Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Article 50

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:50 pm on 29th March 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 12:50 pm, 29th March 2017

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for saying that the Labour party respects the outcome of the referendum and the process that is now under way. He said that the next steps are the most crucial—the most important—and, of course, we now enter that formal process of negotiation.

It does seem, however, that the message that the right hon. Gentleman has sent today has not got through to all his Front Benchers. I understand that as the Cabinet met this morning to approve our course, his shadow International Trade Secretary tweeted a photo of me signing the A50 letter, claiming I was “signing away” our country’s future. I am afraid that that is what we see all too often from Labour: talking down Britain; desperate for the negotiations to fail; and out of touch with ordinary working people.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the tests—I will come on to those—and asked me specifically about EU nationals. I expressly referred to that in the letter to President Tusk and made it clear that I would hope that we could deal with this issue of EU nationals here and UK nationals in other member states at as early a stage as possible in the negotiations. As I have said in this House before, I believe that there is good will on both sides to do that.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the tests that the Labour party has set out for the negotiations. I have been looking at those tests because, actually, there are principles that the Government have, time and time again, said we are determined to meet. He asks if the final deal will ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU. Yes, and in my letter to President Tusk, that is exactly what I set out our intentions to be. Will the deal deliver the same benefits we currently have as a member of the single market and the customs union? We have been clear that we want to get the best possible deal, and free and frictionless trade. Will the deal protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime? Yes. Will the deal deliver for all regions and nations of the UK? We have been very clear that we are taking all nations and regions into account, as I say in the letter to President Tusk. As I said during Prime Minister’s questions, we expect that, as powers are repatriated, the devolved Administrations will see a significant increase in their decision making.

The right hon. Gentleman’s fifth test is: will the deal defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom? We have been very clear that workers’ rights will be protected—they are not up for negotiation under this Government. Perhaps he should listen to his own Mayor of London, who has said:

“to give credit to the government, I don’t think they want to weaken workers’
rights…there’s been some anxiety…I’ve seen no evidence from the conversations I’ve had with senior members of the government that that’s their aspiration or their intention or something they want to do.”

But the Labour party has set out a sixth test that I do not think the right hon. Gentleman mentioned specifically, and perhaps that is because of the confusion in the Labour party. The sixth test is, “Will the deal ensure fair management of migration?” What we see on that is a confused picture from the Labour party. The shadow Home Secretary says that freedom of movement is a worker’s right, and the right hon. Gentleman himself said:

“Labour is not wedded to freedom of movement for EU citizens as a point of principle, but I don’t want that to be misinterpreted, nor do we rule it out.”

Little wonder that nobody has any idea of the Labour party’s position on that issue.

As I said earlier, on today of all days we should be coming together. We should be accepting the ambition for our country for the future. We should not be talking down the negotiations as the right hon. Gentleman does. We should set our ambition, our optimism and our determination to get the best possible deal for everybody in the United Kingdom.