“A Minister of the Crown may not make regulations to appoint exit day until Royal Assent is granted to an Act of Parliament making provision for the substitution of section 5 (customs duties) of the European Communities Act 1972 with provisions that shall allow the United Kingdom to remain a member of the EU common customs tariff and common commercial policy.”—(Mr Leslie.)
This new clause would ensure that provisions allowing the UK to remain a member of the Customs Union, as currently set out in section 5 of the European Communities Act 1972 but set to be repealed by section 1 of this Act, will be enacted ahead of exit day.
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Government amendment 399.
Amendment 349, in clause 14, page 10, line 46, leave out “for a term of more than 2 years”.
This amendment would prevent Ministers using delegated powers to create criminal offences which carry custodial sentences.
Government amendment 400.
Clause 14 stand part.
That schedule 6 be the Sixth schedule to the Bill.
New clause 8—Committee of the Regions—
“Her Majesty’s Government shall—
(a) maintain a full consultative role for local authorities throughout the process of withdrawal from the European Union, in due time and in an appropriate way in the planning and decision-making processes for all matters which concern them, and
(b) provide for a formal mechanism in domestic law fully to replicate the advisory role conferred on local authorities via membership of the European Union Committee of the Regions.”
This new clause would ensure that the current consultative role that UK local government currently have via the EU Committee of the Regions would be replicated in the UK after exit day.
New clause 10—Transitional arrangements—
“Her Majesty’s Government shall, in pursuit of a new relationship between the United Kingdom and European Union after exit day, seek to negotiate and agree transitional arrangements with the European Union of sufficient duration to allow—
(a) the conclusion and coming into force of new trade agreements replicating as closely as possible all those trade agreements currently applying to the UK by virtue of its membership of the EU before exit day;
(b) an associate membership of the EU Single Market so that the regulatory settlement existing between the UK and EU before exit day can continue for the duration of transitional arrangements, which shall be not less than two years after exit day.”
This new Clause would require the UK Government to seek transitional arrangements that would allow existing trade agreements which currently apply to the UK to be negotiated and continued for the circumstances applying after the UK has exited the EU, and would seek transitional arrangements including an associate membership of the EU Single Market for not less than two years following exit day.
New clause 11—Ongoing regulatory requirements—
“After exit day the Secretary of State shall continue to assess all EU regulations, decisions and tertiary legislation and publish a report to both Houses of Parliament assessing the costs and benefits of each regulation and directive and whether HM Government should consider it expedient to propose a similar reform to UK domestic legislation in order to secure an ongoing regulatory alignment between the UK and the EU going forward.”
After exit day the European Union is likely to continue to produce legislation, regulations and decisions that would have applied to the United Kingdom if we had remained a member of the EU. This new clause would require Ministers to publish an assessment of new and developing EU laws and regulations and whether there would be benefits or costs for the UK in adopting similar legal changes to UK domestic legislation with a view to maintaining regulatory alignment with the EU as far as possible.
New clause 31—Promotion of the safety and welfare of children and young people following withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union—
“(1) The Secretary of State shall make the arrangements specified in this section for the purposes of safeguarding children and promoting their welfare from exit day onwards.
(2) The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a strategy for seeking continued co-operation with—
(a) the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol),
(b) Eurojust, and
(c) the European Criminal Records Information System on matters relating to the safety and welfare of children and young people.
(3) The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a strategy for seeking continued participation in the European Arrest Warrant, in relation to the promotion of the safety and welfare of children and young people.”
This new clause would require the Government to lay before Parliament a strategy for maintaining co-operation with certain EU bodies and structures after exit day for the purposes of promoting the safety and welfare of children and young people.
New clause 32—Programmes eligible until exit day for support from the European Social Fund—
“The Secretary of State shall bring forward proposals for a fund to support, on and after exit day, programmes and projects which—
(a) relate to
(i) the promotion of social inclusion amongst children and young people,
(ii) efforts to combat poverty and discrimination amongst children and young people, and
(iii) investment in education, training and vocational training or skills and lifelong learning for children and young people, and
(b) would have been eligible for funding up until exit day by the European Social Fund.”
This new clause seeks to maintain financial support after exit day for projects and programmes which would have been eligible for funding from the European Social Fund.
New clause 33—Mitigating any inflationary risks after exit day—
“(1) The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a strategy for mitigating any risks which withdrawal from the EU may present to low income families with children.
(2) The strategy set out in subsection (1) must include a commitment to assess each year whether rates of benefits and tax credits are maintaining value in real terms relative to costs of living as defined by the Consumer Prices Index.”
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a strategy for mitigating any potential risks which withdrawal from the EU might present to low income families with children.
New clause 40—European Neighbourhood Policy—
“The Secretary of State shall, by
New clause 41—European Development Fund—
“The Secretary of State shall, by
New clause 42—EU Citizens’ Severance Payments—
“The Secretary of State shall, by
New clause 43—Diplomatic Staff—
“The Secretary of State shall, by
New clause 44—Duty to make arrangements for an independent evaluation: health and social care—
“(1) No later than 1 year after this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must make arrangements for the independent evaluation of the impact of this Act on the health and social care sector.
(2) The evaluation carried out by an independent person to be appointed by the Secretary of State, after consulting the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the relevant Northern Ireland departments, must analyse and assess—
(a) the effects of this Act on the funding of the health and social care sector;
(b) the effects of this Act on the health and social care workforce;
(c) the impact of this Act on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the health and social care sector; and
(d) any other such matters relevant to the impact of this Act upon the health and care sector.
(3) The person undertaking an evaluation under subsection (1) above must, in preparing an evaluation report, consult—
(a) the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the relevant Northern Ireland department;
(b) providers of health and social care services;
(c) individuals requiring health and social care services;
(d) organisations working for and on behalf of individuals requiring health and social care services; and
(e) any persons whom the Secretary of State deems relevant.
(4) The Secretary of State must, as soon as reasonably practicable after receiving a report of the evaluation, lay a copy of the report before Parliament.”
This new clause would require an independent evaluation of the impact of the Act upon the health and social care sector to be made after consulting the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers and the relevant Northern Ireland department, service providers, those requiring health and social care services, and others.
New clause 46—Consultation assessing impact of no agreement with the EU for workers on withdrawal—
“Within six months of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State must carry out a public consultation assessing the impact on—
(a) workers in the EU who are UK citizens, and
(b) workers in the UK who are EU citizens if no agreement is reached with the European Union on the UK’s withdrawal.”
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to carry out a public consultation within six months of the passing of the Act, assessing the impact of not having an EU withdrawal deal on workers in the EU who are UK citizens, and on workers in the UK who are EU citizens.
New clause 47—Assessing the impact of leaving the EU on social and medical care provision for disabled people—
“Within six months of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State must publish an assessment of the impact of leaving the EU on social and medical care provision for disabled people living in the UK.”
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to publish within six months of the passing of this Act an assessment of the impact of leaving the EU on social and medical care provision for disabled people living in the UK.
New clause 48—Mutual Recognition Agreements—
“(1) In the course of negotiating a withdrawal agreement, Her Majesty’s Government shall seek to maintain after exit day the full range of mutual recognition agreements with which the United Kingdom has obtained rights of product conformity assessments and standards by virtue of its membership of the European Union.
(2) In respect of mutual recognition agreements relating to the safeguarding of public health, within one month of this Act being passed, the Secretary of State must publish a strategy for ensuring that existing UK notified bodies, in accordance with provisions laid out in the EU Medical Devices Regulation, may continue to conduct conformity assessment certification for both UK and EU medical devices to ensure continuity within and beyond the European Union.”
This new clause would require the UK Government to seek to maintain existing mutual recognition agreements and to publish a plan for UK notified bodies (such as the British Standards Institute) to continue to perform conformity assessments for medical devices and pubic health-related products deriving both within the UK and from across the EU.
New clause 52—Duty to secure safe harbour—
“(1) It shall be the duty of the Prime Minister to seek to secure the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the Single Market and of the Customs Union until such time as the Prime Minister is satisfied that the conditions in subsections (2) and (3) are met.
(2) The condition in this subsection is that the United Kingdom and the European Union have reached an agreement on the future trading relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
(3) The condition in this subsection is that the United Kingdom has developed a satisfactory framework for immigration controls in respect of nationals of European Union Member States not resident in the United Kingdom on the date on which the United Kingdom ceases to belong to the European Union.”
New clause 54—Implementation and transition—
“(1) Her Majesty’s Government shall seek to secure a transition period prior to the implementation of the withdrawal agreement of not less than two years in duration, during which—
(a) access between EU and UK markets should continue on the terms existing prior to exit day,
(b) the structures of EU rules and regulations existing prior to exit day shall be maintained,
(c) the UK and EU shall continue to take part in the level of security cooperation existing prior to exit day,
(d) new processes and systems to underpin the future partnership between the EU and UK can be satisfactorily implemented, including a new immigration system and new regulatory arrangements,
(e) financial commitments made by the United Kingdom during the course of UK membership of the EU shall be honoured.
(2) No Minister of the Crown shall appoint exit day if the implementation and transition period set out in subsection (1) does not feature in the withdrawal arrangements between the UK and the European Union.”
This new clause would ensure that the objectives set out by the Prime Minister in her Florence speech are given the force of law and, if no implementation and transition period is achieved in negotiations, then exit day may not be triggered by a Minister of the Crown. The appointment of an ‘exit day’ would therefore require a fresh Act of Parliament in such circumstances.
New clause 56—Saving of acquired rights: Gibraltar—
“(1) Nothing in this Act is to be construed as removing, replacing, altering or prejudicing the exercise of an acquired right.
(2) Any power, howsoever expressed, contained in this Act may not be exercised if the exercise of that power is likely to or will remove, replace or alter or prejudice the exercise of an acquired right.
(3) In subsection (2) a reference to a power includes a power to make regulations.
(4) In this section an acquired right means a right that existed immediately before exit day—
(a) whereby a person from or established in Gibraltar could exercise that right (either absolutely or subject to any qualification) in the United Kingdom; and
(b) the right arose in the context of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union and Gibraltar’s status as a European territory for whose external relations the United Kingdom is responsible within the meaning of Article 355(3) TFEU and to which the provisions of the EU Treaties apply, subject to the exceptions specified in the 1972 Act of Accession.
(5) Nothing in this section prevents the use of the powers conferred by this Act to the extent that acquired rights are not altered or otherwise affected to the detriment of persons enjoying such rights.”
The purpose of this new clause is to ensure that the Bill does not remove or prejudice rights (for instance in the financial services field) which, as a result of the UK’s (and Gibraltar’s) common membership of the EU, could be exercised in the UK by a person from or established in Gibraltar, where that right existed immediately before exit day.
New clause 59—Mutual recognition of professional qualifications—
“(1) In the course of negotiating a withdrawal agreement, Her Majesty’s Government shall seek to maintain after exit day the mutual recognition of professional qualifications which the United Kingdom has obtained under Directives 2005/36/EC and 2013/55/EU by virtue of its membership of the European Union.
(2) HM Government shall ensure that competent authorities for the purpose of the European Union (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2015 may continue to recognise professional qualifications obtained in the European Union as equivalent to qualifications obtained in the UK after exit day to ensure continuity.”
This new clause would (a) commit the Government to seeking to replicate in the withdrawal agreement the framework for mutual recognition of professional qualifications the UK has at present and (b) allow competent UK authorities to continue to recognise EU qualifications as equivalent to their UK counterparts.
New clause 61—Regulation for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)—
“(1) The Secretary of State must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the United Kingdom participates in the standards and procedures established by the Regulation for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (“REACH”) (Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006) after exit day.
(2) Subject to the provisions of the withdrawal agreement, steps under subsection (1) may include regulations under section 17, or another provision of this Act, providing for full or partial participation of the United Kingdom in REACH.”
This new clause would ensure that after withdrawal from the EU, the UK continued to participate in the Regulation for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals.
New clause 71—Mutual market access for financial and professional services—
“(1) Before exit day, a Minister of the Crown must lay before Parliament a report assessing the progress made by Her Majesty’s Government in negotiating continued mutual access to markets in the EU and the United Kingdom for businesses providing financial or professional services.
(2) ‘Mutual access to markets’ means the ability for a business established in any member State to provide services in or into the United Kingdom and vice versa.”
This new clause would require a Minister to report before exit day on the Government’s progress in negotiating mutual market access for financial and professional services
New clause 72—Importation of food and feed: port health etc.—
“(1) Before exit day, a Minister of the Crown must lay before Parliament a report assessing the progress made by Her Majesty’s Government in negotiating—
(a) continued mutual recognition of standards, inspections, certifications and other official controls, and
(b) a continued basis for co-operation among public authorities, as between the United Kingdom and the EU in relation to food or animal feed—
(i) produced in, or imported from a third country into, the United Kingdom or a member State, and
(ii) subsequently exported from the United Kingdom to a member State, or vice versa.
(2) Any power of the Secretary of State or a Minister of the Crown (including a power under retained EU law) to make regulations requiring or authorising the charging of a fee or other charge in respect of the inspection of food or animal feed on its importation into the United Kingdom must, so far as reasonably practicable, be exercised so as to allow public authorities conducting such inspections fully to recover any costs incurred in the carrying out of such inspections.”
This new clause would require a Minister to report before exit day on the Government’s progress in negotiating mutual recognition of controls on food and feed imports. It would also require the Government to permit, so far as possible, full cost recovery for authorities carrying out border inspections of food or feed.
New clause 83—Strategy for UK wind energy sector—
“(1) Within six months of any vote in the House of Commons on the terms of withdrawal from the EU, the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a strategy for supporting the UK wind energy sector in its ability to export competitively to markets in the EU.
(2) The strategy set out in subsection (1) must assess the impact that—
(c) customs checks, and
(d) other non-tariff barriers arising from any withdrawal agreement with the EU will have on the UK wind energy sector’s ability to export competitively to EU markets over the next twenty years.”
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a strategy for supporting the UK wind energy sector in its ability to export competitively to markets in the EU following exit day, and to do this within six months of any vote in the House of Commons on the terms of withdrawal.
New clause 84—UK higher education sector: participation in EU programmes—
“(1) Within six months of any vote in the House of Commons on the terms of withdrawal from the EU, the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a strategy setting out its intentions regarding the nature of the UK higher education sector’s future participation in—
(a) the 2014-2020 Horizon 2020 programme,
(b) the Erasmus+ Exchange programme, and
(c) future EU research, collaboration and student exchange programmes.
(2) The strategy set out in subsection (1) must set out its intentions regarding the extent to which the UK higher education sector will be able to access existing and future EU programmes after exit day both—
(a) during any transitional period, and
(b) following any transitional period.
(3) The strategy set out in subsection (1) must also estimate the future impact that any withdrawal agreement will have on the UK higher education sector in terms of—
(a) the financing of future research,
(b) the quality of future research, measured according to the Research Excellence Framework, and
(c) the ability to participate in future EU-wide collaborative research programmes in the twenty years starting from the day on which this Act receives Royal Assent.
(4) The strategy set out in subsection (1) must also set out the extent to which UK Government funds will address any shortfalls identified from calculations and estimates made as a result of subsections (2) and (3).”
This new clause would require the Secretary of State, within six months of any vote in the House of Commons on the terms of withdrawal, to lay before Parliament a strategy setting out its intentions for the UK higher education sector’s future participation in current and future EU research, collaboration and student exchange programmes following exit day. This strategy would have to set out the long-term impact that the withdrawal agreement will have on the UK’s future participation, and set out the extent to which UK Government funds would mitigate this impact.
New clause 85—Strategy for economic and social cohesion principles derived from Article 174 of TFEU—
“(1) The Secretary of State shall, before
(2) The strategy laid under subsection (1) shall state the principles derived from Article 174 of TFEU.
(3) The principles under subsection (2) shall form part of UK domestic law on and after the day of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
(4) The aims of the strategy under subsection (1) shall be—
(a) to reduce inequalities between communities, and
(b) to reduce disparities between the levels of development of regions of the UK, with particular regard to—
(i) regions with increased levels of deprivation,
(ii) rural and island areas,
(iii) areas affected by industrial transition, and
(iv) regions which suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps.
(5) A Minister of the Crown may by regulations make provision for programmes to implement the strategy.
(6) Programmes under subsection (5) shall run for a minimum of ten years and shall be independently monitored.”
This new clause would enshrine in domestic law the principles underlying Article 174 (Title XVIII) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Government amendment 401.
Clause 15 stand part.
Amendment 362, in schedule 8, page 49, line 4, after “document” insert “(not including a contract)”.
The amendment would make clear that the Bill does not modify the interpretation of contracts relating to EU law.
Amendment 102, page 50, line 2, leave out paragraph 3
This amendment would remove the additional power provided in paragraph 3.
Amendment 103, page 50, line 41, leave out paragraph 5
This amendment would remove the future powers to make subordinate legislation in paragraph 5.
Government amendment 402.
Amendment 380, page 55, line 16, leave out sub-paragraph (1) and insert—
“(1) For the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998, any retained EU legislation is to be treated as subordinate legislation and not primary legislation.”
This amendment would amend the status of EU-derived domestic legislation to subordinate legislation for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998.
Amendment 11, page 55, line 17, leave out “primary legislation and not”.
This amendment would remove the proposal to allow secondary legislation to be treated as primary for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998.
Government amendments 403 to 405
Amendment 291, page 58, line 31, leave out paragraph 28 and insert—
“(1) The prohibition on making regulations under section 7, 8, or Schedule 2 after a particular time does not affect the continuation in force of regulations made at or before that time, except where subparagraphs (2) and (3) apply.
(2) Regulations may not be made under powers conferred by regulations made under section 7, 8, or Schedule 2 after the end of the period of two years beginning with exit day.
(3) Regulations made under powers conferred by regulations made under section 7, 8, or Schedule 2 may not be made during the two year period in subparagraph (2) unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”
This amendment would require all tertiary legislation made under powers conferred by regulations to be subject to Parliamentary control.
That schedule 8 be the Eighth schedule to the Bill.
That schedule 9 be the Ninth schedule to the Bill.
Clause 18 stand part.
Amendment 120, in clause 19, page 14, line 40, leave out subsection (2) and insert—
“(2) The remaining provisions of this Act come into force once following a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should approve the United Kingdom and Gibraltar exit package proposed by HM Government at conclusion of the negotiations triggered by Article 50(2) for withdrawal from the European Union or remain a member of the European Union.
(2A) The Secretary of State must, by regulations, appoint the day on which the referendum is to be held.
(2B) The question that is to appear on the ballot papers is—“Do you support the Government’s proposed new agreement between the United Kingdom and Gibraltar and the European Union or Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”
(2C) The Secretary of State may make regulations by statutory instrument on the conduct of the referendum.”
This amendment is intended to ensure that before March 2019 (or the end of any extension to the two-year negotiation period) a referendum on the terms of the deal has to be held and provides the text of the referendum question.
Amendment 82, page 14, line 40, at beginning insert “Subject to subsection (2A)”.
This amendment is a consequential amendment resulting from Amendments 78, 79 and 80 to Clause 1 requiring the Prime Minister to reach an agreement on EEA and Customs Union membership, gain the consent of the devolved legislatures and report on the effect leaving the EU will have on the block grant before implementing section 1 of this Act.
Amendment 85, page 14, line 42, at end insert—
“(2A) But regulations bringing into force section 1 may not be made until the Secretary of State lays a report before—
(a) Parliament, and
(b) the National Assembly for Wales outlining the effect of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU on the National Assembly for Wales’s block grant.”
This amendment would require the UK Government to lay a report before the National Assembly for Wales outlining the effect of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on Welsh finances, before exercising the power under section 1. This would allow for scrutiny of the Leave Campaign’s promise to maintain current levels of EU funding for Wales.
