With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement about the UK’s future relationship with the European Union.
I pay tribute both to my right hon. Friend Mr Davis for his Herculean efforts and to my hon. Friend Mr Baker and the wider Department for Exiting the EU team for getting us to this point in both the negotiations and the successful passage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill through Parliament. It is a striking achievement. My right hon. Friend is a loss to Government, but I suspect, with the mildest apprehension, a considerable gain to this House.
Today, we publish the Government’s White Paper on the UK’s future relationship with the EU. It is a new and detailed proposal for a principled, pragmatic and ambitious future partnership between the UK and the EU in line with the policy agreed at Chequers last week. I have now placed a copy of the White Paper in the Libraries of both Houses.
Let me briefly set out the key proposals. The Government are determined to build a new relationship that works both for the UK and the EU: one that is grounded in our shared history, but which also looks to a bright and ambitious future; and a relationship that delivers real and lasting benefits to both sides.
First, the White Paper confirms that the UK will leave the European Union on
In delivering on this vision, the Government propose an innovative and unprecedented economic partnership based on open and free trade, maintaining frictionless trade through a new UK-EU free trade area for goods, underpinned by an ongoing common rulebook covering only those rules necessary to provide for frictionless trade at the border. This will support business and meet our shared commitments to Northern Ireland and Ireland, avoiding reliance on the so-called backstop solution. A key component of this will be our proposal for a facilitated customs arrangement—a business-friendly model that removes the need for a new routine customs check and controls between the UK and the EU, while enabling the UK to control its own tariffs to boost trade with the rest of the world. We want a deep and comprehensive deal on services, based on the principles of international trade. Our approach minimises new barriers to service provision, allowing UK firms to establish in the EU and vice versa, and provides for mutual recognition of professional qualifications.
On financial services, we propose a new economic and regulatory approach with the EU that will preserve the mutual benefits of our uniquely integrated markets, while protecting financial stability and, critically, the autonomy of our own rule making. Crucially, our proposals on services provide the UK with regulatory flexibility in the sector, including our dynamic, innovative and digital sectors, which will in turn open up new possibilities in relation to trade with the wider world.
As we leave the EU, free movement of people will come to an end. We will control the number of people who come to our country. We will assert stronger security checks at the border. [Interruption.]
Order. The Secretary of State is trying to complete his statement in circumstances in which there is manifest discontent in the Chamber. Let me say to the right hon. Gentleman, whom I welcome to his new responsibilities and whom I congratulate on his promotion to the Cabinet, that I recognise that collective decisions are made upon these matters and they are not all his individual doing. It is a source of considerable unhappiness in this Chamber, as is manifest—and has been over the last hour or so—on both sides of the House, that the right hon. Gentleman is delivering a statement about a White Paper, copies of which are not currently available to Members of the House of Commons. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that it might be considered courteous now to indicate at the Dispatch Box if he so wishes, in terms that brook of no misunderstanding, that he is of course perfectly happy for Members to have copies of the White Paper about which it is intended that they should question him. If he would be good enough to make that clear, it would greatly assist the House. Were he not to do so, I think that the consequence in terms of Chamber unhappiness would become that much more stark.
Order. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for what he said. I am advised that copies are available to some people. If there are copies in the Vote Office, all I am asking the right hon. Gentleman is this: is he content, as a member of Her Majesty’s Government—indeed, the Cabinet thereof—that Members of Parliament should have a copy of the White Paper about which they are to question him? It is quite a simple inquiry.
Yes, of course. Just for clarity, it is already available on the website for anyone who wishes to procure it that way. [Interruption.]
Order. I genuinely thank the Secretary of State for saying that and I appreciate that he is attempting to co-operate. As the document is in the Vote Office, but the timing of the release of the document is a matter for those who own the document—in this case, the Government—all I am asking is, is the right hon. Gentleman content that copies should be given out by the Vote Office immediately?
Order. I will just say to Mr Baker—an immediate past Minister in the Brexit Department—and to Dr Wollaston, that I will not take points of order now, because the Secretary of State has to finish his statement. However, if Members are concerned that ordinarily if they leave the Chamber to get a document they are then precluded from taking part in the statement, I will waive that normal arrangement in this instance, because I am concerned to operate in a way that serves Members of the House.
I cannot see why there has to be a point of order now. I always attach the very greatest importance to the observations of the hon. Lady. If she wants to beetle over to the Chair and explain to me privately, she may, but it foxes me as to why she needs to make any point of order now. [Interruption.] Good, I am very pleased to see that Mr Duncan Smith has a copy of the document. Meanwhile, let us hear the conclusion of the statement. [Interruption.] Order. I say to the Secretary of State that it would be very unseemly—discourteous to him and to the Members of the House—for his statement to be delivered while copies of the document are being distributed. I will therefore suspend the sitting of the House for five minutes. It is most regrettable that this situation has arisen, but I am dealing with it in a way that I think is constructive.
Order. I invite the Secretary of State to continue with the delivery of his statement.
Just before that, I will, exceptionally, take the point of order. These situations do not arise very often, and it is very much to be hoped that they will not arise frequently in future. I say for the benefit of the people observing our proceedings that I call the hon. Lady to raise a point of order in the knowledge that she is not only the Member for Totnes and the Chair of the Health Committee but serves also as the Chair of the Liaison Committee, which embraces all the Chairs of all the Select Committees of this House.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Given the exceptional importance of this document, and the fact that Members on both sides of the House have not had a chance to read it in advance, may I ask, exceptionally, that you suspend the sitting for longer to give Members a chance to read it before the Secretary of State continues?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. I do not think it is right for me to suspend for a sustained period off my own bat, in the expectation—perhaps even the knowledge—that there would be very strongly differing views about such a suspension. [Interruption.] Order. Even as the hon. Lady raised her point of order, I heard Members expressing enthusiasm for the idea and Members expressing opposition. I do not think it would be the right thing to do now, in all honesty. There will be an opportunity for a general debate on our relationship with Europe post Brexit on Wednesday, and Members know that there are other opportunities to put urgent questions. I know that the hon. Lady is concerned about the legislative business on Monday. My advice to her is that she should form the clearest possible impression of Government policy and intent today before making such judgments as she and others have to make. The exchanges on this statement will be run fully. I think I will leave it there for today. I thank the Secretary of State for his forbearance.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
As we leave the EU, free movement of people will come to an end. We will control the number of people who come to our country. We will assert stronger security checks at the border. The Government will also seek a reciprocal mobility arrangement with the EU in line with the approach we intend to take with other key trading partners around the world. In practice having ended free movement, this is about enabling firms to move their top talent across borders to deliver services, facilitating travel without a visa for tourism and business trips, and making sure that our students and youngsters in the UK and the EU continue to benefit from the educational opportunities in universities and colleges—and indeed from the rich tapestry of cultural life right across the continent.
