification of said trade agreements;
(c) the proposed status of rights guaranteed by the law of the European Union, including—
(i) labour rights,
(ii) health and safety at work,
(iii) the Working Time Directive,
(iv) consumer rights, and
(v) environmental standards;
(d) the proposed status of—
(i) EU citizens living in the UK and,
(ii) UK citizens living in the EU, after the UK has exited the EU;
(e) estimates as to the impact of the UK leaving the EU on—
(i) the balance of trade,
(ii) GDP, and
New clause 56—Notification of withdrawal from the EEA—
“The Prime Minister may not give the notification under section 1 until such time as Parliament has determined whether the UK should also seek to withdraw from the European Economic Area in accordance with Article 127 of the EEA Agreement.”
This new clause would allow for proper parliamentary debate and scrutiny of the United Kingdom’s membership of the Single Market and whether the UK should remain as a member of the European Economic Area prior to the Prime Minister triggering Article 50.
New clause 111—European Police Office (Europol)—report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the European Police Office (Europol).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Police Office (Europol) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) following the UK‘s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 113—European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)—report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK‘s participation in and engagement with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK‘s participation in and engagement with the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) following the UK‘s withdrawal from the European Union.
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the European Medicines Agency (EMEA).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 116—European Agency for Health and Safety at Work (EU-OSHA)—report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work (EU-OSHA).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work (EU-OSHA) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 118—European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop)—report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 119—European Police College (Cepol)—report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the European Police College (Cepol).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Police College (Cepol) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 120—European Environment Agency (EEA) —report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the European Environment Agency (EEA).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Environment Agency (EEA) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the European Investment Bank (EIB).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 123—Eurojust—report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with Eurojust.”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the Eurojust following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 125—European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)—report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom‘s participation in and engagement with the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom‘s participation in and engagement with the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 127—European Satellite Centre (EUSC)—report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom‘s participation in and engagement with the European Satellite Centre (EUSC).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Satellite Centre (EUSC) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 128—Protected designation of origin (PDO) scheme—report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom‘s participation in and engagement with the protected designation of origin (PDO) scheme.”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the protected designation of origin (PDO) scheme following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 129—Protected geographical indication (PGI) scheme—report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom‘s participation in and engagement with the protected geographical indication (PGI) scheme.”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the protected geographical indication (PGI) scheme following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 130—Traditional specialities guaranteed (TSG) scheme—report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty’s Government in respect of the United Kingdom’s participation in and engagement with the traditional specialities guaranteed (TSG) scheme.”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the traditional specialities guaranteed (TSG) scheme following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 134—Notification of withdrawal from the EEA—
“The Prime Minister may not give the notification at section (1) until such time as a Parliamentary vote has approved the withdrawal of the UK from the European Economic Area in accordance with Article 127 of the EEA Agreement.”
New clause 136—Approval of report on withdrawal from EU—
“(1) This Act comes into effect after each House of Parliament has approved by resolution the report on withdrawal from the EU.
(2) The report must, in particular, provide information on—
(a) EU citizens living in the UK and,
(b) UK citizens living in the EU, after the UK has exited the EU.”
New clause 151—Renewables—reports—
“As from the day on which this Act comes into force the Secretary of State shall, at least once in every six months, lay before Parliament a report stating what, if any, steps are being taken by Her Majesty’s Government to defend and promote the access to European markets for the UK renewables sector as a consequence of the exercise of the power in section 1.”
This new clause would seek regular reports from Ministers about the impact of withdrawing from the European Union on the UK renewables sector.
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty‘s Government in respect of the United Kingdom‘s participation in and engagement with the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme.”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 171—Erasmus+ Programme—report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty‘s Government in respect of the United Kingdom‘s participation in and engagement with the Erasmus+ Programme.”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the Erasmus+ Programme following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty‘s Government in respect of the United Kingdom‘s participation in and engagement with the European Research Area (ERA).”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Research Area (ERA) following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 176—Requirement to have regard to Motions passed by Parliament—
“In negotiating and concluding an agreement in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, Ministers of the Crown must have regard to any motions passed by Parliament on the outcome of the negotiations associated with the notification of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union authorised by this Act”.
This new clause would require Her Majesty’s Government to have regard to any motions passed by Parliament on the outcome of the negotiations associated with the notification of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union authorised by this Act.
New clause 177—European Arrest Warrant—report—
“Within 30 days of the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall publish a report to both Houses of Parliament setting out the approach to be taken by Her Majesty‘s Government in respect of the United Kingdom‘s participation in and engagement with the European Arrest Warrant.”
This new clause would seek a report from Her Majesty’s Government on the UK’s participation in and engagement with the European Arrest Warrant following the UK‘s withdrawal from the European Union.
New clause 8—EU and United Kingdom nationals—
“In negotiating and concluding an agreement in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, Ministers of the Crown must resolve to guarantee the rights of residence of anyone who is lawfully resident in the United Kingdom on the day on which section 1 comes into force in accordance with or as consequence of any provision of a Treaty to which section 1 relates, and United Kingdom nationals living in the parts of the European Union that are not the United Kingdom before the European Council finalises their initial negotiating guidelines and directives.”
Amendment 83, in clause 1, page 1, line 2, leave out “the Prime Minister” and insert “Parliament”.
Amendment 45, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“(1A) The Prime Minister may not notify under subsection (1) until she has confirmed that EU nationals living and working in the United Kingdom on the date that the UK withdraws from the United Kingdom will be subject to the same citizenship rights that applied prior to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal.”
Amendment 78, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“(1A) The Prime Minister may not notify under subsection (1) until the Foreign Secretary has published a revised programme of work for the UK Permanent Representative to the European Union for the duration of the negotiating period, and laid a copy of the report before Parliament.”
Amendment 84, page 1, line 3, at end insert—
“(1A) The persons authorised to give notification under subsection (1) on behalf of Parliament are—
(1B) Parliament may only give notification under subsection (1) if—
(a) both Houses of Parliament have passed resolutions approving notification; and
(b) votes in favour of notification have been passed by—
(i) the Scottish Parliament,
(ii) the National Assembly for Wales, and
(iii) the Northern Ireland Assembly.
(1C) A notification under subsection (1) must be given as soon as is practicable after the two Houses of Parliament have passed resolutions approving notification.”
Amendment 12, page 1, line 5, at end insert—
“(3) Before exercising the power under section 1, the Prime Minister must lay before both Houses of Parliament a White Paper on the UK Exiting the EU.”
Amendment 17, page 1, line 5, at end insert —
“(3) Before exercising power under subsection (1), the Prime Minister must give undertakings that all EU citizens exercising their Treaty rights in the UK who—
(a) were resident in the UK on
(b) had been resident since at least
Amendment 36, page 1, line 5, at end insert—
“(3) Before the Prime Minister issues a notification under this section, Her Majesty’s Government has a duty to lay before both Houses of Parliament a White Paper setting out its approach to any transitional arrangements with the European Union following the expiry of the two-year period specified in Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union.”
This amendment would require the Government to set out, prior to triggering Article 50, a detailed plan for a transitional arrangement with the EU covering the period between the end of the two-year Article 50 negotiation period and the coming into force of a final Treaty on the UK’s new relationship with the EU.
Amendment 44, page 1, line 5, at end insert—
“(3) Before exercising the power under subsection (1), the Prime Minister must lay a report before Parliament on the Government’s proposed negotiation package, including detailed and specific information on—
(a) the proposed terms of the UK’s access to the Single Market (if any) or the negotiating mandate thereof;
(b) the nature and extent of any tariffs that will or may be imposed on goods and services from the UK entering the EU and goods and services from the EU entering the UK or the negotiating mandate thereof;
(c) the terms of proposed trade agreements with the EU or EU Member States, and the expected timeframe for the negotiation and ratification of said trade agreements or the negotiating mandate thereof;
(d) the proposed status of rights guaranteed by the law of the European Union, including—
(i) labour rights,
(ii) health and safety at work,
(iii) the Working Time Directive,
(iv) consumer rights, and
(v) environmental standards;
(e) the proposed status of—
(i) EU citizens living in the UK, and
(ii) UK citizens living in the EU, after the UK has exited the EU or the negotiating mandate thereof;
(f) details of the Government’s internal estimates as to the impact of the above measures on—
(i) the balance of trade,
(ii) GDP, and
(iii) unemployment, in the UK after the UK leaves the EU.
(4) The report in subsection (3) must set out the costs and benefits of holding a referendum which asks the public to decide between the proposed negotiation package or remaining a member of the European Union.
(5) The report in subsection (3) must not be laid before the House before
New clause 6—EU citizens resident in the United Kingdom—
“(1) Anyone who is lawfully resident in the United Kingdom—
(a) on the day on which section 1 comes into force, and
(b) in accordance with or as consequence of any provision of a Treaty to which section 1 relates, shall have no less favourable rights of residence or opportunities to obtain rights of residence than they currently enjoy.”
This new clause guarantees the rights of EU nationals living in the UK at the date when article 50 is triggered.
New clause 14—Rights for EU nationals—
“Her Majesty’s Government shall ensure that those persons who have a right to indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom by virtue of their EU citizenship on the day on which this Act is passed shall continue to have an indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom.”
This new Clause would ensure that those persons who have a right to indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom by virtue of their EU citizenship on the day on which this Act is passed shall continue to have an indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom.
New clause 27—EU nationals in the United Kingdom—
“(1) The Prime Minister may not exercise the power under subsection 1(1) unless the Prime Minister is satisfied that arrangements are in place to secure that every individual who is—
(a) not a citizen of the United Kingdom, and
(b) on the date on which this Act comes into force (“the Commencement Date”), is resident in the United Kingdom pursuant to any right derived from the treaties, shall, when the treaties cease to apply to the United Kingdom, continue to be entitled to reside in the United Kingdom on terms no less favourable than those applicable to that individual on the Commencement Date.”
New clause 33—Immigration—draft framework—
“Before exercising the power under section 1, the Prime Minister must set out a draft framework for the future relationship with the European Union which includes reference to how this will give the UK control over its immigration system.”
New clause 57—Effect of notification of withdrawal—
“Nothing in this Act shall affect the continuation of those residence rights enjoyed by EU citizens lawfully resident in the United Kingdom on
This savings new clause is designed to protect the residence rights of those EU citizens who were lawfully resident in the United Kingdom on the date of the EU referendum. It would ensure that those rights do not fall away automatically two years after notice of withdrawal has been given, if no agreement is reached with the EU. This new clause would implement a recommendation made in paragraph 53 by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its report ‘The human rights implications of Brexit’.
New clause 67—Indefinite leave to remain for EU citizens in Wales—
“Before the Prime Minister can exercise the power in section 1, the Prime Minister must commit to automatically granting indefinite leave to remain in the UK for EU citizens already lawfully resident in Wales.”
This new clause requires the Prime Minister to commit to implementing the Leave Campaign’s pledge to automatically grant indefinite leave to remain in the UK for EU citizens already lawfully resident in Wales before exercising the powers outlined in section 1.
New clause 108—Status of Irish citizens in the United Kingdom—
“Before exercising the power under section 1, the Prime Minister shall commit to maintaining the current status, rights and entitlements of Irish citizens in the United Kingdom, inclusive of and in addition to their status, rights and entitlements as EU citizens.”
New clause 135—Effect of notification of withdrawal (No. 2)—
“Nothing in this Act shall affect the continuation of those rights of residence enjoyed by EU citizens lawfully resident in the United Kingdom and UK citizens lawfully resident in the EU on
New clause 142—EU Students in the UK—
“The Prime Minister may not exercise the power under section 1 until a Minister of the Crown has confirmed that EU students present in the UK on the date the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU will be granted visas to allow them residency rights for the full duration of their academic courses.”
New clause 146—Rights of EU citizens in the UK—
“Any citizen of an EU Member State lawfully resident in the United Kingdom on the day on which this Act comes into force shall have no less favourable rights of residence than they currently enjoy.”
New clause 3 concerns the parliamentary oversight of the negotiations that will follow the triggering of article 50. It would require the Government to report back to Parliament at least every two months on the progress of negotiations and to lay reports before both Houses of Parliament on each occasion. Let me be clear that the purpose is to improve the Bill by providing Parliament with the means not only to effectively monitor the Government’s progress throughout the negotiations, but to actively contribute to their success by facilitating substantive scrutiny that can positively influence the outcome.
We are here today debating this new clause and other new clauses and amendments to the Bill only because the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s November ruling on the triggering of article 50, confirming that only Parliament, not Ministers using the royal prerogative, can initiate the start of the UK’s exit from the EU.
I will not give way and will make a little progress, if that is okay.
The Supreme Court was right to make it clear that Parliament should exert democratic influence over Brexit. That influence should be felt at the start, throughout and, most importantly, at the end of the formal process of leaving the EU. In practice, the Opposition believe that there must be three distinct pillars of parliamentary scrutiny and accountability: first, the provision of a detailed plan published prior to the start of negotiations that can inform future debates and votes, and that can be used throughout as a point of reference; secondly, a means of ensuring robust parliamentary oversight throughout the formal negotiation period; and thirdly, a meaningful debate and vote in Parliament on the proposed deal before it is signed off with the European Council and Parliament.
Does the hon. Gentleman really think that in a negotiation that could take many months and which will be extraordinarily complicated it would be in the best interests of the UK to have to reveal its hand every two months?
I want to make it clear that we are not asking the Government to reveal the minutiae of the negotiations or to micromanage the process, and I will say more about that further on in my remarks.
Under pressure, the Government conceded the first of those requests in the form of the White Paper published on Thursday, and my hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer will seek to win agreement to the third tomorrow, when he moves new clause 1. The purpose of new clause 3 is to secure the second of those pillars and, in so doing, ensure an enhanced role for hon. Members throughout the process. The Government should welcome an enhanced role for Parliament throughout the negotiations for two reasons.
I will make some progress, if I may.
First, although Ministers obviously need sufficient room for manoeuvre, and understandably cannot therefore consent to the micromanagement of the process by parliamentarians, active and robust parliamentary scrutiny will aid the negotiations by testing and strengthening the Government’s evolving negotiating position and their hand with the EU. Secondly, facilitating substantive parliamentary scrutiny and accountability would help to bind the wounds of the referendum and forge a genuine consensus in the months and years ahead, by reassuring the public, particularly the 16.1 million people who voted remain, that they will not be marginalised or ignored but that their views will be taken into account and their interests championed by their representatives in Parliament.
If the House is to pore over the details of the Government’s negotiating position and express its view on them at regular intervals, that will be known to those with whom we are negotiating. How will that not undermine the Government’s position?
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make some progress, he will see that that is not what we are asking for. When it comes to sensitive or confidential matters, we hope that there are mechanisms to allow the House to view and respond to those.
In leaving the EU, we need a deal and a process that work not just for the 52% who voted leave or the 48% who voted remain but for each and every person with a stake in our country’s future. No one can reasonably accuse the Secretary of State of being unwilling to appear before the House—he has responded to every question put to him on this subject, even if, to ape the language of the White Pape, it has not always felt as if we have got an answer—but we require something more throughout the formal negotiations: an opportunity for hon. Members to play an active role in scrutinising and influencing the process, rather than merely to observe and comment on it retrospectively. As my hon. Friend Emma Reynolds rightly argued on Second Reading, hon. Members are not passive bystanders, but should be active participants in the process.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important that Parliament is sovereign throughout the whole process and has a chance to look at the general direction the Government are taking by withdrawing from the EU?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. As she will see, we are asking for no more and no less than the European Parliament will get.
Substantive parliamentary scrutiny and accountability are not the same as accountability after the event, and new clause 3 is focused on securing what is needed for the former. The Secretary of State has made it clear on numerous occasions that when it comes to the provision of information during the negotiations it is his intention that hon. Members will enjoy not just the same access to information as their counterparts in the European Parliament, but that the situation here will be an improvement on what the European Parliament sees.
We do not know precisely what the Members of European Parliament will see throughout the negotiations, but it is reasonable to assume that their involvement is likely to be conducted in accordance with the provisions of article 218 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union and that the detailed arrangements are likely to be similar to those set out in the 2010 framework agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the Commission. It is worth stating for the record, therefore, what that involves. Paragraph 23 of the framework agreement makes it clear that the European Parliament shall be
“immediately and fully informed at all stages of the negotiation and conclusion of international agreements”.
In addition, paragraph 24 requires that information shall be provided to the European Parliament
“in sufficient time for it to be able to express its point of view if appropriate, and for the Commission to be able to take Parliament’s views as far as possible into account”.
Lastly, in order to facilitate oversight of any sensitive material, article 24 of the framework agreement states:
“Parliament and the Commission undertake to establish appropriate procedures and safeguards for the forwarding of confidential information from the Commission to Parliament”.
In short, the Commission needs to let the European Parliament know in good time what it is proposing, with provisions made for sensitive or confidential material, and to give sufficient time for the Parliament to provide feedback, and then act upon it if appropriate. That is now the baseline of European parliamentary scrutiny—the baseline that the Secretary of State has assured us this House can expect not only to match, but to surpass.
I think the hon. Gentleman will find that most European papers are published in English by the House of Commons Library. He has not yet answered the question about where he would draw his line in the sand in respect of what he refers to as micromanagement and material that should be discussed every two months.
I have been absolutely clear about that, I am afraid, and it is up to the Government to determine what sensitive material would come before Members of Parliament in that process.
Let me make a little more progress, if I may.
In acknowledging the delicate balance between the need for robust parliamentary oversight and the needs of the Executive, it is that baseline of oversight that new clause 3 seeks to secure for this place. As Mr Grieve argued on Second Reading, process matters.
