With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House on our plans for leaving the European Union. Today, the fifth round of negotiations begins in Brussels and this Government are getting on with the job of delivering the democratic will of the British people. As I set out in my speech in Florence, we want to take a creative and pragmatic approach to securing a new, deep and special partnership with the European Union which spans both a new economic relationship and a new security relationship. So let me set out what each of these relationships could look like, before turning to how we get there.
I have been clear that when we leave the European Union we will no longer be members of its single market or its customs union. The British people voted for control of their borders, their laws and their money, and that is what this Government are going to deliver. At the same time, we want to find a creative solution to a new economic relationship—[Interruption.]
Order. Members must calm themselves; a little hush, please. Neil Coyle has had something for breakfast which I counsel colleagues to avoid.
At the same time, we want to find a creative solution to a new economic relationship that can support prosperity for all our peoples. We do not want to settle for adopting a model enjoyed by other countries. So we have rejected the idea of something based on European economic area membership, for this would mean having to adopt—automatically and in their entirety—new EU rules over which, in future, we will have little influence and no vote. Neither are we seeking a Canadian-style free trade agreement, for compared with what exists today, this would represent such a restriction on our mutual market access that it would benefit none of our economies.
Instead, I am proposing a unique and ambitious economic partnership. It will reflect our unprecedented position of starting with the same rules and regulations. We will maintain our unequivocal commitment to free trade and high standards, and we will need a framework to manage where we continue to align and where we choose to differ. There will be areas of policy and regulation which are outside the scope of our trade and economic relations where this should be straightforward. There will be areas which do affect our economic relations where we and our European friends may have different goals, or where we share the same goals but want to achieve them through different means. And there will be areas where we want to achieve the same goals in the same ways, because it makes sense for our economies. Because rights and obligations must be held in balance, the decisions we both take will have consequences for the UK’s access to the EU market and for EU access to our market. But this dynamic, creative and unique economic partnership will enable the UK and the EU to work side by side in bringing shared prosperity to our peoples.
Let me turn to the new security relationship. As I said when I visited our troops serving on the NATO mission in Estonia last month, the United Kingdom is unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe’s security. We will continue to offer aid and assistance to EU member states that are the victims of armed aggression, terrorism and natural or man-made disasters. We are proposing a bold new strategic agreement that provides a comprehensive framework for future security, law enforcement and criminal justice co-operation: a treaty between the UK and the EU. We are also proposing a far-reaching partnership on how, together, we protect Europe from the threats we face in the world today. That partnership will be unprecedented in its breadth and depth, taking in co-operation on diplomacy, defence and security, and development.
Let me turn to how we build a bridge from where we are now to the new relationship that we want to see. When we leave the European Union on
The framework for the period, which can be agreed under article 50, would be the existing structure of EU rules and regulations. I know that some people may have some concerns about that, but there are two reasons why it makes sense. First, we want our departure from the EU to be as smooth as possible, so it would not make sense to make people and businesses plan for two sets of changes in the relationship between the UK and the EU. Secondly, we should concentrate our negotiating time and capital on what really matters: the future long-term relationship we will have with the EU after the temporary period ends.
During the implementation period, people will continue to be able to come and live and work in the UK, but there will be a registration system—an essential preparation for the new immigration system required to re-take control of our borders. Our intention is that new arrivals would be subject to new rules for EU citizens on long-term settlement. We will also push forward on our future independent trade policy, talking to trading partners across the globe and preparing to introduce deals once the implementation period is over. How long the period should be will be determined simply by how long it will take to prepare and implement the new systems we need. As of today, those considerations point to an implementation period of around two years.
As I said in Florence, because I do not believe that either the EU or the British people will want us to stay in the existing structures for longer than necessary, we could also agree to bring forward aspects of the future framework—such as new dispute resolution mechanisms—more quickly, if that can be done smoothly. At the heart of the arrangements, there should be a double lock: to guarantee a period of implementation, giving businesses and people the certainty that they will be able to prepare for the change, and to guarantee that that implementation period will be time-limited, giving everyone the certainty that it will not go on forever.
The purpose of the Florence speech was to move the negotiations forward, and that is exactly what has happened. As Michel Barnier said after the last round of talks, there is a “new dynamic” in the negotiations. I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my right hon. Friend Mr Davis for all he has done to drive through real and tangible progress in a number of vital areas.
On citizens’ rights, as I have said many times, this Government greatly value the contributions of all EU citizens who have made their lives in our country. We want them to stay. In Florence, I gave further commitments that the rights of EU citizens in the UK—and UK citizens in the EU—will not diverge over time, and committed to incorporating our agreement on citizens’ rights fully into UK law and to making sure that the UK courts can refer directly to it.
Since Florence, there has been more progress, including reaching agreement on reciprocal healthcare and pensions, and encouraging further alignment on a range of important social security rights. I hope that our negotiating teams can now reach full agreement quickly.
On Northern Ireland, we have begun drafting joint principles on preserving the Common Travel Area and associated rights, and we have both stated explicitly that we will not accept any physical infrastructure at the border. We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland—and indeed to everyone on the island of Ireland—to get this right.
Then there is the question of the EU budget. As I have said, this can only be resolved as part of a settlement of all the issues through which we are working. I do not want our partners to fear that they will need to pay more or receive less over the remainder of the current budget plan as a result of our decision to leave. The UK will honour the commitments that we have made during the period of our membership. As we move forwards, we will also want to continue working together in ways that promote the long-term economic development of our continent. That includes continuing to take part in those specific policies and programmes that are greatly to our joint advantage, such as those that promote science, education and culture and our mutual security. As I set out in my speech at Lancaster House, in doing so, we would want to make a contribution to cover our fair share of the costs involved.
I continued discussions on many of these issues when I met European leaders in Tallinn at the end of last month. In bilateral discussions that I have had with Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Szydlo, President Tusk and the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, there was a welcome to the tone set in Florence and the impact that it was having on moving the negotiations forwards.
Preparing for life outside the EU is also about the legislative steps that we take. Our European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will shortly enter Committee, carrying over EU rules and regulations into our domestic law from the moment that we leave the EU. Today, we are publishing two White Papers on trade and customs, which pave the way for legislation to allow the UK to operate as an independent trading nation and to create an innovative customs system that will help us achieve the greatest possible tariff and barrier-free trade as we leave the EU. Although it is profoundly in all our interests for the negotiations to succeed, it is also our responsibility as a Government to prepare for every eventuality, so that is exactly what we are doing. The White Papers also support that work, including setting out steps to minimise disruption for businesses and travellers.
A new, deep and special partnership between a sovereign United Kingdom and a strong and successful European Union is our ambition and our offer to our European friends. Achieving that partnership will require leadership and flexibility not just from us, but from our friends—the 27 nations of the EU. As we look forward to the next stage, the ball is in their court, but I am optimistic that we will receive a positive response, because what we are seeking is the best possible deal not just for us, but for our European friends too. Progress will not always be smooth, but by approaching these negotiations in a constructive way—in a spirit of friendship and co-operation and with our sights firmly set on the future—we can prove the doomsayers wrong, and we can seize the opportunities of this defining moment in the history of our nation.
Much of the day-to-day coverage is about process, but this, on the other hand, is vital. I am determined to deliver what the British people voted for and to get it right. That is my duty as Prime Minister. It is our duty as a Government, and it is what we will do. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for the advance copy of her statement.