Next, the White Paper addresses Europe’s security, which has been and will remain the UK’s security. That is why the Government have made an unconditional commitment to maintain it. The Government’s proposal is for a new security partnership with the EU to tackle the shared, complex and evolving threats, enabling the UK and the EU to act together on some of the most pressing global challenges. It is important that the UK and the EU can continue operational co-operation on law enforcement and criminal justice to keep people safe right across Europe. Our proposals extend to other areas of co-operation of vital importance to the UK and the EU, including the continued protection and exchange of personal data; new arrangements on fishing; and co-operative accords on science and innovation, culture, and defence research.
When we leave the EU, the European Court will no longer have jurisdiction over this country. At the same time, we will need to be able to interpret what we have agreed accurately and consistently, and to manage any future bones of contention sensibly and responsibly. Our proposals provide for proper accountability and the consistent interpretation of UK-EU agreements by both parties. We envisage resolving disputes that may arise through arbitration. That is fair, balanced, and reflective of global practice. To provide the foundation for a new and enduring relationship, the agreement must be flexible enough to enable us to review and, if necessary, revise its operation over time in the best interests of this country, as is common in free trade agreements across the world.
I would like to make one thing very clear: we will not sign away our negotiating leverage or spend taxpayers’ money in return for nothing. The financial settlement that was agreed in December, which substantially lowered EU demands, was agreed on the basis that it would sit alongside a deep and mutually beneficial future partnership. We agreed that we would meet our commitments as they fall due, with ever-declining payments over a finite period that add up to a tiny fraction of what would have been our net contribution. Both sides have been clear that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Indeed, that is in keeping with the spirit of article 50. There should be a firm commitment in the withdrawal agreement requiring the framework for the future relationship to be translated into legal text as soon as possible. Of course, if one party fails to honour its side of the overall bargain, there will be consequences for the whole deal. For our part, today, with the publication of this White Paper, the UK Government are demonstrating, in good faith and with good will, our ambition and resolve to ensure that we do build that deep and special partnership.
The Prime Minister first outlined the blueprint for a deep and special relationship with the EU at Lancaster House, and expanded on it further in speeches in Florence, in Munich, and at Mansion House. Those speeches have shaped and continue to shape our negotiations with the EU. I am confident that a deal is within reach, given the success of the Prime Minister and her negotiating team so far. Most issues under the withdrawal agreement have by now been resolved, with a deal in place to secure the rights of over 3 million EU citizens living in the UK and about 1 million UK citizens living in the EU. We have agreed a time-limited implementation period that gives businesses, government and citizens the certainty to plan their lives and invest for the future. We will shortly publish a White Paper on the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill setting out how we will give effect to the withdrawal agreement in domestic law and demonstrating to the EU that the UK is a dependable negotiating partner—one that will deliver on its commitments.
Our discussions with the EU will squarely focus on our shared future. This White Paper sets out how we can achieve that new partnership. Now it is time for the EU to respond in kind. We approach these negotiations with a spirit of pragmatism, compromise and, indeed, friendship. I hope and trust that the EU will engage with our proposals in the same spirit, and I plan to meet Michel Barnier next week to discuss the detail in person.
At the same time, the Government are preparing in the event that that spirit of pragmatism and good will is not reciprocated. On Monday I spoke with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and we agreed to step up our planning for the no deal scenario so that the UK is ready for Brexit no matter what the outcome of these negotiations is. That is the responsible thing for a Government to do.
This White Paper sets out the right Brexit deal, delivering on the result of the referendum; taking back control over our money, laws and borders; supporting the economy by maintaining a strong trading relationship after we have left; ending free movement while avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, or indeed between Northern Ireland and Great Britain; restoring sovereignty to Parliament and the authority of the UK Supreme Court; seizing the opportunity to forge new trade deals around the world; and maintaining co-operation with the EU in the many other areas that we prize, including security co-operation to keep our people safe. This is our vision for a bold, ambitious and innovative new partnership with the EU. Principled and practical, faithful to the referendum, it delivers a deal that is good for the UK and good for our EU friends. I commend this statement and the White Paper to the House.
I welcome the new Secretary of State to his place. I am sure he does not need me to tell him the size of the task he faces, negotiating with not just the Conservative party but eventually the EU as well. Whatever our differences—and there are many—I genuinely wish him well.
I gently say that the Secretary of State has not got off to a very good start. The utter shambles of the last 20 minutes, which led to the suspension of the House during a statement, is clear evidence of why the Government are in such a mess. [Interruption.] Those on the Government Front Bench are commenting from a sedentary position. Normally I would thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of the White Paper, but on this occasion, my first question to him is: why did the Government think it appropriate to share the White Paper in full with journalists at 9 am today—I think they were given 15 minutes to read it before questions could be asked, unlike the five minutes that we adjourned for—and give them hard copies, and only to provide the Opposition with a copy three hours later? As he will know, my office has been on to his office all morning asking for this White Paper. It was delivered at 11.55 am, and we saw the shambles that followed. Why was it appropriate on this occasion, on this issue, to give it to the press at 9 am and to the Opposition three hours later?
That is not the only breach of protocol. I was handed the Secretary of State’s statement as we finished business questions. But for the point of order, it would have been as he stood up. That is in breach of the ministerial code, which suggests giving 45 minutes. It is deeply discourteous, and it is unacceptable. I have to say, having heard the statement, that I did not miss much, but the serious point is this: the point of these statements is to allow questions to be asked of the Secretary of State, and by proceeding in this way, with this utter shambles, we are denied proper scrutiny of this White Paper. I am sure the House would like to know—
I think the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs went on one of the television shows on Sunday morning and said that the great thing about the Chequers compromise is that it has united the Cabinet—just hours before the Brexit Secretary started penning his letter and then the Foreign Secretary did the same—so I will not be taking too much advice from him.
As for the new Secretary of State, I am sure the House would like to know when he was first shown the contents of the White Paper. He was not at Chequers, so when did Olly Robbins tell him that this was the policy he now had to sell? That is an important question, because it appears that two White Papers are being published today: the one before the House, and the alternative one apparently drafted by his own Department. That is now available in instalments on “ConservativeHome”. In fact, it beat this White Paper to publication.
I listened very carefully to what the Secretary of State said earlier on the “Today” programme and in his statement, when he described this White Paper as “innovative”. For the record, can he confirm to the House that he does actually agree with everything in the White Paper he is presenting?
Turning to the substance, obviously we will have to look at the detail of the White Paper. The purpose of the short Chequers statement issued on Friday was to hold the Cabinet together. It clearly failed in that objective, unravelling within 48 hours. If this White Paper is more of the same, it will undoubtedly share the same fate.
Across the business community, among trade unions and, I genuinely believe, across the House, there is growing unity that the UK should remain economically close to the EU. That means negotiating a comprehensive customs union with the EU27 and a single market deal with the right balance of rights and obligations, tailored to the UK. That combination is also the only way of delivering on the solemn promise of no hard border in Northern Ireland. The White Paper falls a long way short of that.
I would like to ask the Secretary of State for a simple answer to a simple question. Is this White Paper the Government’s starting position in the next phase of the negotiations, in which case we can expect further evolution of the Government’s position, or is it the Government’s final position and as far as they are prepared to go—new red lines?
Let me develop that theme. The White Paper sets out proposals for a facilitated customs arrangement. [Interruption.]
