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Leaving the Eu: Negotiations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 10th July 2018.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 4:45 pm, 10th July 2018

We have listened very carefully to views across the whole House. I was interested to hear the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends speaking about Erasmus. As the Prime Minister set out in her Mansion House speech, we are seeking cultural and educational co-operation with the EU. That is an issue on which Members across the House can agree and, of course, there have been many other issues where we have listened. During the passage of the EU withdrawal Act, we listened to views across the House and engaged on those. I personally was very pleased that we were able to engage with the cross-party amendment in the Lords on the Good Friday agreement—the one supported by Labour’s Lord Murphy and my noble Friend Lord Patten.

In March we reached a significant milestone, reaching agreement on wide areas of the withdrawal agreement, locking down the full chapters on citizens’ rights and the financial settlement, and providing certainty to businesses and individuals, with both sides committing in principle to a time-limited implementation period. Last month, building on the progress made in March, the UK and EU negotiating teams made further significant progress towards finalising the withdrawal agreement, with the majority of text on other separation issues now agreed. These cover a range of areas, including arrangements for goods on the market, Euratom-related issues, and co-operation in civil and commercial matters. We have had constructive discussions with the EU on the few remaining issues in the text, including data, police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters, and governance arrangements for the agreement, and we look forward to finalising all these areas soon.

Under the terms of article 50, we are also in the process of negotiating the framework for our future relationship with the EU. Last weekend at Chequers, the Cabinet agreed the collective position on the UK’s proposals for that future relationship. This will create a free trade area between the UK and the EU which establishes a common rulebook for industrial goods. Tim Farron spoke about the importance of that to food and agriculture. High standards will be maintained, but we will also ensure that no new changes take place without the approval of our Parliament. We will have a new business-friendly customs model, with freedom to strike new trade deals around the world. These proposals avoid frictions in trade, protect jobs and livelihoods and, crucially, meet the commitments made by both sides to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. Even Sir Vince Cable, in opening the debate, recognised that as an advance, but it represents the consistent position of this Government.