Amendment 86, page 14, line 42, at end insert—
“(2A) But regulations bringing into force section 1 may not be made until the Secretary of State lays a report before—
(a) Parliament, and
(b) the National Assembly for Wales outlining the effect of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the Single Market and Customs Union on the Welsh economy.”
This amendment would require the UK Government to lay a report before Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales outlining the effect of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU Single Market and Customs Union before exercising the powers in section 1.
Amendment 219, page 14, line 42, at end insert—
“(2A) A Minister of the Crown may not appoint a day for any provision of this Act to come into force until the Secretary of State has published a report on which Scottish products will be identified with geographical indications in any future trade deal that Her Majesty’s Government seeks to negotiate after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, and has laid a copy of the report before Parliament.”
This amendment would require publication of a Government report on which Scottish products will be identified with geographical indications in any future trade deal that Her Majesty’s Government negotiates after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Amendment 220, page 14, line 42, at end insert—
“(2A) A Minister of the Crown may not appoint a day for any provision of this Act to come into force until a Minister of the Crown has published an assessment of the effect of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU on Scottish businesses and laid a copy of the assessment before Parliament.”
This amendment would require publication of a Government assessment of the impact of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU on Scottish businesses.
Amendment 221, page 14, line 42, at end insert—
“(2A) A Minister of the Crown may not appoint a day for any provision of this Act to come into force until a Minister of the Crown has published an assessment of the effect of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU on food and drink safety and quality standards, and has laid a copy of the assessment before Parliament.”
This amendment would require publication of a Government assessment of the impact of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU on food and drink safety and quality standards.
Clause 19 stand part.
We find ourselves in the last part of day eight of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill Committee. Frankly, it has come around far too soon. Members might want another day before Christmas—I do not know whether that can be arranged at the last minute by the Leader of the House.
This group of new clauses and amendments relates to a set of incredibly important issues. I am particularly keen to speak to new clause 13, which relates to the customs union, but there are many other new clauses and amendments in the group that are worth dwelling on. Before I come to new clause 13, I shall point out a few of them.
New clause 54, which was tabled by the Father of the House, Mr Clarke, would wisely put into law the commitment that the Prime Minister made in her Florence speech to a transitional arrangement—she prefers to talk about an implementation phase—such that exit day would not be authorised unless we had a transitional phase lasting
“not less than two years”.
Personally, I think it would have to last for more than two years, although Michel Barnier suggested today that it should be less than two years—the European Commission announced today that it wants the transition phase to be done and dusted by
The Prime Minister said in her Florence speech that she wants market access to continue on the terms existing prior to exit day; that existing structures need to be maintained; that we need to continue with security co-operation; that we need to agree any new processes to implement change and to have enough time to establish a new immigration system; and that we will honour our financial commitments. All those things are quite widely shared desires for the transition period, but we cannot simply rely only on a verbal commitment by Ministers or the Prime Minister. Given how significant this is, it is important that we enshrine in the Bill those objectives for the negotiating process. I commend the Father of the House for that.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that when he and I tabled new clause 54, we did so consciously trying to replicate Government policy as stated in the Florence speech? If the Minister would fairly promptly acknowledge and accept that, we should be able to save some time for the other important matters to be discussed in relation to this group.
That is an excellent suggestion. We could almost add new clause 54 to the copy-and-paste process, given that it is based on the Prime Minister’s own words. Obviously, I personally would like to go further, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman and I tabled the new clause in the spirit of compromise.
New clause 48 serves to highlight the important but often overlooked question of mutual recognition agreements. MRAs are another series of international obligations between countries. The UK has obtained rights for notified bodies to undertake conformity assessments to make sure that standards across the EU are complied with and that UK firms can certify assessments of conformity across that market of 500 million people by virtue of the process that they undertake in the UK. If we lose that MRA process, it could cause immense disruption to many businesses and sectors in the UK.
I know that Ministers are already aware of REACH—the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals—but the regulatory compliance of companies such as BASF in my constituency is essential to the continuation of effective trading across borders. I really do not want to see companies moving elsewhere, perhaps where regulations are easier to follow, because we will lose good jobs in research, development and manufacturing, and all in the incredibly important science, technology, engineering and maths sector. Does my hon. Friend agree that our leaving REACH will put that at risk?
I entirely agree and my hon. Friend is completely correct to stand up for her constituents and local businesses and to make that point, which is too often overlooked. We need mutual recognition arrangements like the REACH regulations. It is often said that big corporations want to get out of such regulations, but in this case they want to stay part of that framework because it allows them to access markets. If we sacrifice that access, they will lose out and jobs will go as a result.
On a related issue, new clause 59 concerns the recognition of professional qualifications throughout the EU. I have been talking to the Royal Institute of British Architects, which is very worried about British graduates in architecture and those already in practice who often have services to sell across that wide range of 28 countries—as it is currently—and it is deeply concerned about whether its professional qualifications will continue to be recognised for the purposes of its ongoing business in that wider market. This is really serious stuff, and I hope that the Minister will address the matter when he has time to respond to these amendments.
New clause 11 is about how Parliament should be able to keep track, even after exit day, of regulations that are being made in the European Union. When we leave, we will obviously have our own jurisdiction and the EU will have its own jurisdiction, but if the EU continues to evolve its regulatory practices and to make new changes to rules and laws, we need some device to keep us informed in the UK Parliament so that we have the choice over whether to contract with those rules and stay in alignment or to ensure that we have regulatory equivalence. This is really more of a procedural new clause, but it is just asking the question of how we will keep in touch given that these are our near neighbours and the markets with which we have to remain aligned.
My hon. Friend is proposing a whole series of amendments that would certainly improve the current dire situation of this Bill, but is not a simple solution to all these amendments to stay in the single market and the customs union?
That is indeed the simple solution. I was building towards that crescendo, but there is always somebody who steals my punchline. That is effectively the conclusion that I have reached. Before I do reach it, there is another important measure, new clause 8, that English local authorities have been keen to see in the Bill. Currently, they have consultative rights on those areas of policy that are currently decided within the European Union framework by virtue of their membership of something called the Committee of the Regions. I know that some Government Members may baulk at that as some sort of bureaucratic committee that has no purpose, but many local authorities value the voice that they have through that committee into the policymaking process at European level. The question they are asking is: will they still have those same consultative rights when those areas of policy are brought back into a UK context? It is a fair question and I hope that the Local Government Association’s points will be addressed.
The main issue that I want to discuss is new clause 13, which relates to the customs union. It would ensure that we do not get past exit day without new legislation that allows the UK the option to remain a member of the customs union—in other words, the EU common customs tariff and common commercial policy. We must be absolutely crystal clear about this: ditching the most efficient tariff-free, frictionless, free-trade area in the world is what we are on the brink of doing for something that will inevitably—inevitably—be inferior. The referendum ballot paper did not include that question and put it in front of our electors. What we have seen is the Prime Minister’s interpretation of the result of that referendum, but that does not have to be Parliament’s interpretation.
If we find ourselves messing up the way that the UK border operates, the Irish land border, our ports and our airports, then vast swathes of our businesses and our economy face very, very significant disruption. Indeed, customs is, potentially, the overnight cliff-edge issue that will hit the headlines if we get this wrong, particularly if we have no deal—that hard Brexit.
Let us consider the issues at stake: last year, goods worth £382 billion were traded between the UK and the European Union. That is virtually the same amount as the UK traded with the rest of the world, so we are talking about trade of half of our goods. In fact, the system currently works so well across the 28 countries— 500 million people—that professionals talk not about exports and imports, because the movement of goods and services is so seamless and frictionless, but about arrivals and dispatches. It is as simple as that. That is how businesses regard the inventory available to many of them through the warehouses across the European Union. For car manufacturers in the UK, selling a car to a customer in Birmingham is just as simple as selling one in Berlin or Brussels. Fewer than 1% of the lorries that go through Dover or the channel tunnel—the main conduits for goods and traffic—require checks, so it is a smooth and seamless process at present.
It is indeed. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has visited Dover port. If he has, he will know that the site has no room available for customs checks. If he has visited the channel tunnel, he will also know that there is no capacity whatever to do any customs checks there.
Yes, and we all presumed that some of the £3.7 billion of preparations money would be spent on tarmacking fields around those areas in preparation for lorry parks and the overflow from the possible queues on the motorways.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government are failing to understand the deep complexity of supply chains in the EU? He is talking about the finished product of a car, but there are also many automotive components that go backwards and forwards between the UK and mainland Europe. Sometimes within a single company, one part is made on mainland Europe, fixed into a car in this country and then exported back out to Europe. I also believe that the planning application for the lorry park was rejected because the council failed to carry out an environmental impact assessment.
We will have to see what happens there. I think that about 2.5 million lorries a year go through the port of Dover; just think about the volume of traffic we are talking about.
The Brexit Select Committee actually visited Dover and we then met a representative of the port of Calais. Although this country is prepared to build a lorry park, the French side will not build a lorry park because it has a migrant crisis. The port of Calais will just close under these circumstances, so where will we export to and import from?
May I turn my hon. Friend’s attention to Ireland? Freight traffic to Dublin has enjoyed a growth rate of 700% since the establishment of the single market, but the control zone of the terminal is no bigger than it was in the 1980s, thanks to the fact that it has enjoyed the dismantling of customs control and port health control. Is he aware of any preparations or investment to deal with this potential problem if we do abolish the customs union?
No, and preparations would be needed for all sorts of other checks, including sanitary and phytosanitary checks. This would be for every port around this country, and I think that more than 1 million containers come in through the port of Southampton alone.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with my view that most people in this country do not understand the huge benefits of the customs union? Of course, a huge swathe of people have never had any experience of stuff being stopped in customs. I certainly remember those days because of my age. Has it been his experience that British businesses are in many ways even more concerned about the movement of goods and tariffs and not being in the customs union than the actual imposition of the tariffs themselves? Companies such as Rolls-Royce in neighbouring Derby hugely benefit from these large supply chains and they are really worried about our leaving the customs union.
The right hon. Lady and my hon. Friend Mary Creagh are right to focus on supply chains. The tariff could be a problem. Who knows what that would be—3%, 4% or 5%—if we fell back on the World Trade Organisation? Think of the disruption to business planning. A lot of firms would almost need to have an insurance policy at their disposal for the warehousing just to cope with the flows. We could be on the brink of many manufacturers fundamentally having to move away from the just-in-time business models that they have developed; it is almost like “RIP JIT” in this circumstance. We could almost see a whole new business model—we could be stepping back into the 20th century and earlier—if we get this wrong.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and indeed to Anna Soubry, for drawing attention to this wider point, which greatly troubles manufacturers in my constituency, in particular. As things stand, they manufacture and ship immediately to customers in other parts of the European Union. We have a huge shortage of available space for new warehousing facilities in Greater Manchester, and it is really important that the Government understand that wider context—it is not just a question of problems at the ports.
We must not take these arrangements for granted. Many of our constituents have taken them for granted for decades now and thought, “Oh, well, this is all seamless,” so they would not understand, as Anna Soubry said.
It is worth just walking through what happens when we do not have this sort of seamless arrangement. If a country is outside the customs union, this is what happens to goods that are destined for elsewhere. Before departure, people have to complete an export declaration, which is often lodged with a freight forwarding company. At the port of exit, the goods need to be cleared by the authorities, who decide whether inspection is needed. If so, the goods are possibly placed into storage and checked. Then, once they have left and travelled to the port of entry in the destination country, they are presented to the authorities via another declaration process, and potentially placed in storage again. Then there are country-of-entry checks and risk assessments; there is revenue collection; there could be checks for smuggled, unlicensed goods; and there are things such as hygiene, health and safety measures, labelling, consumer protection checks, the administration of quota restrictions, agricultural refunds, and trade defence checks to ensure that things are not being dumped unfairly in the country. All these administrative processes will absolutely add to the export process for goods.
Great Grimsby is well known for its fish and fish processing. We have discussed extensively some of the issues around delays to things such as automotive sector products, but we also have fresh products, such as fish. Fish is caught in Norway and imported to Grimsby, and it is an essential part of the fish processing industry. Any additional delays to that product will mean that supermarkets will not buy it—they will not want it—and the quality will reduce. That will have a really serious impact. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the issues around the delays and to make sure that the Government understand that reducing those delays in any way possible has to be at the forefront of their considerations.
The delays will probably be of great concern to the companies involved in those shipments, because those goods have to be fresh and delivered on time. However, if we fall back on to WTO arrangements, there is also the potential 8% tariff for fish and crustaceans.
I wonder why the hon. Gentleman is concerned for companies on that particular point, when Norway is not in the European Union or the customs union—it is in the single market. Therefore, the customs union aspect simply does not apply to Norway.
The hon. Gentleman will know that there are concerns. He said Norway was a “vassal state”—I think that was his phrase. I do not think the Norwegians would see it that way, but they have had to simply take instructions, in many ways, in terms of the European Union arrangements on a lot of these questions. With many of our products, particularly in the manufacturing sector, the customs union has given us great opportunity to thrive, and we have done particularly well in recent years on the back of that.
On that point, the Norwegian border is very interesting. Norway is in Schengen, so it does border checks on goods, but it does not need to do border checks on people. The main problem, of course, is that we are not in either. We need, at some point, to address the issue of how we check that lorries are not bringing into this country people we do not want to be here. I know that taking back control of our borders is a very important point, but there will be important discussions to be had about how we make that possible. Container ports will be okay, because we can seal the loads, but it will be a lot more difficult with lorries, because they take separate loads from separate consignments, and they need to be opened several times. So the issue of people smuggling is becoming quite potent.
The hon. Lady deals with the point incredibly well.
If we end frictionless trade or introduce barriers, with potentially the return of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, very significant problems will arise. The Government are either deluding themselves by saying, “There’s some miraculous blue-skies technological solution to all these things”, or deluding others because of the fudging and obfuscation that is going on, when, in moving from the phase 1 to the phase 2 process, they put in a form of words that seems to be interpreted in almost as many different ways as there are people reading them. They have kicked the issue into the long grass for now, but we are not going to be able to get to a decent deal without this unravelling.
The long list of checks that the hon. Gentleman read out that would be applicable are, as he knows, currently applied. That is done in a very mechanical way, often by computer through a trusted trader-type scheme. A lot of the mechanisms, procedures and protocols that he read out, especially for food and medical products, are already applied. What would lead to new and additional checks is a change in tariffs between our exports and imported goods. Therefore, surely the imperative for everyone in this House is to urgently get on to the part of the negotiations where we can get a tariff-free deal with the EU. Otherwise some of the issues that he highlighted will need to be covered.
I agree that we want to have a tariff-free relationship with our European neighbours—that much we can all agree on. However, the hon. Gentleman should look at the circumstances where we export to third countries outside the European Union that are not part of the free trade agreements that we have accrued over the 40 years of our membership of the European Union. Those free trade agreements are there for a reason. As we heard earlier, the reason people want out of the pure WTO arrangement and into an FTA is precisely that they want to minimise many of the transactional barriers and the inertia that can be there.
Let us take the car industry as an example. The chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the car industry’s own representative, is now voicing concerns about investment in the sector gradually beginning to ebb away, partly because of the uncertainty of this whole situation. The level of investment in the industry in the UK was £2.5 billion in 2015, then £1.6 billion in 2016, and it is heading to less than £1 billion this year. Car companies are “sitting on their hands”, according to the chief executive of the SMMT.
I want to take my hon. Friend back to what he was saying about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We had evidence this morning at the Brexit Committee on this. As he knows, in their recent agreement with Brussels, the Government committed to having no infrastructure at the border, and, if necessary, to our providing full regulatory alignment with the internal market and the customs union in order to achieve that. Is he encouraged by that commitment, even though the Government’s current policy is not to stay in the customs union, because if it stands, it looks very likely that we will have to, in effect, stay in the customs union?
Absolutely. If we can maintain full alignment, which was the phrase used in that agreement, that is essentially the same thing as a customs union arrangement. However, there was a caveat in that Ministers said that it would apply unless specific solutions can be found for divergence that they might want to see. That is a bit like the European negotiator’s way of saying, “Come on then, do your best—let’s have a look at what you can dream up.” The worry that I had when the Prime Minister returned was that her interpretation of full alignment was to reference the old list within the Good Friday agreement that merely talked about areas such as agriculture, energy and tourism but excluded trade in goods, which is a pretty big part of the issue at the border. I do not think the European Union signed up to this thinking that there was an exclusion for trade in goods. It is a question of “watch and wait” until the situation unravels.
May I bring the hon. Gentleman back to another border that he referred to, namely that between Norway and Sweden? Our Secretary of State for Transport is on record as saying that that is a completely frictionless border, across which things move with ease. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is not the case? I think it was the Swedish trade body that said Norway is the hardest country to trade with.
I have not seen that information, but there are all sorts of bits of infrastructure involved. There are separate roads and lanes for the processing of different things. As I have said, I am sure that the Minister will have solutions for all those problems.
Before the hon. Gentleman whips himself up into too much of a state of pessimism, may I gently remind him that inward investment is at a record high? If anything, it has picked up recently. In addition, because the EU has no free trade deals with big trading partners such as the US, China, Australia and New Zealand, and neither do we. That has not prevented trade from being conducted handsomely; if anything, our surpluses are with those countries rather than with the EU.
I will come to the US situation in a moment. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that the inward investment figures are massively inflated because of mergers and acquisitions data. When we consider the buy-outs of some of the large technology companies—[Interruption.] Well, I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman should necessarily interpret the stripping out of British ownership of such companies as a great British success. If he digs beneath the statistics, he might see a slightly different picture.
Our mythology about the UK’s potential to strike a great and bountiful set of trade deals if we could only rid ourselves of the shackles of the customs union is becoming a bit of a joke across the British economy.
I will give way in a moment. Our justification for leaving the customs union has to be more than simply to keep the Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade in a job. My hon. Friend Angela Smith, who is keen to intervene, took evidence on some of these questions this morning.
I think that the potential United States deal that Mr Baron referred to is being kiboshed as we speak. The US would want an agricultural basis for any trade deal with the UK, but there is a reason why the Americans dip their chicken in chlorine: they have entirely different and lower animal welfare standards than do the UK and the EU. If we were to do an agricultural deal with the US on the basis of those lower standards, it would undercut our farmers, abattoirs and food producers, who would have to chase each other down to the level of the lowest common denominator. It is contradictory to hear the Environment Secretary saying that he does not wish in any way to reduce safety standards or animal welfare standards, and he may well be killing off the idea of a US trade deal with his pronouncements.
My hon. Friend is being generous in giving way again. This morning, the Secretary of State further entrenched his position, which will make it very difficult to complete a US trade deal involving food and food products. The other evidence that we have received in the Select Committee has indicated, week after week, that many parts of the agricultural sector believe that the UK Government over many generations—not just this Government, but previous ones—have never done the political or diplomatic brokering work necessary to build our export trading position with third countries outside the European Union. What on earth makes us think that we can now pull off this magic trick of building trade around the world to replace that which we have had with the European Union?
It is possible that our civil service will eventually gear up to do these things, and I would be the first person to say that we of course want to do new trade deals to repair some of the damage caused by this whole process, but it is not going to happen overnight. In fact, as you will remember, Sir David, Vote Leave promised during the campaign ahead of the referendum that we would be negotiating trade deals the day after the referendum and that they would all get going straightaway, but we are yet to see any of that actually kick off.
The hon. Gentleman has highlighted this contradiction, so will he explain why Barry Gardiner has not signed new clause 13—after all, he is on the record as saying that staying in the customs union would be a “disaster”—and why, given that Labour Members were whipped to vote against staying in the customs union, they have now made a volte-face and decided that staying in it is a possibility? What actually is the decided and determined policy of the Labour party on this issue?