Sixteen months on from the referendum, no real progress has been made. The Prime Minister delivered yet another definitive speech designed to herald a breakthrough that instead only confirmed the confusion at the heart of Government. If we want to judge the progress the Government have made since triggering article 50, we should not just look at the latest Florence speech. We should also look back at the Prime Minister’s last big Brexit speech in January, where she outlined 12 objectives for Brexit negotiations. How many of those objectives have the Government met 10 months down the line? The answer—none.
The Florence speech in fact demonstrated the scale of the mess the Government are making of these negotiations. Fifteen months on from the referendum, we are still no clearer what the future of this country will look like. The question must be asked: what on earth have the Government been doing all this time? They called an election in which voters refused to give the Prime Minister the mandate she wanted. Since then, Cabinet Ministers have been squabbling among themselves; all that time— 15 months—wasted.
I am sure that the Prime Minister wanted her speech in Florence to bring life to these critical negotiations. On the substance of the speech itself, I am pleased that the Prime Minister has taken Labour’s lead and accepted the need for transition as we leave the EU. However, it is still unclear what she envisages for a transitional period or how long it will last. The Prime Minister said the implementation period would last “around two years”, yet the Foreign Secretary interprets that as two years and not a second more and the Chancellor hints it might be more. He is here; he could correct us on that. The Prime Minister told us that, during a transition,
“access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms”.
“We will leave…the single market and the customs union, at the end of March 2019.”
The Immigration Minister told his party conference that freedom of movement “as we know it” will end in March 2019, so how does this square with the Prime Minister’s assertion that we “continue on current terms” during the transition? It cannot be both. Will the Prime Minister clear up the confusion and tell the House exactly what her implementation period means in terms of the single market, customs union and freedom of movement?
On the financial settlement with the EU, the Prime Minister has offered to commit funds to ensure that no EU member state has to pay more into the EU budget until the end of the current framework. We welcome this sensible offer. However, can she confirm whether the UK will be willing to pay money to the EU post-transition to access programmes that benefit this country? It is an important issue for many parts of Britain.
On the issue of citizens’ rights, the Prime Minister says this is an area where progress has been made with the EU. I am sure that many colleagues in this House will testify to the level of concern and, indeed, desperation of many of our constituents who come to our surgeries across the country in fear that families and friendships will soon be ripped apart. [Interruption.] No, it is not scaremongering. This is a serious issue that affects many people in this country—day in, day out—who are, frankly, frightened of the future. So I call on the Prime Minister again today to listen to the TUC and the CBI, and unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK. Given that this House voted in July 2016 to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU citizens, can the Prime Minister finally reflect the will of the House and give people and businesses the assurances they need?
On Northern Ireland, we welcome the drafting of joint principles, but, 15 months on from the referendum, we should be beyond platitudes, and negotiating the practicalities.
The speech in Florence was supposed to put “momentum” into the Brexit negotiations. It is staggering that after—[Interruption.]
Order. There was a lot of noise when the Prime Minister began her statement, and I indicated that people should calm down. The same applies now: the right hon. Gentleman will be heard, he will be heard with courtesy and he will be heard in full.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
It is staggering that, eight months after triggering article 50, the Government have made so little progress. The Secretary of State for International Trade said a deal with the EU should be the “easiest in human history” —[Interruption.] That is what he said. Now, the reality for this Tory Government is beginning to bite, but if things do not improve, the reality may soon begin to bite for the jobs and living standards of the people of this country.
These negotiations are the most important in Britain’s recent history—vital to our future and vital to our economy. Just at the moment when Britain needs a strong negotiating team, we have a Cabinet at each other’s throats. Half the Conservative party want the Foreign Secretary sacked, the other half want the Chancellor sacked. [Interruption.]
I say to James Cleverly that I am advised that he is being groomed for statesmanship. I say to the aspiring statesman that it is, in the circumstances, impolitic at best, and rude at worst, for him to point. I am trying to help the hon. Gentleman.
Rather than fighting over their own jobs, the reality is that millions of people’s jobs and living standards depend on the success of these negotiations. If this Government cannot negotiate a deal for Britain, they should make way for a team that can.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about what has happened over the last 15 months. Well, I will tell him what has happened: this Government have triggered article 50 and are negotiating the leaving of the European Union. We are negotiating the practical details that need to be in place to ensure that we, first of all, get the best possible deal for the UK and that, secondly, we get a deal where the withdrawal is as smooth and orderly as possible.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about a number of the issues. He says that the Florence speech was due to give momentum to the talks; indeed, it has given momentum to the talks. But I happily say to him that the last thing we need in these talks is his Momentum.
The right hon. Gentleman said, “Will we leave the single market and the customs union in March 2019?” Yes, and I have said that we will. He said, “Will freedom of movement as we know it end?” and I have said yes. I have set out in the statement I made today—if he had read it—the point about the difference that will come in during that period.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about citizens’ rights. There is considerable agreement between us and the European Union on this issue; there are some remaining issues to be dealt with. I have been very clear at every stage that we want EU citizens in this country to stay. We welcome the contribution that they have made. But I am also clear that we want UK citizens in the 27 member states of the European Union to be given their rights too. Everybody in this House of Commons should have a care for UK citizens as well as for EU citizens.
Finally, he says that this is an historic moment. It is indeed an important moment for this country. This is an important and significant set of negotiations that will set this country’s future for generations to come and I am optimistic and ambitious about what we can achieve for our country. He said that we need to negotiate carefully. Yes, we do. That is why the article 50 letter reflected the principles I set out in the Lancaster House speech. The Florence speech updates that and reflects the principles of the Lancaster House speech. What a contrast with a Labour party that said that it would respect the result of the referendum, then voted against the withdrawal Bill. The Opposition said that they wanted to leave the single market; now they might stay in the single market. They said that staying in the customs union was deeply unattractive; now they want to stay in the customs union forever. They used to be against a second referendum, but now they have refused to rule it out. With such a confused position on Brexit, no wonder it is said that there will be a run on the pound if Labour gets into power.
Will the Prime Minister reassure me that the statement clarifies that it is not the Government’s policy to seek, on the one hand, to remove all trading barriers with countries such as Japan and the United States, while on the other hand, to create new regulatory customs and tariff barriers with the European Union, with which we have free trade at the moment and which is our largest trading partner in the world? If that is correct and consistent with what she has just said, she will no doubt recall that ultra-Brexiteers, including the present Foreign Secretary, assured citizens during the referendum campaign that there would be no difference at all with our trading relationships with Europe, because they needed to sell us their Mercedes and their prosecco. Would it not be best to proceed with the negotiations on the basis that our ideal solution would be to stay in the single market and the customs union? She could then seek to negotiate changes to the conditions attached to that, which are the things to which she refers when she tries to explain where she is at the moment.
My right hon. and learned Friend has always been consistent on the issue of membership of the European Union. When people voted in the referendum for the UK to leave the European Union, I think they were voting for us to take control of our borders, our laws and our money. If we were to remain full members of the customs union and the single market, that would bring with it the continuing jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice forever and would also bring a requirement for free movement. I set out in the Florence speech and in the offer we made to the European Union what I have described previously as a deep and special partnership with the EU. He is right that we want to ensure that our trading relationship with the European Union can be as tariff free and as frictionless as possible, but we also see advantage in being able to negotiate new trading agreements around the rest of the world. I think that that is to the advantage of the United Kingdom, and that is what the Government will be pursuing.
