Leaving the Eu: Implementation

– in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 29th January 2018.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 3:35 pm, 29th January 2018

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union if he will make a statement on the Government’s proposals for the implementation of their policy on leaving the European Union.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Just this afternoon, the European Union finalised its directives setting out its negotiating position on the implementation period. On Friday, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union made a speech setting out the UK Government’s position. Formal negotiations on this very issue are therefore due to start this week.

As the Secretary of State said on Friday, we will be seeking a strictly time-limited implementation period to allow a smooth and orderly exit from the European Union. This builds on the Prime Minister’s announcement, in her Lancaster House speech in January last year, that there would be a “process of implementation” once the article 50 period ended. It has been supported by businesses both here and in the European Union, which will have to make only one set of changes as we exit the EU. During this period, the UK will be outside the EU. We will have left on 29 March 2019.

This is an absolute necessity. The EU can only legally conclude our future partnership once we are outside it. Such an agreement on the future partnership will require the appropriate legal ratification, which will itself take time. That will need to happen during an implementation period. However, if such a period is to work, both sides must continue to follow the same stable set of laws and rules without compromising the integrity of the single market and the customs union, to which we will maintain access on current terms. Both sides should approach this period in the spirit of our future partnership. That means each side committing itself to taking no action that would undermine the other.

During the implementation period, we will still make our voice heard. We will have to agree on a way of resolving concerns if laws are deemed to run contrary to our interests, and if we have not had our say. We will agree on an appropriate process for this temporary period so that we have the means to remedy any issues through dialogue as soon as possible. All that will be provided for in the withdrawal agreement that we reach with the EU, which will have the status of a new international treaty between the UK and the EU. We will no longer be formally part of the EU treaties during this period.

As the Secretary of State said on Friday, we have made it clear that during this period we will be able to negotiate and sign our own free trade agreements. Here at home, we have already announced that we will present a withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill, which will provide for domestic implementation of the withdrawal agreement and the implementation period. We have made it clear that as we leave the EU in March 2019, we will repeal the European Communities Act 1972. That will be done through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which recently received its Third Reading in the House of Commons and will shortly be discussed in the other place.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

I am deeply grateful, Mr Speaker.

Given the document to which the Minister has just referred, which was issued by the European Union to the United Kingdom about two hours ago, can the Government reconcile their policy of leaving the European Union with their own implementation proposals during the transitional period? Furthermore, will this apply when EU laws are imposed on us when we will have no say in either the European Council or the European Parliament, and when our courts will be obliged to apply European Court case law without having a judge in that Court?

Do the Government intend to make a new EU treaty? How long is the so-called strict time limit? Given that we are leaving the EU, and therefore the customs union and the single market, and ending the provisions relating to freedom of movement, will the Government reject this new EU ultimatum, including the statement that the European Court of Justice will continue to apply to the UK? Will the Minister reject the idea of the enforcement mechanism set out in the document? Will he reject the suggestion that the European acquis will apply in relation to the United Kingdom, as well as the notion in the document that European Union law will continue to apply to the UK during the transitional period with direct effect and primacy?

Under these arrangements, we will be required to remain in the customs union and the single market, with all four freedoms, and to continue to comply with EU trade policy. Will the Government reject the assertion about the European Union acquis so that we will not be made subject to supervision and control proceedings under European Union law?

In short, do the Government reject this Council decision as inconsistent with our leaving the EU, which we are entitled to do under EU law itself and article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, and which was achieved through the enactment of the arrangements for withdrawal that was supported by 499 Members of this House?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My hon. Friend is right to draw the House’s attention to the fact that Members on both sides of the House have voted to respect the referendum and that the UK should be exiting the EU in accordance with the vote in that referendum. My hon. Friend is a long-standing champion of this issue, and I make it clear that the UK will be leaving the EU on 29 March 2019. We will then have a strictly time-limited implementation period, which will be as short as is practicable—we currently expect it to be in the region of two years.

The answer to my hon. Friend’s first question is yes, but we must make sure that we reconcile these issues through the negotiations to come. He would not, I know, expect me to speak on behalf of the EU and its directives today; I am speaking as a Minister of the Crown, and we enter these negotiations seeking the interests of the UK and making sure that we exit the EU in a smooth and orderly way.

Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

There is a majority in this House that wants a sensible approach to Brexit, so does the Minister agree that it would be right to reach out to that majority instead of letting the European Research Group call the shots? Will he also confirm, as the Chancellor, Business Secretary and Brexit Secretary said in a letter on Friday, that during the transition period, our relations will “continue on current terms”? Will he also confirm, as the Secretary of State told the Brexit Committee on Wednesday, that he does not see the Court of Justice as a red line and that, indeed, any red lines in the negotiations would be “idiotic”? In that vein, do the Government now recognise that it was wrong to rule out a customs union and close relationship with the single market, and does the Minister agree with the Chancellor that our economies should move only “very modestly apart”?

The Government are too distracted by negotiating with their own Back Benchers to focus on the negotiations that matter with the European Union. They are incapable of setting out a clear negotiating position, as Angela Merkel apparently said in Davos at the weekend. Is it not the case that the extraordinary infighting that we have seen again this weekend is the single biggest threat to a Brexit deal that works for Britain?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I agree with one thing that the hon. Gentleman said: there is a majority in this House that wants a sensible approach to Brexit. We saw that with the passage through this House of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, despite the votes of Labour Front Benchers, who voted against a stable and sensible approach with continuity and certainty as we take this process forward.

Of course we need to make sure that we deliver stability and continuity for our businesses, which was why the Government set out from the start, in the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech, the approach of having an implementation period. I am happy to update the House on the beginning of talks on that implementation period today, but we will take no lectures from the Opposition’s Front-Bench team, which has a different position on these issues every day of the week.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Will the Minister confirm that the Government are making good progress on the failsafe option of leaving under World Trade Organisation terms, in case there is not a good agreement on offer? Does he also agree that we are more likely to get a better offer from the EU if it realises that we have the perfectly good option of just leaving?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My right hon. Friend is right to say that the Government have to prepare for all eventualities, and I am working closely with the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend Mr Baker to ensure that we do just that. However, I am also very clear, as is the Government’s policy, that it is in the interests of the UK and the EU that we secure a partnership between us, and the implementation period is a bridge to that future.

Photo of Stephen Gethins Stephen Gethins Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Affairs and Europe)

We are just over a year away from leaving the EU, yet the only thing we can rely on from this Government is chaos. It has been said in the past that the Scottish National party is the real opposition to this failing Government, but I have to say that we are being given a good run for our money by Tory Back Benchers at the moment. The Scottish Government have published their analysis of what leaving the European Union will mean, and they have done so publicly. When will this Government publish their analysis?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I would say to the hon. Gentleman that if he is seeking to provide the real opposition, he might want a few more of his colleagues to turn up for debates in this House. Of course the Government will continue to carry out all the analysis and work that are needed to prepare for this process, but we are going to stick to what this House has repeatedly voted for, which is not to publish anything that would be prejudicial to our negotiating position.

Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Conservative, Broxtowe

The CBI, which represents thousands of businesses of all sizes and from all sectors across the United Kingdom, called on the Government just over a week ago to put the interests of the economy over and above ideology. Does the Minister agree with that, and if he does, when are the Government going to stand up against the hard Brexiteers, who mainly inhabit these Benches—there are only about 35 of them—and see them off to ensure that we get a sensible Brexit? If we do not do that, we will be sleepwalking into a disastrous Brexit for generations to come.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I can assure my right hon. Friend that the Government have always put the interests of the economy at the heart of their approach to Brexit. We are seeking a successful negotiation that delivers for the UK economy and our neighbours in the EU, but of course we need to ensure that we are prepared for all eventualities. The implementation period has strong support from a wide range of business groups and we are therefore seeking to deliver that as swiftly as possible by the end of this quarter.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee

Does the Minister agree that the flurry of confusion at the weekend reflects the fact that there are genuinely different views about how Britain should leave the EU that were not resolved during the referendum, especially on issues such as the customs union? Given the significance of the customs union for the future of Northern Ireland, for the issues raised by the CBI, and for the future of northern and midlands manufacturers, does he agree that the Government should bring forward a proper vote in this Parliament on the customs union, and not just for the transition period but for the long term?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

