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Exiting the European Union

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:32 pm on 28th June 2018.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn Chair, Committee on Exiting the European Union 12:32 pm, 28th June 2018

I thank my hon. Friend for his work on the Committee. I hope he will forgive me if I do not comment on party considerations in making this statement here today, but he raises an important issue about the nature of the political declaration. We heard clearly in evidence that it will not be a treaty or draft treaty, although there was some debate when we heard from Guy Verhofstadt about whether including it as an annexe to the agreement would give it greater force. It will come down to this question: will the House think there is sufficient certainty about the nature of our future relationship on all the things I mentioned a moment ago to the Chair of the Select Committee on Health, Dr Wollaston, in the political declaration or not? If we approve it and there is not that certainty, the House will really be saying, “Well, let’s see what happens.”

There are two parts to this negotiation: the withdrawal agreement, which is the divorce settlement, and which is important, and our future relationship on trade, security, the fight against terrorism, foreign policy and services—80% of the British economy is services—which is the really important bit. Therefore, the more detail and the more certainty the political declaration can offer, and the more the parties to the negotiation can show they are committed to turning that into a treaty, the better it will be for Parliament as it makes its judgment.