I respect the democratic result of the referendum, but we all owe it to our constituents to get the best deal for them. The east midlands exports 50% of its goods to the European Union, and I would be failing in my duty as an east midlands MP if I did not have a chance to ensure that those jobs are not jeopardised by the Government deal. Is that not why scrutiny is important?
That is precisely why scrutiny is important, and if the Government were approaching this in a reasonable and sensible manner, they would actively welcome my hon. Friend’s input into the process.
The Government should embrace rather than resist agreeing to a proper process for actively engaging the House in the considerable challenge it now faces. The undertakings sought in new clause 3 would ensure the active and constructive involvement of Parliament in that process and increase the chances of securing the best possible deal for the British people. I hope the Government will consider new clause 3 in the spirit in which it has been moved, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s thoughts on the matter.
In turning to the important matter of the rights of European Union nationals living in the UK, I shall speak to new clause 8, but principally to new clause 6, which stands in my name and that of my hon. Friends. As my hon. Friend Tulip Siddiq argued so passionately during last week’s Second Reading debate, EU nationals who have put down roots in the UK are part of the fabric of our nations and our communities. They are our neighbours. Many of them sustain the public services we rely on and they deserve to be treated with respect. They should not be used as bargaining chips in the negotiations.
I have no doubt that many hon. Members on both sides of the House have had, as I have, EU nationals attending their constituency advice surgeries to express the sense of trauma and anxiety that they have felt every single day since
Even the Prime Minister’s statement today did not provide certainty. What constituents who have lived here for a number of years say to us is that they need certainty, so that they can know how to plan their lives. Does my hon. Friend agree with me that, in any event, someone who has lived here for five years should be able to get permanent settlement and that someone who has lawfully lived here six years should also be eligible for British citizenship? It is vital that the Government state this very clearly.
May I urge my hon. Friend to look at the report of a commission organised by British Future, which I chaired? The report, which received cross-party support, said that the triggering of article 50 was the point at which rights would come in, but that there should be a transition period of about five years allowing people to normalise their status, and that there should be a special status to allow for our relationship with Ireland. We believed that that would be a way of giving certainty to EU citizens, and would also be perceived as fair throughout the EU.
I shall make a little progress, if I may.
Hon. Members will know that permanent residence is an EU law concept similar to, but not exactly the same as, indefinite leave to remain in the UK for non-EU citizens. It is not guaranteed that the concept itself will continue to exist after we leave the EU. However, we are not debating today the complex legal issues that arise in this area; instead, we are debating a principle. We are debating how the rights associated with permanent residence are to be guaranteed.
The hon. Gentleman says that we are not debating the detail, but I am afraid that that is what he is proposing. He is proposing a rather wide blanket measure which would give many people an unconditional right to stay in the country. What provision does his new clause make—I cannot see any—for the more than 4,000 EU nationals who are in United Kingdom prisons? What arrangements will there be when we leave the European Union to ensure that we can remove them from the United Kingdom, which we can currently do under the EU prisoner transfer agreement?
As the right hon. Gentleman will know, it depends on the terms of the sentence. New clause 6 seeks an in-principle guarantee from the Government that they will secure the rights of EU nationals.
Few would question the fact that Brexit has divided the country, but on this issue there is a clear consensus that the Government should act decisively to give certainty to EU nationals. A motion tabled by my right hon. Friend Andy Burnham in July last year, which called on the Government to commit themselves with urgency to giving EU nationals currently living in the UK the right to remain, was passed overwhelmingly in the House, and that parliamentary support is mirrored among the public. Polling by British Future shows that 84% of people, including 77% of leave voters, support the ability of existing EU nationals to stay in the UK. The Labour party has called repeatedly for the Government to act to end the uncertainty that those people face. Indeed, such is the level of consensus that even Migration Watch and the UK Independence party have joined those calls.
The only question that remains is whether the rights that flow from permanent residency, and the opportunity for those who are eligible to obtain those rights in the future, will be secured by means of a reciprocal agreement or unilaterally guaranteed by the Government.
We recognise the efforts of the Prime Minister and her Ministers to achieve a reciprocal agreement with our EU partners that would also guarantee the rights of UK nationals in other EU countries. We owe a duty to our nationals in those EU countries, and securing their rights must remain a priority. However, with no reciprocal agreement reached and with just weeks to go until the triggering of article 50, we believe that the uncertainty must be brought to an end by unilateral action on the part of the Government.
I am not going to give way any further.
There are hard-headed as well as moral reasons for doing this. Guaranteeing the rights of residence of EU nationals unilaterally on the date on which the article 50 notice is given would not only end the uncertainty that millions now face. It would also ensure the best possible start to the negotiations that lie ahead, and would send a clear signal to the small minority who have treated the referendum result as a licence to victimise others that our fellow Europeans are welcome and will remain so.
A number of other new clauses and amendments share the purpose of new clause 6 in seeking to protect the rights of EU nationals living in the UK. Indeed, some add additional safeguards to the basic guarantee that we seek. In particular, new clause 57, tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman, would ensure not only that the residence rights of EU citizens were protected, but that those rights did not automatically fall away at the end of the article 50 negotiating period if no agreement had been reached. If my right hon. and learned Friend were minded to push the new clause to a vote, she would have our support.
What matters in the end is that this issue is resolved as a matter of urgency in order to end the anxiety that people are currently feeling, and the distress that will be caused by a prolonged period of uncertainty during the negotiations. I hope that Ministers will be able to give us, and the thousands of EU nationals and their families out there, the reassurances that we seek.
I note that this group is a fairly hefty one with a large number of amendments, but I wish to make only five points, so I will attempt not to take up too much of the House’s time.
The first point that I wish to address is that of parliamentary scrutiny, which was mentioned by Matthew Pennycook at the beginning of his remarks. A number of new clauses and amendments talk about producing a raft of reports, including the rather large number of new clauses from Chris Leslie. What I want to throw out there is the question of what that really adds to the process. It seems to me—I have also spoken to a number of my constituents about this—that this House has spent a lot of time, as is appropriate, debating Brexit and all the issues that flow from it. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been here on a number of occasions, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has made a number of statements, and it seems to me that Ministers have furnished the House with a significant amount of information. Moreover, in the White Paper published last week, which I read very carefully, there was a reiteration of the commitment to bring forward the great repeal Bill, which will be very wide in scope and will enable Parliament to debate these matters, and there was also the suggestion that it is very likely that there will be primary legislation on immigration and customs matters, which will, of course, be debated by the House.
I agree with my right hon. Friend that there is a vast amount of information already coming out. Does he agree that even if that co-operative attitude were to change, there are plenty of mechanisms—urgent questions and the like—available to both Government and Opposition Members to bring Ministers to the Dispatch Box to provide the kind of explanation that everybody here is expecting? Does he therefore agree that it is very hard to see how the Opposition’s proposals build on or add to those mechanisms which are already available to all of us?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, certainly the Opposition Front Bench was desperately looking around for amendments that would not stop the Bill in its tracks, and this was about the best they could come up with. But it does not really add very much and is rather unnecessary, and, as I have said, many of the new clauses are rather repetitive, talking about reports and information about a whole raft of EU institutions, which will, of course, be covered in any event.
My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. Once we put things into primary legislation and set out the nature and terms of the report, it will, as we have seen, be justiciable, and it will allow people to go to court and argue—they might be successful, they might not—that what the Government have brought forward is not adequate, and we will then have a continuation of the legal arguments that we have seen.
The point I was making—and I think my hon. Friend John Penrose was agreeing—is that there are already well-established mechanisms in this House for ensuring that information is brought before Members. Indeed, if I simply judge my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union by what they have done so far, it seems to me that they have been in this House frequently talking about Brexit. I fear that, by the end of this process, certainly the general public will be willing it to end as might hon. Members.
Is not one of the problems that, in recent years, motions have regularly been carried by the House and then been completely and utterly ignored by the Government? We need more than just a simple yes or no vote at the end of this process. We need to be able to scrutinise whatever deal emerges line by line. That is exactly what the European Parliament will be able to do, so why on earth should not we be able to do it too?
I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman rose to his feet, because I am about to turn away from my first point about the new clauses tabled by Opposition Front-Bench Members and to talk about the ones that I think could be much more damaging. Those include new clause 51, to which the hon. Gentleman has appended his name, and amendment 44.
In the Government’s amendment to the Opposition motion that was passed by the House on
“that there should be no disclosure of material that could be reasonably judged to damage the UK”.—[Official Report,
Vol. 618, c. 220.]
This is an arguable matter, but my contention is that the detail called for in new clause 51 on, among other things, the terms of proposed trade agreements and the proposed status of citizens are details that we would not want to disclose during our negotiations. For example, we would not wish to disclose whether tariffs were to be introduced or at what level. To do so would be to reveal our negotiating hand, which would be counter to the strongly expressed view of the House. If new clause 51 or amendment 44 are put to a vote, I strongly urge the House to vote against them.
The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned new clause 51, which has been tabled in my name and those of other Opposition Members. Given that, before the referendum, the Government of which he was a part estimated the damage to the UK’s GDP of our leaving the EU on World Trade Organisation terms at around 7.7% of GDP or perhaps as much as £66 billion, would he not think it sensible for the Government to allay the country’s concerns if they now believe that the effects will be far less serious?
The hon. Gentleman is picking out one aspect of his new clause. I was drawing out an aspect, to which I object, dealing with the effective disclosure of our hand in the discussion on future trading arrangements. That would not be very sensible while we are carrying out negotiations with our trading partners.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for being tempted. Another big area in which the Government were very clear, prior to the referendum, was the impact on trade of our leaving the EU, yet now we have no information on whether there will be more or less trade with the EU or with its constituent countries. Does it not seem sensible to tell the country whether we will have more trade with the EU or less?
One of the flaws in the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion is that all the matters to which he refers are forecasts, estimates or guesses. A number of estimates and forecasts were made by both sides of the argument—leave and remain—before the referendum. I am not an expert on these matters, but it seems that not all of those forecasts and assessments have panned out exactly as people thought they would, so I really do not know why producing large documents full of equally erroneous forecasts would be helpful.
Has not this exchange demonstrated the foolhardiness of revealing our hand at this stage, given the fact that we cannot officially strike any kind of bilateral trade deal until we leave the EU? We must avoid talking our country down when every trade deal and every relationship we have—yes, even with the United States—will be of paramount importance. We should also do everything to resist the temptation to insult anyone from those countries who might be coming here.
Moving on to number three of my five points, new clause 56 refers to our withdrawal from the EEA and tries to make that into a separate argument. We are a member of the EEA as a result of being a member of the EU. Given that the EEA agreement talks about the free movement of goods and persons and means that we are susceptible to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, if we were to remain within the EEA, we would in the view of most members of the public effectively not have left the EU at all—the things that they were concerned about would still be in force. Indeed, things would have got worse because we would have no ability to influence—[Interruption.]
Let me just finish my point. We would have no ability to influence the rules that we would have to accept. Members who are talking about the EEA are simply trying to avoid the fact that we are going to be leaving the European Union; they are trying to remain in it by the back door.
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that Norway is not in the European Union, that Norway was cited by leading leave campaigners as an option that we could follow and that we could be like Norway and not within the European Union?
I can confirm to the House that Norway is not a member of the European Union. That is indeed true. Part of the reason why I was on the remain side of the argument was that the Norway deal is not very good at all and not a model to be followed. My view was that—[Interruption.]
Let me finish answering the point of the hon. Member for Ilford South and then I will of course take an intervention. I did promise to give way to my hon. Friend Julian Knight first, but I will then give way to the hon. Lady.
The two best options are either to be in the EU and accept everything that comes with that, but with the ability to shape the rules, or to leave and not be in the single market, not have free movement of people and not be subject to the European Court of Justice. Norway’s EEA model is poor, because it is subject to the free movement of people, it has to accept the jurisdiction of the Court and it has no right at all to influence any of the rules. It is up to the Norwegians what model they want to adopt, but it is not one that would work for us or that I would recommend to the House.
I completely agree with my right hon. Friend. Constructs such as the EEA are effectively antechambers. They are entry points into the EU. It would be inappropriate, given our size and our economy, for a country such as ours that is exiting the EU to rest in something that is unsuitable.
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether he believes that Parliament should vote on whether we leave the single market and the EEA before that happens—if that is what the Government want to see through?
I do not. I will put my cards on the table: I was on the remain side, but I am a democrat, so I accept the result. As a participant, I listened closely to the arguments in the referendum campaign and when David Cameron, then Prime Minister, and my right hon. Friend Mr Osborne, then Chancellor, were leading the remain campaign, they were clear that if the country voted to leave the European Union, we would leave the single market. Both David Cameron and my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton thought, erroneously as it turned out, that that argument would be the slam dunk. They thought that the British people would see that being in the single market was absolutely critical and therefore would vote to remain in the European Union.
If I can finish my answer, I will of course take an intervention.
However, the British public did not agree with David Cameron and my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton. Therefore, it seems clear that the public accepted that we would be leaving the single market. Leading campaigners on the leave side made exactly the same point. I will now give way to my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke.
It is quite right that the then Prime Minister and Chancellor warned that leaving the EU would mean leaving the single market, but my recollection is that some leave campaigners just dismissed that as “Project Fear”. I particularly recollect that the current Foreign Secretary was totally dismissive of that argument and said that we would retain full membership and full access to the market because Europe needed to sell us its Mercedes and prosecco wine. It is not true that everybody on the leave side acknowledged that we would put ourselves outside tariff and regulatory barriers.
My right hon. and learned Friend is right that not everybody on the leave side made that argument. The good news for me is that I was not on the leave side of the argument—and neither was he—so I feel no obligation to defend any of the arguments made by anybody on that side of the campaign.
I specifically chose the former Prime Minister and the former Chancellor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton, because they were on my side of the argument, but I think I am right in saying that my right hon. Friend Michael Gove, who led the official leave campaign, made exactly that argument, which is why I referred to it.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way to the chair of the official leave campaign. Although many voices argued for leave, the official leave campaign, its chair and the co-chairs of its campaign committee made it very clear in public that voting to leave would mean leaving the single market.
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I want to move on to my fourth point, on the important issue of EU nationals. Given my experience as a former Immigration Minister, I have some questions, and I hope the Minister will be able to address them to my satisfaction and to the satisfaction of the House.
First, I completely agree that it would be desirable to be able to put at rest the minds and concerns of EU nationals in the United Kingdom who are here lawfully and who contribute to our country, but it is also important to be able to put at rest the concerns and worries of British citizens living elsewhere in the European Union. After all, the primary duty of the British Government is to look out for British citizens. That comes first, ahead of all else, and I fear that what the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich suggested—when he said that, if we cannot reach an early agreement, we should proceed anyway—might well put to rest the concerns of EU nationals in Britain, but would simply throw overboard the interests and concerns of UK citizens living elsewhere in the European Union. Doing that would not secure their interests, and it would throw away our ability to do so.
Some 15% of the academic staff, 5% of students and 10% of research students at Cardiff University in my constituency are from the EU. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is a significant risk that those EU staff and their spouses will seek employment elsewhere, outside the UK, if they do not have certainty now from the Government? We would then lose all that intellectual capital.
I completely agree with the hon. Lady, which is why I am pleased that the Prime Minister, in her statement today and on a number of other occasions, has made it clear that she wants to reach an early agreement, and has been seeking to do so, with our European partners. But, in leading our country, the Prime Minister has to look to the interests of British citizens, as well as to the interests of citizens from other EU countries who are here. She does not serve the interests of British citizens by putting the interests of EU nationals ahead of them.
The right hon. Gentleman is courteous in giving way. I am a member of the Exiting the European Union Committee, and a few weeks ago we heard evidence from several British nationals living in Spain, Germany, Italy and France. They were members of representative organisations for British nationals, and every single one of them said that they felt that the other member states would reciprocate if the UK Government made a unilateral guarantee of the rights of EU nationals living here. Has he taken that evidence into account?
I have, and the hon. and learned Lady has now put it before the House, but the problem is that I have not seen any evidence to support that view. If I listened correctly to what the Prime Minister was saying, it sounds as though a number of European member state Governments are indeed of that view, but clearly more than one are not—or at least they are not now. Therefore, it is sensible to get this right.
There is another thing that Members of this House ought to be doing, and this picks up on the point made by Keith Vaz. There are already several mechanisms through which EU nationals who have lived in the UK for some time can sort out their residency status on a permanent basis. Rather than scaremongering and whipping up concern, hon. Members would do well to put that information in front of their constituents in order to reassure them.
The point that these British nationals living abroad made was that the British Government put this matter on the table—they put the rights of these people at issue—so they should take the lead by guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, and then other member states would follow suit. Those are not my words but the words of British nationals living abroad. What does the right hon. Gentleman have to say to that?
No, with the greatest respect, it is not the same thing. These issues have arisen and there is a question about the rights of EU nationals and British citizens because the people of the United Kingdom decided that we were going to leave the EU. That is not a decision of the Government—
My right hon. Friend would agree, however, that other nationals should not be treated as bargaining chips, and I am sure he would also be aware that the Treasury Committee has heard a good deal of evidence to suggest that the failure to guarantee the rights of EU nationals is now beginning to damage the economy. Given that, and the overwhelming ethical case, does he not agree, on reflection, that the time has come just to protect those EU citizens’ rights?
I completely agree on the value to the economy. I also agree on this being an urgent matter, and I heard the Prime Minister say exactly that this afternoon. If I may conclude my remarks about EU nationals, perhaps my right hon. Friend Mr Tyrie will see why I do not think precipitate action is very wise. It could open up a range of complexities which, far from putting people’s minds at rest and making things better, could make things worse.
The right hon. Gentleman was a Minister and he has been in negotiations. If we put on the table the kind of deal we would expect the other 27 to offer to UK citizens, we would set the template of what we think the right deal is and set the right tone for the negotiations; this is a different matter from trade.