The right hon. Lady raises some important points, but her party, like mine, stood on a manifesto that said we would have our own independent trade policy and that we would therefore be leaving the customs union and the common external tariff. I know that Labour Front Benchers have already voted to uphold that, so this issue has been decided by the House, and the Prime Minister has shown real leadership in setting out the way forward.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

What negotiations, if any, will continue into the implementation period?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

We have always been very clear that the benefit of the implementation period will be there when both sides have agreed the shape of the future partnership and we can therefore implement that. We will be seeking to establish agreement on the future partnership before March 2019.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

Given the damage that the chaos in government is already doing to our economy, if the Minister will not accept the way out that has just been offered by my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper, the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee—incidentally, the vote she proposed should be a free vote—why will he not do as Mr Rees-Mogg suggests and extend article 50?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I do not recall hearing that suggestion from my hon. Friend Mr Rees-Mogg. The Prime Minister has set out a clear approach, saying that the UK can benefit from its independent trade policy and pursue global trade in the future. That is what we are seeking to deliver.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Conservative, North East Somerset

How does my hon. Friend square paragraph 4 of the European Union’s guidelines, which requires the phase 1 agreement to be respected in full and implemented in legal terms, with the idea that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

We have already set out our desire to reach that legal agreement with the EU on the withdrawal agreement, but it is of course clear from the terms of article 50 that the withdrawal agreement must have regard to the framework for the future relationship, which we are seeking to establish through the negotiations.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham East

The Minister will have heard some of the anxieties about Britain during a transition becoming a rule taker rather than a rule maker. May I make a constructive suggestion, because there might be consensus around this point? If we want to get a final trade deal done properly, why does he not explore the option of extending the article 50 timeframe so that we can negotiate while we are still around the table?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

The Prime Minister has been clear that we do not want to be in some form of indefinite purgatory throughout the process. We need to take the opportunities for the UK that come from having an independent trade policy, and we have set out to provide continuity and certainty for our businesses through the implementation period. That continuity and certainty will be all the greater if we are clear about the future framework by the time we enter the implementation period.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

I commend my hon. Friend and, indeed, the Government for refusing to break faith with the British people by insisting that we shall leave on 29 March 2019 and that, at the end of any implementation period, as the Prime Minister told the House on 11 December, the United Kingdom will have full regulatory autonomy and be free to do our own trade deals with third countries.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is very important that we respect the referendum, which of course Members of this House voted for in huge numbers and then voted to respect. The challenge for the Opposition Front-Bench team is to reconcile its ever-changing positions with that decision.

Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Labour, Vauxhall

Every Minister and Secretary of State, and even the Prime Minister, when asked, has said that we will leave the common fisheries policy at the end of March 2019. Whatever else is happening in this so-called implementation period, will the Minister please confirm now that we will be leaving the common fisheries policy at the end of March 2019 and that we can then discuss which other countries we want to work with in our waters?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

It is clear that the UK will be leaving the common fisheries policy, but we now need to negotiate the terms of the implementation period. The EU has already set out some of its approaches and argues that we will not be playing a continuing role in some institutions. The logic of that is absolutely there. We will be leaving the common fisheries policy and taking control of our waters.

Photo of Antoinette Sandbach Antoinette Sandbach Conservative, Eddisbury

In planning for all eventualities, will the Minister confirm that he is looking at the potential benefits and advantages that the European Free Trade Association might provide us with?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

The Government have of course considered that, but the Prime Minister has set out that she does not believe that a Norway option is the right approach for the UK. It is important that we have control of our future trade policy, which is one of the objectives of our EU negotiation process.

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth

We can argue all we like about the transition period, but it is fundamentally just a plank off a cliff, and we will have no idea where we are going when we walk off the end of it. Does the Minister agree that it is unlikely that a trade agreement would be agreed before we leave and very unlikely that we would have one by the end of the transition period? The real issue is that the Cabinet needs to sort out where on earth it wants this country to go.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman and do not share his pessimism. We start the trade negotiations from the unique position of our having a high degree of convergence with countries and territories that have followed the same rules for a long time. We can therefore be very ambitious about the future trade agreement that we can reach with the EU.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Until recently, I had thought that The Beano was a rather silly boys’ magazine; I now understand that it refers to “Brexit in name only”. Will the Minister confirm that abiding by Brexit in name only is not Government policy, that we will not move modestly apart from Europe, that we are leaving the customs union, the single market and the European Union, and that we will have control of our borders?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I am happy to reiterate to my hon. Friend that the Government’s policy is that the UK will be leaving the EU, and that does mean leaving both the single market and the customs union.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Labour, Penistone and Stocksbridge

