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I am delighted to open the second day of this very important debate. At the outset I want to set out the status of our negotiations and reiterate this Government’s vision for a future economic partnership with the EU. I will in particular focus on the important issue of financial services within any future trade agreement, and remind the House that we have been very clear that the decision to leave the EU does not mean some loveless divorce or division. There is indeed no need for this, given that the economies of the UK and the EU are inextricably connected, and given our long and shared history of common values and shared challenges, and I have no doubt that any future economic partnership must recognise and reflect these facts.
We stand at the threshold of a new beginning with our European partners, and a renewal of our commitment to ensure the continued prosperity and stability of both the UK and the EU. Before I turn to our future economic partnership with Europe, it is important to set out just how far we have come, and what awaits us as we progress our discussions.
The agreement in December was a significant step forward. The joint report issued by the UK and the EU set out progress on three areas: a fair deal on citizens’ rights that enables families who have built their lives together in the EU and the UK to stay together; a financial settlement that honours the commitments we undertook as members of the EU, as we said we would; and an agreement in relation to Northern Ireland. We are confident that this collaborative spirit, which led to the December agreement, will endure as we take our approach forward into the next phase, including at the European Council next week.