Order. I say to Andrew Bridgen that it is a considerable discourtesy to walk out of the Chamber past the Member who is on his feet in the middle of his attempted intervention. It is a point that is so blindingly obvious that the hon. Gentleman should not need to be notified of it, but as he apparently was not aware of the discourtesy involved he now is. When the House has settled down, perhaps we can hear the leader of the Scottish National party who, I remind the House, must be heard.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. We respect the fact that the UK has voted to come out of Europe, but we were told during our referendum in 2014 that if we stayed in the UK, our future in Europe would be preserved. Scotland has voted to remain and, in particular, wants to stay in the single market and the customs union, so it is about time that we got some respect from the Government. The situation is now critical. [Interruption.] I can hear Conservative Members chuntering; if they want to catch the Speaker’s eye, they are entitled to do so, but perhaps they might show a little respect. These are important matters, and the public are watching this behaviour.
We stand on the brink of being dragged out of the European Union with no deal in place and facing the automatic introduction of World Trade Organisation rules. That would be a catastrophe for Scotland, threatening up to 80,000 jobs in our country alone. The President of the European Commission has said that “miracles” need to happen for there to be any progress in the negotiations. Meanwhile, the European Parliament voted last week to stop negotiations moving on to the next phase, citing lack of progress. The clock is running against the Prime Minister in more ways than one.
On EU citizens’ rights, the Government continue to drag their heels. There must now be a universal declaration from the Prime Minister that EU citizens in the UK can have their current citizenship and rights protected after exit day. No ifs, no buts—do it today. I urge the Prime Minister to listen to the voices of the devolved Administrations. We will not accept the legislation as it stands; it is a complete violation of the Scotland Act and the biggest power grab since devolution. Indeed, just last week the author of Article 50, Lord Kerr, said that Westminster was trying to break the founding principle of the devolution settlement.
The SNP has set out three key tests on Brexit for this Government: first, as an absolute minimum, we want continued membership of the single market and the customs union; secondly, the Government must declare now, without delay, that EU citizens’ rights are guaranteed; and, thirdly, the Government must accept that the withdrawal Bill cannot proceed in its current form. Will the Prime Minister live up to those asks, and will she end the immoral floundering over EU citizens’ rights now?
As I am sure the right hon. Gentleman knows, there will be a meeting next week of the Joint Ministerial Committee, which brings the devolved Administrations together with Ministers here in the Government. There have also been bilateral discussions between the First Secretary of State and Ministers in the Scottish and Welsh Governments on an ongoing basis over the summer.
The right hon. Gentleman refers to citizens’ rights. I remind him that during the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, which he referred to, the First Minister told EU nationals that if the EU did not allow an independent Scotland to rejoin—it was clear that the EU would not do so—EU nationals would
“lose the right to stay here.”
[Interruption.] SNP Members are shaking their heads, but that is what the First Minister said at the time.
The right hon. Gentleman referenced what I said in my statement. My statement was about the position of the United Kingdom Government in the UK’s negotiations with the European Union, and Scotland is part of the United Kingdom.
I warmly welcome the statement by my right hon. Friend and very good friend, our Prime Minister, on her plans for the negotiations. May I press her and ask her to elaborate a little further? In her statement, she made it clear that the ball was back in the EU’s court. Is it not reasonable to expect that, given all the negotiations and discussions and the progress that has been made, the EU should now engage the United Kingdom on something that is beneficial to it and us—namely, an ongoing free trade arrangement, to be completed by March 2019?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and we see increasing interest in moving on to talk about that issue. That will absolutely be, as he says, not just in our interests but in the interests of the European Union; that is what is right for us both. We want the matter to be negotiated by March 2019, so that the UK comes out of the European Union knowing what the new partnership and trade agreement will be.
The Prime Minister has said very clearly she believes that, on her plans, we will be out of the customs union and the single market by March 2019. That was not the impression I got from the Florence speech. Will she therefore explain how the arrangements she is seeking for the transition differ from being a member of the single market and the customs union for the period of the transition?
I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that, as we leave the European Union in March 2019, we will leave full membership of the customs union and full membership of the single market. What we then want is a period of time when practical changes can be made, as we move towards the end state—the trade agreement—that we will have agreed with the European Union. We have to negotiate for the implementation period what the arrangements would be. We have suggested that that should be a new agreement—an agreement that we should be able to operate on the same basis and on the same rules and regulations.
My right hon. Friend’s Florence speech stressed the fundamental principles of UK democracy and accountability in this House, upon which all else depends. The Opposition voted against the withdrawal and repeal Bill, and the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972. Does she agree that our voters have every right to hear a public explanation from the Opposition—remainers and reversers—about why, despite the referendum vote, they still subscribe, under the EU’s undemocratic system of lawmaking, to the closed-door Council of Ministers, where decisions are taken behind closed doors and largely in secrecy, which contrasts so vividly with what goes on in this House, with Bills and amendments, and with speeches and votes recorded?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to point the finger at the Opposition on this particular issue. They claim they are going to support the result of the referendum, yet they vote against the very Bill that will put that in place. Not only do they do that, but in voting against the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, they have voted against bringing environmental regulations into UK law and bringing workers’ rights into UK law. The Labour party voting against bringing workers’ rights into UK law; it is this Government who are supporting them.
Four days ago, the deputy governor of the Bank of England said that the UK financial services industry needs a transitional deal by Christmas, or else it will begin implementing its contingency plans—the Chancellor is well aware of them—to shift jobs and activities across the channel. Telling the House that the ball is now in the EU’s court, as the Prime Minister did today, does not exactly give those businesses the comfort and certainty they require, so will she tell the House what her plan now is to break the negotiating logjam and achieve such a deal in time for it to do its job for a sector of the economy that employs over 1 million people?
I say to the right hon. Gentleman that the Florence speech set out some details on an implementation period and how we think that that could operate. We now wait for the European Union to respond to the detail that we have set out. I recognise the concerns that business has for an implementation period, but I would say, finally, to the right hon. Gentleman that this whole process is not helped by the vast majority of Labour MEPs voting against moving on to the next phase of talks.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement that the Government will press on with working out the details for no deal. That is a very prudent thing to do and means there will be no cliff edge for British business. Does she agree that it will send the very good message to the European Union that we can do that, but that she is offering something so much better and more positive that it is in their interests to accept, and that any deal they counter with has to be better than no deal?
Yes, my right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I think we have offered a very good arrangement for the future to the European Union—I think it is not only in our interests, but in their interests as well—but as any prudent Government would, we continue to make plans for every eventuality. I think that is the only sensible thing for us to do.
The position was made clear in a case that went through the Supreme Court in relation to article 50. The Government have made it clear that we have no intention of revoking that. We will be delivering on the vote of the British people.
As my right hon. Friend wrestles with the inevitable compromises essential to securing the opportunities of Brexit in the national interest, and in view of this enormous administrative challenge, will she consider refining the machinery of government by creating an inner Cabinet to drive forward the work across the Government and thus retain greater grip and control over the whole process?
Ministers meet in a variety of forms to consider these issues. Before the Florence speech, I was pleased that the whole Cabinet came together and signed up to that speech. Of course, we have various discussions about the various elements of the negotiations, but I can assure my right hon. Friend that we are aware of the need to be able to ensure that we can make swift decisions when that is necessary in the negotiating process.
I said to Mr Bradshaw that the position in relation to the revocation of article 50 was addressed by the Supreme Court in a case that went before it. It was very clear about that. We were clear as a Government that we were not revoking and it was clear in its consideration of the case of no revocation of article 50.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on her excellent Florence speech. It was widely welcomed, not just by British business but by people across the country, and it marked a real attempt by her to form a consensus on Brexit between the 48% and the 52% that everyone is crying out for. Forgive my throat, Mr Speaker—women with bad throats will not be silenced. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
I may not have heard properly or understood, but did the Prime Minister say that if by the end of March 2019 we do not have a deal on the final Brexit arrangements, we will jump off the cliff and there will be no deal? Or did she say that we will go into a period of transition and during that time those vital negotiations can continue?