The Minister stated that the Prime Minister does not want us to stay within EFTA and has ruled that option out, but that position is supported by only a few Back Benchers—the 35-plus—on the other side of the House. Will the Government commit to ensuring that the wishes of the majority of this House, which wants to put the national interest first, are listened to so that we get to the right place in 2019?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Of course the Government’s aim throughout this process is to put the national interest first. We have been clear, as was the hon. Lady’s own party in its manifesto at the last general election, that the UK will be leaving the European Union, which includes leaving the customs union.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

Our partners have made what seems to be an extremely sensible suggestion that the implementation period should end with the budget period, at the end of December 2020. That is about two years—a year and three quarters, to be precise—so why have we been unable to sign up to it so far?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. The negotiations on that issue are about to begin, and there are reasons why we are confident that we will be able to reach agreement by the end of March. We believe that the implementation period should be, as he says, about two years. We look forward to engaging in those negotiations to reach agreement with our EU counterparts.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

Is it not time that the Minister put the Brexit ultras on the Conservative Benches, and indeed some on the Labour Benches, back in their box and pointed out that every single business sector he has met has asked to stay in the customs union, to stay in the single market and to be subject to the European Court of Justice for at least two years? Otherwise those sectors face chaos, with a huge impact on British jobs and British families.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman’s characterisation. He is right that many business sectors have spoken out for an implementation period, and they share the Prime Minister’s vision of an implementation period that is a bridge to our future relationship, but those businesses also regularly speak about the opportunities they see in the UK having its own independent trade policy.

Photo of David Jones David Jones Conservative, Clwyd West

My hon. Friend has now indicated twice that he anticipates the implementation period will be in the region of two years. Given that uncertainty is the greatest enemy of business confidence, does he not think it would improve business confidence, and indeed assist in the negotiations, if he were to make it absolutely clear that the implementation period will not exceed two years?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My right hon. Friend speaks with great expertise on these matters. It will be in the interests of the UK and the EU to reach agreement on the exact period of this implementation period as soon as possible, but it is important that we enter this negotiation by trying to give ourselves sufficient flexibility to achieve success.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Labour, Aberavon

Paragraph 17 of the directives for the negotiating team states clearly that

“any time-limited prolongation of the Union acquis requires existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures to apply, including the competence of the Court of Justice of the European Union.”

Will the Minister please explain what exactly will be implemented during the implementation period?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Very clearly, as the Prime Minister set out, the aim of the implementation period is to implement the future relationship between the UK and the EU, and to allow us to put those structures in place for that future relationship. As the hon. Gentleman so often does, he speaks eloquently in this House on behalf of the EU, but we need to make sure that we are negotiating on behalf of the UK.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

I thank my hon. Friend for his and this Government’s reasonable approach. I stress again that the European Free Trade Association does not require membership of either the customs union or the single market, but it does provide an administrative and legal framework that might be useful at least for the implementation period, if not further forward.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s point, and I know he takes a great interest in these areas. We believe that both the UK and the EU have set out a different basis for the implementation period, and it is one that can deliver such continuity and certainty, as we have seen in the negotiations.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West

If the majority of Members of this House vote against the final deal, what will the Government do then?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

It is very clear that this House has already voted for article 50, which means that we are leaving the European Union. What we want to ensure is that we have a good deal that this House will support.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon

The welcome news on Friday that the UK economy grew more strongly in the fourth quarter highlights the importance of the services and financial services sectors to this economy. In response to a question on a previous occasion, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union said he accepts that the future of financial services relies on a closely aligned regime of regulatory equivalence and mutual recognition. Does the Minister agree that that is still the policy of the Government?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. Of course it is the policy of the Government to achieve a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union, building on the strong relationship we have had over the years to ensure we maintain strong market access for our services industry, including financial services. As he will know, the financial services sector is one of the many that has spoken up for this implementation period we are talking about delivering.

