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European Union (Approvals) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:19 pm on 4th July 2017.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone 2:19 pm, 4th July 2017

I am glad to respond, because I have been very much engaged on that subject. In fact, one of the last things I did on the day of Dissolution was to write to the Chief Whip asking him to ensure that our Committee was reconstituted immediately after the election, because in 2015 the whole process went on until November, by which time we had a monument of documents. In the meantime, many things are being decided in the European institutions, many of which are directly relevant to the Brexit negotiations. It is therefore incredibly important that this House has an opportunity to assess the sorts of things that are being decided, subject to the Committee clearing the documents.

As hon. Members may know, if the European Scrutiny Committee imposes scrutiny reserve on a document because we think it is so important that it has to be debated, the Council of Ministers cannot conclude its consideration of those matters, and the Government cannot make a decision to carry the matter through, unless and until that debate has taken place. When we have a pile of documents—I understand there are some 200 documents in the pipeline—and a pile of explanatory memoranda explaining the Government’s position on them, the position the Government adopt on the documents in the negotiations will be highly interesting.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole rightly raises the question of getting on with the job, and I am given to understand, without committing anybody to anything, that the Government are taking steps to accelerate the process because it is so important. Of course, we will discuss the other Select Committees later this afternoon. Their schedules and the allocation of chairmanships to each party will be decided, and I understand that that has been discussed through the usual channels, so I do not expect it to be terribly controversial, but for all the reasons I have set out, it is important for the European Scrutiny Committee to get going.

I entirely endorse what the Minister said about the Canada agreement, which again was discussed by the European Scrutiny Committee. We agreed that we would let it go ahead, but the explanatory notes on the Bill indicate some implications for United Kingdom companies operating in the EU after Brexit, which is the bit we should be most concerned about at the moment:

“Following the UK’s exit from the European Union, UK companies operating in the EU will still be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Commission in antitrust investigations and, where the thresholds are met, in merger investigations in the same way as for other non-EU companies operating in the EU. Information relating to UK companies based in the EU would therefore still be transferable under the new Agreement.”

That is becoming a bit of a hot potato. I made a representation to the Prime Minister the other day on the question of citizens’ rights, and we hear a lot about the question of City regulation, and here it is coming up again.

Some people are making too much of it. An enormous amount is emerging from the commentariat and on programmes we sometimes find ourselves listening to but that we perhaps ought to switch off. They are trying to make out that, somehow or other, the real problem is that we have to stay in the European Court of Justice, which is complete rubbish. We do not have to stay in the European Court of Justice and, far more than that, we are not going to stay in the European Court of Justice, because we will be repealing sections 2 and 3 of the European Communities Act 1972. The Labour party has made it clear that we will not stay in the single market or the customs union, which raises some of the biggest issues relating to the ECJ. Frankly, as I told the House the other day, we have to come up with a sensible arrangement that does not prejudice the regaining of our judicial sovereignty. At the same time, we must agree some form of tribunal that enables us, through a parallel bilateral “source of law” agreement, to have a decision-making process that does not and cannot keep us in the European Court of Justice. That is not a matter of opinion or of wishful thinking; staying in the ECJ is fantasy land.