I am sure my hon. Friend Barry Gardiner can speak for himself; he has done in the past and will do so again. I take the view that we should not shilly-shally on this issue, but stand up and say that there are risks to business and to our borders from our ports and airports being clogged up. We should also say that there is an economic cost—revenue costs for the Treasury—that could mean years of Brexit austerity ahead. All hon. Members, whichever side of the House we are on, need to recognise that some of the responsibility for these things will fall on our shoulders if we do not stand up now and say that staying in the customs union is the right way to proceed.
Given the hon. Gentleman’s experience, has he, like me, talked to people about the detail of the EU-Canada comprehensive economic and trade agreement, as well as about what the Australians and the Indians—and many other countries that are apparently queuing up to do these great trade deals with us—want? At the core of any free trade agreement with such countries will be an absolute requirement for their people to be able to come to our country quite freely, as they can with the accelerated migration policy under CETA. Under that free trade deal, the Canadian people have the ability to come into parts of the European Union. It is a myth to think that this is about trade, because a huge part of it is about immigration.
Absolutely. The right hon. Lady has taken the words out of my mouth. I would love to see the Government’s draft free trade agreement with India. I hope that there are fantastic manufactured goods or widgets that the British want to sell and could sell to India, but I suspect that the Indian economy is quite adept at producing widgets of its own and probably at quite a low cost. If the Indians are going to buy anything from us, they will buy services—services are about people; they are people-to-people businesses—and the Indians will naturally say, “Well, we’ll do you a deal, but it has to involve the movement of people.” All hon. Members will need to think about the downstream consequences of that and about how our constituents might respond. Such an agreement would be perfectly reasonable, but this is a much bigger question.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work in drafting and moving all these new clauses. Does he remember that when the Prime Minister visited India, the No. 1 topic on the Indians’ agenda was relaxing our immigration rules? How does that square with the Prime Minister’s immigration targets and her ambitions on Brexit?
We are due imminently to see the immigration Bill—the Minister will tell us exactly when it will be introduced to Parliament—and the draft agreement that the Secretary of State for International Trade has drawn up with the Indian Government, and we will be able to make a judgment on that at that point.
Before my hon. Friend moves away from India, may I draw his attention to the Scotch whisky industry? I am sure we will all partake of some of that industry’s goods during the next few weeks of the festive period. The Scotch whisky industry has flourished on the basis of free trade deals done through the EU, such as the one with Korea, but this Government are planning to walk away from those 57 EU bilateral trade agreements and try to reach free trade agreements with countries such as India, which will want to maintain its 150% tariff on Scotch whisky.
Absolutely. My hon. Friend makes his point well. The idea is that we should turn a blind eye to the trading arrangements we have with our nearest neighbours—50% of our markets—in pursuit, as an alternative or substitute, of some deal with far-flung countries a lot further away, but Australia accounts for 2% or 3% of our current trade and a deal with Australia will not offset many of these problems. It is not just the 50% that we have directly with our nearest neighbours. All those free trade agreements that the European Union has worked up and signed, to which we have been a party, over the past 40 years add up to a further 14% of our trade. So going on for two thirds of our trade is tied into the customs union process—36 bilateral free trade agreements with 63 different countries. How shall we ensure that they continue the day after we exit?
I will not give way; other Members want to speak.
The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade has said, “These can be grandfathered; they can be cut and pasted and we will just sort all those out,” and junior Ministers at the Department for International Trade have said in the past, “Those countries have all agreed to roll them over.” That is not the case. Maybe a bit of dialogue has begun, but those other countries might want to take the opportunity to reopen some of those long-standing agreements—who knows? The Minister will give us the answers when he winds up the debate.
I want to conclude my remarks because others want to speak. I simply want to make a final point about why the customs union is such a crucial issue, and why I urge my hon. Friends on the Front Bench and hon. Members across the House to think about the consequences of not staying in the customs union.
If this country ends up with hard borders again, there will be big consequences. Our ports could grind to a halt. Lorries will clog up our motorways, with, potentially, vast lorry parks near the ports. The expensive, wasteful spending on bureaucratic checks will hurt our industries, and we ought to be evaluating the economic impact of industries, potentially, gradually relocating elsewhere because it is easier to do business in a different jurisdiction. Think of the jobs lost, particularly in the manufacturing sector, if we get this wrong. Bear in mind that we will not have any say on what happens on the EU side of the border after this whole process. There is no guarantee about what happens at the other end of the channel tunnel or in Calais.
The reason I have pushed new clause 13 as I have, is to do with the austerity that we risk in this country for the next decade—a decade of Brexit austerity that will potentially befall many of our constituents because of the lost revenues. Unless we stay in the single market and the customs union, we will have that austerity on our conscience, and I urge hon. Members, especially all my hon. Friends, to think very seriously. We have to make sure we stay in the customs union.
Well actually, oddly enough, I intend, as previously in Committee, to attend to one of the amendments—in fact, two—rather than to the general question of whether it is a good idea to leave the EU. I want in particular to speak about amendment 400—a Government amendment now—and amendment 381, the original Government amendment to which it relates, in a sort of package.
There has been a certain amount of confusion in discussion of the amendments in public—although not, I hope, in the House—so I first want to make it quite clear what they do and can do and what they do not and cannot. The issue has often been reported as if it relates to the question of when we withdraw from the EU, which is very interesting but nothing to do with the amendments. Neither is it anything to do with the Bill, because withdrawal from the EU, as all hon. Members present know, is governed by the article 50 process, not by an Act of Parliament. If we could wave a wand and decide how we do these things through an Act of Parliament, how much easier that would be; but there is an article 50 process that is part of international law, to which we subscribe, and that is what will determine when we leave the EU.
What do the amendments do? They govern when clause 1 will become operative. Clause 1 repeals the European Communities Act 1972 and Government amendment 381 sets a date for that. That leads to a question. If the UK Government and the EU, according to the processes laid out by article 50 and by the remainder of the constitutional arrangements of the EU, come to some kind of agreement at a certain point, it would make sense to have a little more time than is allowed under the first clause of the article 50 process. Under the third clause of the article 50 process, we would have an odd situation, because there would be a slight delay in the timing of our withdrawal, where we would still, under amendment 381, be locked into abolishing the 1972 Act on a certain date, namely by 11 pm on
Incidentally, there would then be perfectly obvious remedy: under Government amendment 400 there would be a need for emergency primary legislation to change the date. That is, of course, perfectly possible and I have no doubt the House and the other place would agree to such a measure, but it is a laborious process and it might jam up the works at just the moment when it is very important for the Government to have the flexibility to make an agreement of that sort. So, very modestly, all Government amendment 400 does is to provide for the ability of Parliament to adjust the date under those circumstances for the repeal of the European Communities Act to match the article 50 process.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way and for the very careful way in which he is setting this out. I hope he would agree that this is a much more commodious and confluent way than was previously the case. It will mean that article 50 and our domestic law are in better synchronisation. If I may, I pay tribute to him and to my hon. and learned Friend Mr Cox for working on this amendment and for coming up with a very happy solution to a thorny problem.
If the European Communities Act 1972 is abolished on
That is a very interesting question, to which we will know the answer when we have seen the text of the agreements that lead to the withdrawal and implementation Bill and when Parliament accepts it. I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman, but I maintain steadfastly the effort to use the Committee stage of this Bill to speak about this Bill, this clause and this amendment, and not some extraneous consideration.
We have heard many times from Conservative Members that the date of
I am surprised by the hon. Lady. I have known her a very long time and I know she is extremely assiduous and very intelligent, so she will have read article 50 and observed that it contains an express provision for agreement between the EU and in this case the UK to delay the date which would otherwise pertain. In fact, there are also rules for what is required on the EU side by way of unanimity to permit that to occur. There is no question, therefore, of the Government ever having asserted that they could not change the article 50 date; they have always said and known that it is possible to change it. The question, as my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve said a moment ago, is how we make sure that UK law marches in step with whatever happens under the article 50 process.
I do apologise. I did not want to trouble my right hon. Friend, but the two-year timeframe under the article 50 process is a deadline, not the point at which we necessarily leave; it is the point at which we leave in the event that no deal is reached beforehand. It is perfectly possible, should the negotiations go well, for an earlier date to be agreed.
Oh, my hon. Friend is absolutely right—that is of course the way that article 50 works. My point was merely that it also provides in the event that the opposite occurs—the negotiations take even longer than anticipated, or the negotiations come to an end but ratification takes a bit longer than anticipated, which could well happen—for an agreement to be reached to extend the date, which is what would then cause the incommensurability with UK law, unless we have adequate provision on the UK side. That is what amendment 400, to which, I am pleased to say, he is a signatory, provides for.
I want to say one more thing before I sit down. I am glad—I hope that the Minister will confirm this from the Dispatch Box—that the Government have said throughout this discussion that they will bring forward an amendment to make sure that the statutory instrument that might be triggered under amendment 400 would be under the affirmative procedure, although I think that the amendment will have to be tabled on Report because of how Bill proceedings work.
I am delighted by that. It is important to people on both sides of the arguments that it be something that Parliament can do, not that Ministers may simply do on their own. I know that my hon. Friend Mr Rees-Mogg, my south western neighbour at the end of the Bench, very much agrees with that proposition, as does my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield in the middle.
I just want to thank my right hon. Friend for having intervened in this matter and found a way to resolve the issue. As my hon. Friend Mr Rees-Mogg just pointed out, the oddity of the original amendment 381 was that it would have imposed a rather serious obstacle if, for any reason, there had been an agreement for the article 50 period to end earlier.
That is right. My right hon. and learned Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset have always actually maintained the same point, which is that we need to keep the two sets of law in sync with one another. That is the overriding purpose of the whole Bill: to ensure that UK law matches what is happening in the international law arena and that we then import the whole of EU law into UK law for the starting point of our future.
I am terribly sorry, but I am not going to take any further interventions. I am going to sit down in a second. I only want to say that I am profoundly grateful, not only to my right hon. and hon. Friends who have joined us in this amendment, but to the Government. This is exactly the way to deal with these things: find a sensible compromise that brings everyone on the Government Benches together and makes the Opposition entirely irrelevant to the discussion.
It is, on this occasion, a real pleasure to follow Sir Oliver Letwin, who was at his erudite best in critiquing Government amendment 381, echoing many of the points the Opposition made on day one of the Committee stage. It was also very helpful that he spoke so clearly on the flexibility provided in the article 50 process, in contrast with the remarks he directed against my hon. Friend Matthew Pennycook who made exactly that point only last week. It is good to see the right hon. Gentleman moving on.
I rise to speak in favour of amendments 43 to 45 and 349, which are tabled in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Let me, however, turn first to Government amendment 381, which revives, on this last day of the Committee stage, the issues that we debated on the first. The two solitary names on the amendment say everything about its purpose: the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and Mr Bone, neither of whom is present. We are seeing an alliance between the Government and, on this issue, one of their most troublesome Back Benchers.
As I think the right hon. Member for West Dorset made clear, it is not as though the amendment adds anything to the withdrawal negotiations. Indeed, it hampers the process. It is just another example of the Government’s throwing red meat to the more extreme Brexiteers on their Benches. As we said on day one, the amendment is not serious legislation. It is a gimmick, and it is a reckless one—in relation not just to the flexibility on the departure date to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, but to the wider aspects of exiting. It reaches out to those who want to unpick the Prime Minister’s Florence speech and the basis for a transitional period.
Setting exit day “for all purposes” as one date means the end of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice at the point at which we leave the European Union. As we warned the Government, that would make a deal with the EU on the transitional period impossible. We also warned the Government that they could not deliver the support of the Committee of the whole House for the amendment, and that was confirmed by the tabling on Friday of amendments 399 to 405. Just as the Government have caught up with the Labour party on the need for a transitional period, by cobbling together this compromise in the face of defeat they have caught up with us on the need for flexibility on exit days for different purposes. The Solicitor General is raising his eyebrows at me. Perhaps it would be fairer to say that the Government have caught up with themselves. The Bill as originally drafted did not include amendment 381. The Government have recognised that it is nonsense, and are seeking to find a way out. We will go for the more straightforward way by seeking to vote it down.
Amendments 399 to 405 give Ministers the power to set exit day through secondary legislation. We would give that power directly to Parliament, for all the reasons that we set out last week. We will therefore support amendments 386 and 387, tabled by my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper along with members of five parties, and new clause new clause 54, tabled by Mr Clarke. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman said earlier, he tabled it helpfully to allow the Government to embed the Prime Minister’s Florence commitments in the Bill.
Let me now deal with our amendment 43 and consequential amendments 44 and 45. On Wednesday evening, Parliament sent a clear message to the Government: we will not be sidelined in the Brexit process. The passing of amendment 7 was a significant step in clawing back the excessive powers that the Government are attempting to grant themselves through the Bill, and in upholding our parliamentary democracy. As with the final deal, Parliament must have control over the length and terms of the transitional period, and our amendments would provide that. The Prime Minister has eventually recognised that she was tying her hands behind her back with her exit day amendment, but amendments 399 to 405 are not the solution. They simply loosen the legislative straitjacket that the Government unnecessarily put on themselves. The Government must respect the House and accept that Parliament, not Ministers, should set the terms and length of a transitional period.
As I said in our earlier discussion this afternoon, there is a clear majority in this House for a sensible approach to Brexit and to the transitional arrangements. That brings together business and the trade unions and many other voices outside this place, just as it brings together Members on both sides of the House.
The Prime Minister knows we are right on the transitional arrangements, as her Florence speech made clear:
“As I said in my speech at Lancaster house a period of implementation would be in our mutual interest. That is why I am proposing that there should be such a period after the UK leaves the EU…So during the implementation period access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms”.
But every time she reaches out for common sense, and tries to bring the country together and to build the deep and special partnership she talks about, the extreme Brexiteers step in, trying to unpick our commitments, and setting new red lines, whether on the Court of Justice or regulatory divergence, which they know will derail the negotiations and deliver the complete rupture they dream of. So the transitional arrangements, which are important both for the interim and in positioning us for our longer term future, must be in the hands of this Parliament.
Does my hon. Friend agree that services are so important to our economy that if we want to negotiate something that has not been negotiated before, it is likely to take far longer than two years?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, which is why it is so important that we give ourselves the flexibility on exit dates and in relation to the transitional period.
Our amendment 349 seeks clarification from the Government—I am looking at the Minister as I make this point—that they do not intend to use delegated powers to create criminal offences of a seriousness that carry custodial sentences. I hope the Minister will in his remarks state that that is not their intention, and if that is the case will he indicate now that the Government will give a commitment to amend the Bill accordingly on Report?
Let me turn now to some of the other amendments currently under consideration. We support many of the other new clauses that seek reports aiding transparency and good evidence-based decision making. New clauses 31 and 33, for example, tabled in the name of my hon. Friend Kate Green raise important issues for children’s welfare. New clause 44 in the name of Joanna Cherry requires an independent evaluation of the impact of this legislation on the health and social care sector, which we would also support. Others, such as new clause 11 tabled by my hon. Friend Mr Leslie helpfully seek to ensure that we do not fall behind the standards and protections we currently enjoy as they develop in the EU. We would support that, as we would new clause 56 on protecting the existing rights a person in Gibraltar can exercise in the UK as a result of our common membership of the EU; we will support that new clause if pushed to a vote by Peter Grant.
Amendments 102 and 103 in the name of my hon. Friend Kerry McCarthy are right in seeking to limit the use of delegated powers in Bills other than this one, past or future, to modify EU retained law. That is a vital component of keeping the scope of delegated powers in check.
On that point, we have over the past few days seen a timely reminder of why we have opposed the extent of the Henry VIII powers in this Bill. The Government might wax lyrical about wanting to preserve workers’ rights, but in reality too many Members on the Conservative Benches—although I accept not all—cannot wait to get started on dismantling them. The contempt for the working time directive we have seen over the last few days is not a revelation: 20 of the 23 members of the current Cabinet have opposed that directive. The Foreign Secretary has made no secret of his view that the key rights that the directive provides represent “back-breaking” regulation. The International Trade Secretary has described them as a “burden”. The Prime Minister went further when she damned the whole social chapter as a “burden on business”.
Barely a week after the conclusion of the phase 1 negotiations, reports indicate that the Government are already champing at the bit to scrap vital protections for workers, including the 48-hour week, four weeks’ paid annual leave and rest breaks. On Monday, the Prime Minister refused eight times to guarantee that the working time directive would not be scrapped when it moved into UK law. She happily confirmed that the directive would be transposed into UK law on day one, but frankly, it is not day one that we are worried about: it is day two and all the days thereafter. She stopped short of giving any guarantees for the future. We will return to this matter on Report to ensure that those Conservative Members who look forward to the opportunity to scrap workers’ rights and many other protections have to come to Parliament to be held to account for that, rather than using delegated powers to push the measures through by stealth.
As we come to the final stages of these debates in Committee, we have an opportunity to reassert that this House will not be sidelined in the most important negotiations facing this country in our lifetime, not because of some obscure constitutional argument but because we are a representative democracy and it is our job in this place to defend the rights and interests of our constituents. This Parliament will not allow those who want to crash out of the EU at any cost to have their way. We will put people’s jobs and livelihoods first. We will ensure that the values and rights that we have forged in 43 years of EU membership are not discarded as we leave, and we should ensure that we remain close to our friends and partners on the continent that we will continue to share.
It is a pleasure to participate in this debate, and it was also a pleasure to listen to Mr Leslie opening it. He will not be surprised to hear that I entirely share many of his views about the merits of staying in the customs union, and the lack of advantage of leaving it. However, there is a time and place for everything. The customs union and the merits or otherwise of the single market are all matters that the House will have to debate in due course. In the meantime, we will have to see what the Government come up with in the negotiations, and what they return to the House with at the end of them, but I do not intend to get bogged down in that this afternoon.
I will give way in a moment.
I made it quite clear on Second Reading that the purpose of the Bill relates to process, not outcome, and I have tried really rigorously to confine my remarks to the process issue, although the extent to which people have kept interpreting my concerns about process as an intention to sabotage our leaving the EU altogether, which I have never at any stage sought to do, is remarkable. I will now give way to the right hon. Gentleman, but I must tell him that I want to get on to the meat of this subject, rather than talking about those other matters.
I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s point about focusing on process rather than outcome, but does he agree that given that Cabinet Ministers are now sitting down to discuss the outcome, it would be helpful for Parliament also to use the opportunities available to us to express our views about what the outcome should be?
Parliament should certainly be debating these matters. Individual Members will decide whether they want to use the opportunity of this Committee stage for that purpose, but I want to confine myself strictly to the issues in front of us.
My right hon. and learned Friend has been consistent all the way through our consideration of this Bill in agreeing with me on only the subjects of process, rather than substance, but I quite respect his view and always have the highest respect for his legal and political skills. Does he agree that if amendments actually went beyond the Bill, they would have been ruled to be beyond the scope of the Bill? It is entirely a voluntary decision on his part that he refuses to be drawn into the substance of Government policy, or the stance that the Government are taking on the eve of their starting the first serious negotiations on our future after we withdraw. It is a pity that he has made this self-sacrificing concession.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend. Yes, it is a self-denying ordinance, but it was taken for what I think is a good reason, and partly because I did not wish to inflame the debate into something more general. However, despite my best endeavours and making speeches of what I thought was studied moderation, I seem to have been singularly unsuccessful, but that is merely a reflection of the fevered atmosphere in which this Committee meets.