Order. Conversations regularly take place between Members on respective Benches. I am not complaining about that. I simply thought it right that the conversation should be concluded and the interrogation could then continue, because that would seem to be a courteous way in which to proceed.
As for the facilitated customs arrangement, we think the proposals would be a bureaucratic nightmare, unworkable and costly for business. They rely on technology that does not currently exist. If, based on analysis, the EU27 agree with that assessment and reject the proposal on a customs arrangement, is the Government’s position that we should then negotiate a customs union with the EU, as the majority in the House think we should? On services, there is almost nothing, so again, if the Government’s proposals for mutual recognition and enhanced equivalence fail, what then?
In the short time I have had available to me, a number of features of this White Paper have leaped out. Vis-à-vis travel to work, the Secretary of State said in his statement that that was for business trips. The White Paper says that it is for “business activity”. I wonder if he could clear up the difference between the two. That is in paragraph 76 of chapter 1. Paragraph 89 of chapter 1 refers to reciprocal arrangements on social security. Could he elaborate on what that is? Paragraph 4 of chapter 4 says that the UK’s proposal
“would take the form of an Association Agreement”.
Again, could he elaborate on that? In paragraph 42 on page 93, there is a reference to the role of the European Court and interpretation. Perhaps he could elaborate on that as well.
Coming 15 months after article 50 was triggered and just three months before the article 50 agreement is expected, this White Paper has obviously arrived very late in the day. The Chequers statement unravelled in two days. When the details of this White Paper are examined, there are very few reasons to believe it will not suffer the same fate.
May I just apologise for the late arrival of the White Paper? We will look into what happened with the Clerks. I apologise to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and we will avoid its happening again.
I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his generous welcome. I noticed that it came in two parts, but I am genuinely looking forward to working with him at this historic crossroads for our country. Like him I am a recovering lawyer, like him I voted to trigger article 50, and at the last general election we both stood on manifestos that promised the British people we would leave the EU, so I hope he will forgive me if I remind him of that every now and again.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman made some rather disobliging comments on unity. May I say to him ever so gently that people in glass houses should not throw stones? At the last count, there have been 103 Front-Bench resignations from Labour under its current leader, a record that is unlikely to be rivalled any time in the foreseeable future.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman made a number of procedure and process points, which rather seemed to be displacement activity for anything Labour might have to say on the substance of Brexit. [Interruption.]
Order. I do intend to call everybody to question the Secretary of State. It is only fair that questions are heard with courtesy, and that the replies are heard with courtesy.
I am grateful, Mr Speaker.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman made some specific points. He asked if I agreed with the White Paper. Yes, of course. He asked whether the White Paper was a starting point for the negotiation or the end point. It is for the negotiation, but we are confident that it is a principled, practical approach that can deliver a lasting deal and a good deal for this country and for the EU. He made some comments about services. In fact, we are looking to make sure that we have full autonomy over rule making in relation to services, with arrangements for recognition so that we retain our services provision between the UK and the EU, but are freed up to trade in services more energetically and more liberally through the trade deals we do right across the world.
On free movement, the White Paper is clear, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants to read it in good faith and understand our position. We have made it clear that we are ending free movement. That means we are going to take back control of our borders. It means that we will have stronger security checks at the border. It also means that we will have control over the number of people who come to this country. At the same time, we want Britain to be an open, outward-looking country. We want to encourage and facilitate business trips from the EU to the UK—that is common sense. We want to make sure there is visa waiver travel for tourism such as family holidays—that is common sense. For students and young people wanting to engage in research or go to university, or indeed to engage in the cultural activities across the continent, we obviously want to have sensible arrangements—that is common sense too.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about the customs union and the single market. He needs to be clear: if Labour’s position is to remain in the single market or the customs union and if, as he has said before, freedom of movement is “up for negotiation”—his words, not mine—that would break every promise every Labour candidate made at the last election to end free movement. The Government now stand ready to work with the EU over the coming weeks, ahead of the European Council in October. We must move at pace and we must negotiate with resolve to deliver the prosperous and secure future that all our peoples deserve.
First, may I welcome my right hon. Friend to the Cabinet? I have believed for a long time that he should have had a place in it before. In welcoming him, I also recognise, however, that this is a very complex issue. My own personal views on this will be no secret to him. I have deep misgivings about what the Government are proposing. Having voted to leave, I voted to leave, not to half leave.
I want to raise paragraph 7d with my right hon. Friend. To pursue what Keir Starmer said for the Opposition, we have seen very little about the migration proposals, which seem to be out there as part of what might be referred to as negotiating capital. To follow on from his question, which I think was quite legitimate, the phrase at the end of paragraph 7d is
“arrangements that the UK might want to offer to other close trading partners in the future”.
My simple question is: when the Government go to discuss, negotiate or confer with the EU, whichever phrase suits, does my right hon. Friend believe that it will be prepared to withdraw the rights to benefits of those who come without jobs?
I thank my right hon. Friend. Let me give him some assurance: free movement will end; it is not up for negotiation. Equally, when countries right around the world engage in free trade negotiations, the issue of visas is often considered alongside them, and that is the approach we will take.
I, too, must wish the Secretary of State the very best of British luck in his new role.
Brexit was of course a disastrous outcome of Tory infighting, and it now looks as though the Tory compromise last week is also falling victim to Tory infighting. It is an embarrassment and massively damaging. In January last year, the Prime Minister laid out 12 principles to underpin her Brexit process. The first was certainty and clarity, but we have had neither. The take-home from this latest Brexit White Paper seems to be that we are leaving the EU but we are putting in place regulations to comply with EU regulations on the movement of goods, so we will have no say in the decisions but we will abide by them. What mechanism will check the UK’s regulatory compliance with EU rules to allow access to the market? Will the UK use EU standards in negotiations on other trade agreements, or will there be a whole different set of standards for each agreement? Even more importantly, services make up 80% of the UK’s economy, and paragraph 48 of the White Paper says that
“the UK and the EU will not have current levels of access to each other’s markets.”
That is the Government limiting the sector’s access to the world’s biggest market, which is massively damaging. What measures will the Government bring in to compensate for that bizarre and unhelpful move?
Scotland is right in the firing line of this Brexit dither and indecision—damaged yet again by Tory infighting and intransigence. Is it not time that the Government accepted that this is a wrong-headed scheme and kept us in the single market and the customs union? They would be well advised to take the measured and sensible approach recommended by the Scottish Government ahead of last week’s Joint Ministerial Committee. Will that be considered? The Government’s own analysis has shown that Brexit is massively damaging, no matter what protections are offered. Will the Government now listen to wiser heads, reverse course for everyone’s good, and stay in the single market and customs union?
Lastly, what on earth is happening in this place? Not only did the Opposition parties receive copies of the White Paper appalling late, but it is customary for party spokespeople to have sight of statements before Ministers rise to their feet, not during the statement, as happened today. This Government’s contemptuous treatment of this Parliament has once again been laid bare for all to see.
First, the decision to leave the EU was not a decision by any political party; it was a decision by the UK in a referendum—free and fair—of which every party in this House, when the legislation providing for it was passed, agreed to respect the outcome.