The period after March 2019 is an implementation period to implement the practical changes necessary to move to the final arrangement and the new partnership we will have with the European Union. As the article 50 process sets out, the expectation is that it is a two-year process to negotiate the arrangements—to negotiate withdrawal and take into account, and therefore know, what the future relationship is going to be. I expect, and we are working on, having that future arrangement negotiated by
I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman—perhaps I should have said this initially to the right hon. Member for Exeter—that of course we do not comment on legal advice that has been received, but the position was very clear in the case that he mentioned. The Supreme Court was clear that it operated on the basis that article 50 would not be revoked.
I thank my right hon. Friend for her most encouraging statement. Recently in Washington, I found widespread enthusiasm among our American friends at the prospect of signing a free trade deal—[Interruption.]
I will say it again, Mr Speaker, for your benefit: I found widespread enthusiasm right across the American political firmament for the prospect of signing a free trade deal with the United Kingdom. Our American friends will welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, yet again, that we will leave the customs union, as that is a prerequisite for signing a deal. Will she give them her best estimate of when, after March 2019, we can sign a deal with third countries of a friendly nature, like the United States of America?
I echo the comments that my right hon. Friend has made. That is exactly what we found in our dealings with the American Government. We have a working group on issues relating to trade working with the American Government. The exact arrangements during the implementation period will be a matter for the negotiations, but we are clear that during the implementation period it should be possible for us to continue to negotiate trade agreements. We would not enter into anything that was contrary to the agreement we had come to with the European Union.
The Prime Minister has been asked several times about implementation of transition and has not made any sense at all in the answers she has given. She has said today that she foresees a framework for transition of around two years along the existing structure of EU rules and regulations. The existing structure has the single market and customs union at its heart. How can what she is proposing for her implementation period be anything other than continued membership of the customs union and the single market, which our companies require?
I thought that I had explained this in response to one of the hon. Gentleman’s hon. Friends. As of
I was going to call a fellow, but he has beetled out of the curtilage of the Chamber so I cannot. He may beetle back again, but we will see.
My hon. Friend has actually raised two separate issues but elided them together. The first is about the European Court of Justice. As I have just said in answer to a number of questions, we want to have a smooth and orderly process of withdrawal with minimum disruption. That is why we want the implementation period. We will have to negotiate what will operate during the implementation period. Yes, that may mean that we start off with the ECJ still governing the rules we are part of for that period, but we are also clear that we can bring forward discussions and agreements on issues such as a dispute resolution mechanism. If we can bring that forward at an earlier stage, we would wish to do so.
The second issue my hon. Friend referred to was the question of new rules brought in during the implementation period. Given the way things operate, it is highly unlikely that anything will be brought forward during that period that has not already started discussions through the European Union to which we are being party of until we leave and on which we would have been able to say whether they would be a rule that we would sign up to or a rule that we would not wish to sign up to. Any new rules put on the table during the implementation period, given the way these things operate, are highly unlikely to be implemented during the implementation period.
Our European friends are aghast at the chaos the Cabinet is creating. The Prime Minister has to put an end to the back-stabbing, briefing and counter-briefing from her Ministers and their surrogates. Will she show real leadership by ring-fencing the issue of EU citizens’ rights; by confirming that the UK will stay in the single market and customs union—because I am not aware of anyone who believes that the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland is safe without it; and by sacking the Foreign Secretary, whose leadership ambitions blind him to the sustained damage his back-seat driving is doing to the UK’s negotiating credibility and are increasing the chances of our crashing out of the EU?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct that we want the right resolution to the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. As I have said, we are all clear that we do not want physical infrastructure on the border or a return to a hard border or the borders of the past. I am interested in his approach, however, as I seem to remember that at one stage the Liberal Democrats were actively promoting the idea of a referendum on EU membership. Now we have had one, they do not seem to want to accept it.
Will my right hon. Friend simply point out to people complaining that the negotiations are going too slowly that after the referendum on
My hon. Friend is right that it was clear early on that we had to trigger article 50 before the negotiations could start. We waited to do that until we had done considerable work in government to prepare us for triggering article 50, which we did, and the extent of that work has now been shown in the negotiations and position papers we published over the summer. On his last point, I simply say, as I have said before, that public pronouncements are of course sometimes made about the negotiations, but we are in a negotiation, and very often our discussions behind the scenes in private are more positive and constructive than some of the public pronouncements suggest.
The Prime Minister’s statement has been confusing. Can I get to the heart of that confusion? She says she wants the benefits of exactly the same terms of trade with the EU as we have now, for which we need regulatory equivalence. She also says we want the benefits of not being bound by EU rules in perpetuity, for which we need regulatory divergence. It is a simple matter of logic that equivalence is the opposite of divergence. She says we want a thing and its opposite. How will she resolve this obvious contradiction?
When two countries enter into a trade agreement, both sides agree the set of rules and regulations pertaining to it, but they also agree how disputes will be resolved and what will happen if either side chooses to change or diverge from the rules and regulations. That is the position regarding our trade agreement with the EU, except that we already operate on the basis of the same rules and regulations. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will bring the EU acquis into UK law, so the key question, which will be part of the negotiations, is how we manage divergence on either side after that. It is the same as with any trade agreement.
Does my right hon. Friend believe that the EU genuinely wants a dynamic and creative future trade relationship with the UK in accordance with her vision? If so, where is the evidence for it?
Yes, I believe that such a relationship is in the interests of the remaining 27 members states of the EU and that as they come to look at this issue—they were not previously focusing on it, but Florence has now triggered their thinking on it—they will see the benefits of such a relationship not just to us but to them as well.
The European Commission talks continually about the need for Her Majesty’s Government to provide certainty and clarity. Is there not one area in which we could provide that certainty and clarity very plainly, today and in our negotiations? Could we not make clear that in March 2019 we will withdraw from the common fisheries policy, take back all our fisheries, and ensure that our fishing communities actually take back control of who fishes in British waters?
The hon. Lady is right to suggest that when we leave the European Union one of the aspects of leaving it will be leaving the common fisheries policy. Of course, we will need to consider the arrangements that we want to put in place here in the United Kingdom for the operation of our coastal waters and the operation of fishing around them.
I thank the Prime Minister for the positive tone of her Florence speech, and for the constructive meetings that have taken place since then. Does she agree that it is in the interests of consumers on both sides of the channel for us to have a deep, special and bespoke partnership that covers goods and services? In that regard, I am thinking particularly of the hundreds and thousands of German consumers who have bought life insurance products from British insurance companies, and who will find that unless there is agreement, their pension plan savings are lost.
My hon. Friend has made an important point. People often assume that only UK businesses and UK individuals will be affected, but actually people living in the remaining 27 countries of the European Union will also be affected, which is precisely why I think that the deep and special partnership to which my hon. Friend has referred is in the interests of both sides.
The shambles and division on the Front Bench would be funny if there were not such serious consequences for our economy, for jobs, and for the future of this country and the world. The Prime Minister is simply not being honest about a whole series of consequences for this country. [Interruption.] Excuse me, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister is not being transparent with the public about the consequences for our economy. Will she say how much money she has put aside to deal with a disastrous “no deal”, and will she publish the economic assessments made by the Department for Exiting the European Union—whose Secretary of State is sitting next to her—of the impact on 50 sectors in our economy?