I have to accept that I did raise the temperature a bit on amendment 381, because when it was first presented to the Committee, I expressed myself in respect of it in very strong terms indeed. I did so not because I was making some statement that I refused to contemplate the day of exit as being
Underlying all this, there appears to be a sort of neurosis abroad that the magical date might somehow not be reached or, if it were to be reached, might be moved back. I am afraid that I cannot fully understand that neurosis of my right hon. and hon. Friends, but it is there nevertheless. It may give them some comfort to have in the Bill this statement of the obvious. However, it is worth bearing in mind that we are leaving on
In order to try to reassure my right hon. and hon. Friends and to give out the message that this is a process Bill, I am prepared to go along with things now that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset and my hon. and learned Friend Mr Cox have so sensibly and creatively come up with a solution that appears to provide what my hon. Friends want and, at the same time, removes what I consider, perhaps in my lawyerly way, to be an undesirable incoherence in the legislation.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for making so eloquently the point about the importance of process as the best defence of our liberties. Will he join me in welcoming the work that assiduous junior Ministers have done for their Secretary of State with my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin in agreeing a package of amendments that I am happy to put my name to and vote for tonight, along with amendment 381? As he mentioned tidings of comfort, it seems at this Christmas moment that not since the soldiers met on no man’s land to sing “Silent Night” has peace broken out at such an opportune moment.
I am filled with my hon. Friend’s Christmas spirit, and very much wish that it may be carried through to the new year, and for many years to come. For that reason, I am prepared to support the Government on amendment 381, on the obvious condition that we have the other amendment, and with the assurance from the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend and neighbour Mr Baker, that we will get the necessary further change on Report to make the matter subject to the affirmative procedure. I fully understand why we cannot have that today—it is too late. We should have acted earlier if we wanted to get that into the Bill during Committee.
I want to put on record an argument that was made to me against this course of action: what we are doing has an impact on clause 9, as amended by my amendment 7. The intention behind amendment 7, which the House voted for, was always that the powers in the Bill for removal should not be used until after the final statute had been approved. That included the power to fix exit date. As a consequence of the amendments before us, those powers are removed from the ambit of clause 9, and therefore have a stand-alone quality that could mean that they could be invoked by making the date earlier than
I have given the matter careful thought, and while I understand those concerns, they appear unrealistic. It would be extraordinary if we were in such a state of chaos that a Government—I am not sure which Government, or who would be the Ministers in government—decided to take that course of action in breach of our international obligations to our EU partners, because that is what that would involve. In truth, that would still involve getting an affirmative resolution of the House, hence the assurance that we needed from my hon. Friend the Minister, and this House would be most unlikely to give permission for such a chaotic outcome. I wanted to respond to what others, including individuals outside the House, had represented to me, but we should not lose sleep over that aspect of the matter. In truth, my amendment 7 was never aimed at exit day. It was aimed at the other powers that the Government might wish to start using before a withdrawal agreement had been approved.
I had an amendment 6, which was about multiple exit days, but that issue has been resolved, so the amendment can be safely forgotten about. I also had amendment 11, which dealt with whether retained EU law was to be treated as primary or secondary for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998. My hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench know very well that that is part and parcel of a wider issue that we have debated on many occasions. I have chucked the ball—delicately, I hope—into their court to see how they respond to some of the many anxieties expressed by Members on both sides of the House about how fundamental rights that are derived from EU law that I think most people now take for granted can be safeguarded properly. I look forward very much to hearing a little more about that on Report.
I want to bring my remarks to a close. I am personally delighted that the problem that I could see coming down the track has been so neatly averted by the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon.
I would like to speak to new clauses 44 and 56, in my colleagues’ names. New clause 56 in the name of my hon. Friend Peter Grant is on an issue raised with the Prime Minister today. Gibraltar voted by 96% to remain in the European Union—an even higher figure than for those who voted remain in Scotland and Northern Ireland. That vote clearly reflected the people of Gibraltar’s concern to protect the rights that they have acquired since joining the EU with the UK in 1973.
Gibraltarians need their border to be kept fluid, so that commerce can thrive and so that residents, workers and tourists can continue to pass through a border that should have only proportionate controls and reasonable checks. It is fair to say that they are not asking for anything from the UK that they have not had to date, and it is right that they should be given a firm, formally enshrined legal guarantee to add confidence for industries and commerce. The right of a person from or established in Gibraltar to provide services into the UK, where that right existed immediately before exit day as a result of the UK and Gibraltar’s common membership of the EU, should continue. There is strong cross-party support and, building on the Prime Minister’s comments earlier, I hope the Minister will touch on it in his summing up.
New clause 44, in the name of my hon. and learned Friend Joanna Cherry—she will be keen to talk about this—was tabled in co-operation with Camphill Scotland. Its “Report of the key findings of the survey on the potential impact of BREXIT on Camphill in Scotland” highlights the significant impact that leaving the European Union could have on the health and social care sector.
New clause 44 would require the UK Government to make arrangements for an independent evaluation of the impact of legislation on the health and social care sector. I know the Minister will want to address that later. The person undertaking the evaluation would be required to consult the Scottish Government and other relevant persons, given the nature of some of the responsibilities. Such an evaluation is vital to help shape and inform long-term planning and the design and delivery of services in the health and social care sectors across the UK in the post-Brexit era. Other devolved Administrations will be affected, too.
SNP amendments 219 to 221 are designed to protect Scotland’s businesses from the impact of leaving the EU by requiring—the Minister will like this—the publication of an impact assessment before exiting the EU. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union is in his place, and since I raised this with him in October 2016, when he told me there were 51 sectoral assessments, the Department will have been working hard on them for more than a year. We very much look forward to seeing more detail following their year-long work. Of course, that was promised to the Scottish Government, too.
Other Members who have touched on this have not actually gone to look at the impact assessments we were promised. When I turned up, all my electronic devices were taken away from me and two officials sat over my shoulder as I read. I thought that the nuclear codes might be in there somewhere, but I was sadly mistaken. I am not entirely sure what all the security was for. Eighteen months after the EU referendum, we still do not have something on the economic implications that can be published. Given the security, given the fuss and given the time that Ministers have had, I was pretty underwhelmed by what I read.
I had a similar experience to my hon. Friend. I delved into these documents with great excitement only to find it was clear from them all—I do not think we are allowed to quote directly, lest we be struck down by lightning—that they do not contain anything that is either commercially sensitive or sensitive to the negotiations, so why do not the Government just put them all in the public domain?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, and I agree. Having had a look at these assessments, I am not entirely sure what the fuss is about. As we undergo the biggest economic and constitutional upheaval since the end of the war, we have a flimsy report covering 39 industries, not 51, as I was told more than a year ago. The information I have seen would be pretty accessible to the public, and it strikes me that the only reason we have not seen the assessments is that this is a Government who do not know what they are doing, who have not done their homework and who are prepared to drag us and the industries into the abyss. It strikes me that this is more to do with internal Conservative party feuding and less to do with our economy.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that perhaps another explanation for all the rigmarole surrounding access to these reports is that the Government want to give the impression that they have actually done a huge amount of work? That is a Trumpian way to describe the amount of effort that has gone into producing these assessments, but, in fact, when we turned up to look at the assessments, they were nothing more than a damp squib and nothing more than could be found by googling for five minutes.
The right hon. Gentleman makes a good point. Huge efforts have gone into covering up these assessments and the fact that this is a flimsy job indeed. The point I was making again highlights why we need to protect our place in the single market. That is the primary concern for businesses that benefit from it, and it was not on the ballot. Vote leave did make a number of promises, one of them being that Scotland would get power over immigration. That would help towards ensuring that Scotland could remain part of the single market. What Scottish National party Members have said is that we are still open to compromise. We have tabled new clause 45 and are clear that the Act must in no way give the UK Government a green light to drag the UK out of the single market—that was never on the ballot, and we have to be clear on that. We were promised powers over immigration and that would go a long way, if the UK does not want to take our compromise as a whole, to Scotland remaining part of the single market. We also support new clause 9, which would have the same effect.
We are about to spend £40 billion for a worse deal with the European Union, at a time when a Tory Government are cutting public services across the UK. Let me touch briefly on a second referendum. We think that people should have a right to look at the outcome of the negotiation. I have a great deal of sympathy for the Liberal Democrat calls for another referendum. However, I say to our Liberal Democrat colleagues in the spirit of friendship that the immediate challenge must be for us to work together and help the UK stay in the single market and customs union. That is the compromise we have suggested. It is not my preferred option—my preferred option would be for Scotland to remain part of the EU—but that is the nature of compromise; we all have a little bit of give and take in this process.
It should be said, however, that a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal will be difficult to resist if the uncertainty around negotiations persists. Any second referendum must not replicate the 2016 campaign, and it is essential that Scotland’s constitutional place is protected in a second referendum. We do not want to be in circumstances where we are dragged out against our will for a second time.
Of course this is not going to be a second referendum. I want to clarify once and for all that it is the language of the other side to say that we want a second referendum; we want a referendum on the deal—on what is going to be negotiated. It will be a confirmation—an update—of what the people have said, because only the people can end what they have started. That can be dealt with only through a referendum.
I have enormous sympathy for the hon. Lady’s position and what she says, but the people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain part of the EU and we are concerned that there would be no recognition of Scotland’s place in any subsequent deal, and we want to leave open, even at this late stage, the possibility of seeking a compromise. We all have a responsibility in this House to do that.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that this would not be a second referendum? People are saying, “This isn’t what I voted for.” They voted to go out in principle. They were told they would get more money, but they are getting less money. They may get restricted market access. They have a right to vote on the terms of the deal. This is quite separate from whether they in principle wanted to go out. Surely, he should think again about this, and rather than just banking his previous result for Scotland, he should think of the UK.
I am glad the hon. Gentleman referred to the previous result for Scotland, because one thing the Prime Minister and the Conservatives are doing is pushing up support for the EU among Scots; the latest opinion poll has us at 68%, so the figure getting higher all the time. He makes a good point, but I think we must compromise. This Government need to compromise not just with the DUP, but with the other political parties in this place. They can talk about a pan-UK approach, but that does not mean merely seeking a deal between the Conservatives, who have slipped to third place in opinion polls in Scotland, and the DUP, which, with great respect, represents only Northern Ireland.
I will gladly give way to a Minister on this next point if one can give us some information. The Secretary of State for Scotland told the House—I think, in response to points made by Paul Masterton about his unhappiness with some of the Bill, and I am glad that he made them—that the Government would table further amendments on the devolution process. I will gladly give way to Ministers if they want to give us some clarity on what the Secretary of State said. Given that this is the final day in Committee, I would happily give them that. I am not sure whether they have been speaking to the Secretary of State or whether he caught them unawares, but it is the final day and we would like some more detail. That Ministers are silent tells us that, with respect to the devolution process, the Bill and the Government’s organisation fall far short of where we should be 18 months on from the referendum.
“six months of the passing of this Act” to assess the impact the exit deal on workers’ rights.
As Mr Leslie mentioned earlier, new clause 8 would maintain a role for local authorities by replicating the Committee of the Regions, the role of which is to give a voice to local areas and protect the principle of subsidiarity—something about which the UK Government could well learn from our European colleagues.
New clause 28 would maintain environmental principles, while new clause 31 deals with the promotion of the safety and welfare of children and young people after exit.
Kate Green tabled new clause 32, which addresses the fate of UK programmes that benefit from the European social fund. EU funds currently contribute to efforts to address inequalities in Scotland, with the European social fund having contributed £250 million to the Scottish economy between 2007 and 2013. Will the Minister tell us whether similar funds will be coming to Scotland after we have left the EU?
The hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston also tabled new clause 33, which would commit the Government to assess every year whether rates of benefits and tax credits are maintaining their value in real terms against a backdrop of rising inflation as a direct consequence of our leaving the EU.
New clause 59, on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, would allow professionals to continue to have UK qualifications recognised across the EU. That is vital for our economy.
New clause 77 is very important, as it deals with co-operation with the EU on violence against women and girls. The new clauses and amendments I have addressed underline the progress that we have made as members of the EU and the value of pooling and sharing sovereignty.
As it is day 8, I shall share this reflection. I have been absolutely astonished at times by some people’s lack of understanding of the EU and its decision-making process, at the failure at times to grasp the differences between institutions such as the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament and at the failure to grasp the fact that sovereignty rests with the member state and always has done.
The Bill takes away the sovereignty that we shared with our partners and with the devolved Administrations —it even takes from Parliament the sovereignty that is so dear to so many Members—and gives so many powers to the Executive. Without knowing fully what happens, we are handing back control to an Executive who will not publish details of what leaving means. Even within Parliament, we are bringing back control—to borrow a phrase—to the House of Commons and the House of Lords, which will have more say about this process than the democratically elected devolved Parliaments and Assemblies. Just think about that for one moment. We are giving the House of Lords more control over this process than democratically elected Parliaments and more powers to more unelected bureaucrats. That is absolutely shameful.
Let me conclude. The EU has been a force for good in working together on workers’ rights, climate change, education and research. What a waste to throw it all away to Brexiteers who are not even bothering to make the case for what comes next. All along, we have talked about the kind of country that we want to see in the future. Is it one that pursues isolation, economic decline and a retreat from the progress that we have made? I want to see a Scotland, and indeed a United Kingdom, where we pool and share sovereignty and are true to our European ideals that have built peace and prosperity and advanced our rights and opportunities for young people. This Government are building a Britain fit for the 1950s; we want to see a Scotland that is fit for the 2050s.
I rise on this eighth day of eight to propose that clauses 14 and 15, 18 and 19 and schedules 6, 8 and 9 stand part of the Bill.
Over the course of the eight days of debate, we have had almost 500 amendments tabled and more than 30 separate Divisions. I am very happy that, in this section of the debate today, the amendments under consideration run to just 39 pages.
May I make my serious point first, and then give way?
It is sometimes said of this House that it does not scrutinise legislation well and that we send Bills to the other place in a mess. On this occasion, on this historic Bill, I think that the House of Commons has shown itself equal to the task of scrutinising important constitutional legislation. With that, I will very gladly give way.
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. What I wanted to say was that, at the start, there was some disquiet over the timetable motion, and, actually, the Government responded positively on that. The evidence suggests to me that, in fact, the timetable has matched the scope of the amendments that we have had to consider, and that is greatly to the credit of the Government that that has happened, and I am very grateful to him for it.
I am very grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend. For all the fire and smoke that we have had over the course of this debate, there has been quite a lot of consensus.
No, I wish to move on to my next point.
On this point about consensus, the Government have listened and responded to constructive challenge from all parts of the House. Earlier in the process, the Government tabled amendments to set a single exit day in the Bill, to which I will return. We tabled an amendment to provide extra information about equalities impacts and the changes being made to retained EU law under the powers in the Bill. We have announced the intention to bring forward separate primary legislation to implement the withdrawal agreement and the implementation period in due course. We published a right-by-right analysis of the charter of fundamental rights, and we have made it clear that we are willing to look again at some of the technical detail of how the Bill deals with general principles to ensure that we are taking an approach that can command the support of Parliament.
Finally on this point, the Government have listened to representations set out during debate on day six, and indeed on Second Reading, and have accepted the Procedure Committee’s amendments to establish a sifting committee. We fully recognise the role of Parliament in scrutinising the Bill and have been clear throughout that we are taking a pragmatic approach to this vital piece of legislation. Where MPs and peers can improve the Bill, we will work with them.
As the hon. Gentleman should know, my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General promised a Report stage, and we will indeed have that Report stage and we look forward to it.
I thank the Minister for giving way. He is generous. As a new MP, I must say that I am very surprised about how little constructive dialogue there has been. In fact, the comment that those on the Government Benches could deal with all of this without having to deal with the Opposition was alarming. We are all here to make constructive comments, to improve the Bill and to make compromises. The comments that they could deal with it all without having to listen to the Opposition or to have constructive dialogue were both alarming and disappointing.
The hon. Lady reminds me of how much I miss the days of coalition on some occasions.
The clauses and schedules that we are debating in this final group contain a number of detailed, necessary and technical provisions. In many cases, they are standard provisions that one would expect to see in any Bill.
Clause 14 is a technical and standard provision that sets out important definitions of many key terms that appear throughout the Bill, such as “EU tertiary legislation” and “EU entity”, and clarifies how other references in the Bill are to be read. Clause 15 complements clause 14, setting out in one place where the key terms used throughout the Bill are defined and noting where amendments to the Interpretation Act 1978 are made under schedule 8. Together, clauses 14 and 15 will aid comprehension of the Bill.
Clause 18 provides that the Bill will apply to the whole UK. In addition, because the European Communities Act 1972 currently extends to the Crown dependencies and Gibraltar in a limited way, the repeal of that Act must similarly extend to those jurisdictions to the extent that it applies to them. The Bill also repeals three Acts that extend to Gibraltar, all of which relate to European parliamentary elections. The powers in clauses 7 and 17 can be used to make provision for Gibraltar as a consequence of these repeals. The approach in clause 18 has been agreed with the Governments of Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man and Gibraltar in line with usual practice.
Well, I am going return to the subject of Gibraltar at considerable length later. [Interruption.] I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to continue.
As is typical with all Bills, clause 19 sets out which parts of the Act will commence immediately at Royal Assent, and provides a power for Ministers to commence other provisions at different times by regulations. Schedule 6 is linked to clause 3, which we debated on day two in Committee. That clause converts into domestic law direct EU legislation as it operates at the moment immediately before we leave the EU. There are, however, some EU instruments that have never applied in the UK—for example, instruments in respect of the euro and measures in the area of freedom, security and justice in which the UK chose not to participate. It would obviously be nonsense to convert these measures into domestic law after we leave, so these exempt EU instruments, to which clause 3 will not apply, are described in schedule 6.
Hon. Members will know that consequential provisions are a standard part of many Acts in order to deal with the effects of the Act across the statute book. Equally, transitional provisions are a standard way in which to smooth the application of a change in the UK statute book. Schedule 8 makes detailed and technical provisions of this nature, all of which are necessary and support the smooth operation of other crucial provisions set out elsewhere in the Bill. It clarifies what will happen to ambulatory references—I will return to this topic—to EU instruments after exit day, makes consequential and necessary amendments to other Acts, and makes transitional provision in relation to the establishment of retained EU law and the exceptions to it. Finally, schedule 9 sets out additional and necessary repeals as a consequence of our exit from the EU.
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments, but I am only just beginning to conclude my opening remarks—I am only eight minutes in. I will come to the new clause in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke a little later. I will not rush on this occasion.
I turn to amendments 399 to 405 in the name of my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin; I am grateful to him for tabling them. I also pay tribute to my hon. and learned Friend Mr Cox, my hon. Friend Mr Jenkin and, if I may say so, my hon. Friend Mr Baron, who I understand has worked hard behind the scenes to create consensus for these amendments. These amendments are closely linked to amendments 6, 43, 44 and 45, which were discussed on the first day in Committee, and Government amendments 381 to 383.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that the United Kingdom will cease to be a member of the European Union on
Amendments 399 to 405 build on and complement the Government amendments setting exit day. We have always said that we would listen to the concerns of the House, as we have done throughout the Bill’s passage. As part of that, the Government have had discussions with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset, and we are grateful that he tabled his amendments. They provide the Government with the technical ability to amend the date, but only if the UK and the EU unanimously decide to change the date at which treaties cease to apply to the UK, as set out in article 50.
Only one exit day can be set for the purposes of the Bill, and any statutory instrument amending exit day will be subject to the affirmative procedure. As I said in an intervention, we will bring forward an amendment on Report to make this requirement clear on the face of the Bill.
