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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

On my hon. Friend’s last point, the Committee does indeed hope and expect that it will receive a response from the Government in the allotted time. We have produced a number of reports, and I think there might be one report on which we are still awaiting a response, but, in fairness to Ministers, they have got a lot on. I see that the Minister smiles, and I am in my most generous mood today: they have indeed got a lot on. I am sure Ministers understand the dynamics of the change in the EU come next year, with the elections and the new Commission being formed, although to be absolutely fair, when we asked Guy Verhofstadt about this last week, as I recall, he expressed the view that he did not really think that would create a great difficulty, but we have heard different evidence from other people.

What I would say is that whether that causes the time to be truncated or not, 21 months to sort out the whole list of things that we are all aware of, and Ministers are more aware of than anybody else, is not very long bearing in mind that the other bit of the process is ratification at the end of it. To the extent that an agreement reached becomes a mixed agreement, the ratification process—unlike the withdrawal agreement, for which the process is the Council by qualified majority voting, this Parliament, the European Parliament—would involve the Parliaments of all of the member states, including regional Parliaments, and we all recall what the Parliament of Wallonia did for about three weeks in respect of the Canada trade deal. So that adds to the uncertainty and to the pressure to try to get these negotiations concluded as quickly as possible.