In relation to goods and services, we will be taking the decision to agree to a common rulebook, because we want to mitigate any risk of friction at the border. However, this House and the Government—the UK—will have the chance to feed in to any potential changes that may occur over time through consultation. Ultimately, there is a parliamentary lock to make sure that elected Members of this House have the last word. The reality in relation to goods is that the corpus or body of law remains relatively stable. Unlike goods, services are not affected by friction at the border—they are not subject to tariffs or customs—and unlike the vast majority of manufactured goods and agri-food products, most services are not subject to specific standards. The hon. Lady complained about rule taking in relation to goods and then she complained about our not being subject in relation to services. That made no sense at all.
I am deeply worried about the proposals I have read already in the White Paper and in the three-page document that we received the other day, for this reason. On the issue of the sovereignty of Parliament, we passed the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which repeals the European Communities Act 1972, but under the proposals as I read them—the so-called parliamentary lock, and compliance with a common rulebook—for dealing with regulatory rule taking from the EU and the discussions that will place around it, page 91 of the document tells us that rule changes will be scrutinised
“in accordance with normal legislative procedure”, and that “Parliament could decide” not to enact them. I understand what that is getting at, but if I may say so, I assure the House, as Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee and having been on that Committee for 33 years, that never in my experience—despite what was promised in the White Paper in 1971, before the 1972 Act—has there ever been an occasion when the House has overturned a European regulation, which puts me on serious caution. I therefore have to ask: how would this system work in practice, would it be Whip-ridden, and would the so-called parliamentary lock be burglar-proof?
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments and pay tribute to his huge experience in this area. On parliamentary scrutiny and the UK’s ability to control any changes to the common rulebook for goods, as I said, let us be clear that we would expect to have a proper dialogue about any changes that were made on both sides and there would be a parliamentary lock to ensure proper democratic oversight in translating those changes into legislation in this country. If this House and Parliament decided not to do that, that would have consequences for the agreement, and that would feed back into the review mechanisms and dispute resolution mechanism that we have carefully tailored. We have sought that balanced approach to ensure we have consistent interpretation of the rules that we will apply in that area, while retaining democratic oversight in this House.
May I say to you, Mr Speaker, that I hope a new principle has been established today that, in future, Members of the House will receive copies of White Papers at the same time as members of the fourth estate? In welcoming, genuinely, the Secretary of State to his post—a post that has many challenges—may I suggest that he organise a briefing for Members of the House, with officials, on the White Paper, in line with the very helpful briefing that was held on Monday on the Chequers agreement?
In the statement on the Chequers agreement, the Government said that they would “commit by treaty” to ongoing harmonisation with EU rules on goods. If the facilitated customs arrangement is agreed by the EU, will it be ready to be implemented by
Before the Secretary of State replies, let me say that I entirely accept what the right hon. Gentleman has just said. For the avoidance of doubt, and for future good practice, it must be accepted that documents about which statements are to be made should not first be released to the media, even under protected conditions—other than in the most exceptional circumstances—before being released to Members of the House. The Secretary of State is a very assiduous parliamentarian and a person of great courtesy, so it seems to me obvious that he will readily accept that. When a point is made with such force by the Chair of a Select Committee, and a similar point is made by the Chair of the Liaison Committee, I think I am right in saying that that point brooks no contradiction.
I certainly accept your point, Mr Speaker, and I will take away and consider carefully the suggestion made by Hilary Benn. He asked about implementation of the agreement and whether we will be ready. To some degree that depends on the precise contours of the deal that we strike with the EU, but we are straining every sinew to ensure that all the preparations, both legislative and administrative, are in place to ensure that we deliver on any deal that we strike with the EU.
Without wishing to be at all indiscreet, paragraph 54 on page 95 of the White Paper, regarding legislation, puts me in mind of discussions about the negotiability of my preferred way of implementing the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill, in relation to the implementation period. For what reason does the Secretary of State think that he can negotiate with the EU a mechanism that does not accept the principles in the European Communities Act 1972, that is, that EU law where we accept the acquis comes directly into our law, without this Parliament having a veto?
I pay tribute again to my hon. Friend for all his work as a Minister and tireless parliamentarian in this House. In reality, no off-the-shelf model will work for the bespoke relationship that we need with the EU. It is imperative to give effect to the referendum and take back control over our borders, our laws and our money, but at the same time we must forge a new relationship, given the long-standing and deep relationship that we have had as an EU member, and our desire—which I think is replicated on both sides—to continue co-operation in those areas that both sides prize.
I welcome the Secretary of State to his position—he has had his first taste of the Brexit shambles that is being inflicted on this country. I welcome his support for the principle that people can change their mind. He will remember that he said in 2016 that Tory MPs might push for a second referendum after 2020 if the remain side were to win, so I assume he will be backing calls for a final say on the deal. Can he point to the section in the White Paper that sets out the cost to British businesses, households and jobs of this Brexit folly? People are entitled to know the true cost of the Secretary of State’s Brexit obsession.
The entire approach of the White Paper is to ensure frictionless trade between the UK and the EU, and to minimise the risks that the right hon. Gentleman is concerned about. On referendums and second referendums, if the right hon. Gentleman had read the whole article, rather than a selective snippet, my point was that under the European Union Act 2011, which was passed by this House, there would always be ongoing and further opportunities for a referendum. What I did not do, which the right hon. Gentleman did, is stand up during debates on the European Union Referendum Act 2015, and say that we would all respect the outcome of a referendum, and then renege on that. That shows bad faith to the electorate.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his post. I know he will be well aware of the deep concern on both sides of the House about the extent to which the UK will become a rule taker under the so-called common rulebook. Has he had time to make an early assessment about the percentage of our goods that will be subject to that common rulebook? By way of illustration, can he answer a question that I have been asking but for which I have so far received no answer: under this common rulebook, will we be able to ban the export of live animals to the EU? That is something that we as a country wish to do, but we are unable to do that if we remain members of the EU.
I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns, and in my earlier remarks I addressed points about how in practice this House will retain scrutiny. Under the facilitated customs arrangement, up to 96% of UK goods trade is likely to pay the correct or no tariff at the border. I hope that that gives him a sense of the minimisation of disruption that we will achieve.
The problem still remains that there is no majority for this in the House of Commons—to be honest, the sooner we have a vote on it the better, because it will save the Government a lot of time. I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his post. I have found him to be a very good Minister to do business with. I hope, however, that today has shown that the more the Government try to use the powers of the Executive to skirt around the side of Parliament, the less likely they are to achieve an agreement in the House that can eventually be sold to the European Union. I urge him to work with all Members of the House to try to get a better deal. Otherwise, we will fall out of the European Union without a deal, and that will harm our security.
I respect the hon. Gentleman’s views, and even though we differ on this issue, we agree on many other things. I will certainly take up the offer to work with him in future as the negotiations and legislation unfold. I say gently, however, that all Labour and Conservative Members stood at the last election on manifestos that committed to leaving the EU. We cannot leave the EU and stay in the single market and the customs union. No amount of haggling over procedural or process points can mask the divisions among Labour Members, or their failure to take a decision about what their position on Brexit should be.