Could the Minister set out for the whole Committee—not just the Conservative Members sitting behind him—what will happen if the legislation provided for in amendment 7, which we passed last week, is not passed? The Minister, using amendment 381—whether or not it is itself amended by amendment 400—will still have the power to set the exit date and withdraw, irrespective of what has gone on. Is that not right?
The hon. Lady is trying to pre-empt some of my remarks. If she will bear with me, I will come to that.
A crucial point is that the Bill does not determine whether the UK leaves the EU; that is a matter of international law under the article 50 process. However, it is important that we have the same position in UK law that is reflected in European Union treaty law. That is why the Government have signed these amendments, and I was glad to do so.
I can assure the Committee we would use this power only in exceptional circumstances to extend the deadline for the shortest period possible, and that we cannot envisage the date being brought forward. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said many times, we and the EU are planning on the UK leaving the European Union at 11 pm on
I apologise to the Committee for having had to be in the Liaison Committee for the last couple of hours and for missing much of the debate. I thank my hon. Friend for accepting these compromise amendments. The Government are, in fact, accepting a very significant limitation on the powers they had in the original draft of the Bill. If we are interested in the sovereignty of Parliament, we are interested in limiting the room for Government to set arbitrary dates without any controls over them whatever. That is what existed in the Bill before. There is now proper control by Parliament of the date in the Bill.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I would also like to say thank you to him for the role he has played in bridging the spectrum of opinion on this issue.
How can it be right to tell the House that the exit date is being set by the House, when the amendments give the power to the Executive to set the exit date?
It is an interesting question that the hon. Lady asks, but how does she think that exit day would be set by the House? If it is not set on the face of the Bill and immovable other than by primary legislation, it must be set in secondary legislation. I would have thought that that was plain to the hon. Lady. We have done the right and pragmatic thing, which is to align UK law with the international treaty position. That enjoys wide support across a spectrum of opinion, and I am glad to support these amendments in the way I have set out.
Let me turn to the issue of the customs union, and I particularly noted what my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset said about it. The issue has been widely aired, and I do not intend to be tempted into a broader debate on trade policy. We are confident that we will negotiate a deep and special partnership with the EU, spanning a new economic relationship and a new relationship on security. Businesses and public services should only have to plan for one set of changes in the relationship between the UK and the EU, so we are seeking a time-limited implementation period during which access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms. During this implementation period, EU nationals will continue to be able to come and live and work in the UK, but there will be a registration system. The details of the implementation period are of course a matter for negotiations, and we have been clear that we will bring forward the necessary implementing legislation in due course. However, it would not be right to sign up now to membership of the customs union and the single market pending the outcome of negotiations, as new clause 52 would have us do.
New clause 13 goes further and seeks for the UK to remain a full member of the customs union in perpetuity. We are not seeking to remain a member of the customs union or the single market. We will be seeking an arrangement that works for the whole of the United Kingdom. We want this to include a new, mutually beneficial customs agreement with the EU, and we want to see zero tariffs on trading goods, and to minimise the regulatory and market access barriers for both goods and services. In any event, it simply is not possible for provisions in domestic legislation to have binding effect at the international level. We will leave the customs union when we leave the EU. Domestic legislation cannot implement unilaterally what would require international agreement.
The Minister, and the Prime Minister for that matter, repeatedly say that businesses will only have to plan for one set of changes. Given that businesses currently benefit from being part of the single market and the customs union, how can it possibly be the case, as the Prime Minister has also said, that we are coming out of the customs union and the single market during the so-called implementation period?
The hon. Lady tempts me to dilate on the details of the implementation period, which are to be negotiated, but that is not my purpose today, because it is not the purpose of this Bill. The purpose of this Bill is to deliver a functioning statute book as we leave the European Union.
With that in mind, I turn to new clauses 10 and 54 on the transitional or implementation period. Both new clauses seek to impose conditions on what form the implementation period the Government are seeking will take. I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe for his new clause, which attempts to write the PM’s vision for an implementation period into statute. That would be a novel constitutional change. Nevertheless, I welcome it in the sense that it is a ringing endorsement of Government policy. New clause 10, however, differs in some key regards from our vision.
The Government cannot accept these new clauses. The Prime Minister has set out a proposal that is now subject to negotiation. We are confident of reaching that agreement, but it would not be sensible for the Government to constrain themselves domestically in any way while those negotiations continue. We are making good progress, and it is in our mutual interests to conclude a good agreement that works for everyone. We do not want to put the legislative cart before the diplomatic horse.
In referring to the transitional or the implementation period, my hon. Friend has at various times used phrases straight out of the Florence speech, and he has accepted that the new clause in my name is identical to stated Government policy on the subject. In what way does it restrain the Government’s position to put their own policy in the Bill and ask the Prime Minister, as the new clause does, to seek to attain that which she has declared to be her objective? That is not a genuine reason for rejecting it. He is rejecting it because agreeing with the Florence speech still upsets some of our more hard-line Eurosceptics both inside and outside the Government.
I pick up my right hon. and learned Friend on a couple of things. First, he has used the word “identical”—I did not use it because I have not taken the time to go through his new clause absolutely word for word to check his work.
Of course I have read it—it is here in my hand. I have read it but I have not gone back and done his homework for him to check and mark his work.
I make two points to my right hon. and learned Friend. First, as I said, it would be a constitutional innovation to begin putting statements of policy for negotiations in legislation. That is a good reason not to accept the new clause. The second point—[Interruption.] He says that it is not a good reason. He is the Father of the House and he has occupied many of the great offices of state. I would be interested to know when, in his long and distinguished career, he accepted that principle in legislation.
I have never previously seen members of the Government debate a clear exposition of Government policy from the moment it is first announced. That gives rise to serious doubts about exactly what the Government are going to pursue in the transition deal, and these exceptional and unprecedented circumstances are doing harm to Britain’s position. I cannot see what harm would be done by giving the approval of the whole House to the Government’s stated objectives in the Bill. The fact that it has not been done before is not an argument against it; it answers a situation that has not happened before, either.
My right hon. and learned Friend has caught himself in a contradiction. In this exchange, he has rested his argument on knowing exactly what the Government’s policy is, but in his last intervention he said that he did not know what it was.
My second point concerns subsection (2) of my right hon. and learned Friend’s new clause—[Interruption.] I would just like to make this point. The subsection states:
“No Minister of the Crown shall appoint exit day if the implementation and transition period set out in subsection (1) does not feature in the withdrawal arrangements between the UK and the European Union.”
That would cause a problem if the new clause were accepted and we reached the point at which the treaties no longer applied to the United Kingdom. We would have legal chaos—my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve talked about this earlier—if we had not commenced this Bill when the treaties ceased to apply. For both those reasons, we simply could not accept the new clause.
Ah! They are like spoiled children, aren’t they?
Is not another objection, if not the real objection, to the point made by Mr Clarke that it is the sort of point that should have been made in a Second Reading debate? We have two days for Report and Third Reading. That may be a stage at which the Government wish to look at these things, and it might be a time for huge innovation. Now is not the time to take Second Reading points, which could be dealt with later in the whole proceedings.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, to whom I gave way because he has tabled relevant amendments about exit day. I hope that today he will feel able to support the Government’s set of related amendments.
I will not give way now, because I have been on my feet for 22 minutes, and there are, I think, 53 amendments and new clauses to deal with. I will give way to the hon. Gentleman a little later.
I turn to the long series of amendments that are designed, in one way or another, to oblige the Government to publish reports or assessments on specific areas or issues, some in advance of exit day. They are new clauses 31 to 33, 40 to 44, 46, 47, 71, 72, 82, 84 and 85, and amendments 85, 86 and 219 to 221. It is in no one’s interest for the Government to provide a running commentary on the wide range of analysis that they are doing until it is ready to support the parliamentary process in the established way. All the amendments and new clauses I have mentioned share one common flaw. Ministers have a specific responsibility, which Parliament has endorsed, not to release information that would expose our negotiating position. The amendments and new clauses risk doing precisely that. I commend the excellent speech made by my hon. Friend Richard Graham, who is in his place. I thought that his speech was an interesting reflection of his own experience.
The risks and difficulties are easily illustrated by looking at some of the specific reports that are called for. New clause 42 asks for a report on severance payments for employees of EU agencies, but that is not a matter for the UK Government. The right to severance pay is a matter for the EU agencies, although we hope and expect that they would honour any relevant commitments to their employees.
New clause 48 calls for a strategy for the certification of UK and EU medical devices by UK bodies so that the UK can maintain a close co-operative relationship with the EU in the field of medicines regulation. That is of course our aim: we intend such a strategy to form a key part of our deep and special future partnership with the EU.
New clause 71, tabled by my hon. Friend Robert Neill, seeks to require a Minister to report before exit day on the Government’s progress in negotiating mutual market access for financial and professional services. I understand his motivations in wanting this information to be published. We are working to reach an agreement on the final deal in good time before we leave the EU in March 2019.
I want to complete my argument, for the benefit of my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, who tabled this new clause.
We are seeking an economic partnership that will be both comprehensive and ambitious. It should be of greater scope and ambition than any previous agreement so that it covers sectors crucial to our linked economies, such as financial and professional services. We are confident that the UK and the EU can reach a positive deal on our future partnership as this will to be to the mutual benefit of both the UK and the EU. We will approach the negotiations in this constructive spirit.
I want to provide reassurance to my hon. Friend on his new clause 72, which seeks to ensure that any ministerial power to charge fees in respect of inspections of imported food and animal feed is exercised in a way that ensures full cost recovery for public authorities.
I would like to persuade my hon. Friend that his new clause 72 is not necessary. First, there is already sufficient statutory provision to ensure that the cost of mandatory veterinary checks on food and animal feed, on their importation, are fully recoverable. The arrangements for setting inspection fees for imported food and animal feed vary according to the type of inspection. All imports of products of animal origin must be inspected by a port health authority at a border inspection post. For high-risk products not of animal origin, these checks are carried out by a port health authority at a designated point of entry. Broadly speaking, these checks must be satisfactorily completed before a consignment is released for free circulation.
EC regulation No. 882/2004 on official controls, together with supporting domestic legislation—for England, it takes the form of the Official Feed and Food Controls (England) Regulations 2009—provides the legal basis for charges in respect of these inspections. The Bill will convert that EC regulation into UK legislation. The nature of the charges that the port health authority can make depends on a number of factors, including the nature of the food or animal feed being imported and its point of origin.
I am grateful to the Minister for going into such detail on the basis for charging. May I mention that the other purpose behind new clause 72, which is a probing amendment, is to remind the Government of the importance of seeking in our negotiating objectives—no more and no less than that—a continued form of mutual recognition, if at all possible, for checks on food and feed?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that clarification. He will know that, under the WTO foundations of the world trading system, there are arrangements for the mutual recognition of sanitary and phytosanitary checks and other matters.
The second point I should make about my hon. Friend’s new clause 72 is that, in relation to any new inspections that may be required after the UK leaves the EU, the Government are considering what controls or surveillance will be required on imported food once we have left the EU. Where Ministers decide to introduce statutory inspection fees, Parliament should have the opportunity to consider the approach to be taken on a case-by-case basis. Where port authorities undertake additional checks on food, on its importation into the UK, for which there is not a statutory charge, decisions will continue to be taken on the basis of the need to balance costs between general and local taxation. We consider that the Government must remain free to set fees and charges in a manner that reflects these considerations. I hope that this provides my hon. Friend with sufficient reassurance.
Finally, on a separate issue, my hon. Friend asked earlier in our debates whether courts would be able to consider all material in relation to retained EU law when deciding such legislation’s meaning and effect. I am happy to confirm that this is the position under the Bill. The Government will place a letter in the Library of the House setting this out in more detail, and I am putting that on the record now to enable us to do so.
I am grateful for that assurance. There is just one other matter on which I hope my hon. Friend will be able to give me a like reassurance, on private contract matters.
I wonder whether the Minister could be quite clear at the Dispatch Box and give an undertaking on behalf of the Government that now we have voted—as we did last week—for amendment 7, the Government will not at any stage now bring forward any measure that in any way undermines the vote of this House on amendment 7, and that Parliament will have a meaningful vote, as we voted for last Wednesday.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I admit, I thought she was going to ask me about the matters before me. That is a matter to be considered on Report, were we to return to it. [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] Opposition Members were shouting me down there for a moment. Were we to return to it, it would be a matter for Report, not for today. The Government’s policy is as we set out in the written ministerial statement, and of course we are a Government—[Interruption.] No, certainly not. We are a Government who of course obey the law. Parliament has voted and the law would currently be set out as on the face of the Bill.
No, I really am not giving way to the right hon. Gentleman; I insist.
I turn now to amendment 102, which removes provisions that enable existing powers to amend retained direct EU legislation, and amendment 103, removing provisions that enable future powers by default to amend retained EU legislation. These amendments are linked to amendments that we have already debated on day 2 of the Committee, and I do not plan to repeat all those arguments.
I will make the argument on this point. We maintain that it is absolutely right and necessary for existing domestic powers granted by Parliament in other Acts to be able to operate on retained direct EU legislation, which will become domestic law. Fettering these powers would prevent important and necessary updates being made to our law, where that is within the scope and limitations of the powers and Parliament’s will. Similarly, it is important that future delegated powers created after exit day should be able to modify retained direct EU legislation, so far as applicable. This provides important clarity on the status of retained EU law and how it will interact with these powers. Further, where it is appropriate to do so, future powers can of course still be prohibited from amending retained direct EU legislation.
It is very relevant to the amendments that the Minister is currently running through, because the Prime Minister, at the Liaison Committee, has refused to fully commit to abiding by amendment 7, agreed to by this House last week. I wonder whether the Minister would like to comment on that, because if he is rowing back on that commitment he is essentially undermining many of the amendments he is running through at the moment—the one from Sir Oliver Letwin in particular.
What I would say to the hon. Gentleman, and I try to say this as gently as possible and in the spirit of Christmas, is that when I listened to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield talking about certain colleagues of a Eurosceptic persuasion, I hope he will not mind me reminding the House that he gave an articulation of—I think he used the word neurosis.
He says that he did. I think we need to recognise that as a Government we are trying to make this Bill work, and we have throughout the Bill’s passage worked closely with the House, listened closely to the concerns—
It is a matter of fact that we have stood at this Dispatch Box, we have accepted amendments and we have moved forward with the House on this Bill, accepting amendments and shaping the Bill to comply with the will of the House. I very much regret—
No. I very much regret that on the occasion that is being referred to, we were not able to reach an accommodation, but the Bill is as it currently stands.
I do take objection—[Interruption.] I do take objection, because what we are going to do is move forward with the Bill as it stands, with the set of concessions that we have included within it, and I would ask my right hon. Friend to accept the good faith of the Government.
I am really not going to any more on this point.
Amendments 11 and 380 relate to the treatment of direct EU law for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998. I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss this point, which, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield said, is related to his other concerns. The amendments concern the status of retained EU law, in this case specifically the status of retained direct EU legislation under clause 3 for the purpose of challenges under the Human Rights Act 1998.
Let me be clear from the outset that all legislation brought across will of course be susceptible to challenge under the HRA. Hon. Members will, however, understand that the remedies available under the Act differ for primary and subordinate legislation. It is therefore important that the Bill is absolutely clear on this point. Paragraph 19 of schedule 8 is clear. It sets out that this converted EU law is to be treated as primary legislation for the purposes of the 1998 Act, with the result that it will be open to the courts, if that legislation is challenged, to consider whether the legislation is compatible with rights under the European convention on human rights, and, if they conclude otherwise, to make a declaration of incompatibility under section 4 of the HRA.
The amendments, by contrast, would assign the status of subordinate legislation for the purposes of HRA challenges, meaning that a successful challenge could, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield knows, result in a strike-down of the legislation. The Government considered this point very carefully before we introduced the Bill. We recognised the potential arguments that, for example, detailed and technical EU tertiary legislation is more akin to our domestic secondary legislation. We are also, of course, alive to the concerns that this law must be properly challengeable. We concluded on balance, however, that assigning primary status to converted law for these purposes was the better course for three principal reasons.
First, this law comes into our domestic statute book in a unique way, but fundamentally Parliament will have chosen to bring each and all of these pieces of legislation into our law by primary legislation, albeit indirectly through the Bill. Contrary to the position for subordinate legislation, there will have been no exercise of discretion by an individual Minister. In that sense, converted EU law is more akin to primary legislation.
Secondly, if the law could be struck down by the courts, we would risk undermining the certainty the Bill is seeking to provide. None of this legislation can be challenged in UK courts now and some of it has been on the statute book for decades. Opening it up to being struck down is an invitation to challenge law which has long been settled, and to refight the battles of the past in the hope that a different court will return a different verdict.
Of the three points the Minister has made, the latter is without doubt the one that has the greatest force. It is worth bearing in mind that it highlights the fact of the supremacy of EU law, which is being preserved for the purposes of retained EU law. That, if I may say so, is a good reason why he should listen carefully to what I said about people being able to invoke general principles of EU law in order to challenge its operation. All these matters are interconnected.
I am most grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend. I know he is going to take this matter up further with my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General. I did actually just make two points, but perhaps I structured them ambiguously.
The third point is that in the event of a strike-down there would be no existing power under which fresh regulations could be brought forward, so it would be necessary to bring forward a fresh Act of Parliament or to rely on the remedial order-making power within the HRA itself. I should say that the remedial order-making power within the HRA was not designed to be the default means by which incompatible legislation is remedied or to deal with the policy changes that could be required.
The remedial order-making power may only be used if there are compelling reasons for doing so and it is targeted at removing the identified incompatibility. If wider policy change were needed following a finding of incompatibility, a fresh Act of Parliament would be the only means of doing that and we could be left with damaging holes in the statute book unless and until such an Act was passed. That is why the Government concluded that converted EU law should have the status of primary legislation in relation to the HRA, and that is why the Government will not be able to accept the two amendments.
I wish to pick up on the important point raised by my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve. For the avoidance of doubt, will the Minister clarify that it is not the Government’s intention to set up retained EU law in UK statute in a manner that would encourage a UK court to strike down another primary statute? If that is the intention, may I suggest it might be something the Government will have to look at?
My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General has just confirmed to me that we do not want that to happen. I am sure that that will be given further consideration, along with the issue of general principles that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield has raised.
I refer to the answer I gave earlier. At this point, I can tell the hon. Lady that I am not expecting to return to it, but we are reflecting on the implications of the amendment. We made a strong case for the powers at the Dispatch Box and are reflecting on it. I say to her, however, and to my right hon. and learned Friend that we are not expecting at this point to return to it. [Interruption.] She asks what that means. We have been in close conversation with my right hon. and learned Friend, and I feel sure that those conversations will continue, but I say to the rest of the Committee that I am going to focus on the amendments before me.
It is indeed on this point. Some of the Minister’s right hon. and hon.—and courageous—Friends from last week have, in good faith, signed amendment 400 this evening. Given that he is refusing to guarantee that the Government will stick to the letter and the spirit of amendment 7, they might feel that they are being led up the garden path.
I did say that I would not answer the hon. Gentleman, but I cannot help saying that I do not remember him complimenting me when I have—occasionally—found myself in the other Lobby.
Will the Minister confirm that Parliament is going to have its way? We will have a vote on any agreement, and it will then need primary legislation—the most intense scrutiny of all—to put it through. That, surely, is a major win for those who wanted that approach. I am quite happy with that. That is what amendment 7 leaves us with. Will he confirm that there will be full parliamentary scrutiny, debate and legislation on an agreement?
Yes, I will confirm that of course there will be full parliamentary scrutiny. One of the things that is bringing me great joy, particularly at Christmas, is the extent of parliamentary unity on this point of parliamentary sovereignty. One reason so many of us campaigned to leave the EU is that we wanted our voters to have a choice over who governed the UK in as many matters as conceivable.