Photo of Emma Reynolds Emma Reynolds Labour, Wolverhampton North East

The Select Committee on Exiting the European Union visited Dublin last week, and every Minister and indeed politician we met stressed the need to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. Last Wednesday, the Secretary of State told our Committee that regulatory alignment, as agreed last year, applies to only six areas. On Thursday, the Irish Government told us that it would apply to 142 areas, as proposed by the British Government. Which is it, six or 142?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

The hon. Lady makes an important point. It has of course been this Government’s position from the start of this process that we will not allow a hard border on the island of Ireland; we want to secure that through the future relationship between the UK and the EU. She refers to commitments in the joint report, and of course we want to protect north-south co-operation, wherever it exists, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee

As well as on the importance of financial services, does the Minister agree that the Government’s objective of maintaining and, if possible, maximising and increasing continuing judicial and security co-operation will also require a continuing very close alignment on regulatory matters, not least in relation to data protection and exchange? Will he confirm that that will remain a priority for the Government, more than artificial or ideological considerations?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My hon. Friend raises an important point. We set out in our data paper the intention to reach a comprehensive deal between the UK and the EU on data, which I believe will be in the interests of both parties. He rightly points to what the Prime Minister has said, which is that our commitment to European security is non-negotiable.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Labour, Stretford and Urmston

The Minister rightly says that a priority for the Government should be to serve the best interests of this country. So if progress has been made towards negotiating a deal but that negotiation has not been concluded by late this year, will the Government consider, in the interests of this country, extending the process of negotiation to secure the ideal deal?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

The hon. Lady raises an important point, but we want to make sure that businesses have certainty both about the implementation period and about where they are headed through it. The benefits to businesses of an implementation period will be much greater if they know the shape of the future relationship to which we are headed, so I do not believe that prolonging this discussion will be in the interests of either the UK or the EU.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

Will the excellent Minister confirm that in 424 days’ time, when we leave the EU and start the implementation period, we will know what our future relationship with the EU will be after the implementation period?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I am happy to reiterate to my hon. Friend that that is absolutely our objective.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Labour, East Ham

The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK will be ended from March 2019 under the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, but the Prime Minister has made it clear that the ECJ’s jurisdiction will continue into the two-year implementation period to follow. Can the Minister therefore confirm that the implementation and withdrawal Bill, which will come forward in due course, will re-impose the jurisdiction of the ECJ on the UK?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

There is a crucial distinction and difference here, in that the action of the ECJ in the UK currently takes place because we are a member state of the EU, and the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill will implement the agreement between the UK and the EU. That will recognise that the UK is therefore an independent country, adhering to that agreement, which the Prime Minister said should be under the same rules and regulations that we follow now.

Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Conservative, Harborough

Like my constituents, I support Brexit, but does the Minister agree that, given that we have been in the EU for 40 years, it is essential to have an implementation period so that we can deliver the huge prize of a smooth and orderly Brexit?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, one that has been made by people on all sides of the referendum debate. We respect the decision made by the British people, including his constituents, and we want to make the greatest success of it. A smooth and orderly exit is the best way to achieve that.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Intervention)

Earlier this month, the National Assembly for Wales unanimously—this included Tory and UK Independence party Assembly Members—supported a motion from my colleague, Steffan Lewis, calling for a continuity Bill to protect the Welsh constitution from the power grab inherent in the British Government’s legislative proposals for implementing the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. Now that Wales has spoken, will the British Government listen, or are they intent on forcing a constitutional crisis?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s allegations of a power grab. The Government have listened. We have been clear that we will bring forward amendments to clause 11 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, and we are seeking legislative consent for that Bill from each of the devolved Administrations. We need to make the process succeed for every part of the United Kingdom, and we look forward to doing that for Wales, as for every other part of the UK.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

Will the Minister confirm that from a practical point of view we should not be too worried about new EU law during the two-year transition period, because it takes more than two years for new EU laws to be put in place? Also from a practical point of view, will he confirm that we will set up working groups on important technical issues, such as data exchanges, as soon as possible?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My hon. Friend makes two important points. She is broadly right about the process of making EU laws, of which she has great expertise from her time in the European Parliament. We want to make sure that the UK has the ability to express concerns when it has them and that we have good technical working between us and the EU. I assure my hon. Friend that, as the discussions move forward to focus on the future relationship, we will be doing exactly that.

Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

I urge the Minister to resist the siren voices from his own Back Benches that are urging him on to the rocks of a WTO-only deal. Is not the real reason for the Cabinet’s policy of destructive ambiguity that it is fatally split on ideological grounds? Ministers are putting the unity of the Conservative party before British jobs, the British economy and British public services.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I completely disagree with the hon. Lady. The Government have set out a clear strategy to deliver for the British economy through this process, and we will deliver on that strategy. I have seen time and again in votes in this House that the greatest split that exists on these issues is between Labour Back Benchers and their own Front Bench team.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

Will the Government make it a red line that no implementation period will begin until a trade agreement with the EU is concluded?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

As I set out in my answer to the urgent question, it is clear that in order to put in place the agreement on the future relationship, we need to have left the EU. We need to ensure that both parties are able to ratify the agreement, with the UK as an independent territory outside the EU. I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend that, as article 50 itself suggests, the withdrawal agreement should have regard to the future relationship, which it will be in the interests of both parties to secure.

Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith

One in five people resident in Hammersmith and Fulham is an EU27 citizen. Along with, I suspect, the 3.5 million-plus others in the UK, they feel confused and misled by what the Government have said about their future in this country. Will the Minister confirm that people who move to the UK from the EU during the transition period will be eligible to apply for settled status?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

We have of course already confirmed, and agreed through the joint report, that those people who are already in this country—he refers to some in his constituency—are going to be able to stay. They will be able to apply for a new settled status. We are about to enter into the negotiations on the implementation period. We have been clear that people will continue to be able to come to the UK during that period, but they will need to register.

Photo of Paul Masterton Paul Masterton Conservative, East Renfrewshire

The British people are, in the main, not ideological but practical and pragmatic. They simply want Brexit to work. Will the Minister assure me that the Government’s policy will be dictated not by fringe groups, either in this place or outside it, but by the national interest?

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Chair, Defence Sub-Committee

Whether among larger employers or small and medium-sized enterprises, it seems to me that there is currently a consensus that the length of time and potentiality of high costs for the UK in breaking into new markets is going to be devastating, with jobs lost. What change is there in the Minister’s response? Will he start to listen to the voices of industry, rather than of 35 Tory Back Benchers?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Right from the start of this process we have been listening to the voices of industry and to businesses large and small. When the Prime Minister set out the implementation period in her Lancaster House speech last January, she was responding to some of those concerns. I am delighted that we can now move forward to secure the implementation period, which will help businesses in the years to come.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Conservative, Charnwood

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Lancaster House speech, coupled with the Florence speech, remains the basis of the Government’s approach to implementing Brexit and delivering the orderly and smooth Brexit to which we are committed?

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

On Friday afternoon, yet another north-east businessman came to see me worried about a cliff edge. Will the Minister now, once and for all, see off the middle-aged swivel-eyed men behind him and make it clear that, in the interests of British industry, he will negotiate a transition period in which British industrialists are on a level playing field with European industrialists?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I am sure that the hon. Lady will join me in welcoming the fact that the Secretary of State delivered his speech on the implementation period, making it clear that we are seeking an implementation period in the north-east of England.

Photo of Martin Vickers Martin Vickers Conservative, Cleethorpes

The Minister said that, during the implementation period, we will be able to negotiate and sign trade agreements. Will he confirm that there will be no compromise on that, and that it will not be added to the growing list of concessions that the Government have made?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My hon. Friend tempts me to pre-empt negotiations—as a number of colleagues have. What I say to him is clearly the position that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set out, which is that we will be able to sign those trade agreements, but, as the Prime Minister made clear, what we do not want to do is bring into force trade agreements that would conflict with our responsibilities towards the EU during that period. We want to make sure that this is a bridge to Britain’s future as a global trading nation.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

Today, the Welsh Secretary for Finance, Mark Drakeford, said that the Government have still not allayed the Welsh Government’s fears of a power grab. Will the Minister set out when he expects to get agreement from the devolved Administrations, because if he cannot get a deal from within the UK, what confidence can we have of him getting any sort of agreement from the EU?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