I thank you for your comments, Mr Speaker. I welcome the Secretary of State to his post, but I do not think it possible for Members to question him about the White Paper without having had a chance to read it. He said that he will step up planning for a no-deal scenario. Will he commit to publishing the consequences of no deal for individuals, communities and the economy, so that we can all assess what its impact will be?
I respect my hon. Friend’s views, and I know she takes a close interest in these matters. I seem to remember that under previous Administrations statements and hard-copy documents were received very late, but I have apologised for what happened today, and I will endeavour to ensure that it is not repeated. On her broader point, we have tough choices to make, and the White Paper seeks to reconcile the challenge of ensuring that we leave the customs union, with all the benefits of that and opportunities to be grasped, while also minimising any potential disruption to trade. I will release more details to the House about our no-deal planning in due course.
Only 20 paragraphs of the White Paper are about immigration, and they are very narrow—they just talk about business transfers, temporary business services, tourists and students. There is no reference to what would happen if, for example, the NHS wanted to recruit long term from the EU, perhaps for nurses or care workers. Is that because the Government are ruling out any provisions to support long-term recruitment, or because they have not yet worked out how that would happen? Also, does the Secretary of State agree that it is really important that, as we discuss immigration reform, none of us reverts to the kind of divisive language we heard during the referendum campaign?
I thank the right hon. Lady for those points. The White Paper actually sets out the position very clearly: we are ending free movement but we want to take a sensible approach to matters such as business trips, holiday travel, research and students coming from the EU to the UK, and vice versa. Of course, we will consider the matter further when my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary brings forward that legislation. As we have said on free trade agreements that we will be forging with countries around the world, the issue of visas will be subject to those negotiations, just as with the EU.
My right hon. Friend’s commitment to animal welfare is well known. Can he assure the House that there is nothing in the common rulebook proposals that would frustrate the ambition of our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to improve and enhance animal welfare post Brexit?
We have checked very carefully to ensure that that will not be the case, and we will keep that in mind as we proceed with the legislation and with the negotiations.
Only half a page of this document is about health—and that relates to infectious diseases—despite a recent Health Committee report stating clearly that patients’ lives and safety will be in danger if there is any interruption at all to the supply of vital medicines and medical equipment into this country. How is the Secretary of State going to guarantee that there will be no such interruption, and avoid the kind of scenario in which patients’ lives and safety are put at risk?
The NHS is already making sure that we have all the plans in place to provide the drugs and the doctors and nurses that we need. Of course, with regard to our approach to visas and immigration more broadly, we can ensure, because we are taking back control of our immigration policy, that we have the right checks in place, whoever they are for, including nurses and doctors, and that for medicines and other goods we have the right approach for the country.
The House will have heard with interest the suggestion that both the House and the Government should consider whether papers can be released to MPs at the same time as they are released to the press, because Select Committee reports have had the same kinds of procedures as the Government have up to now.
People should be aware that my right hon. Friend, whom I welcome to his new post, received a Sergei Magnitsky human rights award last November for political campaigning on a cross-party basis. We hope that his progress on exiting the EU will have the same kind of cross-party support, because most voters and most MPs want to see progress.
As the European Union cannot make an agreement with us until we have left, what will the procedures be to ensure that the agreements we make with it after implementation will be carried through?
I thank my hon. Friend. We have made it very clear that there is no deal until the whole deal is done. That means that, in relation to the sequential nature of these negotiations, there will be a link between the two. If, having agreed the withdrawal agreement, we found that progress towards the future trade and special partnership arrangements was not proceeding at pace, there would be consequences for the rights and obligations that the UK has undertaken, including financial obligations.
In welcoming the Secretary of State to his post, may I add my voice to the idea that it is nonsense that we got this White Paper so late? Can he confirm that Angela Merkel did not have a copy before we did? Will he state categorically that after we leave the European Union no person living in a Commonwealth country will be treated any differently from how anyone living in the EU will be treated, in relation to being able to come to this country? We should have equal rights for everyone living in the world, rather than giving special rights to those living in the EU.
I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for her long-standing interest in this matter and her pugnacious campaigning in the run-up to the referendum. Of course, we are ending free movement, which will allow us to avoid what is effectively a discriminatory approach to those coming from outside the EU. The Home Secretary will be bringing forward legislation to deal with the detail, and of course it will be part of the negotiation process with our EU partners.
Paragraph 7 of chapter 1 of the White Paper states that the UK’s proposal is to
“maintain a common rulebook for goods, including agri-food”.
Lobbyists estimate that there are currently 170,000 pages of the acquis communautaire. How many of those pages will have to be re-legislated back into UK law and, once they are there, will they ever be amendable?
I hope that I can reassure my right hon. Friend, because we want the common rulebook to ensure that manufacturers can continue to produce one product for both markets, preventing dual production, but the common rulebook will apply only to the extent that it is necessary to avoid friction at the border.
Paragraph 6 of the conclusion states:
“If the House of Commons supports a resolution to approve the Withdrawal Agreement and the Future Framework, the Government will bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill to give the Withdrawal Agreement legal effect in the UK.”
It says nothing about what will happen if the House of Commons does not approve the withdrawal agreement. What does the Secretary of State believe will happen in those circumstances? Given his past views, many of us suspect that what he will do is drive us towards a no-deal situation.
Let me reassure the hon. Gentleman. As set out in my earlier remarks, and indeed in the White Paper, we are striving, in good faith and with good will, with some innovation and principle, but also with a practical approach, to get the best deal for the UK, but one that is also likely to be acceptable and achievable with our EU partners and friends. We are preparing for every eventuality, but I can reassure him that, as I have always said, the optimum outcome will be to deliver a deal that is good for this country and good for the EU.
I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on his well-deserved appointment. I am sure that he will understand that I have not yet had the opportunity to read the White Paper in the degree of detail that I would have liked. Nevertheless, I see from page 11 that the role of the European Court of Justice is preserved through a joint reference procedure as the interpreter of EU rules. Can he say how that is compatible with the removal of the United Kingdom from the jurisdiction of the ECJ? As a practical matter, what right of audience would British advocates have, given that the UK will no longer be a member of the European Union?
I thank my right hon. Friend. In relation to the ECJ, there is provision for reference where that is necessary for the consistent interpretation of the law. That could only be done through the joint committee to which he refers agreeing, so the UK would have a veto over that—it would have to be with UK agreement. It could also be done by an arbitration panel, but—he will know this—what makes international arbitration different from accepting ECJ jurisdiction is that we would have arbitrators on those panels, so it would be done with their agreement as well. This is not the same as having jurisdiction over disputes; it is making sure, where it is in the UK’s interests—and it will be—that there is consistent application of the common rules that we want to work effectively.
I think that the way this statement commenced sums up the whole chaotic and clueless Brexit, as prosecuted by this shambles of a Government. The White Paper was supposed to deliver Cabinet unity, but all it has done, as we have seen, is demonstrate the divisions. Scotland did not vote for any of this, so can the Secretary of State perhaps suggest a way that Scotland might be spared this madness?