The hon. Gentleman talks about the position of the Government. The position of the Government is very clear, and was set out in the Florence speech. It is our offer to the European Union, and we await discussions with the EU about that particular issue. I have also made clear, from Lancaster House onwards, that when it is possible for us to give information and updates on the negotiations, we will do so, but we will do nothing that would undermine our position in the negotiations.
Given that Germany and France export more to us than we export to them, what discussions has the Prime Minister had with her French and German counterparts? Has she asked them to pressurise the EU institutions to secure a good deal for those countries, which means negotiating faster, more effectively, and with a shared understanding of what we can both gain from this deal?
I assure my hon. Friend that I do have discussions with the leaders of France and Germany, and, indeed, with the leaders of other EU member states. Others, such as the Dutch and the Belgians, also have a significant economic interest in our future relationship because of the economic activity at their ports. We discuss arrangements for the future with the leaders of those countries, and, as I said a little earlier, there is a growing sense and recognition of the importance of that deep and special trading relationship to the future of both sides.
It is not, of course, possible to answer that question at this stage. We are negotiating a deal, and we will not have negotiated that deal until, I suspect, close to the end of the period that has been set aside for it. At that point, we will be able to see what the benefits of the deal will be for the future of the British economy.
I commend the Prime Minister for her detailed statement. It was in stark contrast to what was said by the Leader of the Opposition, who left the House completely in the dark about his own position. Can the Prime Minister solve a dilemma for him? Why, if Labour Members are so concerned about Brexit, or even, indeed, about the security of EU nationals after we leave, could they not bring themselves to debate the matter at all at their own party conference in Brighton?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. At the Labour party conference they actually refused to have a full debate on the issue that they now say is a matter of such consequence to them, but then that is typical: they take one position on a Tuesday and the next position on a Wednesday.
We did debate the European Union and Brexit at our conference actually, but let me ask about another matter. As a result of our membership of the European Union, there are some 200,000 Britons living in Catalonia, and roughly the same number of Catalan Spaniards living in the UK. I do not think that anybody in this House supports the police brutality that we have seen in Spain, but the French Government have been absolutely clear that they will not recognise Catalonia if it tries to declare itself independent unilaterally. Will the Prime Minister today make that same guarantee for Britain?
None of us wants to see the sort of violent scenes that we saw on the streets of Catalonia; I want to see this situation resolved peacefully, as I am sure do all hon. Members. But we are very clear as a Government that the Spanish Government have the right to uphold the Spanish constitution and that all parties should be operating under the rule of law.
I very much support the Prime Minister in the final destination that she set out again today, but I have to say that her speech in Florence seemed like a reward for the EU’s intransigence. Can she confirm that we buy around £70 billion more in goods and services from the EU each year than it does from us, and that when we leave we will be the EU’s single biggest export market? Can she therefore confirm that there will be no more rewards for the EU’s intransigence?
My hon. Friend is of course right that the trading relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union is very important to the EU, as well as important to the UK. What I did in my Florence speech was set out a vision—a proposal—for the future relationship between the UK and the EU, based on our current relationship, showing how we can develop that relationship in a way that is in the interests of both sides. This has switched the dial in our negotiations, and obviously we look forward to being able to enter negotiations on those aspects in more detail.
The Prime Minister said in her statement that she proposes “a unique and ambitious economic partnership” with the EU. If she is confident that the new unique and ambitious economic partnership that she envisages will be better for the UK economy than our current quite ambitious economic partnership and membership of the single market and customs union, then, further to the question from my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty, why will she not today, alongside her White Papers, finally publish the list of the sectors of the economy for which she has undertaken impact assessments and their results, so that the public can have the information about the impact of Brexit on the economy?
Following the recent German elections, power has moved from Berlin to Paris, so will the Prime Minister remind President Macron of the importance of being a good neighbour to the United Kingdom, because post Brexit, France will still be our neighbour, tens of thousands of French people will still want to visit and study here, and vice versa; we will still want to co-operate on environmental issues and immigration; and we will still wish to preserve our special defence arrangements with the French?
My right hon. Friend makes an important point about not only our future relationship with the EU, but our future bilateral relationship with France. I can assure him that all the discussions that I have with President Macron, and that other Ministers have with their opposite numbers, are based on our not only maintaining but enhancing that bilateral relationship.
The judgment that came out of the American Department of Commerce is a preliminary one. We await the final judgment of that Department, and the issue can then go to a trade Commissioner. We continue to work with the US and Canadian Governments, and Boeing and Bombardier, to bring about a resolution to this dispute and protect the important jobs in Northern Ireland. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary will be making a statement on the matter tomorrow.
After the funfair of the conference season, may I welcome the Prime Minister back to her place as leader of this party, this Government and this country, and to the serious business of government? I congratulate her on the steely determination that she showed last week, including her setting out of an inspiring commitment to see this issue through on behalf of the next generation.
When the Prime Minister heard the Leader of the Opposition refer to Labour’s policy of a transition phase, did she, like me, think that that must be the one that she herself announced in her Lancaster House speech? The only transition in Labour that I see is the one from a once great party to a party of Venezuelan socialism.
My hon. Friend is absolutely spot on, on both counts. Indeed, in my Lancaster House speech, I said:
“I want us to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two-year Article Fifty process has concluded. From that point onwards, we believe a phased process of implementation” to enable us to
“prepare for the new arrangements…will be in our mutual self-interest.”
So we thought of the implementation period quite a long time ago.
I thank the right hon. Lady. I have spoken to the president of the European Parliament about my going over there and speaking with either the plenary or the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament. I believe that our offices are negotiating on a date at the moment.
I am sure that Members on both sides will confirm that listening to senior Danish politicians is a very good idea. Would my right hon. Friend recommend that the leaders of the other 27 EU countries listen to the wise counsel of the Danish Foreign Minister, who suggests that they stop playing games and now move on to negotiating our future trade arrangements?
I thank my hon. Friend, who reaffirms the point I was making earlier: there are many in the European Union who do believe that the time is now right to move on to trade negotiations.
I won’t do it in Danish—not today.
The Prime Minister’s commitment to a transition deal was a welcome reality check in this whole process, but the European Parliament resolution of
That is the view of the European Parliament in its resolution. In my statement and my Florence speech, I put out that we expect that the implementation period will be based on the current rules and regulations, but of course this is part of the negotiation.
To negotiate an outcome consistent with the ambition that my right hon. Friend has set out, is it not absolutely essential that we invest in preparations against the possibility of no agreement at all?
Yes, I can absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend on that, and that is precisely why that is exactly what the Government are doing.
I am sure the Prime Minister knows that the Supreme Court did not opine on the question of whether article 50 was revocable, because the question before it was about our involvement. Therefore, why, when asked by my right hon. Friend Mr Bradshaw what advice she had had recently, did she rely on the Supreme Court?
The point that I made in relation to the Supreme Court is that the court proceeded on the basis that article 50 would not be revoked; and I gave the answer to another of the hon. Lady’s hon. Friends about what the Government do or do not say about legal advice.
May I congratulate the Prime Minister on the tone she has set in the run-up to the decision of the October Council? I also thank her for the reply she has just given to my right hon. Friend Sir Desmond Swayne, making it clear that the Government have followed the recommendations of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in its March report about the need to prepare for no deal. Will she confirm that individuals and businesses will also need to be in a position to make their contingency plans? Does she accept that, if the negotiations on the final settlement are postponed for at least two months in October, the Government will have to surface their no-deal preparations, so that businesses and individuals can share in making the necessary preparations? This will also rely on a vote of the European Parliament, and we saw what happened last week, with the Labour MEPs supporting a position that was absolutely against the interests of the United Kingdom.