I do not wish to revisit the arguments around amendment 7. I wish rather to conclude my consideration of the issue before us.
I am not going to let the hon. Gentleman come in on this point, which we have dealt with.
I emphasise again that our approach does not immunise converted law from HRA challenges. If an incompatibility were to be found, it places the matter in the hands of Parliament to resolve, without creating a legal vacuum in the interim. This approach strikes the right balance and recognises that supremacy of Parliament. I know that my right hon. and learned Friend has wider concerns regarding the rights of challenge after exit, including, in particular, where these are based on the general principles of EU law. I am happy to repeat the commitment made by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General earlier that we are willing to look again at the technical detail of how certain legal challenges based on the general principles of EU law might work after exit. We will bring forward amendments on Report to address this, and we are happy to continue to discuss these concerns with him.
That is a very sensible approach on these matters, and I am very grateful to the Minister and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for taking it forward. As for the other matter that has floated into our discussion, and which I have studiously avoided getting drawn into, I would simply recommend that, on the whole, kicking hornets’ nests is not a very good idea.
It is ironic that my right hon. and learned Friend and I should be constituency neighbours, and, if I may say so—and as we put on the record on a previous day—friends. It is also ironic that our other Buckinghamshire neighbours have swapped one rebel commander for another. But I think I should move on: I have kicked enough hornets’ nests myself for one day.
Amendment 291 relates to greater parliamentary control over tertiary legislation. As was established during our debates on clause 7 and schedule 7, any statutory instrument transferring or creating such powers will be subject to the affirmative procedure, so Parliament would need to be satisfied with the nature of the power and any procedure attached to it. To provide further reassurance, the normal requirement to produce impact assessments will apply, as appropriate, whenever we replace, abolish or modify functions, including legislative functions. Our amendment 391 will require Ministers, before tabling statutory instruments under the main powers in the Bill, to make various statements explaining the changes that are being made, including any delegations. I assure Members that when considering a transfer or modification of tertiary legislative functions, they will be able to have a fully informed debate before voting on the SIs that make the changes.
Let me now deal with the issue of rights in Gibraltar and new clause 56. Let there be no mistake: we are steadfast in our support for Gibraltar, its people and its economy. Both the EU and the UK have been clear about the fact that the implementation period will be agreed under article 50, and will be part of the withdrawal agreement. Both sides have also been clear about the fact that Gibraltar is covered by the withdrawal agreement and our article 50 exit negotiations.
In legislating for the United Kingdom, the Bill seeks to maintain, whenever practical, the rights and responsibilities that exist in our law at the moment of leaving the EU, and the rights in the UK of those established in Gibraltar are no exception to that. We respect Gibraltar’s own legislative competence, and the fact that it has its own degree of autonomy and responsibilities. That means that it will produce its own equivalent legislation. Indeed, we are committed to fully involving Gibraltar as we prepare for negotiations to leave, to ensure that its priorities are taken properly into account. We are working closely with Gibraltar on that, through, for instance, the dedicated Joint Ministerial Council on Gibraltar EU Negotiations.
The Bill, however, is not the place for legislation on Gibraltar. It does not extend to Gibraltar except in one minor way, namely that by virtue of clause 18(3) the powers in clauses 7 and 17 can be used to amend European parliamentary elections legislation that extends to Gibraltar. I understand, though, the concerns that have been expressed in the amendment. I hope that, in response to them, I can reassure the Committee that Gibraltar’s access to the UK market is already protected by law, and that it is the UK Government’s unshakeable objective to ensure the seamless continuation of existing market access to the UK and enhance it where possible. In financial services, where UK-Gibraltar trade is deepest, that is granted by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Gibraltar) Order 2001, on the basis of Gibraltar’s participation in EU structures.
We acknowledge the need to introduce a new legislative framework with which to maintain UK market access provided by the Gibraltar order. It is likely that amendment of that order will be necessary to ensure that it continues to function as intended after EU withdrawal. We consider that this is a better way of maintaining Gibraltar’s access to the UK market than the proposed amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for that assurance, particularly in the light of recent press reports of attempts by the Spanish Government to exclude Gibraltar from the transition and end-state process. It is important for the Government to make that clear commitment, subject, of course, to the existence of the proper regulatory equivalents and standards. If the Minister will give me an undertaking that that will happen with the full involvement of Gibraltar’s Government, I think that those of us who supported the amendment will be satisfied.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his positive reaction to our amendment. The situation is as I have described it: our unshakeable objective is to secure the seamless continuation of existing market access to the UK, and to enhance it where possible.
This is the one amendment that would probably have attracted support from the Democratic Unionists, but, because of the assurances the Minister has given—and, importantly, the assurances the Prime Minister gave even today at the Dispatch Box—we feel relieved for Gibraltar’s sake. Is the Minister essentially saying that the protections he is now affording to Gibraltar effectively mean it will not be treated in any way differently from any other part of the United Kingdom?
The position is as I have set out, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if, in all the circumstances, I stick to that position. I hope that he will understand the strength of our commitment from that. We will deliver on our assurances that Gibraltar businesses will enjoy continued access to the UK market, based on the Gibraltar authorities having already agreed to maintain full regulatory alignment with the UK.
I have no doubt that the people and Government of Gibraltar will be grateful for the Minister’s assurances, but the wording of this amendment intends to make sure with 100% certainty that, even inadvertently, nothing in the Bill can damage the interests of the people of Gibraltar. Can the Minister tell us with absolute certainty that if this amendment is not added to the Bill, there is nothing in the Bill that will cause that damage? Assurances, objectives and promises are good, but can he say with absolute certainty that nothing in the Bill will ever damage or prejudice the interests of the people of Gibraltar?
What I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that this Bill extends to Gibraltar only in the way I have set out: the Government’s policy is as I have indicated to him, and we remain steadfastly committed to the interests of Gibraltar.
I turn now to the REACH regulation, new clause 61. We will use the powers in this Bill to convert current EU chemicals law, including REACH, into domestic law. That will mean that the standards established by REACH will continue to apply in the UK. I believe that that renders new clause 61 unnecessary.
On custodial sentences and amendment 349, the scope to create criminal offences in the Bill is restricted so the powers cannot be used to create an offence punishable by a sentence of imprisonment for more than two years. It might, however, be necessary to create criminal offences in certain circumstances, for example offences related to functions that are to be transferred from EU bodies to UK bodies which would be lost without the ability to recreate offences relating to functions then held at a UK level. To lose the offence, and therefore the threat of a sanction, would remove what could be seen as important protections in our law, and for that reason we are not able to support the amendment.
I turn now to amendment 362 on the issue of ambulatory references. I hope the Committee will bear with me on the final, technical section of this speech. The amendment concerns paragraph 1 of schedule 8, which deals with the ambulatory references in our domestic law, as well as EU instruments and other documents in EU legislation that will be retained under clause 3. At present, the ambulatory cross-references update automatically when the EU instrument referred to is amended. After exit day, the Bill provides that such references will instead be read as references to the retained EU law version of the instrument, which, unless the contrary intention appears, will update when the retained instrument is modified by domestic law. This is necessary in order to prevent post-exit changes to EU law from flowing automatically into UK law. It would not be appropriate for the reference to continue to point to the EU version of the instrument after we have left the EU.
The approach set out in the Bill will be applied in relation to ambulatory references within any enactment, retained direct EU legislation, and any document relating to them. I understand that this last provision—the reference to documents and whether or not that includes contracts—has concerned my hon. Friend Robert Neill. The Government are alive to concerns that we should not unduly disturb the operation of private contracts, or prevent parties to a contract from being able to give effect to their intentions. We are happy to explore this issue further with my hon. Friend and interested parties, to ensure that we achieve the appropriate balance between clarity and flexibility.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for their frank and helpful response in this matter. This issue was raised by the City of London Corporation and the International Regulatory Strategy Group. I thank the Minister for his assurance that he will continue to work with them, and look forward to that. I am satisfied, for these purposes, that the issue is being addressed.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General and I look forward to working with him on this issue.
In conclusion, Sir David—
May I briefly take the Minister back to amendments 381 and 400? I thank him for his kind words about amendment 400, and for his work on the Bill. He will know that I did not put my name to amendment 381, but I will support amendment 400 so long as that power will be used only in extremis and for the shortest possible time. We have had an assurance on that from the Prime Minister at the Dispatch Box today, and I know that those on the Government Front Bench have taken that on board, but if there is any dissension on this, it would be nice to know about it now.
Perhaps my hon. Friend was not in the Chamber when I gave my assurance on this earlier. I am happy to repeat it. I can assure the House that we would use this power only in exceptional circumstances to extend the deadline for the shortest period possible, and that we cannot envisage the date being brought forward. I think that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained that earlier.
I did say that that was the last time I would give way, and I think it is now time for me to—[Interruption.] Yes, it is Christmas, and it is in the spirit of seasonal brevity that I would like to turn to the issue of thanks.
I should first like to thank the Committee for its diligent and well-informed scrutiny of this, the first Bill that I have piloted through Parliament. I am an engineer, not a pilot, however, so perhaps I could be said to have guided it through Parliament. It has been my pleasure to do so. I should like to thank you, Sir David, for your chairmanship, and I thank Dame Rosie, Mrs Laing, the other Sir David, Mr Hanson and Mr Streeter for theirs. It has been a pleasure to serve under all your chairmanships. I should also like to thank the Bill ministerial team, whose advice, support and guidance have been absolutely indispensable.
I should like to thank the Solicitor General, my hon. and learned Friend Robert Buckland, the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my hon. Friend Dominic Raab, the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend Chris Skidmore and of course the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend Mr Walker. It would be wrong of me to omit the Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury, my hon. Friend Mark Spencer, who unfortunately is not in his place. His occasional guidance to the entire team has been invaluable, and has always been followed.
Finally, and most importantly, I should like to thank all the officials in the Department for Exiting the European Union and beyond who have so diligently risen to the enormous task of dealing with the scrutiny of the Bill. They have guided and assisted Ministers in the preparation of their remarks and they have responded to every query, from the House and from Ministers. We could not possibly have asked for more from them, and they could not have responded more professionally or more energetically. We can be extremely proud of all of the officials who have supported the Bill, as we wish them all a merry Christmas.
It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Sir David, and it is also a pleasure to follow the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Mr Baker. I pay tribute to his calmness and tolerance in taking a very difficult Bill through to this stage. I was around when the Maastricht Bill was going through Parliament, and the way in which he has handled this one is a real tribute to him.
I do not always agree with Mr Grieve, but I agreed with him when he said that the Bill was about process. I am afraid that, perhaps because we have had eight days in Committee, we have widened our debate into areas that should not necessarily have been discussed today. We have rehashed quite a lot of the debate on the referendum. For me, this is a simple Bill about repealing the European Communities Act 1972.
I welcome the fact that there is now general agreement across the House about the date. I am pleased that it will be set out in the Bill because unlike a lot of Members here, but like my hon. Friend Mr Campbell, I do not really trust the EU. I therefore always worry that if we are not absolutely clear about what we are doing, the EU will manage to move things, because it would like to delay the process and punish us as much as possible for taking the brave decision to leave. When we look at what we are discussing, we are simply asking to leave the EU. The British people originally voted for a formal economic agreement, but for 40 years we have seen entanglement and legal procedures getting into our country, and we are now having to go through all this to leave.
Does my hon. Friend agree that if Parliament appeared to be dragging its feet on leaving the EU when a majority of the people decided that we should leave, the people would get frustrated with Parliament? We have to remember their wishes.
I agree. One of the good things about the Minister is that he is not a lawyer, which is perhaps why he has been able to treat this matter with quite a lot of common sense. The debate has been rather taken over by lawyers and lawyer speak, and it is pretty clear that they love things being so technical.
I certainly trust this House but, to be honest, many of the people who were pushing that amendment saw it as a way of delaying things before we got into the detail of getting an agreement. I did not get called to speak during the debate on amendment 7, but I will not go back over that amendment.
Is it not—[Interruption.] Yes, I am sorry, but I have got in again. One of the truths that we have to bear in mind—people on the outside will remember this even if people on the inside wish to deny it—is that from very word go, according to the great Guardian record of the European experiment, the great fear was that we the British people could not be told where this journey was taking us. Those of us who wanted a date and a time—even a British time—were concerned that large numbers of people throughout our whole history of being in the European Union have never been straight with the British people about where the journey was ending.
I have been clear since the day that I came into this House that I wanted us to get out of the European Union, and I am just delighted that I have lived long enough to see it happen.
The hon. Lady has been totally consistent year after year in opposing EU encroachment on British laws. However, there has been not a chirp recently from some of the Members who supported amendment 7. They oppose European encroachment on our sovereignty, but they were very happy to raise some feigned hope about parliamentary sovereignty.
No, I will not give way at the moment.
Look at all the different EU regulations and the ways in which the EU has encroached on our country’s rules over the years. Majority voting has meant that we have occasionally been outvoted, and we have therefore been unable to do things that we wanted to do. When we decided that we wanted to leave, it was clear that the EU felt that we had no right to make that decision, which is why it wants to delay and delay.
No, not at the moment.
My worry about amendment 7 is what the EU have done before with countries that have voted against something that they did not want. As we get nearer the end, if we do not have an agreement, it will of course be in the EU’s interests to delay if it knows that this Parliament is just waiting to allow more time, and we will therefore just be paying in more and more money. I have a problem even—
My hon. Friend may think that I am talking absolute nonsense, but 17.5 million people out there do not.
Let me get back to my reason for speaking today: I oppose new clause 13, which was tabled by my hon. Friend Mr Leslie, and I want to explain why we must leave the customs union. I am very pleased that our Front Benchers have made no remarks about us supporting the new clause, and I certainly will vote against it tonight.
I can see. I do not need to be told what to do by my hon. Friend; I have been here quite a long time.
It is very clear that if we stay in the customs union, we cannot cut the kind of free trade deals that we want with the over 80% of the world’s economy that will be outside the EU once we have left. That is not what the British people voted for. They voted to leave for different reasons, but underlying everything for all of them was our getting back the ability to make decisions about what we want to do and who we want to trade with.
Members who read this year’s Labour manifesto—it was very readable—will know that it was very clear that we had accepted the result, that the British people wanted to leave, and that we were going to leave the customs union and the single market. For once in my life, I am not the rebel on the Labour Benches; the rebels are sitting on my right. I genuinely cannot understand how progressive people who believe in equality, fairness and justice can support—
No, I am not giving way anymore, because a lot of people want to speak.
The reality is that a customs union actually penalises countless people in some of the world’s poorest countries. It prevents them from selling their goods in Europe, but doing so would help them to develop and mechanise. After this change, we can make our own decisions about how we treat countries, particularly in the Commonwealth, where there are millions of people who have shown huge loyalty and dedication to this country over the years. We betrayed them when we joined the Common Market. Many people in this Chamber did not have a say in that, but we now have the opportunity to pay back. I think that some 80% of the tariffs paid by UK consumers on imports from outside the EU are sent to Brussels, although British shoppers are having to pay more on a range of imports. There is so much more that we could do, because the UK is the only large country in the European Union that does more trade beyond the EU than within it.
No, thank you.
We are disproportionately penalised by the common external tariff, so we are actually suffering from being part of the customs union, although it might have helped at one stage. In the future, we have to look outwards and globally. Of course, we cannot sign free trade agreements until we leave. I personally want us to be able to sign and apply them during the implementation period. Let us not forget that everything that the EU says we must do during the implementation period is up for negotiation. We have to be very clear about this: during those two years, we want to be able to go ahead and do the things that we left the European Union to do. We should not completely align ourselves with every dot and comma of EU legislation.
What has upset me most in this debate—a lot of it has come from my own party, but it has also come from the Conservative party—is the negativity about this whole issue that somehow says that we are such an unimportant, small country that leaving the European Union will destroy us for the rest of our lives and destroy our country’s economic future. That is just so wrong.
I believe that we need more optimism. During its existence, the EU has shown real contempt for national Parliaments and their political activities. It has shown real contempt for electorates. It showed real contempt by forcing the Greek Prime Minister out of his job and through its enforcement of huge, huge cuts on Ireland. The EU does not tolerate the political independence and democratic integrity of the modern European nation, and we should know that in this Parliament. When we talk of parliamentary democracy, let us not forget just how many years we have lived without true parliamentary democracy in this country.
I believe that we should be optimistic. We should not see this as some people—perhaps even some members of the Government—seem to see it: as almost a burden that we have to get through as we say, “Yes, we are leaving, and it is a terrible pity, but we are going to make it work just about.” I want us to be optimistic and to be out there saying, “This can work. This can be great.” We are a great country, so let us get on with it. I am delighted that we have got through this Committee stage.
It is a great pleasure to follow Kate Hoey, who represents the part of London in which I live when I am down here working in the House of Commons. We do not agree on this subject. During the debates on this Bill, she has voted with the Government almost as many times as I have voted against the Government. We are going neck and neck, which has been the position between us for the very many years we have both been in this House. We have diametrically different views.
I am afraid that I do not recognise the hon. Lady’s description of the European Union. In our 45 years of membership, it has helped us to become a more significant political force in the world in looking out for our interests, and it has been one of the fundamental bases of our giving ourselves a modern, successful economy, but this is not the time for a general debate.
I speak to new clause 54, which I tabled in co-operation with Mr Leslie. The new clause has been signed by a number of Members from both the major parties in this House. As I said in an earlier intervention, compared with the debates on other things, it should be quite easy to get this amendment passed because we drafted it to be entirely consistent with stated Government policy.
New clause 54 seeks to insert the policies set out in the Prime Minister’s Florence speech into the Bill, thereby including that part of what we have so far achieved by way of clear policy, so we can proceed further with the full approval of this House. I know perfectly well that the Minister who drew the short straw of answering today’s debates would immediately turn to some interesting, original and rather obscure arguments why this new clause should not be accepted, which has been the pattern throughout our eight days in Committee.
There have been hardly any concessions of principle. When issues of great moment have been debated, it has been unusual for a Minister to be allowed to engage with that principle. What happens is that a very long brief is delivered, some of it quite essential—this is not a criticism of either the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend Mr Baker, or other Ministers, and I do not envy the role in which they find themselves of holding the line on this Bill—in which a Minister goes into tremendous legalistic, administrative and even constitutional niceties without actually debating the subject.
We have already talked about amendment 7, which was passed against the Government. The amendment was all about whether this House should have a meaningful vote on the agreement before the Government bind themselves to it. The Minister on that occasion, the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my hon. Friend Dominic Raab, never joined the debate about a meaningful vote. Indeed, today’s Minister would not when he was drawn into going back into where we are on amendment 7. All kinds of bizarre arguments were produced on why it was not suitable to put this in the Bill, and the House had to assert that it is not going to allow this Government to commit themselves to things that will be of huge importance to future generations, probably affecting our political and trading position in the world for many decades to come, without their first getting approval from this House of Commons for whatever it is they want to sign up to. New clause 54 is an attempt to minimise the risk of that happening again.
I recall the Minister asking the right hon. and learned Gentleman to list, after all his 47 years’ experience in this House, one occasion when he, a former Minister, would have put into the Bill what he is suggesting the Government should have put into the Bill. He could not claw anything back from his memory banks to that effect. Surely, what this Minister has said in the arguments he has put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman has completely dismantled new clause 54.
Parliament will have an opportunity to give its assent to the Government’s approach to the transition deal, which they are on the point of trying to negotiate over the next few weeks. I have never known a Government go into an international agreement and start negotiating something towards a conclusion without giving the House the opportunity to express its views and without subjecting themselves to the judgment of the House on the objectives they are declaring.