Paragraph 76 of chapter 1 is ambiguous. It states that we will seek reciprocal mobility arrangements, but it does not say when. Will the Secretary of State give an absolute assurance that any preferential treatment given to EU migrants will not be part of a withdrawal agreement but will be entirely in the hands of this Parliament post Brexit? This is a vital point. The people voted for Brexit because they want to control migration. They do not want to be sold down the river on this point as the negotiations proceed.
I thank my hon. Friend. I can give him the reassurance that it would not be part of the withdrawal agreement process; it would be part of the future deep and special relationship. In the same way as we approach global free trade with partners from Latin America to Asia, when we look at the liberalisation of trade in goods, for example, through the reduction of tariffs or services, we can also ensure that we have sensible arrangements on visas.
My speed-reading skills are not perfect, but I only noticed two references to the overseas territories: one on page 96 and one in the conclusions. What does this White Paper mean for British overseas territories? Does it mean that they, and particularly Gibraltar, will be treated in exactly the same way as the UK during any transition period?
Yes. The overseas territories will retain the status that they have. We are, of course, consulting with them and, indeed, with the devolved Administrations right the way through this process.
The Chequers agreement indicated that Parliament will have the right to reject future EU rules, but how will it ever exercise that power when the White Paper commits to an
“upfront choice to commit by treaty to ongoing harmonisation with the relevant EU rules”?
I thank my right hon. Friend. It will be done through the parliamentary lock, which means that this House ultimately can decide what goes into UK law, consistent with the outcome of the referendum. Of course, if we decide to renege on the commitment or to divert from the common rulebook, that will have consequences for the relationship that we strike with the EU. That is why there are review mechanisms and other mechanisms for resolving disputes, as and when they arise. In any international treaty that will provide a sustainable, enduring basis for the deep ties that we have with the EU on trade and security, we need to make sure that we have sensible proposals and mechanisms for ironing out creases in the relationship as they arise.
May I return again to paragraph 76? The Secretary of State said a few moments ago that he expected that future mobility arrangements in relation to industry needs for labour would be made through the medium of individual trade agreements, but business is already concerned about labour shortages in sectors such as care, hospitality, retail and agriculture. Does he really think that his answer offers the security of labour supply that business needs to know now that it will have in the immediate future?
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his position. While I and many colleagues may have grave concerns about the contents of the White Paper, I hope that we all agree on the importance of his role in delivering the Brexit that we promised the British people. To that end, it is very important that he has the right support and help going forward, so has he had any explanation why his first choice of special adviser—namely, Stewart Jackson, the former Member for Peterborough—was vetoed by the Cabinet Office?
I pay tribute to the great work that all the special advisers have done, including Stewart Jackson, and all the officials, who work tirelessly with Ministers to get the best deal for this country. I will be naming my special advisers shortly, as people would expect in the normal course of a reshuffle or a change in ministerial post.
The intergovernmental agreement signed between the Welsh Government and the British Government was meant to result in equitable decision making on Brexit policy. Does not the fact that the Welsh Government were not even consulted on the contents of the White Paper indicate that that agreement is not worth the paper it is written on and that the Labour Government of my country was extremely naive to trust the British Government?
I respect the hon. Gentleman, but I am afraid that he is just wrong on this. Sections of the White Paper were shared with the devolved Administrations and copies of it were sent in advance.
I spent the past couple of days on a business trip, or perhaps it was an activity to do business, meeting former colleagues from across Europe and asking them what they thought about the potential proposals. There is a complete understanding that if we want to keep an open border with Ireland, we must have common standards on goods and that if we want to keep the UK united, we need that to apply to all the UK, so I wish my right hon. Friend the best of luck in his future job, because many people across Europe want to help to deliver this partnership.
I thank my hon. Friend. I agree that that has been the feedback that we have had. We can want to end free movement without saying that we will pull up the drawbridge. We need to have a balanced approach to immigration that not only protects and services the skills gap in this country, but makes sure that we deal with the pressures and costs of immigration and that we restore public confidence in the immigration system.
The proposals on freedom of movement in the White Paper will please no one. There is no certainty for resident EU citizens or for those seeking to come here after 2020. The list of exceptions is so wide and so unclear that it has already been rejected by the hard Brexiteers. The message seems to be, “You can stay or come here, but you are not welcome,” and to my mind, that is both incompetent and unpleasant. I had the Secretary of State down as neither of those things before today, so I wonder why he wants to be associated with this document.
Because it takes a balanced approach to immigration, rather than pretending that we can continue with the legacy of the previous Government, who had an open-door approach to immigration, which destroyed public trust in the system. We need to take advantage of the economic benefits and control the pressures. That is the sensible approach.
The thing that I hear most often from my constituents in Redditch, however they voted, is, “Just get on with it.” Will my right hon. Friend confirm from the Dispatch Box that nothing in this White Paper will lead to a second referendum, which will only delay or frustrate the democratic will of my constituents and the British people?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need to crack on with these negotiations. I will be going to Brussels next week. The idea of a second referendum, as I think the leader of the Liberal Democrats acknowledged before he ascended to his elevated position, would be not only unprincipled but totally counter-productive to public trust in practice.
People across the country who work in our universities will want to know that any Brexit deal continues to give them access to European research funding and networks. These networks are really important for business development for medicine and innovation across the piece. While the White Paper says that
“the UK wishes to explore association in research and innovation programmes”, that prompts the question what the Government have been doing for the past two years. Do people who work in higher education not deserve more certainty than a wish list?
I gently say to the hon. Lady that the insistence on trying to sequence the negotiations was on the EU’s behalf. We have been consistently saying that we need to get on to the wider post-withdrawal relationship as soon as possible, but we are keen to do that and I hope that the White Paper gives the hon. Lady a sense that this will be a priority for the Government.
How can my right hon. Friend justify the use of the adjective “common” in describing the noun “rulebook”, when he has committed to ongoing harmonisation? Even with a parliamentary process, it is their rulebook, is it not?
I understand the concerns that my right hon. Friend and others will have about this. We are proposing to sign up to a common rulebook. There will be an opportunity to influence it through consultation. There will be a parliamentary lock. As I said, if this is not in the UK’s interests, there will be an opportunity to revise the arrangements, but the reality is that the common rulebook on manufactured goods, where a risk would be creating friction at the border, has remained relatively stable over recent years, so I do not think that in practice it would lead to the fears that he has understandably outlined.
“the greatest vassalage since King John paid homage to Philip II at Le Goulet in 1200. This White Paper has not needed age to turn yellow”— presumably he can give us an eyewitness account. The Opposition’s concern, as is clear from the resignations that we have already seen from the Government, is that this White Paper—the Government’s negotiating position—does not command at this stage the support of a majority of the House of Commons. How does the Secretary of State possibly expect the united front of the EU27 Governments, the European Commission and the European Parliament to take this Government at all seriously, because this House clearly does not?