I was listening carefully to what the Prime Minister said, and it sounds to me as though she and her Ministers are indeed talking to EU member states and trying to get this issue resolved. There is a two-stage process here: we need an agreement in principle by the UK Government with other EU member states—
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for trying to intervene, but I need to finish replying to the right hon. Lady before I can take his intervention. I am also conscious of the fact that I have only one more point to make after I have finished my points about EU nationals, and I want to give other Members the chance to contribute to the debate. [Interruption.] I am giving way to take questions. This is a debate, and I cannot both make rapid progress and give way to Members, so let me just answer the point that the right hon. Lady made. It seems to me that the Prime Minister and her Ministers are indeed dealing with other European members and trying to get this issue resolved, but that is clearly not being entirely reciprocated by other members. The approach needs to be twofold: we need an agreement in principle that we want to guarantee those rights; but then there is also an awful lot of detail to be worked out. These matters are very complicated.
I wish to draw the House’s attention to what happened last weekend. As far as I can tell, looking from the outside, it seems to me that part of the reason for the mess the US Administration have got themselves into is that they produced an Executive order that was not very well thought through. They do not seem to have taken proper legal advice, so got themselves into trouble in the courts. There was an impact on British citizens, before the intervention of my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary resolved the matter. I do not want us to move precipitately without thinking it through.
I wish to give the House some examples that I think must be sorted out. First, the various amendments and new clauses refer to people who are lawfully resident in the United Kingdom under the existing treaties. People think that is straightforward, but it is actually quite complicated. Any EU national can come to Britain for any reason, for up to three months. If they want to stay here for longer than three months, they have to be either working, looking for work, self-sufficient or a student. If they are self-sufficient or a student, they are here lawfully only if they have comprehensive health insurance. We know from those people who have been trying to regularise their status, following the sensible advice from the right hon. Member for Leicester East, that many do not have that comprehensive health insurance so technically are not here lawfully at all. When we use these phrases, we need to be clear who we are granting the rights to, because people will not be aware of the complexity. If we are to give people clarity and certainty, we have to be clear about what we are doing.
Secondly, the national health service and healthcare are topical issues. We currently have a set of reciprocal arrangements with our European Union partners for people who are in those countries. We do not do the logging, administration and collecting of the money as well as they do. We want to ensure that that will work when we have left the European Union. I do not know where we will end up on that, but it is important.
Thirdly, in an intervention earlier I alluded to a point that must be thought about, because if we act hastily, we will come to regret it. At the end of March last year—these are the latest figures I was able to find—4,222 EU nationals were imprisoned in British jails. Under the EU prisoner transfer framework directive, we have the ability to transfer them when they are in prison, and when they come out we can start to take action to revoke their status in the United Kingdom. I want to make sure that in acting now we do not act hastily and make our ability to remove those people from the United Kingdom more difficult. I fear that the new clauses and amendments we are considering would not adequately deal with that issue, as was reflected in the answer from the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich.
Finally, the Bill does one simple thing: it gives the Prime Minister the lawful authority to start the negotiation process. That is all it does. The Government have been generous in making available the time to debate that matter. The Bill does not need to be improved or amended in any way. I do not know which amendments and new clauses will be pressed to a vote, but I hope that I have set out some reasons why several of them should be rejected. If any of them are pressed, I urge the House to reject them.
I rise to support new clause 57, which was tabled in my name and the names of other members of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, with the support of right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House.
This is about 3 million people and their families—EU citizens whose future here has been thrown into doubt by the decision in June that the UK should leave the EU. There is nothing about the cloud of uncertainty that they now live under that is their own fault. If we accept the new clause, we can put their minds at rest and let them look to the future.
Members on both sides of the House will know the people whose lives we are talking about. Some, such as those from France and Spain, have been here for decades. They have children and grandchildren living here. They work in and are part of their local community. It is unthinkable that they would be deported and their families divided because we have decided to leave the EU. Let us put their minds at rest and assure them and their families that our decision to leave the EU will not change their right to be here. Their anxiety is palpable. We have all seen it in our advice surgeries. One of my constituents, an Italian woman, has been here for 30 years. She cannot work anymore because she is ill, and her residency rights are now at risk. People from countries that have more recently joined the EU, such as Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, are working in sectors that could not manage without them—in agriculture, care homes and our tourism industry. Employers in food production are already reporting more difficulty in getting the workers they need. That is happening now.
New clause 57 was recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights. My constituent who is a consultant paediatric surgeon from Sweden approached me over the new year in a state of distress because he was not sure about his future status —this is someone who performs really valuable services for the people of the west midlands and at Birmingham Children’s Hospital. He had been advised that he should seek the services of an immigration lawyer, and that advice had come from his trust.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. There was plenty of other such evidence that came before us on the Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which he is a very valued member. This ongoing uncertainty around the status of EU residents here is allowing greater exploitation of vulnerable EU workers. Last week, appearing before the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Margaret Beels, chair of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, said that she is receiving evidence that gangmasters are telling fearful EU workers that they cannot complain about not being paid or about being subjected to unsafe conditions because if they do they will be deported as they no longer have the right to be here. We are not whipping up fears, but understanding fears and seeking to address them. It is no good, I am afraid, issuing warm words; people need certainty. They work in every part of our private sector. They contribute to our creative industries; they are artists and musicians. They work in our public services. Anyone who has been in hospital recently will very likely have awoken to find a Spanish or a Portuguese nurse at their bedside. If anyone has an older relative in a care home, they are likely to see them being cared for by someone from eastern Europe.
I have considerable sympathy with the point that the right hon. and learned Lady is making. We disagree on the fundamental point, which is that we should not do something unilateral here in the United Kingdom before we have agreement on our own residents in Spain and France and elsewhere, because we will potentially be undermining their position. No doubt they will be feeling the sense of vulnerability that she has just articulated about those living here.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that we also heard evidence in the Home Affairs Committee from groups representing the Polish community and other eastern European communities? They said that they had seen an increase in hate crime. They also said that extremists were exploiting the uncertainty and attacking people with phrases such as “Go home” and “Leave the country”. They said that the uncertainty that EU citizens felt made it harder for them to deal with these awful hate crimes.
I am sure that many MPs in this Chamber have also had constituents from the EU who have tried to seek security by applying for permanent residency, but who have been turned down and received “prepare to leave” letters. Mr Harper mentioned comprehensive health insurance. There is no such thing. A person cannot get 100% comprehensive health insurance. Previously, the NHS was recognised for giving health cover. Why can this House not give these people security at this end, and not threaten to throw them out?
I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady.
It is not just EU nationals and their families who are worried about the uncertainty hanging over them; so are the employers for whom they work. How will our NHS find the nurses we need if they seek work elsewhere for fear that they will not be allowed to stay? It is not as if we are training them ourselves. With the cuts to bursaries, the number of student nurses has fallen by 23% this year.
I recently had a conversation with the chair and chief executive of the trust in my constituency, who said that Huddersfield Royal infirmary could not operate if it were not for the young Spanish nurses. I also spoke to people at the London School of Economics who said that if the Europeans, who are good at maths and science, were to leave, 20% of the workforce of universities would go back home.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We cannot say that we welcome them here to do such work, but use them as a bargaining chip in European negotiations.
My right hon. and learned Friend is being very generous with her time. Constituents have come to my surgeries in tears, fretting about what will happen to them and their jobs. Does she agree that it is not a British value to use people as bargaining chips in the negotiations?
The right hon. Lady is sending out a powerful message about British values and—this point is shared across the House—about giving certainty to EU nationals living here. May I press her, though, on the need to be careful not to send a message to British nationals living in the rest of the EU that they are somehow less important? Their concerns are equally valid and severely felt, and we are equally worried about what is happening to them. Are we not going to address or take account of any of those issues today?
We simply cannot trade one off against the other like that. This is not an economic trade negotiation.
The new clause is quite simple. It would provide that the rights of residence of EU citizens who were lawfully resident here before the referendum decision on
It is in no way right to use the lives of 3 million people and their families as a bargaining chip. They and their families are not pawns in a game of poker with the EU. They cannot be used as a human shield as we battle it out in Europe for our UK citizens in other countries. We must decide what is fair and right for EU citizens here, and then do it. I thought we were supposed to be taking back control. If the Government reject the new clause, EU citizens will be right to draw the conclusion that their rights to continue to live here could be snatched away if our Government do not get what they want for our UK citizens living in each of the other countries in the European Union.
The new clause is not only the right thing to do as a matter of principle; it is legally necessary. The Government cannot bargain away people’s human rights. The right to family life is guaranteed by article 8 of the European convention on human rights. If the Government bargained them away, EU citizens living here would be able to go to our courts and seek to establish their rights to remain under article 8. If even 10% of those here did that, there would be 300,000 court challenges. There is no way that our court system could begin to cope with that. I hope that the Government accept the new clause. If not, I urge hon. Members of all parties to support it in the Lobby.
My right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin, who was in the Chamber a short time ago, made an important point about this new clause. When imposing legal requirements and duties on anybody—let alone the Prime Minister—one has be sure that those requirements are capable of being realised. My right hon. Friend Mr Harper and other hon. Members have dealt comprehensively with the difficulties that arise from the part of the new clause that mentions laying
“periodic reports…on the progress of the negotiations”.
I think that case has been made.
Let me move on to the next part. The real problem is subsection (c), which would
“make arrangements for Parliamentary scrutiny of confidential documents.”
As Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, I have had an enormous amount of trouble, over and over again, about documents that are marked as “LIMITÉ”. Although such documents are distributed, Parliaments other than the European Parliament are not allowed to refer to them because they are of a confidential nature. I have made it quite clear that I think some of this is overdone. However, to try to impose a legal duty on the Prime Minister to undertake to break the rules relating to limité documents is stretching a point to absurdity.
I ask the hon. Gentleman the same question that I asked Mr Harper earlier: should he not be arguing, as somebody who has spent a great deal of his time in Parliament scrutinising the European Union, for Members of this House to have rights of scrutiny that are at least equal to those held by Members of the European Parliament?
I have enormous sympathy with that. In point of fact, the Secretary of State for Brexit gave evidence in the House of Lords, where, as I understand it, he made it abundantly clear that any document that would be made available to the European Parliament and its committees would, indeed, be made available to this House. To that extent, I agree with Clive Efford, but I believe such a measure to be unnecessary because an undertaking has already been given by the Secretary of State.
New clause 3(c) would
“make arrangements for Parliamentary scrutiny of confidential documents.”
Given my hon. Friend’s wide experience, for how long does he think the contents of those documents would remain confidential if they were made available for wide parliamentary scrutiny?
Well, they certainly would not. That is really the purpose of the limité restriction. Although I have reservations about the restriction in certain cases, I can think of a number of instances in which it is absolutely vital that the documents remain confidential. If there were any breach of that confidentiality —there would have to be an undertaking by the Prime Minister that she would release it—it could gum up the works to such an extent on matters of intelligence, security and all sorts of things that we would actually end up not receiving any limité documents at all.
With great respect, Matthew Pennycook, who led from the Opposition Front Bench, may or may not have been dealing with these matters for some time, and I will not criticise him for that—[Interruption.] No, this is a perfectly fair point. All I am saying is that, in drafting this, if we end up with something that does not work and we have to comply with new clause 3 (a), (b) and (c) to make it work, as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset said, we would end up in the courts—and there would be a judicial review, believe me. It naturally follows that the new clause is simply nonsense, so it cannot be brought into effect. That is all I need to say about it.
My hon. Friends and I have also tabled some amendments. I am glad that we have the opportunity to discuss and debate the Bill over the coming days, although we have had been given very little time in which to do so. It is fair to say that this is not scrutiny that the Government either welcomed or encouraged. It is good to have at least a short opportunity to debate this issue, although that has more to do with the Government’s confidence in their own arguments and their ability to deliver a better deal with our EU partners than the one we have at present than it does with a scrutiny process. The Government were dragged kicking and screaming to this Chamber just to have a vote on article 50 in the first place.
On Thursday, we got the White Paper as the Secretary of State was getting to his feet, which was pretty disrespectful of the entire House. That failed to put my mind at ease—I am sure it failed to put the minds of many other MPs in the Chamber at ease—about the way in which the Government are conducting this process. The White Paper is something of a metaphor for the entire Brexit process; it was rushed, without time for proper scrutiny, and it did not even get all its facts right, which is quite remarkable, given the time the Government had to prepare it.
This Brexit process could not be more important. It is one of the most important processes anybody in this House will ever take part in—it is certainly more important than a debate about wigs or the other crucial issues Government Members want to debate. This process will have an impact on us all and on all our constituents, given the health of the economy, and the jobs and taxes that are generated as a result.
Against some fairly stiff competition, some people have argued that the craziest political decision of 2016 was the one to elect Donald Trump President—incidentally, my colleagues and I welcome the Speaker’s announcement today. However, while the good people of the United States of America have the ability, should they wish to do so, to reverse the decision they made in November, there is no likelihood that we will be able to reverse the decision we made any time soon. Although four years’ time might seem a long way away for many in the United States, the mistakes made by the Government here, and any lack of scrutiny as a result, will be felt down the generations by policy makers in this place.
Given that this is such a big decision, our ability to have any meaningful scrutiny is woeful. Regardless of the vote, the role of Parliament is to scrutinise the work of Government. That is the entire point of our sitting here and having a Parliament in the first place.
I remind Conservative Members that the SNP won the election earlier this year with 47% of the vote. [Hon. Members: “Last year.”] Actually, the Holyrood election took place this year. That tells us all we need to know about the attention they pay to these things. We won the vote with 47%, but in 2015, the Conservatives won the election with 36% of the vote, and I am particularly pleased to say that Scotland dragged down their UK average by some considerable degree.
However, the role of Opposition parties, be it in Holyrood or in this place, is to hold the Government to account for the enormity of their decisions, which impact on each and every one of us. The process of leaving the European Union will involve one of the greatest upheavals since this Parliament came into existence in 1801. We should be given a lot more time to consider the implications for our constituents, the economy and our European partners. That is why SNP Members will back any moves to give Parliament greater scrutiny over this process.
That scrutiny is all the more important because of the lack of detail provided by members of the Vote Leave campaign—an act of irresponsibility by Members who were in the Government previously and by Members who are in the Government at present. Significant questions were left unanswered during the debate on the referendum, and since Vote Leave did not bother giving us the details, we have a responsibility as parliamentarians to ask for those details.
One question is: will we stay in the single market? The Prime Minister’s speech obviously differs from the Conservative party manifesto, on which she and other Conservative Members were elected. Will it be for Scotland to decide its immigration numbers? How much extra cash is the NHS getting? We deserve answers to all these questions before article 50 is triggered. Who is accountable for the promises that were made? I have not received an answer so far, and I have not heard other Members receive one.
A number of my colleagues will want to touch on the point about EU nationals, and it is easy to see why we back the proposals to give them the right to remain. We are richer financially and culturally as a result of European nationals calling Scotland and other parts of the UK their home.
My hon. Friend is making some very valid points. Will we not also be judged on the leadership we give and on our humanity? Those EU citizens who are here are our friends, our neighbours and our work colleagues, and we have a duty to stand by their rights. The Prime Minister must send a clear message that those who are here are welcome to stay. We must remove the uncertainty, and do it now.
As usual, my hon. Friend makes a very pertinent point. I pay due respect to the work he has done for the Brain family and others in his constituency in some of the disgraceful immigration cases we have seen. These EU nationals have chosen to make the UK their home and Scotland their home. They make this a better place in which to live and work. It is a no-brainer that we should give them the certainty they deserve.
The hon. Gentleman is making a very cogent and well-structured argument, and I broadly agree with many of the points he is making, but would he not agree that this is really a Mexican stand-off with water pistols? There is no realistic chance that any signatory of the European convention on human rights—the United Kingdom is one; in fact, we drafted much of it—will kick out anybody. We are not going to kick out anybody from the United Kingdom, and nor are UK citizens in other parts of the European Union going to be expelled. Would it not be better for the House to recognise that the position of these EU nationals is not at risk? Would we not be much better off comforting those who are in doubt, rather than spreading fear?
The hon. Gentleman makes my point for me. The ECHR is under threat from this very Government, so does it not make sense to come into the Lobby with us to support the right of EU nationals to live and work here? I look forward to his standing up for what he has just said and joining us in the Lobby.
No, but I will say this to the hon. Gentleman, because he probably has a lot more influence on the Government Benches than I do—that is one thing I will give him. The Government are desperately in need of friends and good will. If we benefit financially from EU nationals being here, and if our society is richer for their being here, we want to keep them regardless—they are not bargaining chips, but that is something the Government seem to ignore. If EU nationals are not bargaining chips, I would encourage him to join us in the Lobby and give them the certainty they need and deserve.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, and I am not surprised, given the amount of hard work he has done for EU nationals in his constituency.
If Conservative Members are so confident in the ECHR, which they now promise us they are, I look forward to the hon. Gentleman voting against his own Government. I do not trust Conservative Members entirely, but if there is not a problem under the ECHR, he and his colleagues will have absolutely no problem joining us in the Lobby.
We will debate the devolved process in the next tranche of proposals, but let me just say this about scrutiny. All of this will have an impact on the devolution process, be it in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. If Ministers respect the devolution process, they should have no problem with the additional scrutiny that comes with it. Right now we are in a situation where the unelected House of Lords will have a greater say on this process than the elected Scottish Parliament and other devolved legislatures. No Government, regardless of their colour, have a monopoly on wisdom. The whole point of having a Parliament is that we scrutinise, with the courage of our convictions, and this place makes a contribution. If this Government are confident in what they are doing—or know what they are doing and have any kind of a plan—they should welcome scrutiny in the Chamber here and then elsewhere in these islands, because fundamentally that scrutiny will provide better legislation. On something of such enormity that we are about to undertake, they have a responsibility for it to be scrutinised as much as possible.