This transition deal—I think that this is agreed on all sides—is probably going to be agreed in the next month. We are about to go away for Christmas. Everybody is hoping we will have a clearer idea of the transition or implementation deal by the end of January. As things stand, I do not think this House has ever discussed this—it has never had a debate on the subject. No motion has been put before this House to approve what the Government are seeking to do. If the Government have their way, we are simply going to discover, when they come back from the next step in the negotiations, what exactly they have signed up to.
The reason it is important that we should put down this marker is that I want to stick with what was set out in Florence, which was a Government policy position. At this moment—over the course of this week—the Cabinet is having a discussion. There is an attempt to keep this secret, but, unfortunately, leaks are coming out in all directions, and I sympathise with the Prime Minister on that. The Cabinet is debating whether everyone is prepared to be bound by the Florence speech or whether some of its members want to reopen it and start modifying it. That is why this new clause is a chance to say that if that be the case, the overwhelming majority of Members confirm and approve what was set out in the Florence speech.
I hope that we will not see the extraordinary spectacle of the fear of right-wing Eurosceptics meaning that such lengths are gone to that the Government put a three-line whip on their Ministers and all their Back Benchers to cast a vote against the Florence speech, so that some room is left for them to be able to negotiate further with the Environment Secretary, the Foreign Secretary or whoever it is wanting to reopen it again. The Foreign Secretary made a speech before the Florence speech in which he tried to undermine the Prime Minister’s position going there. When she had made the Florence speech, he wrote an article a few days later—I think that I have this the right way round—putting out a starkly different interpretation of what she had said. This House of Commons has not so far had the opportunity to express an opinion, which is what new clause 54 is about.
For the most part, this is a fairly benign new clause, but I am not certain, even from listening to him now, what my right hon. and learned Friend’s concern is in subsection (2) of his new clause where it refers to subsection (1). It seems he is concerned that somehow there will not be an implementation period. Alternatively, is it just that that implementation period has never been discussed by Parliament? Is there a fear the Government will try to do the dirty on us? I do not understand why he feels he has to have this provision.
It is an attempt to rule out both. Before anybody starts resorting to talking about drafting points, which is what has happened on every point of principle we have had in the past seven days of debate, they can all be sorted out on Report. If something in the wording of the new clause raises some serious technical difficulty, the Government should table an amendment on Report to sort it out. I am sure that would face no resistance at all.
I have been trawling back through my more recent memory banks. If I am not mistaken, before the Minister was taken to task and dismissed the new clause as a constitutional novelty, which is no argument, he was rather sympathetic to its content, so I was assuming that he might agree with it because it is, after all, in agreement with what the Prime Minister said.
I shall not go back to waxing too much about the nature of the debates we have been having. We can be clear that it is the fault not of the Ministers but of the brief they have been given to keep things going until the timetable motion comes in, at which point if all is intact, they have made it—that is their job done. Those of us who have been Ministers have probably been in that situation ourselves on various occasions. Just as in the debate about the meaningful vote when the Minister at no stage engaged in the question what sort of meaningful vote the House of Commons should have, on this occasion the Minister has not engaged in any feature of the Florence speech with which he had any reservations. The substance was not challenged by a word that he said, hence my speculating why we might see the extraordinary spectacle of the Government instructing all their Ministers to vote against a prime ministerial declaration of Government policy from which, as far as I can see, the Prime Minister has at no stage personally withdrawn.
Let me make a little more progress, or I am going to take far too long. I will try to give way later.
So far, in the complete confusion that has surrounded the consequences of the referendum for the past 18 months—I think we all agree that it has been an extraordinary situation since then—the few actual solid advances on policy have been made on only a few occasions. Indeed, the only times that the Prime Minister has set out policy clearly and been able to sign up to it—in the belief and, I think, hope that all her Government might agree to it—were the Lancaster House speech, the Florence speech and last week when she entered into the agreement on the outline of the withdrawal agreement.
I do not want to put the Lancaster House speech into the Bill, because that was the beginning of our problems. I do not know why the Prime Minister went there to interpret and declare the referendum result as meaning that we were leaving the single market and the customs union and abandoning the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. I shall come back to this later, but all our economic problems stem from that. Some people may have argued during the referendum campaign that we should leave the single market and the customs union, but I never met one and I did not read about one in the media. The leading lights of the leavers who were reported in the media—I accept that the national media reporting of the referendum debate was pretty dreadful on both sides, with a very low level of accuracy and content—and particularly the Foreign Secretary emphasised that our trading position would not be changed at all. The Prime Minister changed that in her Lancaster House speech.
The Prime Minister and the Government are free traders. I am a free trader. I keep asserting that we are free traders. The objections to the single market and the customs union that she and the Government give are nothing to do with open trade, which is quite accepted. It is said that we have to leave the single market because it is accompanied by the freedom of movement of workers. Well, as we were running the most generous version of freedom of movement in western Europe before the referendum, if that is the problem—if migration is what we really want to get out of—let us address that and not throw out the baby with the bath water by leaving the single market.
Similarly, I have never heard anybody get up and say what is wrong with the customs union in so far as it is an arrangement that gives a completely open border between ourselves and 27 other countries in Europe. What is wrong with it? Nothing. Apparently, we have to leave the customs union, so that the Secretary of State for International Trade can go away and pursue what I think is this extraordinary vision that we sometimes get given of reaching trade agreements with all these great countries throughout the world that are about to throw open their doors to us without any corresponding obligations on our part, no doubt, to compensate us for the damage that we will do to our trade with Europe. I am afraid that I do not believe that.
I wish to move to my final point, because other people are trying to get in. I have the Florence speech with me. It was a really substantial move forward. Let me just quote the bit on the transition period, which is what I am concentrating on. It says:
“So during the implementation period access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms and Britain also should continue to take part in existing security measures. And I know businesses, in particular, would welcome the certainty this would provide.
The framework for this strictly time-limited period, which can be agreed under Article 50, would be the existing structure of EU rules and regulations.”
Several times since then, the Prime Minister has been courageous enough to make it clear that it means that, during this transition period, we accept the regulatory harmony we have in the single market, we accept the absence of customs barriers in the customs union and we accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice to resolve disputes.
I have never understood what on earth is supposed to be wrong with the European Court of Justice except that it has the word “European” in its title. A very distinguished British judge is one of the people who is appointed to it. There is no case of any significance that we have ever lost there. The City of London and our financial services industry enjoy a passport for very important trade in the eurozone, particularly all the clearing operations that they have done. We had to go to the European Court of Justice as plaintiffs against the European Central Bank to get that passport. But, no, it is a foreign court, and it will be replaced by an international arbitration agreement of the kind that exists in every other trade agreement in the world. The ECJ is a superior system, but we will not get a trade agreement with any country anywhere of any significance, or with a developed economy, that does not have a mutually binding legal arbitration or jurisdiction of some kind, which resolves disputes under the treaty.
I will conclude if I may. I have already taken longer than I said, so please forgive me.
Let me just touch on this question: how we can get this whole debate into the grown up world and accept the reality that exists in a globalised economy. What do we mean by international trade agreements? What is beneficial to a country such as ours to give us the best base for future prosperity in the modern world? Frankly, at times, some of the debate has taken on an unreal quality.
I will not follow the hon. Member for Nottingham East, my collaborator in this new clause, because he gave a very carefully researched and very clear description of what actually is involved in trading arrangements. The first simple political point I will make is that, at the moment, we have absolutely unfettered access, by way of regulatory barriers, customs and so on, to the biggest and most open free-trade system in the world. Nowhere else has rivalled it. MERCOSUR failed because it did not have the institutions such as the Court or the Commission; the North American Free Trade Agreement—NAFTA—is collapsing; and the Americans have pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Everybody wants these deals, but only 28 European nation states have succeeded in getting such an open one. Of course the hon. Member for Vauxhall and others have argued strongly that we voted to leave that. Anything new that we put in by way of tariff barriers, customs barriers or regulatory barriers is bound to damage our position compared with where we are now. That is why we should minimise all those things as far as we can.
It is no good developing some fantasy that we are going to reach an agreement that puts up new barriers to trade—that we are going to get protectionist towards the rest of Europe, while being ultimate free traders towards the rest of the world—without damaging ourselves. Both sides exaggerate, which is pretty typical of most political arguments that take place in any democracy. Once people start putting mad figures on everything, they can get carried away.
Any new barriers would have a markedly damaging effect on the British economy over any period, making us poorer than we otherwise would be, subject to all the other vagaries that affect economies. There is no getting away from that. Some argue in favour of that by saying, “Well, we suffer such disadvantages being inside this dreadful European Union. We’ll do so much better when we go outside, free from the trammels that Brussels puts upon us.” I have never discovered these trammels; they are a complete fiction. I will illustrate my point with the example of China.
China is a very important market, which we are all trying to develop. It will become more and more important, but it is a very difficult market. There is a long way to go before anybody gets anything like a proper free trade agreement with China, but we spend a lot of effort trying. We are hopelessly outperformed by the Germans, and the French do better in China than we do. These terrible burdens, imposed by the fact that we come from within the constraints of the European Union, do not seem to be holding the Germans back, and I know no German businessman who wishes to throw them off. It is complete nonsense.
My final point is on our attempts to approach these countries. I have been involved in trade negotiations with quite a lot of them. I led for the Government, in so far as the Government took a part—indeed, we were active enthusiasts—in the EU-US TTIP negotiations. That was during my last post in government. The EU has just got an agreement with Japan, which is amazing. Now, all these EU agreements were urged on by British Governments, particularly British Conservative Governments. We were the leading nation state on economic liberal reform inside the European Union. There was no Government keener on these trade agreements.
Somebody has already touched on the unknown matter of what we are going to do with the 60-something countries—I think that there are 67—with which we currently have EU trade agreements. Are we going to pull out of them all and start again? I hope that we pull out and say, “Can we come back tomorrow and carry on, on the same basis?” Well, that will mean the same relationship between Britain and the EU being maintained; otherwise there will be a difficulty with them all.
Let me come back to the new negotiations, such as with the Americans. We got nowhere with the Americans, even under Obama, so it will be quite hard work to get into America under Trump. But it is not just about the President’s desire to concentrate on American jobs—that means opening up our market, not opening up theirs. To give another example, tariffs do not matter much between many developed countries. Between us and America, they do not matter at all. The tariffs between Europe, Britain and the United States could be abolished tomorrow, and most of the manufacturers affected would not mind. It is regulatory barriers that actually matter, and protectionism in public procurement—but I will leave that to one side.
Regulatory compliance is the very thing that we will be trying to negotiate with the Americans, to open up the financial services market in Wall Street and to open up legal services. It is very difficult, with all the protectionist lobbies in America, to get very far. We will also need common regulations—regulatory compliance—on goods, and we were getting nowhere on that.
The main thing that the Americans want to sell to us is agricultural products. They have a powerful food industry, and they wish to export to us with the considerable competitive power of American industry. But, of course, they cannot comply with our food safety standards. And what does the Secretary of State for International Trade do, but come back to this country, trying to sell to the British the virtues of American food standards, which we would have to sign up to? He made a passionate defence of chlorinated chicken. He could have raised—this will certainly be raised—hormone-treated beef. The virtues of genetically modified crops will have to be sold to the British consumer.
Now, as it happens, I am in an ambiguous position. I have eaten frequently in America—I am not yet dead—and I do not share what I think are the slightly superstitious prejudices that some people have, but I think a large number of my compatriots do, and it is going to be a hard sell to get them to take these things.
What is more, if we adopt these American food standards, we will break all the European ones. To the Germans and Austrians, it is almost a religion to be against genetically modified crops and hormone-treated beef. We would just lose all that market to take on one of the most efficient and, actually, slightly subsidised agricultural industries in the world, which is looking forward to flooding our market with its products. What are we going to get in return? On my limited experience of going to Washington on such subjects, it is going to take us many years to get very much at all, even if President Trump suddenly becomes a genuine free trader and wishes to show favour to us.
So behind all this—many Members have spoken on this—the harsh reality is that none of us has the first idea how this country is going to maintain its present living standards and employment levels and keep up with modern markets, while pulling out—from behind protectionist barriers—of the biggest single market in the world, which is our most important market. Nobody can answer that point.
At least, while years are taken to resolve these things in negotiations with Europe, we have the Government saying they want a transition period of at least two years. I read out the passage. There is absolutely nothing in new clause 54 that the Prime Minister could not have signed up to in principle when she left the podium in Florence. If the Government are going to end this debate by saying, “Well, that may be Government policy, but we are ordering all Conservative MPs, in the spirit of Christmas, to vote against it,” I will continue to believe that this is one of the biggest shambles I have ever seen in my life, on one of the most important subjects that we have to resolve for the benefit of future generations.
May I start by paying tribute to Mr Clarke? He is one of the very few voices of sanity on the Government side of the House with regard to Brexit. When the history books are written about this damaging period for the United Kingdom, his name will be right at the top as the person who tried his very hardest to save Britain from doing damage to itself when leaving the European Union. That is what the vast majority of Members on the Opposition side of the House have been trying to achieve with their amendments to the Bill, and certainly with the amendments in the names of my hon. and right hon. Friends this evening.
May I also pay tribute to the Clerks of the House, who have marshalled this Bill incredibly well through the last eight days in Committee? The emails that have come to many of us who submitted amendments have been detailed and helpful, and great tribute goes to the Clerks. They thoroughly deserve their Christmas break, but they should rest assured that we will be back in January to work them just as hard on Report and Third Reading. So merry Christmas and thank you to the staff in the Clerks’ office of this House.
I am slightly confused by the Minister’s approach to new clauses 54 and 13—the two new clauses I would like to concentrate on this evening. That is particularly true of new clause 54, because I thought the whole point of legislation was to put Government policy on the statute book. I thought Government policy would come forward—whether in a manifesto or in a speech, as in the Florence speech—and would then be codified in legislation in order that the Government’s wishes were put into law. That seems to be the process that this Parliament has been going through for several hundred years.
For the Minister to come to the Dispatch Box and say, “Yes, this is Government policy, but we don’t put it into law” seems to be an excuse not to put it into law. I think we could all draw the same conclusion from that excuse: as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has indicated, the Cabinet does not agree on the Florence speech—it is trying to change the dynamics and the content of the Florence speech—and the Prime Minister is desperately trying to hold the extreme right wing of the Conservative party within this process and to manage her party rather than this process. Otherwise, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, there was nothing in new clause 54 that the Prime Minister did not say in her Florence speech that should not be codified in the Bill to enable this Parliament and the country to be comfortable that the Florence speech is the direction of the Government.
Amendment 7 is incredibly important. That is why I was disappointed that my hon. Friend Kate Hoey did not take an intervention during her contribution. What amendment 7 did last week was to show that this Parliament can speak. It gave power to this Parliament to say that we require a piece of legislation to go through the processes in this House to make sure that this Parliament has spoken when we leave the European Union. The Minister, not unsurprisingly, sought to give assurances to many right hon. and hon. Members on amendments that they have tabled that the Government will do the right thing, but refused—absolutely refused—at the Dispatch Box, on three separate occasions, to give a commitment from the Government that they would abide by the will of this House and abide by amendment 7.
In addition to that, this afternoon the Prime Minister was asked on several occasions at the Liaison Committee to abide by amendment 7, and on all those occasions she refused to give a cast-iron guarantee that the Government will not row back on amendment 7 on Report. That is not taking back control. My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall should reflect very carefully on the fact that, whether or not one agrees with the principles of amendment 7 or bringing a piece of legislation through this House to implement the deal, this Parliament has spoken and therefore the Government have a legal, moral and democratic responsibility to abide by that decision and do what this Parliament has asked them to do. To do anything other than that would not just be kicking a hornets’ nest—it would be contemptuous to the hon. Members who walked through the Lobby last week to put amendment 7 into the Bill. If the Government do decide to row back on amendment 7 on Report, that will show that their direction on this Bill, and on removing the UK from the European Union, has nothing to do with the future of this country but is to do with the future of their own party.
The reason that amendment 7 is so important is that it allows this Parliament to have a say. The reason this Parliament needs to have a say—this goes to new clause 54 and, indeed, new clause 13—is that we cannot trust a thing that Ministers say. Their statements contradict all the aspirations that they wish to achieve through this process. Indeed, Michel Barnier has said in the past 48 hours that the red lines that the Government have drawn for themselves contradict the objectives that they wish to achieve from this process. That is why we are tabling new clauses like new clause 13.
I represent a constituency where tens of thousands of jobs, and the entire Edinburgh economy, are reliant on financial services. The head negotiator from the European Union said yesterday that the red lines that the Government have drawn for themselves are completely contradictory to their aspiration to keep passporting and a unique deal for financial services. Tens of thousands of my constituents who rely on jobs or secondary jobs in financial services would look at these reports and say, “If the Government do have the aspiration to keep the financial services passporting arrangements and to keep the financial services sector in the UK healthy, then they should put that aspiration into the Bill.” That is what new clause 54 is seeking to do. If the Government do not do that, my constituents could draw the conclusion that the Government may have to throw some sectors under the bus.
I say that because nothing could be as good as the situation that we have at the moment. We have free and unfettered access for goods and services, free and unfettered access to the customs union, and free and unfettered access to the single market. The aspiration of this Government is to ensure that when we come out of this process, we have exactly the same, if not better, terms than we have at the moment. That is completely and utterly impossible, because the European Union will never agree to the same benefits of the customs union and the single market if we are dealing with it on a separately negotiated basis. That means—this goes to the arguments made by the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe—that when doing individual bilateral trade deals with the US, Australia, India or wherever else, the Government will have to throw some sectors under the bus. Michel Barnier has said in the past 48 hours that the red lines that the Government have drawn and the aspirations they wish to achieve for the financial services sector are contradictory and therefore cannot happen. If the Government refuse to accept any of the amendments, do we draw the conclusion that financial services is a sector that they are willing to throw under the bus?
If that is not the case for financial services—I can see the Minister shaking his head to indicate that it might not be—perhaps I can turn the Minister’s attention to the Scotch whisky industry. Is that a sector that the Government are determined to throw under the bus? What about our wonderful Aberdeen Angus beef sector? Will the country be flooded with antibiotic beef to allow us to get a deal with the US, which may be contradictory to our deal with the EU? If the Minister is saying no to all those sectors, which sectors will he throw under the bus? The Government and the Department have drawn red lines that the chief negotiator for the European Union has described as contradictory to the aspiration of keeping financial services in the passporting arrangements with the European Union.
The only red lines from the Labour party that I have read about recently are these. John McDonnell has said that we must leave the single market to respect the referendum result. The shadow spokesman on Brexit, Barry Gardiner, has said that we must leave the customs union because it would be “a disaster” to stay in it. That is the only controversy I can see here.
Nobody voted to leave the single market and customs union. As the Chancellor has said, nobody voted in the European Union referendum to make themselves poorer. If the shadow Chancellor wants to walk through the Lobby with the Conservatives to take us out of the customs union and the single market, I certainly do not agree with him on that. I have been elected to represent a constituency that voted 78% remain and that is dependent on financial services, small businesses and the very healthy Scotch whisky industry. It is incumbent on me to defend my constituents’ interests from a Government who would be quite happy to throw sectors under the bus to get a trade deal from any country anywhere in the world, even though we already have 57 free trade deals that benefit all the sectors that I represent.
I do not know whether my hon. Friend meant to say that his constituents are dependent on Scotch whisky, but I take his point. At the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee this morning, I asked the Environment Secretary about the Canada-plus-plus-plus model. He said that he wanted agri-food to be part of the plus deal, and he referred to the trade agreement with Japan as something that covered agri-food. Is it not the case that, as Michel Barnier says, we will simply not be allowed to cherry-pick and insist on having a Canada-style deal that includes agri-food?