The hon. Gentleman has produced all sorts of quotations, while blithely skating over the divisions in his own party. The fact is that these are complex issues on which views diverge, and people feel very passionate about them. What we have set out is a positive, principled but also flexible approach that is deliverable. We will go and negotiate with the EU, and we will ensure that we get the best deal for the country. Simply sitting on the sidelines and carping and hoping that somehow the Brexit decision will be reversed is, I am afraid, to be on a fool’s errand.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his post. My constituents voted to leave the EU for a number of reasons. Among them was the principle of freedom of movement. Can my right hon. Friend categorically assure my constituents that freedom of movement will end as a result of his and the Government’s plans and that this Parliament will consequently be able to decide whom we welcome to our great country?
Absolutely. Free movement will end. We still want to take a sensible approach to immigration, but we want to ensure that, as elected Members who are accountable to our constituents, we in the House have the last say on it.
Does the Secretary of State intend to produce any kind of detailed regional economic impact assessments, so that we can fully understand the scale of the damage to jobs, livelihoods and living standards in the north-east that would be caused by what his Government are proposing?
We will make sure that there is appropriate analysis as the negotiations progress and the various documents—whether in the legislation or in the agreements—are put before the House for proper scrutiny in the usual way.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We will resume our seat at the WTO. Given some of the pressures for protectionism that we have heard from all sides, it will be hugely important for the Government and the country to take up our role as a global champion of free trade, because it is good for businesses, good for consumers and, of course, good for the very poorest countries in the world, which want to trade their way to genuine economic independence.
Paragraph 6 of chapter 1 of the White Paper states that
“the UK recognises that the Single Market is built on a balance of rights and obligations, and that the UK cannot have all the benefits of membership of the Single Market without its obligations.”
Are the Government prepared to discuss the possibility of making financial contributions for the privilege of having access to that European market?
We have already set out what we are going to do in relation to the financial settlement in the withdrawal agreement. We will settle our accounts and ensure that in respect of those parts of the EU project, whether Eurojust or whatever it may be, we pay our way.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his post. I cannot help feeling a little sorry for him at this time. Is he sure that there is not another document, developed with and previewed by other Governments, which is being cooked up behind the scenes by Mr Robbins and our former friend the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and which will then be wheeled out to further undermine the previously stated positions of Her Majesty’s Government?
It has not been watered down, although I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman is making. It is possible for us to engage in activities of all those kinds—as we do with countries around the world—without being a member of the political club, with all the fetters on our democratic prerogatives.
I join you, Mr Speaker, and others in welcoming my right hon. Friend to his post. I also welcome the repeated and continuing confirmation from the Government that we are indeed leaving the common fisheries policy. I do not regard that as being any longer in question. However, will he also confirm that no amount of guaranteed and continued access to British waters will be given away during withdrawal negotiations and that the sharing of fishing opportunities will be agreed only during ongoing annual negotiations after we take our place as an independent coastal state?
I can confirm that we will be leaving the common fisheries policy and that we will proceed as an independent coastal state with control over our waters in respect of fisheries and other matters.
Paragraph 55 of the White Paper, on page 95, states—without a hint of irony—
“The Government has already demonstrated during the passage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that it will actively engage with suggestions from both Houses about the oversight of secondary legislation, adapting scrutiny arrangements as appropriate, and recognising the quality and expertise in the existing scrutiny structures in the Commons and the Lords.”
In the light of today’s shambolic performance, would the Minister care to enlighten us on what parliamentary scrutiny really means, in his eyes?
I, too, welcome my right hon. Friend to his post. I have noticed that today he has had to field questions about the Government’s future negotiating strategy which it would clearly not have been in the national interest for him to answer. Does he agree that, even during passionate debates like this, we must put our country first, not our party or any personal ambitions?
My hon. Friend is absolutely spot on. I understand the legitimate concerns that people have, or the questions that they have, about the overarching structure and framework of the strategy that the UK adopts. That is something that should be debated in this place and among the wider public, just as we are debating this 100-page White Paper. However, some of the questions, or interventions, seem to be more about trying to make sure that the UK stutters, when we should be proceeding apace to negotiate a deal that is good for Members in all parts of the House and for those in all corners of the country.
Paragraph 53 of the White Paper, on page 62, states that the UK will
“continue close cooperation with EU law enforcement and criminal justice agencies”, and paragraph 54 states that
“the UK will respect the remit of the Court of Justice of the European Union”.
How does the Secretary of State reconcile that view with his own votes? In 2012 he voted against EU data-sharing for criminal justice purposes, in 2013 he voted in favour of the UK’s opting out of all EU police and criminal matters, and in 2014 he voted against the UK’s rejoining EU schemes for closer political and judicial co-operation in criminal matters.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his detailed scrutiny of my past record. As I have argued all along and as the White Paper makes clear, the UK can want to maintain, and even strengthen, operational law enforcement co-operation with the EU—through, for instance, bodies such as Europol and Eurojust—without being subject to the supranational jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and all the decision-making fetters. Indeed, Europol and Eurojust have a large number of association agreements with non-EU countries. I believe that the US has more liaison officers posted at Europol than the average EU country.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm: that he will not extend article 50; that no deal is better than a bad deal; and that if there is no deal, we will keep our 40 billion quid?
It is certainly the case, in my view and the Government’s view, that no deal would be better than a bad deal, but what we are aiming for is the very best deal.
My hon. Friend asked about the money. I took some time to set out in my response that we have made clear the need for a link between the obligations that we undertake in the withdrawal agreement and what we then expect in relation to the future partnership deal on trade, security and other areas in which there is co-operation. That needs to be looked at as a whole. If one side, whichever it may be, does not fulfil its side of the bargain, there will be consequences for the whole deal—and yes, that would include the money.
The White Paper says very little about the service industry, particularly financial services, except that we want to retain our access to integrated markets while not really sticking to the rules. Is that not more like having your cake and eating it, and is it not highly unlikely that the EU will ever agree to such an approach?
It is clear that the UK cannot remain under the EU passporting regime, which is intrinsic to membership of the EU. Our objective, based on that, is to agree a new economic and regulatory partnership in financial services. The new partnership will set some binding bilateral commitments to give firms certainty and stability in respect of access to each other’s markets, while allowing the UK and the EU to maintain and exercise autonomy when it comes to regulatory decisions and rule-making.
I welcome my right hon. Friend to his position. Given the brief period he has been in post, he is giving a performance of very high calibre.
On free movement, while I accept that many colleagues share the noble position that we should not have a discriminatory system, does my right hon. Friend accept that there is a big implication for unskilled migration, because if we allow it in future, we will have to allow it from anywhere, not just the EU? Does he accept that in those circumstances, non-EU migration would inevitably rise?
My hon. Friend makes a powerful point, and that is why we take the approach that we do. We want to ensure that when we have an enhanced preferential trade relationship with a country, visas can go into the mix. That is the global practice right around the world. But it is crucial, as a matter of sound policy but also for retaining public trust in our migration system, that we have control over things people care about: the numbers of people coming here; ensuring the people coming here are self-sufficient; and making sure that if people threaten this country or commit criminal offences, they can be removed.