Let us not underestimate the impact of the decision that we are about to make this week. It will impact on our rights, on our economy, and on each and every one of us. We will encourage the strengthening of anything that increases scrutiny of this process. The Government’s record so far has not been good. I am not heartened by what I have seen, with a White Paper that was rushed out and could not even get its facts right. We therefore owe a debt of responsibility to people across the UK—and, indeed, beyond—to have more scrutiny than we are promised and more than we have at present.
Before I call the next colleague, let me say that it will be obvious to the Committee that a great many people wish to speak. There are in excess of 50 new clauses and amendments to be discussed, and we have two hours and 45 minutes left to do so. I hope that Members will be courteous to others and keep their remarks as brief as possible. I appreciate that these are complicated matters, and it is good to have interventions and proper debate and discussion, but let us avoid repetition and rhetoric for its own sake.
On a point of order, Mrs Laing. It is quite obvious that the programme motion will not allow for proper debate by the vast majority of Members. I have never known a debate on any European issue be given such limited time before. Has anyone approached you and asked to re-address the programme motion so that we can have the sort of sensible, protracted discussion of these issues that we have had almost to excess on previous occasions such as the debates on the Maastricht treaty?
Further to that point of order, Mrs Laing. When I considered the Government’s programme motion, it seemed to me that for a two-clause Bill, two days—extraordinarily—on Second Reading and three full days of protected time to allow us to sit late where there are statements was, if anything, an excess of generosity.
Let me set the mind of Mr Clarke at rest on two points. First, although there are in excess of 50 amendments and new clauses, some of them address the same points as others, so we are not addressing more than 50 separate points of debate. The other point that I draw to his attention is that the House has voted for and supported the programme motion, and that is not a matter for me. I am sure that I can now rely on Sir Hugo Swire to address the Committee briefly and pertinently.
I shall seek not to detain the Committee for too long so as not to repeat many of the arguments that hon. Friends and colleagues have made and will no doubt make again and again throughout this evening.
I wish to talk about the two new clauses that have dominated proceedings to date, one rather less emotional than the other. The unemotional one, I would submit, is new clause 3. We have talked about parliamentary oversight of the negotiations and heard the word “scrutiny” bandied around across the Chamber. I sometimes get the impression that some in this Chamber would seek to scrutinise every single line, cross every “t” and dot every “i” of the Government’s negotiating position. It would be interesting to conduct a straw poll as to how many Members in this Committee have ever taken part in a proper negotiation—a commercial negotiation—that requires, at times, one to keep one’s cards close to hand before declaring them. It is impossible, irresponsible and unthinkable to have to negotiate this in public, and particularly so to insert clauses such that anything discussed must be reported back to this House at intervals of
“no more than two months”— eight weeks—each and every time. The new clause does not say what Parliament might then do if it does not like what the Government are reporting back. Do Members want a vote on it? We have heard about the possibility of legal involvement—judicial review. This is wholly unrealistic and undesirable.
Paragraph (c) says:
“make arrangements for Parliamentary scrutiny of confidential documents.”
I have already alluded to that today. There are ways in this House whereby Privy Counsellors and so forth can see sensitive information, but it is wholly unrealistic to think that the whole House would be able to examine and scrutinise confidential documents without their leaking pretty quickly on to Twitter or Facebook, or into the national newspapers. How can one possibly conduct any sort of negotiations, particularly as difficult and sensitive as these are set to be, in the glare of publicity, revealing confidential documents to each and every Member of this House—and no doubt there would be calls to do the same for the devolved Administrations? That would be completely crazy.
With regard to new clause 6, on the other hand, I have considerable sympathy with those who have spoken about the uncertainty surrounding the status of EU nationals in this country as these negotiations begin. It is unsettling for a lot of these people. It is true that they contribute enormously to society—to our public sector, including the health sector, our agricultural businesses, and so forth. We need them here, and I do have considerable sympathy with their predicament.
I entirely agree that we need to sort this out very early on. Indeed, our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said precisely that only a short while ago. Does my right hon. Friend Sir Hugo Swire agree that part of the issue is the unwillingness of some of our interlocutors to engage in meaningful discussion prior to the triggering of article 50? This is surely a matter that can be dealt with early on, but that requires them to engage immediately and not to delay until the triggering of article 50.
I do agree, because this cuts both ways. It is cheap politicking to talk about bargaining chips—I do not think anyone is considering that—but this does require an early resolution. I was heartened when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said earlier today that she intended to address it early on, but it has to be a negotiation between the other countries of the EU and us. It is just as important to us, as British parliamentarians—as the British Government—to defend the rights of British citizens living overseas. There are a lot of them, and not all of them are particularly contributing to the society they are in. A lot of them are retired, so they are even more vulnerable, in a sense, than many of the EU workers who are here actively working. It is the first duty of this House to look after British citizens, wherever they may be, while also being aware that we have a duty to EU nationals at the same time.
It would be completely wrong in terms of our negotiating position to declare unilaterally that all EU nationals can, up to a certain date, continue to live here without fear or favour. That would be unwise until such time as we can extract a similar agreement from the other countries of the EU where British nationals have lived, sometimes for very many years.
I am delighted to hear my right hon. Friend agree in ringing tones with what everybody has said so far, namely that absolutely nobody in this House wishes to cast any doubt on the right of EU nationals to continue living lawfully here if they are lawfully here now. Apparently, the only reason for his holding back—despite the fact that he entirely shares the sentiments of Opposition Members—is that he fears that if we declare that a Pole who has been living here for years can stay here, we will have thrown away our card and British nationals will be expelled by the Government of some unknown country. I have heard nobody suggest that any such country exists.
We have a pedantic problem of whether we can raise the matter before the process has started. If we just cleared the position of our EU nationals now, it would put the utmost pressure on every other country to clarify the thing as well. No one is going to take any reprisals against our British nationals.
I hope my right hon. and learned Friend is right. He has not always been right about everything, although he has been right about quite a lot. He and I were on the same side of the debate, and I know that he regrets, as I do, the fact that in all the discussions about migration and immigration during the campaign, some rather irresponsible points were made repeatedly about who would be able to come here from the Commonwealth, when there was absolutely no suggestion that that was behind anyone’s thinking. However, I fundamentally disagree with him in that I do not think that we should do anything unilateral before we get an agreement about the rights of British nationals living in the rest of the EU.
Does my right hon. Friend share my view that if the matter is as simple as some make out—if it is just a question of us making a simple declaration—why have the other 27 countries of the European Union not said that our citizens who are living overseas will be fine, and that there will be no repercussions for them? The fact that those countries will not make that commitment says something, does it not?
It may do, or it may not. As my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke has said, there is no evidence to suggest that a single country would not behave in a good way. But there is absolutely no evidence that they will all behave in a good way; we simply do not know, because we have not yet had that conversation. Until we have had that debate and secured an agreement that similar rights will be granted to British citizens living in other EU countries, we should not move to allow every single EU national who lives here to continue doing so.
If the cynics among us genuinely believe that there could be countries out there that are not prepared to do this, should we not now, more than ever, lead by example?
I do not know whether my hon. Friend was here earlier when the Prime Minister was asked about the matter. The Prime Minister gave a very strong suggestion that securing such a deal was at the top of her negotiating priorities. At the end of the day, it is an agreement—it is a deal—and it has to be negotiated. I do not think that we would be right unilaterally to declare anything.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that a unilateral declaration would undo some of the damage that was done by the “list of foreign workers” stuff that came out of the Tory conference in Birmingham? That shocked a lot of our European partners and hardened their views against us. Surely, a unilateral declaration might help.
I agree with the hon. Lady that language and sensitivity are incredibly important. We are dealing with families, and with people who are married to EU citizens. We are dealing with people who live here and who do not know whether they have a future here. That is why we have to resolve the matter very early on. I have considerable sympathy, as I have said, with many people who have spoken about the contribution that EU nationals make. I very much hope that we can reach an agreement that will satisfy all who are here but, equally, I think that our first duty is to look after our citizens abroad.
The right hon. Gentleman has talked about the issues faced by British citizens whose partners are EU nationals, but does he agree that we are also talking about children? I have seen children in my constituency raise real concerns about whether they will be able to study in the same school, and about where their future will be. They do not know the country that their parents came from, and they are British in every sense of the word. This is causing huge uncertainty. We can tackle this, and we can do it this week.
We can all cite examples from our surgeries of individual cases, but I am not sure that to do so contributes to the greater argument. We need to get a policy in place that covers the whole thing. That can only be achieved by the Prime Minister making it a priority, as she has suggested she will, and getting an agreement from the other member states that involves the reciprocity we need for our British people living abroad.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to be concerned about the fate of British citizens living in the European Union, but I agree with others who have said that, surely, a goodwill gesture would be a really positive thing for this Government to make. Two of my constituents are a married couple who have been living together in this country for 30 years, and I consider the wife to be as British as anybody else. We should make it absolutely clear that it is inconceivable that this couple should be separated, and that their children should be left with separated parents.
Indeed, and no doubt there are similar examples of British people in not-dissimilar situations in Spain, France and elsewhere. We need to ensure that their rights are recognised as well.
I am not going to continue in this vein, because others wish to contribute. I have made my point. I have sympathy with the view that EU nationals contribute a lot to the economy. I hope that there is an early agreement that allows them to stay and to continue to work here. Equally, any such agreement, to my way of thinking, has to be part of a wider agreement that assures the future of British nationals living in other EU countries.
I rise to support new clauses 3 and 57. I commend my hon. Friend Matthew Pennycook and my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman for their speeches. The one thing I would add to the forceful case made by my right hon. and learned Friend is this: when the Exiting the European Union Committee took evidence from representatives of Brits living abroad, one might have expected them to make the argument that has just been advanced, but they said the opposite. They said that Britain should give a unilateral commitment now, because they felt that doing so would ease the process of negotiation.
I was not at that Committee hearing, and I am quite interested to know whether evidence was taken from ambassadors of EU countries about their Governments’ positions as part of the inquiry.
No, we have not taken evidence from ambassadors, but we have heard what has been said from the Government Dispatch Box, namely that—from memory—almost all member states are up for this, apart from one or two. We do not yet know who the one or two are, and I hope that they will change their minds so that we can make progress.
I want to address the arguments we have heard thus far in relation to new clause 3. My hon. Friend Heidi Alexander—she is no longer in her place—asked Mr Harper whether we should be able to have a vote on certain aspects of the nature of our withdrawal. He said no, because during the referendum campaign it was made clear by leading participants what would happen if we voted to leave, and therefore it is gospel and we cannot argue with it. That is a very interesting argument. On that basis, the NHS will be getting £350 million a week, because that, it was said, would be the consequence of a leave vote—but I will leave that to one side.
The right hon. Gentleman’s central argument, which he made at the beginning of his speech, was to ask what new clause 3 added. I say to him sincerely that it adds accountability. It has been argued that the new clause is unnecessary because the Government are already doing what it would require. If that is true, I would ask why there is a problem with the Government accepting it.
The argument was made that the Government would be forced to reveal all sorts of stuff. All that the new clause says is that the Prime Minister
“shall give an undertaking to…lay before each House of Parliament periodic reports”.
The content of those reports will be for the Government to determine. There is nothing in the new clause about forcing the Government to reveal their hand. When it comes to getting in English the documents that the European Commission is giving to the European Parliament —probably in English, while we still have MEPs, and in the other languages of the European Union—surely there cannot be any argument about that at all. It is entirely sensible.
On the point about confidential documents, I listened carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman and Sir William Cash said. I raised the matter with the Secretary of State when I was first elected as the Chair of the Select Committee, and he replied to me in a letter that
“negotiations will be fast moving and will often cover sensitive material, so we will need to find the right ways of engaging Parliament.”
I welcomed that reply. All that new clause 3 says is that the Prime Minister shall
“make arrangements for Parliamentary scrutiny of confidential documents.”
The arrangements are for the Government to propose. Given the extent to which Brussels is a very leaky place and the fact that we will be negotiating with 27 other member states, I cannot help making the point that I suspect we will find out very shortly after the meeting has concluded where the negotiations have got to, so the Government’s arrangements will be to advise us all to buy certain newspapers, in which one will be able to read what was discussed during the course of the afternoon and evening.
The main point I was making, and I stand by it, is that new clause 3 imposes a legal obligation, enforceable by judicial review, on the Prime Minister effectively—and not just effectively, but actually and legally—to break the confidentiality imposed by, for example, limité documents. As I have said, I do not always subscribe to such degrees of confidentiality, but that is a personal view. The fact is that there is confidentiality, and it is a legal obligation.
I would say to the hon. Gentleman, who has great experience in these matters, that we know the Commission, in respect of trade negotiations, made arrangements with the European Parliament for certain documents to be made available, including in rooms where people could go and read them but could not take them away. The new clause is asking the Government to find a way of making this work in a way that is consistent, as of course it has to be, with any legal obligations, but confidentiality does not seem to me to be a very strong argument.
The argument that the new clause would make it all justiciable does not seem very strong either. Frankly, on that basis we might as well all go home tonight and never come back because Parliament legislates, and when Parliament legislates people can go to the courts and seek to suggest that the way in which the legislation is being implemented is not correct. That is not an argument against new clause 3, but against Parliament doing its job.
Having listened to speeches made by Conservative Members, I would gently say to the Minister of State, who is a reasonable man, that I hope he will not get up and repeat the arguments we have heard on new clause 3. Frankly, it is really simple and sensible stuff to help Parliament to do its job. On the frequency of reporting, as the Minister will know, when my hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer suggested every two months, the Secretary of State got up and said that that might be a rather modest objective. If it is a modest objective, I really do not see how the Government can oppose it.
I do not propose to speak for more than a few minutes. I have been wrestling with this matter for months, and in particular I have wrestled with it over the course of the weekend. This matter affects my constituents in South Leicestershire—and not just them—many of whom have come to see me to explain the problems, for example about children at school, which has been mentioned by other hon. Members.
I was the son of Italian immigrants in Glasgow in the 1970s, and I remember how it felt to be the only son of an immigrant in a classroom full of Scottish people. I do not want any EU national child across the United Kingdom to feel the way that I felt at times in school in the 1970s. However, there is more than simply anecdotal evidence that the situation now caused by Brexit is affecting the wellbeing of families. Such concerns have been raised by my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke, a fellow east midlands Member for whom I have nothing but the utmost respect. As I have argued with colleagues in the Chamber—we should be saying it far more loudly—EU nationals have contributed an enormous amount to the success and wellbeing of our United Kingdom, as did my parents over 50 years. I want to hear Members say that daily.
It was often said during the EU referendum that there was perhaps a cost consequence to having the 3 million-plus people from every one of the member states who have integrated here. I always believed that that was utter rubbish. We have benefited as a country by having immigrants come into the United Kingdom. The fact is that we will continue to benefit, because when all of this is over, we will still continue to have EU migrants coming into this country. The difference will be that this Parliament and Government—Conservative, Labour or otherwise—will determine the immigration rules. I cannot possibly foresee a situation where a competent British Government would attempt to reduce immigration to levels that would damage our economy. That leads me to a point made in a newspaper recently by an hon. Friend of mine about a promise made in the Conservative manifesto that we have not kept and cannot keep. We cannot get immigration down to the tens of thousands without damaging our economy.
However, I have decided to vote against the amendment on this matter. As I said at the outset, I have wrestled with this decision, because it affects my family personally. I will explain why I have decided to do this. Ultimately, it is because the deal that will be reached with the EU will be not just legal, but also political. It will be about personalities: about how the Prime Minister and her team get on with the other side.
Had I been Prime Minister last July, I might well have taken a different decision. However, I made a comment to the Prime Minister today in which I made it very clear that I am putting my entire trust in her and her Ministers to honour the promise that they are giving to the country about getting an early deal. I said to the leader of my party that it would be
“a decisive mark of her negotiating skills and leadership qualities as our Prime Minister.”
I believe that she will get a reciprocal deal that benefits citizens from Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales who live in other EU member states, and that protects my own family and friends, my own constituents and other EU nationals across the United Kingdom.
That is why I will vote against the amendment. Ultimately, it is a political matter, and it is for the Prime Minister to demonstrate her leadership and negotiating skills in getting this right, and coming back to the Dispatch Box within months—I repeat, within months—of triggering article 50 with an early deal on which we can all agree and for which we can thank her, that will be to the benefit of all our constituents living abroad and the benefit of EU nationals living in our constituencies.
I am just curious. I support the Prime Minister’s intentions and most definitely her sincerity in aiming to achieve such a deal, but does my hon. Friend agree that if that moment does not come as soon as she would like, she should review the idea of unilaterally offering EU citizens their rights and just put everybody out of their misery, because that is the right thing to do?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the conclusion that he has reached. The other thing the Prime Minister demonstrated when she was Home Secretary is her attention to detail. As I tried to set out for the House, this is actually a more complex matter than it at first appears. It is not just that the Prime Minister needs to get the principle right; she and her Ministers and officials need to get the detail right to ensure not only that my hon. Friend’s family and others like them have security now, but that there are no unforeseen consequences for them in the future. I think that he has made the right decision.
I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend, but a promise has been made about an early agreement, notwithstanding the complexities of the matter. As a lawyer—I am a former corporate lawyer—I know that when my clients came to me asking for me to negotiate, I had to offer solutions to problems. If I did not get the deals that my clients wanted, I would not have been used frequently by those very clients. It will be a mark of our leader, our Prime Minister, if she gets the early deal that she is promising our country, and that is why I am supporting her this evening.
The hon. Gentleman has obviously made a personal decision on this matter. He uses the analogy of being a lawyer and going to negotiate a deal, but does he not accept that the Prime Minister could just settle and give every EU national in our country right now the right to be here, without any further delay? There is an alternative attitude that would also deliver for his client, is there not?