First of all, obviously, I still expect that we will be able to negotiate a good deal, and that is what we are working for. It is important that we take businesses along with us and that we discuss and hear from businesses their reaction to the various issues being raised in the negotiations. Indeed, I and a number of other Cabinet Ministers were present at the business advisory council that was held in No. 10 Downing Street today. However, my hon. Friend’s question seemed to be based on the premise that, if we did not get a formal notification of sufficient progress in October, that would mean that we would not be likely to get a deal. I do not believe that that is the case. I believe, as has been indicated by other hon. Friends, that we are seeing more of a movement on the European Union side to recognise the importance of discussing the trade negotiations and to consider the necessity of an implementation period.
Let me begin by commending the Prime Minister warmly for keeping going at her conference speech. It could not have been easy.
The Prime Minister—and, I am sure, other Members of the House—will be well aware that the Good Friday agreement of 1998 was voted on by thousands and thousands of people in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and secured a majority in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I am very pleased today that the Prime Minister has said that we owe it to the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to get Brexit right. Will she therefore please look seriously at introducing a Government amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill to guarantee on the face of the legislation that no regulations made under the Bill will repeal or amend the Good Friday agreement? That would be very helpful to people in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Both this Government and the Irish Government—and indeed, increasingly in the discussions we have been having on the issues relating to Northern Ireland and the Republic, the European Union—have confirmed an absolute commitment to the Good Friday agreement. We are very clear that we stand by the Good Friday agreement, which, as the hon. Lady said, was hard negotiated and welcomed by a majority. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that nothing that we do in the Brexit negotiations in any way jeopardises the implementation of the Good Friday agreement.
May I congratulate the Prime Minister on her very encouraging and positive statement? Does she agree that it would be helpful if British businesses with interests in other European Union countries used their influence with the political leadership in those countries to impress upon them the need to have an agreement in everyone’s interest? In particular, does she agree that they need to emphasise that the economic impact of not having an agreement by March 2019 will not only affect Britain, but hugely affect the other EU countries as well?
My hon. Friend has made a very important point, and I certainly would encourage businesses and others to ensure that they are making that clear with their contacts in the 27 member states. I believe that that is already happening, and I certainly meet people from across the European Union who make exactly the point that it is in their economic interests to ensure that we get a good deal negotiated by March 2019.
Over the past 17 years, Wales has received £9 billion in grants from Europe. During the Brexit debates and the referendum, Tory Ministers said that Wales would not lose out as a result of Brexit. Can the Prime Minister tell us how much funding Wales will get—additional funding—after Brexit is completed?
Nice bid, as the Secretary of State says. Let me say to the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] Well, he changed from “not losing out” to “additional money” in his question. We have been very clear in relation to a number of elements where people currently receive funding related to the EU, such as under the common agricultural policy and structural funds, that we will meet any agreements entered into before we leave the European Union—in relation to the structural funds, as long as they meet UK priorities and are value for money. Thereafter, once we are outside the EU, it will be for us here in the UK to decide how we wish to ensure that different parts of the country are supported in the way that is necessary for them. What I have put forward is that there should be a shared prosperity fund, which will look at the diversity and disparity within regions and between regions, and we will act accordingly.
Last week, I met a leading UK industrialist and we discussed Brexit and the hundreds of thousands of people employed in the sector in this country. Although he wanted to see an agreement and understood entirely the Prime Minister’s implementation period, he is concerned that, if no agreement is reached, it is no good saying that on
I recognise the concerns people have about ensuring they know what the situation is going to be. The Government are working on what steps will be necessary for whatever the eventuality—whether we do negotiate a deal or whether we do not—and in doing that we are holding discussions with business.
I thank the Prime Minister for prior sight of her statement. We have heard a great deal from her about the non-border that she envisages between the north of Ireland and the Republic, but I do not think we have heard a word about the border between Wales and the Republic of Ireland, even though the north Wales route through Holyhead is second only to Dover in its volume of traffic. Will she tell the House what she is doing to ensure that north Wales does not grind to a halt after Brexit?
I am very clear that as we look for a solution for the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland we do not want to set up a new border between the island of Ireland and the mainland of the United Kingdom. Obviously, what happens at the border the hon. Gentleman refers to will depend on the future partnership that we agree with the EU. We have put some proposals forward for customs arrangements that could pertain. When we get into the negotiation of that phase, we will be able to look at those issues in detail.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. I am very clear that there will be no second referendum. The British people were given their opportunity to choose, they chose to come out of the European Union and that is what this Government will deliver.
My constituent Jessica Simor, QC, from Matrix Chambers has done important work on the legal status of revoking article 50, and she is of the opinion that it can be revoked. The Supreme Court case that the Prime Minister referred to rules that the Government cannot trigger article 50 without an authorising Act of Parliament. Article 50 provides for the notification not of withdrawal but of an intention to withdraw, and the Prime Minister will be aware that in law an “intention” is not a binding agreement. So I ask her once again: will she publish the legal advice she has received, which is important for the wider public to see?
I say to all those Opposition Members who have stood up today and asked about the legal position on revoking article 50 that the position is very clear. The British people voted in a referendum to leave the European Union.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that no money will be paid for access to the single market, for two reasons? First, the EU sends a lot more goods and services to us than we send to it. Secondly, there are countries around the world that export to the EU single market without any problems at all.
My hon. Friend is of course right that the EU has a number of trade agreements with countries around the world that enable those countries to deal with the single market on the basis set out in those agreements. As I have set out, we will honour our commitments—that is important for us as a country—and there are some areas, possibly in fields such as security and science, in which we will want to continue to be members of specific projects and programmes. If we do, it will be right that we pay an element of the costs of those projects and programmes. Those are the two elements that I have set out in our financial proposals.
Having an implementation period will be part of the negotiations. The EU has previously referenced the possibility of there being such a period, but we need to negotiate the length of that period and its implementation.
There are five key NATO countries that are committed to the defence of our continent that are not members of the EU, and we will soon join that group. Will the Prime Minister give me an assurance that she will work closely with those countries, and with countries such as Poland that are on the frontline with Russia, to ensure that NATO continues to be the supreme defence posture for our continent, rather than a single European army?
We continue to believe that NATO is the bedrock of European security and we will continue to play a full role in NATO, as we have done over the years since its formation. I am pleased that we have British troops involved in NATO operations on the eastern border of the EU, protecting that border and giving that guarantee of European security.
The Prime Minister has said that there will be no new infrastructure on the Irish border and no customs border over the Irish sea, and that we will not remain a member of the customs union. If all those options are ruled out, can she explain exactly what kind of customs border we will have?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her excellent answer to Chris Bryant, but the vile brutality of the Spanish police really does disturb me. Any bold new strategic agreement on law enforcement and criminal justice cannot allow bullying of that nature, whether by member states or EU negotiators.
I assure my hon. Friend that the agreement that we envisage entering into with the remaining states of the EU on security, criminal justice and law enforcement matters will be mutually beneficial, particularly on the sort of data we can exchange across borders to ensure we are able to deal with the many challenges we face, especially those relating to human trafficking and modern slavery, organised crime and, of course, terrorism.