Having attended the welcome briefing on the previous agreement but without having had much time to scrutinise the White Paper, will the Secretary of State clarify for me and my constituents how the eye-wateringly complicated fudge around the facilitated customs arrangement can be anything but a disaster for manufacturing, particularly the bed manufacturers of Batley and Spen?
The FCA is an innovative new model; it is a business-friendly model that seeks to facilitate the greatest possible—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady is complaining about it, but I am trying to explain it to her and she might just take a moment to listen to the explanation. The FCA seeks to facilitate the greatest possible trade between the UK and the EU and, when put in place, it will make sure that up to 96% of UK goods trade is likely to pay the correct or no tariff at the border. The key difference between the FCA and the previous arrangements under the proposed customs partnership, is that tariff revenue will be levied up front rather than be reimbursed after the event, which Conservative Members agree would be more cumbersome and less effective in minimising the risk to trade.
I welcome the publication of the White Paper, but these are complex issues, and what my constituents, and indeed I, want is reassurance that this document will indeed return control over our borders, our money and our laws. Will my right hon. Friend join me in suggesting that people should not listen to some of the more siren voices around, but instead look at the detail of this document, see where it delivers on those pledges, and then make their decision?
My hon. Friend is right: ending free movement is one of the aspects that motivated people to vote to leave the EU, but there is a much broader issue around immigration policy. What we seek to do in this document is make sure that we have a balanced approach that means that elected Members such as my hon. Friend, and Ministers and Members from across the House, are responsible for striking the right balance to get the benefits of immigration but also to manage the pressures.
This morning’s chaos is entirely consistent with a Government who have dodged scrutiny in this House at every turn, and to suggest to my hon. Friend Wes Streeting that he is shouting from the sidelines when he is actually speaking from the Benches of this House only serves to amplify that.
May I draw the Secretary of State’s attention to paragraph 76, which states that the economic partnership providing reciprocal arrangements would
“support businesses to provide services and to move their talented people”?
What does “talented” mean and does it include, for example, nurses and care workers?
When people need to move high-skilled members of staff across borders, it is key that, no matter what the sector, we have the ability to do that. Our negotiations with the EU can of course include all sectors, and we want to make sure that where there are skills gaps, they can be plugged.
In paragraph 138 the Government rightly commit to a continuation of the single energy market between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Rather than making a special case for Northern Ireland, may I encourage the Secretary of State to consider not leaving the Europe-wide internal energy market and instead make a special case for energy all together? That would be spectacularly boring and uncontentious, and just remaining within the internal energy market would allow us to be interconnected with Ireland as well as our friends across the channel and the North sea?
That is an interesting point. We set out our proposals in the White Paper, but of course if my hon. Friend would like to write to me with the details of his suggestions as the negotiations and legislation proceed, I will be happy to look at them carefully.
It is not right to say that the ECJ would have jurisdiction over trade disputes; that would be the role of the arbitration mechanism. International arbitration is a global mechanism used by countries around the world, and I do not see any reason why, within Europe or in relation to the EU, there would be an anomaly. The ECJ deals with the laws in place within the EU and member states in the same way as the UK Supreme Court deals with the laws of the land in this country. International arbitration is designed to be flexible; it allows arbitrators from all countries to make sure that we deal with international disputes and it is perfectly consistent with global trade practice.
Many of my constituents are concerned that we must be able to strike independent new free trade deals after leaving. Can the new Secretary of State, whom I welcome to his place—we will miss him at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government—confirm that we will be able to strike those new trade agreements, and is not the Swiss example a good one? The Swiss have these associations with the EU on product standards, yet have managed to do very good free trade agreements recently, including with India and China.
My hon. Friend is right, and he is well-versed in international trade practice. The key advantage in our approach is that we have the ability to remove the EU external tariff, to reduce tariffs as a World Trade Organisation member, and to sign bilateral free trade deals, which is crucial in terms of our leverage. For services, we will not be bound by the rules of the EU, and can take advantage of that not just in the wider services sector but in particular in financial services, and the digital sector, which is so important for the future jobs this country will rely on.
It has taken this Government two years to publish what is just a big set of wish lists. Paragraph 63:
“the UK proposes a new economic…arrangement with the EU in financial services.”
“explore options for…an Air Transport Agreement.”
“explore options for reciprocal access for road hauliers.”
“explore…options for the future energy relationship.”
And paragraph 143, explore a close relationship with Euratom.
So it has taken the Government two years to state the blindingly obvious. What superhuman negotiation skills does the Secretary of State have to be able to close out these issues in the next three to four months?
Lots of these issues are complex, and of course we have been guided, or restricted to some degree, by the sequential approach of the EU. But lots of thought and consultation has gone into this, and we do now need to move at pace to get cracking with the other side, in good faith and with goodwill, to get this deal done.
I warmly welcome the Secretary of State to his post. He will be aware that the west midlands economy has had one of the strongest export performances of any region of the UK. Can he give an assurance that this White Paper does not preclude us from doing trade agreements around the world, to help west midlands businesses and create jobs in the west midlands, which is of great importance to my constituents?
I thank my hon. Friend, and I am confident that as we leave the EU with a good deal, businesses in the west midlands will go from strength to strength. We must also acknowledge that if we are signing up to the common rulebook on goods, to the extent that that is needed to reduce friction at the border between the EU and UK, that will, at least to some degree, tie our hands. However, the huge advantage we have if we leave the EU and the customs union is that we can remove and reduce tariffs, and we will have control over the services side of things, so we can have control over regulation. That is a huge advantage. If we take those opportunities, we will, for the west midlands and whole UK, be able to boost trade.
One of the major, and understandable, arguments during the referendum was that when we joined the EU in 1973 people did not really understand what it was going to lead to. Does my right hon. Friend, whom I really welcome to his post, therefore recognise the great importance of communicating what is proposed here and what is eventually put to Parliament to the general public, in particular the young people who are going to have to live with this for the next 30, 40 or more years, as well as to Parliament itself? Sometimes this debate can seem to be expressed in very dry terms, so it is absolutely vital that this communication is there and the discussion is there with the public as a whole.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I remember how insightful he was when we served on the Brexit Committee together. It is true that this needs to avoid being a Westminster bubble conversation, and I have already had meetings with business groups from the CBI to the Federation of Small Businesses to ensure that the views of the diversity of the business community are fed through and that I understand them properly. He is also right to say that we need to go out and sell the message that, yes, Brexit is about managing the risks involved in any changing relationship, but also that there are huge opportunities for us to grasp, including for the young people of this country.
My constituents are a realistic, sensible and practical lot and, unlike some politicians, they know that they will not always get 100% of what they want in life, but they do expect their politicians to deliver. Before the referendum, the 58% of my constituents who voted for Brexit told me clearly that what they wanted was control of their borders, control of their laws, an end to freedom of movement and to stop spending billions of pounds in Europe for reasons that they could not really understand. In very simple terms, Secretary of State, will this deal deliver on what my constituents want?
Yes, it will, and we need to proceed at pace with our negotiations with our EU friends to make that happen. At the same time, we need to ensure that we are ready for any eventuality in the negotiations. However, we are not looking to rely on those contingency plans; we are looking to get the very best deal, and in this White Paper, we have achieved it.