As I mentioned, had I been Prime Minister in July, I might have started the whole process very differently.
I entirely agree with Ms Harman about the consequences of not getting an early deal on this matter. The consequence would be a tsunami of litigation against the Government. Politically, therefore, an early deal must be brought to this House. That is why I trust the Prime Minister to get that early deal.
The role of Parliament is also a political matter to which Ministers should give serious consideration. The European Parliament has a substantive role in the negotiations that we do not have. Some would say that the primary reason for that is that it represents 27 other nations, whereas we represent one sovereign country as the British Parliament. However, if we hear comments from the media, reporting on what European parliamentarians are being told about what our ministerial negotiating team are saying in Europe, it would become farcical if our Government did not report back to us.
I do not see a need to force the Government to do that. It would be politically impossible for the Government to function responsibly and appropriately without giving us at least the same information that we will be receiving from the media and the European Parliament. Again, it is a matter of politics and we should not bind the hands of the Government in a statutory manner that could be justiciable. That is why I trust my Government to come back to the House with sensible updates, no different from the updates that the European Parliament receives, so that we can continue to debate and discuss the matter.
My hon. Friend is on the right side of all these arguments, but he is a very trusting man. Does he not realise that the background to all this is that when the European Commission started negotiating the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, it took exactly the same line that the Government are now taking—that it could not possibly disclose any of these things as it would compromise the negotiations? The fact is that the European Parliament now gets the information because it was less trusting and is made of sterner stuff than this Parliament has so far proved to be. I do not think that that is in accordance with our parliamentary traditions.
I respect the judgments and comments of my right hon. and learned Friend. However, I read his recent article about his own thoughts on his first term in Parliament and how he would have dealt with a similar matter. I will leave it at that.
I have listened carefully to the valuable and honourable comments that have been made on this matter, particularly by Opposition Members, but I will support my Government and I will hold my Government to account in a way that I never see Opposition MPs from Scotland holding their Government to account.
It was touching to hear Alberto Costa talk about his hope and aspiration that EU nationals will be allowed to remain indefinitely, and of course he is right on that, yet he betrayed a little bit of fear of offending his Front Benchers were he to go so far as wanting to enshrine those rights in the Bill.
I commend my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman for new clause 57. It is important and would provide the assurances that many tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people residing in this country require. I tabled a similar new clause—new clause 14—which I hope the Committee will support.
The context of this debate, for which more than 50 substantive amendments on distinct and specific issues of great importance have been tabled, is the contrast between the desire of Members to raise these issues and the nonsensical four hours in which they have to be considered. There is something like four minutes for each topic. Nothing could demonstrate more clearly to Members in the House of Lords how important it is that they do the due diligence on this Bill that the House of Commons will clearly not be able to do.
This is one of the most important pieces of legislation in our time: the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. Let us just remind ourselves what we are talking about. It is a Bill that, although it may contain just a simple clause or two, will have phenomenal ramifications for all of our constituents. If we fail to address those in proper detail, we are failing in our duty to scrutinise the Government in a serious way.
My hon. Friend is completely right. This Bill is far more important than all those treaties wrapped together, because it is about withdrawing from the European Union.
What made the situation worse was the White Paper we had from the Government. Let us not forget that it came the day after the vote on Second Reading. That was pretty shocking and quite contemptuous of the rights that the House of Commons should have. It is a lamentable document because of the lack of information it contains on so many of the important issues on which I and other hon. Members have tabled amendments.
We should use the time we have today to talk about what we need to know and to ask the Government what their plan is. That is why I will briefly go through some of the new clauses I have tabled. For the sake of argument, let us take the first one, new clause 20 on financial services. One could say that it is merely a small corner of Britain’s GDP, but it provides £67 billion of revenue for all our schools and hospitals. If we mess around with that sector in the wrong way, we will all be poorer and our public services will be poorer as a result.
New clause 20 suggests that there should be a report twice a year on where we are going on one of those questions that was not contained in the White Paper: “What is our progress towards a smooth transition from the existing open market access, where we have passports, to the new arrangements, whatever they are going to be?” The White Paper merely says, “We’d quite like to have the freest possible trade,” but it says nothing about what will happen on mutual co-operation, regulation and oversight; whether we will be able to have permanent equivalence rights for some trades; or whether UK firms will have time to adjust.
Those issues already pose a clear and present danger to our economy. HSBC says that 1,000 jobs are going to go, Lloyd’s of London is moving some of its activities, UBS is moving 1,000 jobs, and J.P. Morgan has said that potentially 4,000 jobs will go. Firms are voting with their feet already, yet the White Paper hardly touches on this question.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his diligence on this Bill and for tabling these important new clauses. If we boil it all down, this is not about passporting and the complicated legal framework around financial services, but is about the tens of thousands of my constituents who are in highly skilled, highly paid jobs in the financial services sector and who are worried about their future employment.
Absolutely. When hon. Members are asked by their constituents, “What time did you have to debate financial services?”, they will have to say, “There was only a couple of hours or maybe just a few minutes. I didn’t say anything about it because of the ridiculous programme motion that we put in place to curtail debate.”
Is it right that the hon. Gentleman talks down the City of London in this way? We all know about the threats that have been made, but not one of those jobs has left the City of London. The fact is that, given a choice between London, Frankfurt, Dublin or Paris, those companies will choose London every time.
I really hope that that is the case. I absolutely share the hon. Gentleman’s aspiration, but he should look at the press releases from HSBC, Lloyd’s of London, UBS and J.P. Morgan. These are not alternative facts; this is the real truth. These are people’s jobs and this is revenue for our country that we will potentially lose.
It is not talking down the City of London to highlight the report by TheCityUK emphasising that the best-case scenario, under the Government’s plan, is for 7,000 jobs losses, but that the worst-case scenario could be more than 70,000 job losses. That is not talking the City down but making the economic case for securing the best deal.
Is it not my hon. Friend’s point that we are now a service economy? The service sector accounts for 88% of London’s economy, and the service sector can move. Prior to our joining the EU, we had things in the ground, we were a great manufacturing nation, but that is not the case today.
That is another issue that deserves a massive amount of consideration, but we just do not have the time to go through it today.
I will move on, then, to new clause 22, on competition policy—another small area of policy! The White Paper says absolutely nothing about what the UK will do, upon our exit from the EU, in respect of competition policy. It is totally silent. Will we change our attitude towards state aid for industry? What will our state aid rules be? If we make a change, will our trading partners baulk at the idea that we might be subsidising products in a particular way? Will we be undercutting their production? Would we not wish to do that? Will we take on the WTO disciplines on subsidies? Will we join the EEA scheme on subsidies? What about state aid rules, competition policy, the European Free Trade Association? This a big deal. I think of subjects that have come up recently such as Hinkley Point, the British investment bank and British steel. These are all questions we have to consider and decide upon. All I am saying in new clause 22 is that the Government should publish a report in one month on their attitude to competition policy. It is a pretty simple measure.
I have tabled other amendments that would require Ministers to set out their aspirations, within one month of Royal Assent, on other questions that will arise as we extract ourselves from some of these European partnerships, alliances and agencies. On law enforcement, for example, what will we do about Europol? New clause 111 touches on the benefits we currently enjoy from cross-border co-operation on cybercrime, terrorism, combating trafficking and other important activities. We deserve to know the Government’s approach to cross-border crime, as we do with respect to the European Police College, Eurojust, our co-operation with prosecuting authorities, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and the Agency for Fundamental Rights. The White Paper is totally silent on all those issues. We have no idea what the Government’s plan and negotiating stance will be, and yet we do not have the time to debate these matters properly.
I do not know what the Government are worried about. Anybody who knows anything about negotiations knows that each side can report back from time to time without necessarily giving away their negotiating hand. I do not know what they are scared of.
I think they might be scared of the debate. It also reflects their lack of awareness of the issues. The Government have not thought this through but instead are confronting issues as they bubble up, at a fairly random level, while giving a veneer of control—“We must not show our cards”, “I cannot give a running commentary”. Ministers use these phrases, but behind the curtain they are panicking and their feet are moving rapidly, because they do not have a clue.
By logical extension, the hon. Gentleman wants to unpick almost every single part of EU policy, legislation and co-operation with the UK, bring it to the House and get the Government to set out what they want to do about them. How long does he think it would take to dissociate ourselves from the EU if we were to take that line—two years or 20 years?
It would take more than the three days that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have given us to debate these questions. We are leaving the EU—that is what the Bill is for. He and his hon. Friends might be happy to trust the Prime Minister entirely, but Parliament is sovereign. The Supreme Court gave us this duty and said that we should do our due diligence, but the time constraints will prevent us from doing so.
I wish to raise a couple of other law enforcement issues. The big one, in new clause 177, concerns the Government’s policy on the European arrest warrant. The EAW, of course, is there to make sure we can transfer criminal suspects or sentenced persons from other countries and put them on trial here, and vice versa. The UK has extradited more than 8,000 individuals accused or convicted of criminal offences to the rest of the EU. I think of the case of Hussain Osman, found guilty of the Shepherd’s Bush tube bombing in July 2005, captured in Rome, extradited under the EAW and sentenced to 40 years. In 2014, the Prime Minister herself said that ditching the EAW would turn Britain into
“a honeypot for all of Europe’s criminals on the run from justice”.
From the Prime Minister’s own mouth! What will be our attitude towards the current level of participation? Will we want to continue with the EAW? There is nothing in the White Paper about it.
Is it not the agencies that will be the biggest problem? The Government describe moving everything over with a great repeal Bill, but what happens where that Bill refers to actions that depend on an EU agency, given that we will not have that agency?
That is the fallacy behind the reassurances to hon. Members. We are told, “Don’t worry. We can come to this in later legislation. It will all be fine. The great repeal Bill will deal with these things”. Of course it will not. These are facilities and levels of co-operation and alliances that exist because of our membership of the EU, and yet we will not even have the time to debate the consequences.
I had better move on rapidly. On public health, what is the plan? What do the Government intend to do? Again, the White Paper said virtually nothing about a range of critical alliances, such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, as dealt with in new clause 113. During the outbreak of SARS in 2003, when the disease rapidly spread across several countries, we knew what to do because these EU-wide institutions and public health authorities were able to provide research and intelligence. There is nothing in the White Paper about the British Government’s attitude to such pan-European questions.
What will we do about the European Medicines Agency, as dealt with in new clause 115? Currently based in London, the EMA harmonises the work of national medical regulatory bodies across a range of issues including the application for marketing authorisations, support for medicines development, patents, monitoring the safety of medicines, providing medical information to healthcare professionals and so forth. Who will take on those responsibilities? What will happen? The White Paper was totally silent on that question.
The Health Secretary told the Health Committee the other day that he had already thrown in the towel on the EMA—that we were leaving it and giving up the headquarters in London, along with hundreds of jobs, meaning far slower approval of vital drugs in this country and the loss of all our influence and all those jobs.
Given that the Government have said that they will pull out of Euratom, because it is part of the EU, is not the logical extension of their position to pull out of all those agencies? If so, why does my hon. Friend think they do not want to face up to it? Is it because they do not want to face up to the cost of duplicating the work of 30-odd agencies?
I do not think Ministers know what to say about some of these questions. They hope that because the issues are fairly low level and very specialist, nobody will spot them, but they will start to affect very many people. Myriad issues will arise.
I am afraid to say to my hon. Friend not only that he is right, but that the list goes on—the list of the consequences of withdrawing from the EU without Parliament even having the opportunity properly to debate it. Food safety is covered by the European Food Safety Authority, so we will be throwing in the towel on independent scientific advice on food chain issues and research that is currently in place through our involvement in the EFSA—and there is nothing in the White Paper about it.
What about the E111 health insurance scheme? Hon. Members will remember that the scheme is not just for tourists, because there is the E110 for hauliers and the E128 for students. What, then, is the plan? What will happen when our constituents go abroad?
If the hon. Gentleman had read it, he would understand it perfectly as well as I do. The plan is very simple. All existing laws and requirements will be transferred into good British law. If we need a different adjudicator, that adjudicator can be selected and approved by Parliament. The great news for both of us is that nothing will change legally unless and until this Parliament debates it and wants to change it.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has actually left these shores and visited other countries: we do not control the sort of health insurance and health service schemes that happen in those other European countries, but we currently have a reciprocal health insurance arrangement that provides him, his family and his constituents with a certain degree of cover. That could well be ripped up because of the consequences of the legislation that we are potentially passing—without a word from the Government and with nothing in the White Paper.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point about the E111 scheme, because that will have a practical impact on our constituents. If my hon. Friend does not get a clear answer on that, I fear that many constituents will be forced into buying very expensive travel insurance policies to make sure that they are covered while the scheme is left in limbo.
The consequences of this aspect and many others are myriad. I hope that the House will begin to wake up and realise that we have been sold a pup with this programme motion, which does not give us enough time to discuss all this. I have to move on.
The European Chemicals Agency is another example of something that will be ditched. Companies currently have to provide information about hazards, risks and the safe use of chemicals, but we will potentially leave that agency, with nothing in the White Paper about the alternative.
Another health and safety issue is aviation. What will we do about safe skies, the regulation of aircraft parts, engines and many other aspects? What will we do about maritime safety? What happens if shipping disasters occur on or around our shores? What is the Government’s alternative? There is nothing in the White Paper.
Another minor issue—he said sarcastically—is the environment, and we will potentially leave the European Environment Agency. New clause 120 simply asks that we have a report within a month on what the Government’s plans should be.
I want to move on, if I may.
When it comes to education, science and research issues, we will leave the European Research Council, which is very important. Hon. Members may know about the Erasmus scheme, which means that all our constituents who currently want to study abroad for a few months can have that time recognised as part of their degree, but what will happen to that scheme? There is nothing in the White Paper. It does not say anything about students in our constituencies potentially losing out very significantly. What about satellite issues, plant variety issues, locational training and all sorts of issues?
My hon. Friend is indeed making an excellent speech and highlighting the complexity of the challenges we face. He referred to science, and I had a conversation yesterday with my constituent Clare, who is a scientist and was extremely concerned about how our collaboration will work and what projects we will be included in in the future. She was also concerned about the impact on our young people. Their future is ahead of them, and in a sense we are pulling the rug out from under their feet.
We should have the time, the space and the opportunity to discuss the consequences for my hon. Friend’s constituent, but we will not. My hon. Friend will have to tell her constituent that we did not have enough time in the House of Commons. Fingers crossed, there might be time for the House of Lords to do some of this work and put their concerns to Ministers in the other place.
My hon. Friend is doing an excellent job of trying to scrutinise the implications of this Bill, yet we have less time on the Floor of the House to debate it than we would have in Committee for much less important Bills. Does my hon. Friend agree that while we want all these issues to be sorted out within two years, that might not happen, which is why we need transitional arrangements as well as a vote on the final deal, so that this House can see whether the Government have done their job properly and truly got the best deal for Britain?
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that as well as having an environment policy, we need to make sure that it is enforceable? It is no good just moving it across, if we cannot bring enforcement to bear. Does he also agree with me that the European Investment Bank is a crucial issue, because it is a massive investor in renewable energy in this country? We need to know where we stand on that.
In that case, I will move on to new clause 122, which references the European Investment Bank. It deals with a series of economic and trade co-operation issues, which are again not referenced at all in the White Paper. Can you imagine, Mr Howarth, the Government producing a White Paper about the consequences of withdrawing from the European Union without even mentioning the European Investment Bank, in which, by the way, we currently have a 16% stake? It part-funds Crossrail and the Manchester Metrolink. This is a massively important institution, yet we are simply shrugging it off in a blasé way, saying “Trust the Prime Minister; it will all be fine”. We should at least ask Ministers about the attitude of the British Government towards it, so I ask the Minister directly: what is the British Government’s attitude to our continued participation in the European Investment Bank? He needs to address that and other issues.
I had better move on and talk about a couple of other new clauses. I know that other hon. Members want to contribute to the debate, and it is frustrating that we do not have enough time properly to debate the issues. I am glad to see in their place a couple of hon. Members who might be interested in these things. New clauses 128, 129 and 130 deal with the issue of the protected designation of the origins of goods and services—specifically, their protected geographical indication.
Hon. Members might well have relevant businesses within their constituencies. This is sometimes known as “the Stilton amendment”, so I am looking at Mr Vara. I understand that Stilton is not necessarily made in North West Cambridgeshire, but the hon. Gentleman has the village of Stilton in his constituency. Similarly, Sarah Newton will be well aware of the wonders of Fal oysters, which are protected under the protected geographical indication—PGI—scheme that applies to European trade. Whether they are called “the Stilton amendment” or “the Scotch whisky amendment”, the new clauses simply ask what the Government’s plan is for those protected products—much-cherished and much-valued not just where they are produced, but where they are consumed worldwide—if they lose their protected status? We could end up having knock-off Scotch whisky sold around the world without that protection. The same might apply to Scotch beef, Welsh lamb, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Arbroath smokies, Yorkshire Wensleydale, Newcastle Brown Ale and the Cornish pasty.
As it happens, the protected status of Stilton cheese prohibits people living in the village of Stilton in my constituency from making it. They researched the cheese and found that it was originally made in the village, but they are prohibited from making it by the protected status to which the hon. Gentleman refers. When we leave the European Union, they will be able to make Stilton cheese in Stilton.
Finally, we get some sign of life from Conservative Members. They are finally interested in the consequences of withdrawing from the European Union. This is an issue that the House should have the opportunity to discuss. Many firms, industries and producers, on both sides of this question, will either benefit or—probably—lose out, as a result of our exiting from the European Union in this way.