It is in the interests of all parts of the UK to exit the European Union with continuity, certainty and control, which is why I think it was a missed opportunity for his party not to support the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, but I look forward to seeing that support in the other place. As I said to Jonathan Edwards, amendments to clause 11 of that Bill will be brought forward in the Lords.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Prior to the referendum, Her Majesty’s Treasury forecast near economic collapse, since when the economy has done well, with manufacturing and exports particularly strong. How can my hon. Friend assure my constituents that Her Majesty’s Treasury understands the electoral arithmetic of the referendum and will finally get with the programme?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I can assure my hon. Friend that our Department has been working closely with Her Majesty’s Treasury to ensure that we make a success of this process. He rightly points to the robust growth figures that we have seen from the UK economy. What we all need to ensure is that, throughout this process, we continue to support that economy to grow and deliver the public services that we all want to see.

Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education)

Will the Minister confirm that the UK will remain a member of Euratom during the transitional period, and if not, will he inform those working in nuclear medicine where they should be sourcing their radioisotopes?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I refer the hon. Lady to the paper that we published on Euratom and the Nuclear Safeguards Bill, which the Government are bringing forward. It is not responsible to spread scare stories about radioisotopes, and the point has been clearly made a number of times that they are not restricted by the Euratom treaties.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

Businesses and many others believe strongly in orderly change to our relations with the EU. Will my hon. Friend therefore confirm that the implementation period arrangements will include continuity of the UK’s role in many organisations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations where our role is as part of the EU, so giving us time to negotiate future relations with those organisations both before and during the implementation period?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My hon. Friend, who is an expert on trade issues, raises a very important point about our existing trade agreements. Of course we want to ensure that we roll those over so that we maintain the best market access with those third countries and other territories, and also that the UK can take up wider opportunities in global trade, so as we enter this implementation period, we will seek to secure both of those points.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Is not the decision about the deal and implementation period separate from that of the original referendum? Is it therefore not appropriate always to refer back to the “will of the people” when we are talking about decisions on the implementation and the deal?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I am a little confused by the hon. Lady’s point. I would have thought that her party might support an implementation period, but she appears to be saying that we need another referendum in order to have one. I do not agree with that argument. It is important that we go ahead with respecting the referendum—a unique democratic exercise in British history, in which millions of people voted—and delivering on it. Part of that can be a successful negotiation on the implementation period.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

The Minister has spoken about an implementation period of around two years after we formally leave the European Union, if there is to be an implementation period. May I further press him to say that it will be less than two years? I would suggest, as others have, new year’s eve 2020.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I hear my hon. Friend’s point and I am sure that it will be heard by others on our team. We want this negotiation to secure the stability and certainty that business wants and that will be good for our economy. It is important to enter that negotiation seeking to bring the position of the UK and the European Union—which, indeed, at the moment seems to be closer to my hon. Friend’s position—closer together.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour, East Lothian

Given the challenges that the amendment to clause 11 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill gave the Government, will the Minister confirm that he is going to have discussions with the devolved authorities in time, so that we do not come across another problem later?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I can confirm that the communication with the devolved authorities is ongoing. We have discussed the issues of the Lancaster House speech and the Florence speech with them many times already, and I think they will support us in wanting to secure an implementation period that is good for the whole UK.

Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Conservative, Mid Worcestershire

I think that our constituents would respect all of us in this place a lot more if we stopped making comments about people being swivel-eyed just because they have firmly held opinions. Does the Minister agree that the purpose of an implementation period is to demonstrate very clearly that we have a realistic grasp of the scale and complexity of the task ahead of us—not to frustrate Brexit, but to reassure the public and business that we want to conduct Brexit in a disciplined and sensible manner?

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

My hon. Friend is absolutely right on both points. We want to make a success of this process for the UK economy, UK business and every part of the UK. I think that our constituents expect us to work together across the House and not to be calling each other names during this process.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Labour, Aberavon

Thank you, Mr Speaker. As you will have heard during this session, I asked the Minister a perfectly reasonable question. Unfortunately, he chose to respond by impugning my motives and questioning my patriotism. I assure him that I speak only in what I see as the national interest and the interests of my constituents. I therefore ask him to retract those comments and apologise, and we will leave it at that.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I did not mean to impugn the hon. Gentleman’s motives. I would only point out that he was reading directly from the EU’s negotiating guidelines, and that today we are, of course, discussing the UK’s policy.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Labour, Aberavon

That is not an apology.