That is exactly what Michel Barnier said. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union wants a Canada-plus-plus-plus deal with a special arrangement for banks, and the chief negotiator has said that that is impossible for two reasons. It is against the red lines that the Government have already drawn for themselves, so they are arguing against their own policy. Indeed, we already have special arrangements in place for free and unfettered access for all our sectors; they are called the single market and the customs union. When we have debated the matter in this Chamber on other days, I have made the point that the question of whether or not we agree with the single market and customs union is essentially irrelevant to the Bill. The Government’s negotiating position should, at the very least, keep those options on the table so that the Government can look at them and ask whether they are the way forward.
Why might we remain members of the customs union and the single market for the transition period? We would do that to allow businesses the certainty, security and stability that they require to make the changes that they need to make. When we come out of that transition period—it will not be in two years, according to Michel Barnier; it may be much sooner—we will have to have a system that is, no doubt, worse than that which we had during the transition period.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend Kerry McCarthy for raising Canada-plus-plus-plus, because that is impossible to achieve with the red lines that have been drawn. Perhaps the Minister will come to the Dispatch Box—he can intervene on me, if he likes, or on any other hon. Member—and tell us which red lines the Government are willing to drop to achieve the Government’s aspiration of Canada-plus-plus-plus with a special deal for financial services.
Just as my hon. Friend Kerry McCarthy took evidence this morning from the Environment Secretary, the Health Committee took evidence yesterday from representatives of the pharmaceutical industry. They were completely realistic about the fact that the Government are not going to get any special sectoral deals, and that there will not be any cherry-picking. They unanimously made it clear to us that the only solution for us is to stay in the customs union and the single market, certainly for the transition and possibly—hopefully—beyond that.
That is the key. We will have had 64 hours of debate in this Committee by the time we vote at 10 minutes past nine this evening. If we distil all our debates over those 64 hours, we get to the conclusion that we should stay in the single market and the customs union. I cannot understand why the Government have decided to throw that entire strategy out the window, probably for ideological reasons.
Is not the reality that all this talk of Canada or Canada-plus-plus-plus is an illusion, and that it would be far better to go for the far better deal that is Norway-plus? We should actually stay in the single market because that will be best for our economy and for our political influence in Europe.
This of course brings us to the crux of the Government’s ideology, and no Government Members can ever stand up again and confidently pronounce that the Conservative party is pro-business.
The Government’s strategy and the red lines they have drawn in relation to the Bill are destroying business and are anti-business. Every sector that gives evidence to the Health Committee, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee or the International Trade Committee—and on and on—tells us that the only way to resolve these problems is by staying in the single market and the customs union. If such sectors—the people who create the jobs, employ the people and create the wealth in this country—are telling us that, we should listen to them, rather than to those on the extreme right wing of the Conservative party. They claim to be free traders, but they want to throw out 57 trade deals for some aspirational trade deals—no one can yet tell us whether anyone is even in the queue or wanting to speak to us about them—which is surely anti-trade and anti-business, and is destroying the fabric of the economy of this country.
Is there not a deep misunderstanding among those who say they want free trade agreements but to be outside the customs union? Creating a customs border is independent of how much we actually raise tariffs, because there will still be a border and there will still be checks. However freely or not freely we trade, creating a customs border will lead to delays, checks, regulations and so on and so forth. People say that we will have a great free trade deal, but we will still have a border, and that is what will be damaging.
I will keep making in this House the same argument that the Minister and his colleagues in this House made when they stood on the same platform as me during the Scottish independence referendum. They consistently said that if the UK was split up and Scotland came out of the UK single market, there would have to be a border at Berwick. Why? Because there would be different arrangements for customs, regulatory matters, the free movement of people and goods.
How can Ministers now stand at the Dispatch Box with a straight face and say that none of this now applies either to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland or indeed to Gibraltar? There is no answer to that question because, again, the Government’s red lines and their narrative do not fit with where they want to go on the final negotiations. We cannot have frictionless free trade while having differential arrangements on customs or regulatory alignment: it just does not work. If the Minister wants to intervene on me to tell me how it will work, rather than just using narrative and rhetoric—and anybody can understand how it will actually work—I would be happy to agree with him.
Is it not interesting that when the public were consulted in a people’s assembly, with a representative sample of leavers and remainers, the conclusion they came to was that they wanted to remain in the single market, but to extend all the freedoms we already have to limit freedom of movement? Does my hon. Friend not agree that we need to listen more to the public and involve them more?
I absolutely agree. The 34 million people who voted in the EU referendum probably voted one way or the other for 34 million different reasons, but it is incumbent on politicians to start taking a lead and to be brave about making the arguments. We should say to the country, “The EU referendum delivered a result and, yes, we will be leaving the European Union, but let’s just pause, look at the arguments being put to the country and see whether this is what people actually want.”
If we distil down all the arguments about the customs union and the single market, the only solution we can come to that does not damage this country in any way—in relation to jobs, the cost to business, or the future aspirations of students or of our children—is to stay in the best possible platform for free trade and regulatory alignment, which is the single market and the customs union. No one will forgive this Government, or anyone else who argues against that, when the first person leaves a financial services company in my constituency with their P45 in their hand. I will take no pleasure in saying “I told you so,” but the Government can pull back now, can sort out the Bill, can agree to some of these amendments in principle and come back on Report and put on the table, at the very least, a negotiation about keeping the UK in the single market and the customs union. To do anything less, with the red lines that they have drawn and the aspirations that they have, is pulling the wool over the eyes of the public, and they should be brave enough to admit it.
I shall be brief because I support amendments 381 and 400, advocated by my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin and my hon. and learned Friend Mr Cox. I congratulate them on arriving at quite sensible arrangements. I know others want to speak, so I will not be drawn into the wider debate that Mr Leslie initiated with his new clause, and took some pleasure in pursuing—as others have done, too. A lot of today’s debate has been about rerunning the arguments around the referendum and coming to a different conclusion. People are welcome to do that as much as they like, but when they say that the British people have not been consulted, I think they were consulted, and they voted and that vote was binding, and we are now getting on with it.
I congratulate Ministers on their persistence on the Front Bench over the past eight days of debate on the Bill. I believe that they listened carefully to those with different opinions and made many, many changes. I say to many of my right hon. and hon. Friends who have disagreed with the Government over this issue on a number of occasions—and even voted against them, where necessary, as I have done in the past—that I am just a touch jealous of them. When I voted against the Government on Maastricht, I knew I did not have a hope in hell of getting anything changed. I was always told, “You can’t change any of this because we have just signed an agreement.” I am jealous because they have actually managed to get some change, so I congratulate them on achieving something that I was never able to achieve 25 years ago. None the less, I hope that tonight they do not necessarily choose to pursue that course of action with the amendments before us.
I say so because I think, in congratulating Ministers and others on signing up to the amendments, they do tidy up something that has been a concern—not just a concern felt by right hon. and hon. Friends who were in a strongly opposed position, but many others. I feel it is right to put the date of our departure in the Bill. I think it is quite right because it makes a statement of reality, which is that we are bound under article 50. The Bill, which is a process, should have the same provision in it. But we have to retain some flexibility within that. Following clause 1, which essentially says that we are repealing the European Communities Act 1972, we do not want to get into a mess where we end up having one set of dates for the repeal of that Act and another set of dates for a final conclusion of any arrangements we make with the European Union.
That conflict of law would have created a bigger problem, and I am sure we would have had to return to the matter on Third Reading, or even after the Bill came back from the other place. I therefore think that this way of doing things is neater and more flexible than the alternative, which would have been to pass a set of primary legislation to modify this Bill, as and when we reach agreements. I think that would have been a bit of a nightmare for my right hon. and hon. Friends. To that extent, I believe that this is a better way to do things.
The words in article 50 are pretty clear. I have read them on a number of occasions—I do read other things as well. Article 50 states quite clearly—it has always been clear—that the treaties shall cease to apply
“from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification…unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.”
Article 50 has always been clear that, should there be a requirement for an extension for practical reasons or whatever, it is up to the 28 countries to agree unanimously. To that extent, the amendment achieves that rather succinctly, but I stand by the fact that it was right for the Government to have been firm in wanting to put the date in the Bill. It would have been an anomaly not to have a date in the Bill and they would have had to come back at some stage to put it in. To provide that flexibility now makes it worthwhile.
I have heard that some colleagues do not like the amendment, because they cannot trust the Government to stick to it and to make only marginal changes. The problem for those of us who have supported the Government is that we have had to bite the bullet a lot and give them a great deal of trust. For over 44 years, I have watched successive Governments—I have been a part of some of them, happily, up to a certain point—implement, through section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972 and the use of statutory instruments, vast changes to the way we regulate and legislate here in the United Kingdom. The Government’s original position when this was first debated was that they did not think it would lead to many changes being brought in by statutory instrument. I wonder if those who pushed the Bill through, on revisiting the scale of the changes brought in by statutory instruments over 40 years, would think that they had misread what they were actually giving Governments the power to do.
I have a lot of sympathy for those who do not want to be left in the position of trusting the Government—none of us do. One reason why I felt all along that I was prepared to give the Government the benefit of the doubt is simply because the process has a conclusion beyond which they will not be able to proceed. The process of leaving the European Union will ultimately bring back—this is one of the reasons I am very keen on it—an enhancement of Parliament’s role to a far greater degree than it has been over the years. I have on many occasions watched pointless debates in the House knowing full well there was absolutely nothing we could change—not just Maastricht, but all the other treaty changes and so on—as we in Parliament had no power whatever to call the Government to account on any of these issues. The reality was that they were already bound by a process in another place.
The argument that the use of statutory instruments to push European regulations through the House was legitimate because Government Ministers entertained a debate among Government Ministers within the European Union does not make any sense to me. Those who advance that argument then say they want Parliament to have all the say and that they do not trust the Government on statutory instruments. They seem to be colliding in their own argument from two different directions.
I fully accept that we want to ensure that the Government are not just working on the basis of trust. To that extent, I recognise and accept that the changes will help to ensure that they do not. However, I would say that we cannot just sweep away the past 40 years on the basis that this was somehow okay because Government officials and Ministers discussed these things. Parliament had no say whatever for 40 years. It could not change anything. As I said when I talked about Maastricht, we could not change anything. I knew it was pretty pointless, but I none the less opposed various elements and voted accordingly. I knew there was not a chance of us changing anything because Parliament had no power. Parliament will now again have power over a Government. I think that some of the very poor behaviour of Governments of both parties over the years in being able to ignore Parliament will start to fall away. I hope and believe that Parliament will again reassert itself.
I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends who are concerned about this, the idea—
Excellent. It is always good to take a sedentary intervention from my hon. Friend.
I said I would be brief, so I will bring my remarks to a conclusion. I support the amendments and I congratulate those who drafted them. I want the Government to get through this as best they can. They should listen carefully where there are changes to be made but, if we have to return to this matter on Report, they will certainly have my support in making whatever changes are necessary to accommodate concerns so that we get a Bill that is reasonable, feasible and puts the power back into the House.
I would make one small point, however, to those who opened up this massive debate about what happened during the referendum and the idea that we can guess what was in people’s minds. It was said again and again, as I recall, by the then Prime Minister, by the then Chancellor, by Lord Mandelson and also by many in the vote leave campaign, that voting to leave meant leaving the customs union and the single market. Now, I understand and accept that people might not want to do that—they advance all sorts of reasons for not doing it—but it was said again and again. On the idea that the British people were too stupid to understand what they were voting for, I say that they were right in their decision and made a decision that was a lot more intelligent than people give them credit for.
When that was said—it probably was said by one or two campaigners on the remain side during the referendum campaign—it was used as an argument against voting to leave. The reaction of leave campaigners was to dismiss it, saying it was the politics of fear, that people were being alarmist in talking about leaving the single market and that in fact our trading arrangements would remain absolutely unchanged, because the Germans had to sell us their Mercedes. That was the role it played in the referendum campaign.
I always like to take an intervention from my right hon. and learned Friend. We agree on many things, but not on this, it has to be said. He will remember that, when he was Lord Chancellor, I supported him in getting through his very good and far-reaching reforms—I wish they had all been put through, but they were not, as he knows. To that extent, I have long supported him, but on this I do not fully agree with him. I think it was clear. It is no good saying that “some” people on the remain side said it. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor were the leaders of the remain campaign, certainly on the Government Benches, but also from the stand point of the country, and they were very clear on this. I do not recall anyone—I certainly did not—saying, “No, no, we’ll stay in the single market and customs union.” I have always made the point that leaving means leaving the Court of Justice, the customs union and the single market. Voters were, I believe, clear about that, but we can all debate and rerun the arguments.
I will undertake to send to my right hon. Friend a list of the various quotes from leading members of the leave campaign who told the British people, “There will be no change in our trading arrangements”, “We’ll do deals in a day and a half”, “We can be like Norway”, “We might want to be like Switzerland”, and so on and so forth. It was made very clear to the British people that the trading arrangements and economic benefits of the EU would remain the same. Does he honestly think that in his constituency of an evening in the Dog and Duck people sat there and said, “I tell you what, you know this single market, well I’m all for out of that”? Does he honestly think they really understood the issue, when there are obviously right hon. and hon. Members in this House who still do not understand what the single market and the customs union are?
That may be. I do not know of the Dog and Duck, unless they have moved a new building into my constituency, but I say to my right hon. Friend that people made a decision to leave, and that argument was debated extensively: it was on television, the Prime Minister was questioned endlessly and others such as Lord Mandelson said categorically that if people voted to leave, we would be leaving these institutions.
We are debating what was said to the electorate during that period, but none of us are talking about what the electorate are thinking now. That is the most important thing. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, as we enter the most crucial part of this stage of the negotiations, the Government should put far more energy into understanding what the public actually think and aspire to for our future relationship with the single market, the customs union and the EU in general and take that into account?
I am all for consulting the British people. That is what we are here for as MPs, right? It is what we do when we go back to our constituencies and talk to people. The honest truth, however, is that we can consult them as much as we like, and we will get different opinions all the time, depending on the question. The biggest consultation I have ever seen took place in 2016: it was called a referendum. The difference between my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke and the rest of the House is that he has been opposed to referendums throughout his political life and has never voted for them, whereas most other Members did vote for a referendum. When Members vote for a referendum, they are bound by the decisions that the British people make, and in this instance the British people asked us to leave the European Union.
Much of the debate has been about rerunning the referendum. I fully understand that some people will never be reconciled to the idea of departure or of leaving the customs union and the single market, but what we are talking about today is getting out of the European Union. It is not a question of the date, but a question of the process. We are leaving anyway. I support the Government because I believe that leaving the customs union and the single market and taking back control of our laws is exactly the right thing to do, and I do not think they should listen to the siren voices that tell them otherwise.
Order. The debate will finish at 9.10 pm, and there are still 17 Members wishing to speak. Interventions will shorten the time even further. I very much want to call everyone. I have no powers in this regard, but I appeal to colleagues to try to limit their speeches to five minutes so that everyone can be called. I hope we shall see a good example of that now from Mr Tom Brake.
Thank you, Sir David. Your timing is perfect.
It is a pleasure to follow Mr Duncan Smith. It enables me to remind him of the promises that were made during the referendum about the £350 million a week that would be available to the NHS post-Brexit. I am as imbued with the good spirit of Christmas as others, Sir David, and I will therefore seek to limit my comments to the five minutes that you have specified.
A number of Members referred to what the Prime Minister said to the Liaison Committee in connection with amendment 7. I understand that she was asked no fewer than five times to confirm that she would provide a meaningful vote, by which I mean a vote that would take place on a Bill that will be amendable and would allow the debate to take place at a time when the Government could be instructed to go back and negotiate some more.
Let me briefly comment on new clauses 13 and 54. New clause 13 would ensure that we stayed in the customs union. That, I think, remains the only solution to the Ireland-Northern Ireland border issue apart from a border in the Irish Sea, which I do not think the Democratic Unionist party would support.
As for new clause 54, it would be strange if Ministers did not want to support the Prime Minister’s words. I suspect that, if they did not support them in tonight’s vote, that would amount to a rebellion. We know that had the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs been here, they might have led such a rebellion, but I doubt whether junior Ministers would want to be responsible for a rebellion that would set aside what the Prime Minister said in her Florence speech.
My main purpose is to refer to amendment 120, tabled by the Liberal Democrats, which amounts to a request for a vote on the deal. I am sure that, if there were time, I would give way to a great many interventions about the will of the people, but the will of the people as expressed on
I promise not to refer too often to the £350 million that was offered on the side of the bus, but people will remember that pledge, and it is not going to be honoured. They will also remember a pledge about a significant cut in immigration. There has, in fact, been a drop in immigration, but I think that it has happened because the UK economy has shrunk rather than for any other reason. It has certainly not happened in respect of non-EU citizens coming to the United Kingdom, because over many years the level of non-EU immigration has remained consistently high—and, of course, every Member will know that that is something of which our Government are in complete control.
Finally, there were the threats made about the 5 million people who were supposedly going to arrive in the UK as a result of our membership of the EU, and our Foreign Secretary who talked about opening the borders to Turkey and the claim that there would be marauding gangs of armed criminals out and about threatening people in our towns and villages.
I welcome the fact that Stephen Gethins used conciliatory language in describing his position on the idea of having a vote on the deal, but I recommend to him, and perhaps others, that the Liberal Democrats are first adopters of this policy, with the Green party, and I hope he will develop an appetite for it—and, indeed, that some Labour Members might as well. It would require legislation, followed by a three-month election campaign, and then a vote that would have to take place before we finally leave the EU, but that is perfectly possible.
I conclude by saying that that would enable the UK population to have a vote on the deal; they would be able to express their views on whether they still want to accept now what they were offered on
I rise to support new clauses 54 and 13, both of which, if put to the vote, I shall vote for.
I made it clear to the people of Broxtowe when I stood back in June that I would continue to make the case and vote for the single market, the customs union and, indeed, the positive benefits of immigration. We are on day eight of our Committee proceedings, and, goodness me, if only we had had all this quality debate—this exposition of all the arguments—before the referendum, we perhaps would have had a different result.
My constituents might not have changed their minds, but they overwhelmingly say to me now, “I didn’t know it was going to be so complicated; I didn’t know what it would be like.” I have to say to my right hon. Friend Mr Duncan Smith that customers in the Nelson and Railway pub in Kimberley— a fine pub, and I will take him there one day—did not sit there talking about the customs union.
Exactly, of course they didn’t. They did not talk about the single market. They did talk about immigration, however, and they thought they pretty much did not like it, even though in Kimberley there have probably been about four immigrants over the course of about 200 years.
We have had that part of the debate, but there is a grave danger in looking at the result of the referendum and saying, “The British people have definitely said they don’t want the single market and the customs union and all the rest of it”. We are leaving the EU, so I have voted to trigger article 50—I have taken that big step against everything I have ever believed in, and I accept we are leaving the EU—but I am not going to stay silent, and I am not going to stop making the case for us to do the right thing as we leave. I gently say to those who stand up and bang on about the devilment of the single market and the customs union that that is gravely insulting to British business.
What have we seen in this peculiar debate? It has been peculiar. I endorse everything my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke and Mr Leslie have said; it must be a Nottingham thing that there is this agreement between the three of us about the merits of the customs union and the arguments made about the Florence speech and why it should be on the face of the Bill.
I also observe that the Government have not really conceded very much at all. They have accepted that there was a real problem with the Henry VIII powers and they have accepted amendments that they pretty much drafted themselves, and they now accept the