Blessed are the cheesemakers, wherever they happen to live, but may I return my hon. Friend to new clause 112, which deals with the European Chemicals Agency, and alert him to the fact that the Environmental Audit Committee is looking into the issue? I have the 200 pages of evidence on what withdrawing from the European chemicals regulations will mean for the motor industry, the defence industry and the pharmaceuticals industry in this country, and it does not make pretty reading.
As my hon. Friend says, there are serious questions about hazards that could affect our constituents and substances that pose dangers because, for instance, they may be carcinogenic.
We are disappointed in the Government not only because of their White Paper, but because they are trying to gag Parliament and prevent it from debating these issues. Muzzling Members on both sides of the House on these questions means that we will end up far poorer and far worse off, and it sends a message to the Lords that they will have to do the job of scrutiny and due diligence that we were unable to do. This is our only substantive opportunity to debate the Bill. Parliament deserves more respect than the Government have shown in their insubstantial, inadequate White Paper, which does not touch on many of the questions in our new clauses. We simply want to know what they plan to do, and I sincerely hope that the Minister will answer our questions when he responds to the debate.
I want to speak briefly about new clauses 171, 173 and, principally, 57.
I am proud to represent my constituency, which is home to some of the most impressive academic and scientific research in the world. We attract and grow the most innovative brains, and we do that by looking outwards rather than inwards. I know that the Government have confirmed that all EU legislation will simply be transferred to UK law on the day of exit, but I feel that particular attention should be paid to planning our future academic and scientific collaborations.
New clauses 171 and 173 request reports from the Government on the future of the Erasmus+ scheme and participation in the European research area. Given that our academic and research industries are two of our greatest exports and feature heavily in the business, energy and industrial strategy, such reports should be very straightforward. We need to give clarity and reassurance to those sectors, which I know are exceptionally worried about the future. The University of Cambridge, the Babraham Institute, the Wellcome Genome Campus and the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, to mention just a few institutions in my constituency, are extremely important to national prosperity, and they deserve priority in the Government’s thinking.
The hon. Lady is making a very important speech, but is she aware that it is not necessary to leave behind all those EU agencies? When it comes to research and development, for example, Israel belongs to Horizon 2020. Does the hon. Lady not think that the Government should look into that, and consider the granting of such a status to this country?
I entirely agree. I think that what is most important is for Ministers to listen to organisations such as those in my constituency in order to understand what they need. I am pleased that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has visited Cambridge twice since Christmas, because he is clearly listening, but we in the Chamber are not the experts. Those organisations are, and we should listen to what they say.
Does the hon. Lady agree that one of the problems that universities are experiencing is that PhD students and other academics are choosing not to come to Britain now? That means that our global universities are losing out to Harvard, Yale and Berkeley, and universities in other countries.
I regularly speak to members of the University of Cambridge, because a couple of its colleges are in my constituency. Although numbers have not fallen so far, I know that they are very worried about what will happen in a couple of years. Universities are a fundamental part of what is great about this country, and they deserve our protection. That is why we need to look fully at the implications for them, and the Government need to listen.
The debate on new clause 57 is probably one of the most important debates that we shall have, because it concerns the continuing rights of EU citizens lawfully residing here before or on
Like, probably, the hon. Lady, I have been written to by a number of my constituents who are married to British citizens but are EU nationals, and they are very concerned. I should have thought that the Government would give them some sort of comfort, because this is certainly creating problems within families.
Absolutely. I speak as a woman with a German mother. I think that on some occasions my father would be quite pleased if my mother were sent back. [Laughter.] He would agree with me about that. However, I do understand the rifts that this is causing in the community, particularly in my constituency, which is bursting with citizens of every nation in the EU who have families and relatives. However, it is not just the EU citizens who are worried; the communities that wrap around them are worried as well.
Is not the issue solved by the Government’s current proposals? When everything is brought into UK law by the great repeal Bill, all EU nationals here will continue to have the right to reside unless Parliament legislates to take it away, which seems to me to be inconceivable.
I am sure that my hon. Friend has made an accurate point. I suppose the point I am trying to make is that while there may be legal and administrative realities ensuring that people would never be sent home, the perception and feeling of those people is more important. We should cut through the red tape and give them clarity, because that is what they deserve.
Can we put this in context, so that people listening at home will understand and not feel unduly nervous about what is happening? Does my hon. Friend agree that 61% of all EU nationals living in the UK already have a permanent right to reside in this country, and that by the time the UK leaves the EU, that figure will have risen to between 80% and 90%? A very large proportion of EU nationals who are already in this country have absolutely nothing to worry about.
That is a valid point, but this should not just be about a piece of paper and whether a form has been completed. We already know of cases in which people’s applications have been turned down. This is not just about citizens who have been here for five years or 10 years. Every day, brains and skills come to my constituency. Should I discriminate against someone who has been here for two years, or for five years? No. Those people have a right to be here, and we should honour that.
I do not know whether my hon. Friend heard what I said earlier, but I meant it very sincerely. More than 4,000 EU nationals do not fit the description that she has given. They are people who are here and have abused our hospitality by committing crimes for which they have been sent to prison. The problem with a blanket approach is that it will give those people the right to stay here. Having dealt with individual cases, I know that nothing will do more damage to the British people’s wish to welcome EU nationals than our not being able to deport people who came here as EU nationals and then committed serious crimes. Has my hon. Friend given any thought to that?
Order. In the brief time for which I have been in the Chair, I have noted that some of the interventions seem to be getting excessively long. I remind Members that interventions should be confined to a single point, and a short one at that.
If the interventions are long, my speech will be short.
Let me say this to my right hon. Friend Mr Harper. Nothing is perfect, but should the policy that we make be based on a few bad apples or on the rights of thousands of fabulous citizens who come here and contribute? What we are discussing today is whether we should be offering unilateral rights to them before securing rights for our UK citizens abroad. I have a sense of what is the moral and right thing to do. I believe that we should be leading the way, and offering those rights unilaterally to EU citizens in the UK.
I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not. I wish to make a bit of progress, but I will give way again later.
Until we have that resolution, however and whenever it comes, this will prey on the minds of families and our NHS, and will damage the collaboration that is vital to the scientific and academic organisations in my constituency. Many of my constituents have lost all sense of direction, and are struggling to recognise the tolerant, open country of which they are normally so proud. The wounds of the referendum have not yet healed. Although I was grateful for the opportunity to probe the Prime Minister when she made her statement earlier today, I wish to repeat my request for her to keep a unilateral offer to EU citizens in her mind.
As time passes, I fear that the distasteful currency valuation of both our citizens and EU citizens will increase. If an early agreement is not reached—as the Prime Minister hopes it will—I will urge her to step in and halt the trading. We are talking about people. If the Prime Minister were to offer continued rights to EU citizens unilaterally, I believe she would pull the country in behind her. She would strengthen our collective resolve and push forward through the negotiations with the shared will of the 48% and the 52%. At the moment, those in the 48% in my constituency do not feel part of the conversation. Crucially, we would demonstrate that in this global turbulence Britain is, as it always has been, a beacon for humanity and for democracy, a principled and proud nation and—one day soon, I hope—leading the way with compassion and dignity.
My hon. and right hon. Friends have tabled several new clauses, but we have a remarkable range of amendments before us this evening, so I will confine my remarks to those relating to the position of EU nationals wishing to remain and their rights to remain.
I want to explain why this matters to me as a Liberal and an islander. Those representing island communities understand that things very often have to run to different rules and we have different priorities. One of the most important aspects of keeping an island community viable, prosperous and growing is maintaining a viable level of population, and in recent years and decades the contribution of EU citizens to growing and maintaining the services and businesses within the island communities that it is my privilege to represent has been enormously important. It matters to my communities, therefore, that the position of these EU nationals who live in our communities, and who contribute to our public services and businesses, should be clarified; they should be given the greatest possible reassurance at the earliest possible opportunity.
There is no aspect of island life these days in which we will not find EU nationals living and working. They work in our fish houses, they work in our hotels and bars, they work in our hospitals, our garages and building companies, and they teach in our schools. If we go into the admirable University of the Highlands and Islands, we will find them leading some groundbreaking research there, especially in the development of renewable energy—a future for our whole country. That is why the position of these people in our communities matters to the people I represent, and they matter to me, and they should matter to us all.
The right hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a huge amount of respect, is making a very good point as regards EU nationals; indeed, many colleagues have said likewise. Does he not accept, however, that while we talk about securing the position of EU nationals living in Britain, we as British parliamentarians have a duty to British nationals living overseas—we have a duty to make sure that they, too, are looked after—and that if we secure the rights of foreigners living in this country before British nationals overseas are looked after, we are neglecting our duty?
I gently say to the hon. Gentleman, with whom I have worked in the past, and who I hold in some regard, that, bluntly, it is invidious to play the interests of one group of desperate people off against the interests of another group, and there is a danger of that emerging from what he is saying and the terms in which he puts it. Because as Hilary Benn, the Chairman of the Exiting the European Union Committee, on which I also serve, reminded us, this was the evidence that we heard from British nationals currently living in other parts of the EU; this is what they want us to do, because they see that it is in their interests that we should do this. They see this move as the best, most immediate and speediest way in which their position can be given some degree of certainty.
The real importance of this move is the atmosphere that it would create. We cannot ignore the atmosphere that we have found in many of our communities since
I also want to deal with one matter that was raised in the Select Committee, and which has been touched on today: the opportunity of EU nationals to secure their position by means of the permanent residence card. I say to the Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union, Mr Jones, that he should be talking about this to his colleagues in the Home Office, because there are enormous difficulties with it. [Interruption.] I see the Minister for Immigration is sitting on the Treasury Bench, too, and he will be aware that some 30% of the—expensive—applications that are necessary for permanent residence cards are currently refused. The evidence brought to the Select Committee was that this involves, I think, an 85-page form. The sheer volume of supporting documentation required for these applications is enormous. The level of detail that is asked about the occasions over the past five, 10, 15 or 20 years when people have left the country even on holiday and then returned, and the evidence required to support these dates, is unreasonable and is putting an enormous burden on those seeking this small measure of reassurance in the short to medium term. This needs to be revisited.
The unfairness of the situation came home to me when I saw a constituent on Friday, who brought to my office the letter she received in 1997 from the then Immigration and Nationality Directorate. She was told:
“You can now remain indefinitely in the United Kingdom. You do not need permission from a Government Department to take or change employment and you may engage in business or a profession as long as you comply with any general regulations for the business or professional activity.”
Nobody told my constituent in 1997 that 20 years later she was going to have to produce tickets to show that in 2005 she took a two-week holiday in Ibiza, or whatever, but that is the situation in which she now finds herself if she is going to achieve that small measure of security for her and her family.
The challenge facing our country at this point is how we go forward in a way that allows us to bring the 52% and the 48% back together. Our country faces an enormous challenge, and it is one that we cannot meet with the support of only half of our population; we need all our people to be able to pull together. This would be one small measure that would allow the Government to bring the two sides together to get the best possible deal for all our citizens, whether they are British by birth or British by choice.
It is a pleasure to follow Mr Carmichael, although he might not entirely share the sentiment once I have finished my contribution. I promise that it will be a short contribution, in the interests of time and the number of Members who wish to have their say. I rise to speak against in particular new clauses 56 and 134.
There are some in the House who have said that the referendum result should not be respected because the people did not know what they were voting for. They are determined to find confusion where none exists. They say that the public voted to leave the European Union, but not the single market or the customs union. Members are arguing through these amendments that we in this House need to debate whether or not we leave the single market. I disagree.
The majority of voters who took part in the referendum said that they wanted to leave the European Union. Many of those who contacted me said that they wanted to | restore our parliamentary sovereignty and sovereignty over our courts, to regain control over our immigration policy, and to strike out in the world and forge new deals with countries across the globe. Those aims are incompatible with remaining in the single market or in the customs union.
We chose to go to the people with this referendum. I did not campaign for either side in the referendum, but I followed the two campaigns closely. Throughout the referendum campaign, those involved in the leave campaign said that we would be leaving the single market. On the remain side, our former Prime Minister David Cameron said during the campaign that, in the event of a vote to leave:
“What the British public will be voting for is to leave the EU and leave the single market.”
I do wish that the hon. Gentleman would not rewrite history. I have some lovely quotes here. The present Foreign Secretary said:
“I’d vote to stay in the single market. I’m in favour of the single market.”
Mr Paterson said:
“Only a madman would actually leave the market”.
That one speaks for itself. Arron Banks stated:
“Increasingly the Norway option looks the best for the UK.”
What the hon. Gentleman is saying is simply not the case.
Is my hon. Friend honestly saying that the good people of Colchester sat in a variety of places where they might go to enjoy themselves mulling over the finer points of the single market?
I think my right hon. Friend underestimates the intelligence of the people of Colchester.
I would be more sympathetic to those tabling the new clauses if they had not voted in favour of holding the referendum. However, they supported it. They agreed to entrust this question to the British people. I remember when some on the other side of the House, namely the Liberal Democrats—although I question that name in the context of this debate—were calling for a “real referendum”. Well, we had a real referendum—the biggest exercise in democracy in our nation’s history—and we have been given a result. Those hon. Members just do not like what they heard. We should respect the instruction we were given by the British people. We were told that we were going to leave the European Union and the single market, and leave we should.
The Prime Minister has been absolutely clear that we are leaving the single market. Those on the Opposition Benches tabling these new clauses should perhaps listen to the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, the noble Lord Ashdown, who said that
“when the British people have spoken, you do what they command”.
We do not need this debate. It is simply an attempt to obfuscate and delay the process. That is why I cannot support new clauses 56 or 134, and I encourage colleagues to oppose them.
It is as pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. I should like to speak to new clauses 29 and 33, tabled in my name and those of other right hon. and hon. colleagues.
The Secretary of State—who is not here for this debate—said with his usual braggadocio that he would produce a Bill that was unamendable. Today, we have a list of amendments that is 145 pages long. The ratio of lines in the amendments to lines in the Bill 580:1, which must be an all-time record. It is certainly a tribute to the productivity of hon. Members on this side of the House. However, the chutzpah of the Secretary of State was exceeded by the civil servant who wrote paragraph 14 of the Bill’s explanatory notes, which states:
“The impact of the Bill itself will be both clear and limited”.
No. The effect of the Bill is not clear and it is certainly not limited. The fact that hon. Members have tabled so many new clauses and amendments demonstrates why this debate on parliamentary scrutiny is so important.
I am pleased to follow Will Quince, whose constituents voted leave in the referendum. Mine did too, and his speech was the perfect introduction to my own. I want to describe why it is also in the interests of those who voted leave that we should have proper parliamentary scrutiny. The referendum campaign was won on the slogan of taking back control and bringing back parliamentary sovereignty. We cannot do that without having proper parliamentary scrutiny.
New clause 29 is perfectly simple and straightforward: it proposes a quarterly reporting system during the negotiations. That would give the House a structured approach. Sir Oliver Letwin complained about new clause 3—which was ably moved by my hon. Friend Matthew Pennycook—saying that it would create problems of justiciability. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the requirement to produce a report once a quarter is not such a high or complex legal bar, and that it would not lead to extremely long litigation. It is a simple, practical measure.
Does the hon. Lady imagine that there would be no court cases about whether such quarterly reports conformed with the appropriate procedure? Is she aware of the chain of jurisprudence in judicial review that leads to the possibility of that kind of contest? What does she think would happen if the courts started intervening in the matter of whether the reports met the requirements of her new clause?
First, it is not clear that such cases would get leave of hearing. Secondly, any such case would be dismissed straight away, so long as the Government had abided by the requirement to produce quarterly reports. There simply would not be a case to answer. This is a simple and straightforward proposal.
So does the hon. Lady think that the Government would satisfy the conditions of her new clause if they simply produced one line saying, “This is our report”? Or does she believe that it would have to be an appropriate report? If that were the case, could not a court decide whether it was appropriate or not?
As the Chairman of the Select Committee said earlier, when we got into a discussion about the requests from the Opposition Front Bench, the nature of the report would be a matter for the Government. I am sure that the Government would behave in a reasonable manner if this provision were in the legislation.
As I was saying to the hon. Member for Colchester, my constituency voted leave. I voted for the Bill on Second Reading so that the Prime Minister would have the power to trigger our intention to withdraw from the European Union under article 50. However, the political legitimacy stemming from the result of last summer’s referendum does not extend to giving the Government a blank cheque for their negotiating objectives or for the way in which they conduct the negotiations. Everyone is clear that this will have major constitutional, political, economic and social implications for our relations with other countries and for the domestic framework of our legislation.
Given the lack of clarity, and the fact that there was no plan, I have consulted my constituents on their expectations and hopes, and on how they want these decisions to be taken. I wrote to 5,500 of them, and I held six public meetings. They felt strongly that they wanted Parliament to be involved. In fact, some of them thought that the negotiations should be conducted by a cross-party team. I said that I did not think that was terribly likely—
Let me tell the right hon. Lady about the views that were expressed in my constituency, even though they might be different from those being expressed in her own. When we discussed the social chapter and people’s employment rights, my constituents said, in terms, “You can’t trust the Tories.” It is because of that feeling—[Interruption.] Those were their words, not mine. It is because of that feeling that we need to have parliamentary involvement in the way this process is carried forward.
The Government have reluctantly come to the House with this Bill. I first requested that Parliament be involved on
The vast majority of the amendments—I think I counted 30—tabled by members of the Opposition basically call for a report within 30 days of the Bill coming into force setting out the Government’s approach in the negotiations. Does the hon. Lady imagine that Europe will publish reports on every one of these issues, setting out its approach in the negotiations? That would surely be giving away too much.
Had the hon. Gentleman been in his place to hear the fantastic speech by my hon. Friend Chris Leslie, he would understand why my hon. Friend was proposing all those reports. I am speaking to new clause 29, which is about quarterly reporting by the Government once the negotiations get under way.
