European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:34 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of Nicky Morgan Nicky Morgan Chair, Treasury Committee 3:34 pm, 7th September 2017

I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. She is absolutely right. As a former EU budget Minister, I can say that money will be paid to the European Union, and I disagree fundamentally with the remarks of my right hon. Friend John Redwood. As one of our MEPs, Dan Hannan, said, this country pays what it owes. We have made financial commitments to the European Union until 2020, and we should pay what we owe. As the Secretary of State has said previously, we may well even decide to pay more towards some elements in order to have access to them, in particular Horizon 2020 and so on.

The second issue is the power for the Ministers to specify the date of the exit day, which will be subject to no parliamentary scrutiny procedure whatsoever. Interestingly, the Secretary of State started his remarks by saying that the Bill does not take us out of the European Union. I did think about intervening, but it was very early in his remarks and I thought that he might clarify things. The difficulty with what he says is that clause 1 baldly states:

“The European Communities Act 1972 is repealed on exit day.”

If the 1972 Act is repealed, the UK leaves the European Union, so if this Bill is passed and its provisions are enacted, we will leave the European Union. Article 50 is a process for giving notice to start the discussions. I am afraid that the Secretary of State was not correct about that.

Why does scrutiny of statutory instruments matter so much? I suspect that Members have been having discussions with businesses and others who rely on EU law to go about what they do, and they are telling us very clearly that what will make their life easier and a transition possible is regulatory convergence, which means sticking to the regulations and rules we have been following for years, whether we are talking about pharmaceutical companies, financial services companies, food exporters, farmers, universities or many other different sectors.

To those who seek to say that we have been rule takers, not rule makers, I say that successive Ministers, including me, have sat at the European Council table and had those debates. The point is that if we want to have regulatory convergence after March 2019, which is what we are hearing, we will have to take the rules without having had any influence on them.

Finally, I am a proud parliamentarian, and the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Canterbury has just reminded me of how special it is to be elected to this place. Parliamentary scrutiny is not an affront to democracy; it is its very essence. The true saboteurs of Brexit are those who would sanction the exclusion of Parliament from this process. The debate on this Bill has only just started.