As the vice-chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, I recently visited Jersey with Andrew Rosindell. While there, we discussed the customs union, a customs union and a customs arrangement, but we did not get around to talking about a customs system. The Prime Minister has used various words to describe the border, from somewhere between hard and soft, to now talking about a physical border. Further to the comments by Lady Hermon and the Prime Minister’s rather flippant answer to my hon. Friend Paula Sherriff, when will the Prime Minister do the communities on the Irish border the courtesy of visiting them to explain her analysis of the customs system in relation to the Good Friday agreement?
In relation to that issue, we have looked at the broader question of the customs arrangements and, as I say, we have published a paper that contains proposals for systems that could operate in future. In relation to the Northern Irish border with the Republic of Ireland, we are discussing with the parties in Northern Ireland, the EU and the Irish Government, what the future arrangement might look like, but the EU recognises that it is not possible to confirm what that future arrangement will look like until we have looked into some of the wider issues of the future partnership between the UK and the EU.
Kristian Jensen has joined Wolfgang Schäuble—both are Finance Ministers—in saying that the negotiation would be easy were it not for the game playing. It is the modus operandi of the EU to bully on occasion, to brief the media negatively on occasion, and to bide for time right up until the wire. May I tell my right hon. Friend not to be naive—not that she would be—and listen to the ridiculous comments from Labour Members who have never negotiated their way out of a paper bag, let alone the EU?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We know the things that can be done in negotiations to appear to make life difficult. What matters is that the Government have their vision very clearly set on the end state and the arrangement we wish to negotiate, and we are firmly committed to that negotiation. I can think of no better person than my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to deal with the sort of methods that my hon. Friend set out.
Is not the major issue the fact that the Government’s Brexit agenda is being driven by the Foreign Secretary on the pages of the Daily Telegraph—that is, when he is not moonlighting as Bernard Manning? Will the Prime Minister listen to the Scottish Government and not sacrifice 80,000 jobs on the altar of internal party politics by leaving the single market?
I have explained this on a number of occasions, but I shall do so again. The British people voted to leave the European Union. Leaving the European Union means not being a full member of the single market and the customs union. We have set out a proposal for a deep and special economic partnership with the EU that continues to enable both sides to trade with each other in a way that protects jobs and brings increasing prosperity to the United Kingdom and to the European Union. I say again, as I have said in the past: if the hon. Gentleman wants to ensure that jobs in Scotland are protected, he needs to make sure that Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom.
The very last thing my constituents would want is the revocation of article 50. The British people voted for Brexit, they expect the Prime Minister to deliver it, and they have every confidence that she will. Will she reassure the people of Gibraltar that no agreement will be made unless they are fully included in that agreement, and that Spain has no veto over their future?
We are very clear on that. We have continued to hold talks with the Gibraltar Government—as, indeed, we have with others—to make sure that they are fully aware of the negotiations as they go along. We are very clear about Gibraltar’s position. My hon. Friend makes an important point about the Labour party and the rest of the Opposition: they claim that they want to respect the referendum vote, yet here they are trying to suggest we should revoke article 50. That is the exact opposite of what the British people wanted.
As a lifelong negotiator who has stood up for workers all my life against the actions of Conservative Governments, I say to Michael Fabricant that the jewel in the crown of British manufacturing is the automotive sector. It is a world-class success story that has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers, and more than half our cars are sold into the EU. Will the Prime Minister provide more detail on the implementation period? The industry is facing mounting problems, particularly given the importance of regulatory alignment to the sector and the integrated nature of European supply chains. If the Government get this negotiation wrong, they will do grave damage to the automotive sector and thousands of workers will pay the price with their jobs.
I recognise the importance of the automotive industry, but there are also a number of other industries here in the United Kingdom that are very important for our jobs and future prosperity. We have set out the framework for the implementation period. I have been clear both here and in the Florence speech about the rules and regulations that are required during that implementation period, but they have to be negotiated with the European Union, and that is exactly what we want to start to do.
Order. I am keen to accommodate remaining colleagues. However, although we have been blessed with commendably succinct replies from the Prime Minister, the length of some questions has equalled the eloquence with which they have been expressed, so there is a premium on brevity.
Businesses in my constituency are concerned about outcomes, particularly the frictionless movement of goods across Europe and the mutual recognition of standards, rather than membership of particular institutions. Will the Prime Minister reassure me that, during the second phase of negotiations, those outcomes will be the Government’s priority?
Yes, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. That is exactly why we have said that we want to negotiate a new agreement and a new partnership with the European Union. It will be the interests of businesses across the United Kingdom that will be part of what is driving us towards that new arrangement.
I thank the Prime Minister for her statement to the House today. I listened with interest when she stated that she was both a proud Unionist and strong on the Union. I take heart from that. I want to give comfort to the people in Northern Ireland on this matter of not having a soft or hard border down the middle of the Irish sea. I want that assurance because the people of Ulster feel that they are being set on the sidelines.
I am very happy to give that assurance. We do not want to see a border down the Irish sea either. We want to maintain the integrity of the internal market of the United Kingdom.
Former New Zealand High Commissioner Lockwood Smith has said that there are few advantages to the UK in leaving the EU without bringing back ambitious responsibility for our own trading arrangements across the world. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while we all accept the importance of a short period of transition, we should not lose sight of the longer-term goal of pursuing our own trade deals?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are real opportunities for the UK in negotiating those other trade agreements around the world. Although we will have that implementation period, we will be negotiating and ensuring that we can put into place trade agreements that will be of benefit both to this country and to jobs in this country.
The writing is not on the wall for this Government as some say: it is just slowly sliding off. Why did the Prime Minister choose to deliver her statement from Florence when Ealing town hall would have had her? What was the cost of flying the entire Cabinet there in pounds or euros or in terms of the carbon footprint—any will do?
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that her concept of an implementation phase will only be enacted if firm plans and a schedule for implementation of permanent new arrangements between the EU and UK have already been agreed?
Yes. It is very simple: the implementation phase is a period for practical changes to be put in place. We cannot know what those practical changes are until we know the end state that we are driving towards. Having agreed on that end state and that future relationship, the period of implementation is purely to put the practicalities in place.
As I said earlier, one reason why people voted to leave the EU was to control our money, so we will not be sending huge sums of money every year in perpetuity to the European Union. When we have left the European Union, this Government will be able to decide how we will deploy the funds that are available.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on her statement, and the tone of pragmatism in her Florence speech. Does she agree that, throughout this time and the implementation period, it will be right and proper to place our commercial interests front and centre in these matters regardless of any arcane or theoretical considerations, and that patience and pragmatism are not only important in the interests of this country, but most consistent with the spirit of our party too?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to put such emphasis on patience and pragmatism. That is exactly the spirit in which we are entering these negotiations. He is right that we need to consider fairly and squarely the commercial interests. We must also ensure that the deal that we reach is clearly in the United Kingdom’s national interest.
An independent trading nation is one that is able to determine its own trading policy and to enter into trade agreements around the rest of the world. What the hon. Gentleman is talking about is something that depends on having frictionless borders, and, as I have said, we want to negotiate with the European Union as frictionless a border as possible.
It is good to hear not only the Prime Minister’s optimism about the chances of striking a trade deal, but that we are preparing for no deal. In order to give businesses as much time as possible to adjust, will she consider drawing a line in the sand with a date attached to it by which, if we have not made sufficient progress, we will finally and simply walk away from the negotiating table?
One of the important points about negotiation is that we keep our hands as free as possible. We do want to ensure that we take business with us. As I have said, there are a number of ways in which we are discussing the future arrangements with business. The implementation period is important, and I hope that we can get on to discuss that as early as possible with the European Union, but we do need to maintain a degree of flexibility in our negotiating positions.