Another slight misconception among Government Members is that there is some best deal, but there is clearly no objective technical standard test. What is best in the constituency of Richard Graham might be different from what is best in my constituency. I am not casting aspersions on the motivations of Government Members; I am being realistic. When the Prime Minister talks about building a better Britain and doing what is best for the country, I am sure that she is being completely sincere, but she stood in a general election in Durham in 1992 and received half as many votes as the Labour candidate. The truth of the matter is that the process is complicated and there are different interests. Parliament, which is the sovereign body of the country, should be able to participate fully in that process, and scrutiny is the basic first brick of it.
Look, I am sorry that Government Members feel so bad about losing the Supreme Court case last month. It is a shame. The Government were foolish to appeal after the High Court judgment. However, the fact that they have lost one case does not mean that they should become obsessed with the risk. It is as absurd as saying, “Well, we should stop having parliamentary questions for every Department once a month because they somehow undermine the Government.” Take Defence Question Time, for example. It happens every single month, but it does not undermine our security; it holds the Government to account. It is because the negotiations are so important that the Government should report back. I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not here. Unlike some Government Back Benchers, I think he understands that this is not a technical issue; it is a political process. Involving Parliament and having proper parliamentary scrutiny is the right thing to do to build a national consensus, which the Government state is their aim in the White Paper.
New clause 29 is simple and straightforward and would require a quarterly reporting system during the negotiations. While the Select Committees are doing fantastic work in considering particular issues in great detail, it is extremely important that the whole House gets a regular opportunity to see how things are going and to provide the perspective of the different communities we represent. Out of necessity, I drafted new clause 29 without having seen new clause 3, which is obviously tougher than new clause 29, so some people will prefer one over the other.
New clause 33 would require the Prime Minister to set out how the UK will have control over its immigration system. I tabled it because that is the major concern of many people, leave voters in particular, so it seems right to refer to it in the draft framework and negotiating objectives that we must prepare for our future relationship with the EU. However, I want to make it clear that while that was a factor for some constituents in how they voted, they were equally committed to providing security for EU citizens in this country. I added my name to new clause 57, tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman, because those things are completely consistent. I would like to say more on that, but we have only a short amount of time.
The hon. Lady refers to guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens, and my hon. Friend Mr Rees-Mogg, who is not in his place, stated the legal position. The Government could make that guarantee tonight, saying that my hon. Friend was correct, by stating that those rights would be grandfathered straight into the Immigration Act 2016. That may not be the preferred method for many in this House, but it would effectively guarantee EU citizens what they want. Does the hon. Lady agree?
As I was saying, we should have proper, structured scrutiny, and I am disappointed that we do not have slightly longer to consider all these matters in more detail.
It is a pleasure to follow Helen Goodman, who expressed her view with her usual forthrightness. She was one of the first Members in the House to raise the complex issue of the customs union, for which I am very grateful.
Last July, Andy Burnham moved an Opposition motion on guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals in the UK, and I was one of five Conservative Members to support it. It was an excellent motion to propose at that time, and thanks to that motion tremendous progress has been made in the Government’s thinking and statements as a result. We are debating an issue on which there is unanimity of view about what we want to achieve. It goes almost to the point of parody: everyone is agreeing on a point about which they are then going to disagree. The fundamental question is whether placing such a measure in this Bill is the right approach to continue the pressure and achieve what my hon. Friend Heidi Allen spoke about so eloquently.
My hon. Friend asks whether the Bill is the right place for such a proposal. Should it be that we in this country need legislation to orientate our moral compass?
I think my hon. Friend knows my view, so I will not dwell on that.
As I looked through the many amendments, I noted that they fall into three main categories: those that ask for or require scrutiny of the Government’s approach; those that seek to frame a position for the Government in the negotiations; and those that seek answers to an imponderable list of questions—most notably those from Chris Leslie. Each of those groups in turn is less worthy of the House’s attention. Scrutiny is relevant to how the House sees things proceeding, and I will listen carefully to what the Front-Bench team says about that. I am concerned, however, by some of the comments made by Sir Oliver Letwin to which he did not receive answers. The idea that we would involve the Government in the negotiations, then involve Parliament in the negotiations and then also involve the courts in the negotiations brings the words “dog’s” and “breakfast” close together very quickly.
On EU nationals here in the UK, many of the contributions to this debate have focused on the easiest side of the argument. My right hon. Friend Mr Harper mentioned prisoners in the UK, and under last year’s motion those prisoners who have committed crimes in this country would be guaranteed the right to remain. We may want to do that, but it is a hard case to make that we should do that while not giving any consideration to British nationals in other EU countries. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire might say, we would then seem to be losing our moral compass through legislation.
A number of Members have cited specific examples of where prisoners would already be guaranteed rights in this country. As parliamentarians, we have a responsibility to reduce uncertainty as we go through the process of leaving the EU, and one practical way of doing that is by knowing what the circumstances are for each of our constituents who come to talk to us so that we can explain to them that there is no need for them to be concerned because their rights are secure—the proposal will not cover all of them, and it might not cover as large a proportion as my hon. Friend Robert Jenrick mentioned, but it is a practical example of where we can help to reduce uncertainty.
The third argument on this issue of EU nationals who have the right to remain here, upon which we all agree, is that we have focused all our attention on the Government Front Bench. Hardly anyone has mentioned Angela Merkel. As I understand it, and I get this from two very reputable newspapers—The Sun and the Daily Express—so it must be true, it was Mrs Merkel who said no to a deal. Where are the voices talking about pressing the German Government to make an agreement? I have heard plenty of speeches today about Donald Trump and how terrible we feel about his policies. Well, here is something that affects British citizens in another country and not a word from anyone.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, by triggering article 50, we will simply give the EU27 all the rights to deliver our future? We would then have no negotiation, which is why we should delay article 50 and let the people have the final say on the negotiated package. As full members, we have negotiating rights. We would then have the power of time, and we would give the EU27 the incentive to come to the negotiating table because we might vote to stay in the EU.
The hon. Gentleman would not get a top mark in negotiation analysis at Harvard Business School. The last word the British public want to hear when it comes to this Bill is “delay.” Most people think we should get on with it, if they do not think we have done it already.
It is important for the Government to understand that messaging is important. There is uncertainty, and people feel that perhaps they do not have the right to remain here, so the Government must continue their progress in signalling to people not only that we welcome them here but that our intent is that everyone in the United Kingdom as a legal EU resident will be able to stay. We must not avoid, or fail to pursue, communicating that message.
Equally, the Government must avoid measures that give the optics to British citizens in other EU countries that they have been abandoned. One of the worst things of stating this in legislation is not that it is necessarily a bad thing but that the optics for British citizens in other countries would change dramatically. They would say, “Why have we not been protected?” They would feel even more vulnerable because of the inaction of EU Governments if the UK Government were, by statute, to have to take this measure.
I support the Government on this amendment, and I call on them to continue their progress on the issue to end uncertainty. Ending uncertainty is not just about the rights of EU nationals currently living in the UK; it is about wanting people in the European Union to come to the UK. The progressive message of this Government should not just end with the issues contained in the amendment. We should send a positive message that we will continue to welcome people from the European Union after we leave.
In particular, I support the argument for a White Paper that includes details of the expected trajectory for the UK’s balance of trade, gross domestic product and unemployment. A number of earlier contributions explained precisely why we need that. My hon. Friend said that Vote Leave failed to provide detailed answers to any of the key economic questions before the referendum and, of course, he is right.
Mr Harper, who is no longer in his place, demonstrated incredibly ably the confusion at the heart of Vote Leave and why taking a decision today is incredibly difficult. He effectively said—I have spoken to him, so this will come as no surprise to him—that no one in the leadership of the official leave campaign ever argued that we would join the EEA or have an EFTA-type agreement. It might be that Michael Gove, or one of the other senior figures, never quite said that, but to argue that the leave campaign did not suggest it, and suggest it strongly, is simply wrong. The leave campaign Lawyers for Britain said:
“We could apply to re-join with effect from the day after Brexit… EFTA membership would allow us to continue uninterrupted free trade relations”.
That was still on the website only a few weeks ago.
The former ambassador and Brexit supporter Charles Crawford appeared on “Newsnight” to argue that an EEA option may be the first step of Brexit. Roland Smith, the author of “The Liberal Case for ‘Leave’”, wrote an extended paper titled “Evolution Not Revolution: The case for the EEA option”, so I suspect that there were many people who, indeed, voted for Brexit believing that we were not voting for a hard Tory cliff-edge Brexit and that we would maintain membership of the EEA, EFTA or an equivalent. Given that that now no longer appears to be the case, it is absolutely right, as new clause 51 makes clear, that we have details of the expected trajectory of the balance of trade, GDP and unemployment. Those are not abstracts; they are at the heart of the measurement of our economy, of wages, of living standards and of economic growth. They are the platform for tax yield, which pays for our vital public services. All those words and concepts were almost entirely absent from what I will generously call the first White Paper.
I gently observe that it is not good enough for the Government to produce, after a referendum, a White Paper that is little more that the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech dressed up with a few pictures and a couple of graphs. That is not the basis for the economic plan necessary to mitigate the huge potential damage to the economy from a hard Tory Brexit. Make no mistake, that is what we are facing.
Did the Government leaflet, at great cost, not exactly make the point that single market membership was not an option and that access would be the result of a leave vote in the referendum?
Many things were said, which is my point. Some might argue that being in the EEA or a member of EFTA precisely gives one not just access to but membership of the single market—one could call it access if one likes. There was deep, deep confusion in the messaging of the no side, which must be rectified now with proper details on the trajectory of the key economic numbers before more decisions are taken.
I say that we are facing a hard Brexit, and let us understand what has been said. The leaked Treasury document last November suggested that the UK could lose up to £66 billion from a hard Tory Brexit and that GDP could fall by about 9.5% if the UK reverted to WTO rules. I accept that that is a worst-case scenario, but if the circumstances that lead us to that catastrophe occur and we do not have a plan to mitigate it, the guilt would lie with the Government for failing to plan. The final part of that—the “if we revert to WTO rules”—is key, because the Prime Minister has said that a bad deal is worse than no deal. That is very twisted logic, because no deal is the worst deal; it means we revert immediately to WTO rules, with all the tariffs and other regulatory burdens that that implies.
Of course, the leaked Treasury document was not published in isolation. The centre for economic performance at the London School of Economic published very similar numbers, saying:
“In the long run, reduced trade lowers productivity”.
That is already a huge problem for the UK. It also said:
“That increases the costs of Brexit to a loss of between 6.3% to 9.5% of GDP”.
It puts a range of figures on that, varying between £4,200 and £6,500 per household. When we consider that impact on real people, a substantial measure of strength is added to the argument.
The figures for Scotland, independently produced by the Fraser of Allander Institute, are in line with those other assessments. They suggest a hard Brexit could result in the loss of some 80,000 Scottish jobs within a decade and a drop in wages averaging about £2,000. I do not think any politician, of any party, would willingly say, “Let’s embark on a course of action that will lead to the near impoverishment of many people in society”, but that is where we are with the hard Tory Brexit argument. [Interruption.] I can hear the groans, but year after year we heard “Long-term economic plan”, and it failed at every turn. I think it is better if we argue that we are facing a hard Brexit—a cliff-edge Brexit—and we prepare for it. That makes sense.
In addition to those assessments, we had today’s report that senior executives from the FTSE 500 companies are telling us that the Brexit vote is already having a negative impact on their businesses. That should have alarm bells ringing throughout the Government, but instead there is simply complacency. We have also seen the British Chambers of Commerce report telling us that almost half the businesses surveyed have seen a hit to margins due to the devaluation caused by the fear of Brexit, with more than half suggesting they will have to increase prices. That is all the more reason to assess and understand the trajectory of many of the key metrics and the plans to mitigate the worst impact.
All those things come before we get to the vexed question of the balance of trade. Our current account for the last full year was £80 billion in the red and we had a deficit in the trade in goods of £120 billion, yet we are faced with a Brexit that will make that worse, ripping the UK and Scotland out of the world’s largest and most successful trading bloc. Doing that without the asked-for clear assessment of the damage and any credible plan to mitigate it included in a comprehensive White Paper is an act of wilful economic vandalism.
Order. I am anxious to get in as many of the people who have sat throughout the debate as possible. There is no time limit and I am not going to impose one, but if those who remain take five minutes, or preferably fewer, it might be possible to get everyone in.
I wish to start by reading something from a letter I have received from a constituent. He talks about his wife, who was born in the Netherlands. He writes:
“She has lived in this country for over 30 years, brought up three British children and is completely integrated into the life of her local town. She is not part of any ‘immigrant community’. She just lives here and is fully at home here. Until now, she has never seen herself as an outsider and has been able to participate fully in local life, thanks to her rights as an EU citizen. In two years’ time, she will lose those rights and be a foreigner, dependent on the good will of the Government of the day.”
I have written back to and met my constituent, because I think it is inconceivable that our Prime Minister would separate this family. However, many people are not reassured, and he and his wife sought for her to have permanent residency. This involved dealing with an 85-page document, including an English language test and a test about life in Britain, which is insulting to someone who has lived here most of her life and brought up three children here. This process is also very expensive, but the final sting in the tail is that she finds she is not eligible, because she has been self-employed and has not taken out comprehensive sickness insurance. This situation is unacceptable. We need to keep our compassion and keep this simple. It is inconceivable that families such as this would be separated, so we should be absolutely clear in saying so, up front.
I understand what my hon. Friend is saying about her constituency surgeries. I have had a similar experience and it is deeply upsetting in many respects, but will she join me in reflecting that the EU and Chancellor Merkel could have come to a deal on this earlier? The reality is that they have point-blank refused to discuss it before we trigger article 50.
I agree with that, and I have also heard from constituents of mine who are British citizens now living in the EU. But my point is that, come what may, it is inconceivable that we would seek to separate families such as this one. There is no doubt that many people are sleepless and sick with worry about this, and we have all seen them in our surgeries. [Interruption.] It is true. I am seeing these people in my surgery. We also need to consider the tsunami of paperwork that we will have to deal with in settling the rights of these citizens if we do not get on with this quickly. We need to keep this simple. There is no way that families such as this should be subjected to a vast bureaucracy and vast expense. We all know that this needs to be settled, so in negotiating, surely, making a bold, open offer as a gesture of good will can do nothing but good in this situation.
I have no idea why this is happening, but I am saying, as an important point to the Chancellor of Germany, that making this clear unilateral offer is the right thing to do, and we should get on and do it. There is no reason not to do so. Even if other countries were to take an obstructive and unreasonable line, it would still be inconceivable that our Prime Minister would separate families such as my constituents. So let us get on with this.
Does my hon. Friend not agree that the Prime Minister as given her word that this will be a priority and she clearly hears the compassion that my hon. Friend reflects for her constituent, as we all do for all our constituents? We must, as I certainly do, accept the word of the Prime Minister that this will be her priority and that she will sort it.
I thank my hon. Friend for that. Like her, I do trust the Prime Minister, and that is why I have taken a very reassuring line with my constituents. However, there is no substitute for a clear statement from our Prime Minister that, come what may, families such as this will not be separated, because that is the reassurance they seek. I hear what my hon. Friend says, but I think we should get on and make that offer, because it can be nothing but good to do so.
I also hope the Prime Minister will take further action on the issue of those who work in our NHS and social care. One in 10 of the doctors who works in our NHS comes from elsewhere in the EU, and I would like to say thank you, on behalf of the whole House, to all those workers and to all those who are working in social care. It would also be very much a positive move if we could say, up front, that those who are working here will be welcome to stay and make it very clear that we will continue to make it easy to welcome people from across the EU to work in social care and in our NHS.
I shall make a short, pointed speech, because a lot of other Members have been present throughout the debate and wish to speak. It is extraordinary that we are debating one of the most, if not the most, important economic, social and strategic decisions that this House has had to make—certainly in the six years I have been here and arguably for 70 years—in a few short days and hours.
I shall speak to new clause 51, which I tabled. It is a simple, good-hearted new clause that would get the Government to come clean with the country and explain what they think the effect of Brexit is going to be for our constituents and for the national interest. It refers to labour rights, health and safety legislation, environmental protections and, most importantly, the impact we are likely to see on our GDP and balance of trade—the fundamental metrics that dictate whether we succeed or fail as a nation.
I tabled the new clause before we saw the abject, lamentable piece of work that the Government produced last Thursday: the 70-odd skimpy pages of the White Paper, 10% of which is actually white or blocked out. It is the whitest White Paper I think the House has ever seen. I contrast that with the 200-odd page report that the Treasury produced ahead of the referendum, which detailed the minutiae of all the impacts anticipated as a result of the changes in respect of GDP—[Interruption.] They chunter on the Government Front Bench, but when the Prime Minister was sat on that Bench as Home Secretary, she signed up to every line of that Treasury report, so it is entirely legitimate for the country to ask whether she is now living a lie as to what she thinks the impact of Brexit will be. Is she deceiving the country about whether this is going to turn out well for us, or not?
Let us not forget that the Treasury report suggested that the net impact on GDP of our leaving the European Union was going to be in the order of £45 billion per annum within 15 years. That is a third of the NHS budget. It would require a 10p increase in the basic rate of taxation to fill that black hole. It may well be entirely untrue. Perhaps it was just an estimate by experts in the Treasury that we should no longer believe, but if so, the Government need to come clean and tell us the current estimate.
Now that we know what the Government are planning to do—now that we know that we are gunning for the rock-hard Brexit that they hate to hear about on the Government Benches—what will the impact be? What will be the impact on trade? The Government were very clear about that previously. Under any circumstances, leaving the European Union will reduce trade by this country. It will make us “permanently poorer”, according to the Treasury, as a result of reduced trade, reduced activity and reduced receipts, which will force the Government to increase and prolong austerity. Those are the stakes we are playing for on behalf of our constituents in this debate.