By having not yet sat down to talk about trade, the European Commission has shown that its priorities are the integrationist European project and punishing this country for having the temerity to choose to govern ourselves. That does not bode well for any deal. Can the Prime Minister tell us what balance of resources is going into contingencies in the event of no deal compared with the amount of resources going into the negotiations?
We are doing the work that is necessary to ensure that we are prepared for whatever outcome emerges from the negotiations. The hon. Gentleman is right: there have been a number of speeches recently that suggest a more integrationist approach for the EU in future. I am clear that it is important that we are that self-governing nation and that we get that good deal with the European Union because it is in the economic interests of both sides.
Given that the EU has a £70 billion annual trade surplus with the UK, does the Prime Minister agree that the European business community should be far more vocal in its communications with its political leaders, because failure to conclude a deal would not reflect well on its competence?
My hon. Friend is right: it is important for businesses based in the European Union that we achieve a good trade agreement and a good new economic partnership with the EU and I encourage them to make that point.
At times such as this, it is important that Britain speaks with one voice—[Laughter.] The Opposition may laugh, but if that is the case, does my right hon. Friend agree that it was deeply disappointing that British MEPs voted against a furthering of the negotiations, which would have taken them to the crucial stage? Was she as surprised as I was that she was the only party leader to withdraw the Whip from those individuals?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is in the interests of this country that we move forward on those trade negotiations. I was astounded to hear that any MEPs had voted in favour of a resolution saying that sufficient progress had not been made and that we should not move to those trade negotiations. I have acted regarding the two Conservative MEPs who voted against British interests. It is time that Jeremy Corbyn did something about the 18 Labour MEPs who did so.
I very much welcome a transitional period for businesses to adjust, as will businesses and port authorities in my constituency. The Prime Minister has mentioned on three occasions the Irish border with Welsh, Scottish and English ports. I have read the paper this summer. I have read the House of Lords report and what the EU has said. Will the Prime Minister be clear on whether there will be a special customs union with Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland? Can she categorically say that there will be no physical borders in Welsh ports?
I have referenced the paper that the hon. Gentleman says he read this summer. It sets out a couple of options for the customs relationship overall between the UK and the EU once we have left the European Union. Of course, we need to get into these negotiations so that we can sit down with the European Union and discuss what will work for both sides. I repeat what I have said: we want to maintain the integrity of the internal market of the United Kingdom and we are very clear that there should be no physical infrastructure on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
My local chamber of commerce welcomes the two-year transition period because business is, quite simply, booming in my constituency. The chamber of commerce actually gets that. It also gets that if there is a run on the pound, as the Opposition say there will be if they ever reach government, it will create not just job losses, but interest rate increases. If I am going to criticise my Prime Minister, it has to be on this statement—not what is in it, but the font. My ailing eyes cannot see it. In future, Prime Minister, please put it in large print not just for my ailing eyes, but so the Leader of the Opposition and his Front Bench can understand it.
The Prime Minister says that she wants a unique trading relationship with the EU after Brexit, so she will be pleased to know that the citizens’ assembly convened last month by the constitution unit at University College London reached the same conclusion. However, the members of the assembly also said that if a bespoke deal was not possible, the next best thing would be for us to remain in the customs union and single market. May I invite the Prime Minister to look at that piece of work? It was deliberatively arrived at and there was a three to one majority among leave and remain voters for retaining those options if a deal cannot be achieved.
We are always happy to look at any contributions made to the debate around the negotiations, but I repeat that the European Union has been very clear about the indivisibility of the four pillars. If we want to be a full member of the single market and a full member of the customs union, it means maintaining free movement and the overall jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. That is, effectively, not leaving the European Union. The British people voted to leave the European Union.
I warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, particularly her comments about EU citizens and, equally importantly, UK citizens living and working in the EU. She is right that the ball is very much in the EU’s court, but will she ensure that the issue remains front and centre and is resolved as quickly as possible?
I am happy to give my hon. Friend that confirmation and reassurance. We said we wanted this issue to be looked at from an early stage and it has been. Significant progress has been made and I hope that the negotiators will be able to clear up the remaining issues between us in relation to citizens’ rights so that we can give citizens that absolute certainty.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that there will be no new restrictions at the UK border for EU citizens wishing to come into the UK during the implementation period of “around two years”? I think that is the implication of what she has been saying. She also said that there will be a registration scheme. Who will she require to register?
It is right that people will be able to come to live and work in the United Kingdom, but those coming from the European Union after the point at which we have left the European Union will be required to register. This is part of the building block to the new immigration rules that will be in place at the end of the implementation period.
Constituents of mine at GCHQ play an expert and invaluable role in the defence of this nation and the continent of Europe. Does the Prime Minister agree that the unconditional guarantee of ongoing intelligence co-operation is a constructive step that should help to pave the way to early trade talks?
I would hope that the European Union would recognise the benefit of our security relationship and the relationship we have on matters of counter-terrorism, as well as on law enforcement and criminal justice more widely. That relationship is in both our interests, and I hope the EU recognises its importance.
As I have said, being a full member of the single market is indivisible from full membership of the customs union, free movement and the complete jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. We will be negotiating an implementation period and the arrangements on which we are able to operate. We will negotiate those as a country that will no longer be a member of the European Union.
We are very clear that the issue of borders and relationships is one that we wish to discuss as part of the overall future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union. As I said earlier, we have been continuing to discuss with the Government of Gibraltar their particular concerns and interests to ensure that we can provide a deal that works for Gibraltar as well as the United Kingdom.
Does the Prime Minister agree that in the haste to seize control of laws, borders and money, no consideration has been given to how that is best achieved within the British state itself? Would it not be more satisfactory to convene a constitutional convention that would properly consider how the distribution of legislative and regulatory governance across the UK is achieved through each component part of the United Kingdom, including England itself?
We are doing a very simple thing. We are putting into place the wishes of the British people as expressed in a referendum and we are negotiating towards that future deal. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman talks to the leader of his party. The Leader of the Opposition says that we are being too slow, but the hon. Gentleman says we are being too hasty.
The Prime Minister seems to have failed to notice that the vote in the European Parliament was 557 votes to 92—a clear rejection of the Government’s chaotic strategy. It is confusing for everyone and, most of all, deeply damaging for business confidence and future investments. When will we hear exactly when the transitional arrangements will be in place? Businesses need to know now.
As I implied in my statement and have said in answers to questions, we have put forward a proposal for the implementation period. But this is a negotiation, which means that we need to negotiate the details of the implementation period with the European Union. The European Parliament gave that view, although it is not a binding vote. If the hon. Lady wants us to get on to negotiate the implementation period, she should have suggested to those 18 Labour MEPs that they voted against that resolution, not in favour.
I gently remind the Prime Minister that if she wants to make a habit of suspending Conservative parliamentarians who act against the British interest, she really does not have to go as far as Brussels to find some prime candidates. Given her often professed concern for the fate of UK nationals living in the European Union, how does she feel about the fact that when we had the opportunity to debate that precise matter in Westminster Hall on
The hon. Gentleman cannot have it all ways. The Scottish National party complains to me that I am not making unilateral declarations about EU citizens here. My point is very clear: we have the interest of UK citizens in hand as well and we want to consider that interest. We are working on that. We are actively ensuring the interests of those UK citizens through the negotiations. It is not about standing up and talking about it; it is about doing something about it.
I am most grateful to the Prime Minister and to colleagues.