It seems to me entirely right that if this House is to be worthy of the name of the Houses of Parliament, and if it is going to do its job as it is meant to and as it has done for centuries, we need to see the detail. We need to be clear about what this is going to mean for my constituents and for my children. If it is anything like the black picture that was previously painted, we must have a final, meaningful vote in this House on the terms.
We cannot allow this country to drift out of the European Union on a bad deal—on World Trade Organisation terms—which would mean that the £45 billion black hole in our public finances was realised. We cannot allow that to happen for future generations, and we will be held accountable by those future generations if this House sits by, supine and pusillanimous, allowing this legislation to be waved through the House for political purposes—that is, to end the 30-year civil war on the Tory Benches. I cannot stand for that, and we should not stand for that in this House. We should see the detail and hold the Government to account, and I will continue to do that throughout this debate.
I rise to speak to new clause 56, which was tabled in my name and the names of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. I hope it will pick up cross-party support, because it places the future of our economy and of jobs and trade at the centre of the debate, which is where those matters should be. In leaving the European Union, as people have voted to do, there remains the outstanding question of what happens about our membership of the single market and the customs union. Contrary to what we were told earlier by Mr Harper, those were not clear issues during the referendum. There were differences of opinion on the remain side and on the leave side. Given that ambiguity on something so important, it is quite right that Parliament, in taking back control, should at least give the Government a steer about the future trading relationship we would like to see.
As members of the single market and customs union, we are part of the largest free trade area in the world, giving us unfettered access to half a billion consumers throughout the European continent.
I have a lot of respect for how the right hon. Lady has conducted herself during the debate, but her criticisms of our Front Bench team, particularly the shadow Brexit Ministers, are particularly unfair. In any case, her criticism of our Front Bench team would carry more weight in this House if she was clearer about which voting Lobby she is going to be walking through on several crucial issues. It is all very well taking to the airways and speaking in the newspapers about the fight she will put up on these issues, but she has to put her vote where her mouth is.
I have made it clear that I very much hope the Government will see good sense, as is the case in much of the wording of new clause 110, and that some sort of compromise and sense can be achieved. I make it clear that in the absence of that I will perhaps find myself with no alternative but to go against my Government, which is the last thing I want to do.
That is terribly disappointing.
As members of the single market and customs union, we are part of the largest free trade area in the world. We have heard a lot about global trade and our relationship with the rest of the world, but what is often overlooked is that membership of the European single market and customs union facilitates global trade. In fact, the EU has more free trade agreements with the rest of the world than the United States of America, China, Canada, Japan, Russia, India and Brazil. Every single sector of our economy will be affected by the decisions that our Government make and the outcome of the negotiations.
Last week, the cat was let out of the bag—or should I say, with reference to the former Chancellor, Mr Clarke, that the rabbit was let out of Alice’s wonderland? The right hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out that the idea that we will leave the most advanced and sophisticated free trade agreement in the world and countries around the world will be queuing up to give us as favourable terms that are as good for our economy is fanciful.
“not to make the economy the priority in this negotiation.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 620, c. 1034.]
We are leaving the European Union and there is a real risk that the Prime Minister is going to drive a coach and horses through the biggest single trade agreement and free trade area in the world, of which we are part, divorce us from the single market and the customs union, with implications for jobs, trade and investment, as well for the jobs of my constituents and the constituents of every Member of this House, and yet the economy is not the priority in this negotiation. That is an outrageous prospectus. How could any member of the Conservative party support a prospectus that does not place the economy at the forefront of our departure from the European Union? It is reckless and irresponsible. If the Opposition were behaving like that, the Government would attack us and say that we lack economic credibility. It is an absolute outrage that that lot on the Government Benches do not even put the economy on the agenda.
I am sorry, but I have given way already, and I am really conscious that others want to contribute. The Government should be seeking to get the best possible trading relationship with the European Union. I cannot fathom why the Prime Minister is not setting out to keep Britain in a reformed single market. Margaret Thatcher was the architect—
I will not give way. I want to draw my remarks to a conclusion so that other Members can come in. By the way, Mr Howarth, it is outrageous that we have not had enough time to debate these substantial issues.
Margaret Thatcher was the architect of the single market. The Prime Minister could be the architect of a reformed single market. As for the consequences, the choices and the trade-offs that lie ahead, whether on rules, freedom of movement or our financial contribution, we should not give this Government a blank cheque. They have not earned it. Any Government who enter a process such as this and say that the economy is not the priority do not deserve the trust of this House, and do not deserve the trust of the British people.
I very much support the amendments that are designed to increase parliamentary scrutiny and I have put my name to many of them. I also support those amendments that would give the right to remain to EU nationals now here. That is a moral issue, which should be guaranteed now, not some kind of transactional calculation.
I wish to raise the issue of transitional arrangements, which has not yet been discussed and which is covered by my new clause 36. I welcome the White Paper’s recognition that, if a deal can be successfully secured within a two-year period that starts when article 50 is triggered, we will not leave the EU literally overnight. There will be a phased implementation to give businesses the chance to adapt. That is not the same thing as needing a period of transition should two years not be sufficient time to reach an agreement. To have no idea of what that agreement will be is a glaring omission and that is what my new clause seeks to address. It would put in place a transitional arrangement to govern UK-EU trade relations during the period, if necessary, between when the UK leaves the EU and when a longer term agreement is concluded.
Given the short time available—it is expected to be two years, but in reality it will be more like 18 months given the requirement to bring the deal before MPs, the European Parliament and so on—the only option available if a deal has not been secured is to send Britain over a cliff edge. We would face having to leave the EU effectively overnight, crashing out of the EU on WTO-only terms. The Government have stated clearly in their White Paper that they want to avoid cliff edges, but at the moment they have done nothing to stay away from this one—perhaps they have been too busy looking the other way over the Atlantic and have simply not noticed it.
My new clause would provide a safety net. Given that both France and Germany will be preoccupied with national elections for much of this year and that the UK team has limited negotiating capacity and relative inexperience, it seems likely that two years will not be sufficient time to get the best deal for Britain. If we come to the end of the two-year period, we need a plan that is not just the default option of the wild west that is the WTO.
The Prime Minister says that she has unanimous agreement with the other 27 member states, and that getting that unanimous agreement is an option. We need to know that the option of continuing the negotiations has been specifically discussed, and we need to know it before we trigger article 50, otherwise we risk yet more uncertainty for our economy, for the citizens living in the EU and for all of our constituents. It is like jumping out of a plane to escape someone we have fallen out with but failing to double check that there is a parachute in the pack strapped on our back. What possible reason would anyone have for being so complacent or foolhardy?
Exiting the EU is really about two separate processes—
I will not give way, because there is no time.
Many in the EU want us to conclude the divorce element, which comes with a potential bill of €60 billion, before discussing a trade deal. We must not forget that this is a negotiation. Article 50 covers only administrative Brexit, not the legal or trade aspects. If, after two years, we do not even have a basic divorce deal, it is possible that tempers will fray and patience dwindle, and the prospect of starting negotiations on trade deals in such circumstances is unlikely—to put it mildly.
The 27 other countries are likely to want the divorce settlement agreed via the courts, so trade negotiations may not be possible even if the political will is there. For all of those reasons, we need these transitional arrangements in place. I did not give way to Members, because I wished to allow time for others to speak. Let me just reiterate how frustrating it is that, in a debate of this importance, we are having to rattle through it at a ridiculous rate.
I must start by thanking the Government for keeping the promise in the referendum. The Government said that they would listen to the will of the people and, in true democratic form, they have adhered to that. People in the referendum said that they wanted article 50 to be triggered by
My constituency voted 54% to 46% to leave the EU—
No, I will not give way.
With that in mind, it is clear that we wish to see the Bill make progress. I hope that we will not face more efforts to derail the process today. The train is en route and is going at a steady pace. Our duty and the duty of Government is to set the tracks in the right way—a strong and safe track—to carry us out of Europe and back to independence.
As a Northern Ireland MP, specific issues relating to our border with the Republic of Ireland, our businesses, our farming community and other communities are unique to us. I have every faith in our Prime Minister and her team and the discussions that she had with the Taoiseach in the Republic of Ireland just last week. The body language and the verbal contact were positive, and we should have every faith in what goes forward.
I just want to refer to new clauses 6 and 14. There is an argument that they do not make it clear to whom the protections apply, and that is to do with their scope. I am proud of the fact that I hail from a constituency that has a massive agri-food industry, which includes businesses that not only supply to the UK, but are globally recognised and trusted. I have manufacturers which ship to the middle east, America and Europe, and are now branching out to the far east. Mash Direct, a major employer in my constituency, employs some 40% of its workforce from eastern Europe. For Willowbrook Foods, the figure is 60%. We also have Lakeland Dairies, which covers Pritchitts Foods and Rich Sauces. All those businesses provide some 2,000 jobs in total.
Some of the workers have met and married locals, so there must be no road blocks to their ability to remain and work in this country and live their lives. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs visited Northern Ireland a couple of months ago and saw some of those factories and spoke to the people. She told me that she was very keen to ensure that the people working in the factories will have security of tenure and I fully support that.
However, I must underline my opening remarks and say that those who are living, working and integrating in our society and local economy deserve our protection. The Prime Minister is well within her rights to ensure that those who live and work here, or who are married to a British person, should have the ability to remain. None the less, there is no doubt that we must curb migration, which does not enhance life in the UK in relation to economic migrants. We must also ensure that our paramount concern is allowing businesses to continue to retain their workforce without fear and to have the ability unequivocally to offer job security to that workforce in order to keep the workers right here in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
I will keep my comments brief as I am aware of the shortage of time. I was for remain in the referendum mainly because of the potential for short and medium-term economic dislocation, particularly within my constituency, which is likely to have among the highest trade surpluses with the EU, mostly off the bonnet of the Jaguar Land Rover cars that we sell into the single market. The debate was lost, and I still think we face difficult times ahead.
I believe in free trade. We have to strike out as best we can, but it will be tough in a world of growing protectionism. When we leave the EU, the key is to make the best possible deal. For me, that does not mean having membership of the single market. During the referendum campaign and for years before, the message on the doorsteps was loud and clear: no freedom of movement. People do not want freedom of movement, but the single market comes with that requirement so that is off the table straightaway, as the Prime Minister has made clear.
The difficulty with being in the customs union is that we would not be able to have our own trade deals with the rest of the world. We would be hamstrung. The European economic area, customs unions and single market membership are antechambers to entering the EU. We are leaving the EU. We are a country of 65 million people with a sophisticated, large economy, so it is completely inappropriate to have that type of model. We need our own model, and any attempts to frustrate that with amendments or to make the Government expose their hand too early will damage our negotiations.
This short Bill has attracted a large number of new clauses that fall into a number of broad categories. I will first deal with the issue of parliamentary scrutiny, which has engaged the attention of a large number of hon. and right hon. Members. From listening to the debate, I am clear that there is actually a considerable amount of common ground across the Chamber. The Government also agree that parliamentary scrutiny is essential as we withdraw from the European Union. Indeed, the whole object of leaving the European Union is to ensure that our Parliament can take back of our own laws. For that purpose, scrutiny is essential.
I recognise the thoughtfulness in the wording of many of the amendments that seek to formalise the mode of scrutiny, but it will probably surprise nobody that I will not accept any of them. This is a straightforward Bill that gives us the means to respect the result of the referendum and the judgment of the Supreme Court. As the court made absolutely clear, this is about not whether we leave or the terms on which we leave, but simply the mechanics under which we trigger the process of leaving. In many cases, the amendments discussed today have virtually nothing to do with the Bill, and I resist them for two principal reasons. First, many are unnecessary in that what they seek to achieve is effectively already being done by the Government. No one can deny that the Secretary of State, as Matthew Pennycook recognised, has been assiduous in his engagement with Parliament. The process has been the source of intense scrutiny over the past seven months.
I will come to EU nationals later. As I explained a moment ago, I am currently dealing with the issue of scrutiny, not with the issue of EU nationals.
One can see from the Secretary of State’s record of engagement that he has given an oral statement on an almost monthly basis—far more than the bimonthly or quarterly updates to Parliament requested in the new clauses. Ministers from across Government have been at this Dispatch Box many times to debate our EU exit. The Prime Minister has given a statement after every Council, including one today. That is in addition to holding debates on the EU exit in Government time, and 15 appearances at Select Committees by Ministers and officials from all Departments.
I am pleased that the Minister understands that parliamentary scrutiny is essential, but we have heard from Government Back Benchers that everything will have to close down once the negotiations begin. Therefore, what has happened in the past seven months is not, strictly speaking, relevant to what will happen over the next two years. The purpose of new clause 3 and new clause 28 is to provide forward-looking scrutiny.
I understand the hon. Lady’s point. However, it is not the case that everything will, as she puts it, “close down”. There will certainly be negotiations and it is important that they continue, to a certain extent, with privacy. At the same time, the Government have made it clear, time after time, that we fully appreciate the need for engagement with and scrutiny by Parliament, provided, of course, that it does not adversely affect the negotiations.
Does the Minister agree that the final deal should in fact be scrutinised by the British people, who should have the final say on whether it represents their reasonable expectations when they voted to leave? If it does not, they should have the chance to stay in the EU.
The British people have had their say very clearly: they have instructed this Parliament that they wish to leave the European Union. I know that the hon. Gentleman does not like that result, but that is the hard fact.
We have aimed at all times scrupulously to fulfil Parliament’s legitimate need for information, and we will continue to do so. As well as keeping Parliament informed, we will pay regard to all the motions passed on the outcome of negotiations associated with the Bill—as proposed in new clause 176—just as we have already paid regard to the motions passed on Opposition days on
On the provisions of new clause 3 concerning information sharing, the Secretary of State has been clear since the very early days following the referendum that he will keep Parliament at least as well informed as the European Parliament as the negotiations progress. The new clause asks us to reaffirm that position so that Parliament receives the same documents that the European Parliament or any of its committees receive from the Council or the Commission.
The Government are absolutely resolute that the House will not be at an information disadvantage compared with the European Parliament, but the new clause is flawed, simply because the United Kingdom Government may not be privy to what information is passed confidentially between the Commission, or the other EU institutions, and the Parliament. In the same way, the House would not expect the Government to pass all our documents relating to a highly sensitive negotiation to the other side.
What I can do, however, is confirm that the Government will keep Parliament well informed, and as soon as we know how the EU institutions will share their information, we will give more information on what Parliament will receive and on the mechanisms for that, including on the provision of arrangements for scrutiny of confidential documents.
The second category of amendments and new clauses, which, again, I must resist, because they pre-judge the negotiations to follow, ask for formal reporting on myriad subjects or for votes on unilateral commitments. The exact structure of the negotiations has not yet been determined and may very well be a matter for negotiation itself. Therefore, setting an arbitrary reporting framework makes no sense at all. There will be times when there is a great deal to report on, and times when there is very little. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have already made serious undertakings as to how they will report to the House.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, because I know there are a lot of issues to be covered. However, to take just the example of the European arrest warrant, could he at least give us an indication of what the Government’s objectives are? Does he want us to stay part of it?
Clearly, we require, and we are looking to achieve, close co-operation with the European Union on security matters, but, again, these will be a matter for negotiation, and as the negotiations progress, we will keep the House informed.
The commitments that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have given are important. That is why the Government published the White Paper on our negotiating position last week, with an introduction by the Prime Minister, once again stating our clear aims for the negotiations. That includes, for example, the implementation phases referred to by hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas)—those are part of our objectives.
No, I will not give way, because I have little time.
The Secretary of State announced in the recent White Paper that there will be a further White Paper published on the great repeal Bill so that Parliament can be fully informed of the provisions of the Bill in good time. After that, the Government will continue upholding their commitment through the primary and secondary legislation that will undoubtedly be required.
New clauses that ask for specific reporting to Parliament after article 50 is invoked, including new clauses 3, 20, 22, 29, 51, 111 to 130, and 151—on our relationship with EU agencies, competition policy, environmental regulations, the UK renewables sector and virtually every other aspect of our relationship with the EU—are dangerous. They would bind us to an inflexible timetable of updates as we try to navigate a complex set of negotiations.
The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely important point. If these provisions were put into the Bill, there is no doubt that they would become justiciable, therefore leading to further delay. What this country requires at the moment is certainty and speed, and instead we would have uncertainty and delay.
Would the Minister acknowledge that there is at least a possibility that a new trade agreement will not be agreed in a very tight two-year period? If he does acknowledge that that is a risk, why will he not put in place a transitional arrangement to protect our businesses from crashing out of the EU without such an arrangement?
I can go no further than what I have already said. Of course, transitional arrangements require bilateral agreement. We have already indicated that that is what we are aiming at, but it takes two to tango in this regard.
Amendment 78 would require the Foreign Secretary to publish a work programme for UKRep for the duration of the negotiating period. This is simply an attempt to delay notification by creating new obligations on and impediments for the Government.
I turn now to a matter that has, quite understandably, exercised a large number of colleagues. I want to refer to these amendments and new clauses in detail. They relate to the status of EU citizens. Providing certainty for this group of people is an important issue for the Government. That is why the Prime Minister, in her speech, made it one of our 12 priority objectives for negotiations.
I will not give way, I am afraid—I have very little time.
While these amendments call for different cut-off dates and vary in wording and terminology, they all share the same aim—to guarantee the status of EU nationals currently in the UK. The Government wholeheartedly agree with this aim. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, most recently this very afternoon, securing the status of EU nationals is one of the foremost priorities of this Government. We have stood ready to reach an agreement from the beginning, because it is not in anyone’s interest to allow any uncertainty over this issue to continue.