Leaving the EU: White Paper

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th July 2018.

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Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

In line with commitments made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the Government shared the White Paper on our future relationship with the European Union with the Welsh Government in advance of its publication. This followed a regular dialogue with Welsh Ministers as the paper was being drafted.

Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords)

The Government have proposed 26 policy areas where joint arrangements will be necessary with the Welsh Government after Brexit. Given the proposal in the Chequers agreement and the White Paper for a common rulebook with the EU, in how many of those areas will such arrangements no longer be necessary?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Gentleman refers to an ongoing relationship and dialogue with the Welsh Government. He will be aware that the Welsh Government were happy to give a legislative consent motion to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill as it passed through the Palace of Westminster, which demonstrates the mutual respect and ongoing productive relationship that we have. I only wish that the Scottish Government would work in the same constructive, positive way.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

The White Paper’s mobility proposals for business visitors and intra-company transfers might be all right for large multinational companies in London, but they offer nothing to small businesses in Wales and important public services. What is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that they can still recruit the EU workers they need, if Brexit happens?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

I have referred on several occasions to the expert panel I formed, which is being extended, and to joint meetings I have held with Welsh Government Ministers. We are keen to engage with businesses of all sizes. Large companies such as Airbus often receive much attention, but it is only right that small businesses, which often depend on their supply chains, receive a similar amount of attention.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

I do not think even the UK Government still believe that the Joint Ministerial Committee on Europe is fit for purpose. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is time for it to be replaced by a statutory forum that gives equal power of esteem to all four nations in these islands?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

A previous Joint Ministerial Committee committed to look at intergovernmental arrangements and how we can best develop and evolve them in the light of our exit from the European Union. My relationship with the Welsh Government is positive. It takes a lot of hard work on both sides, and I am keen to maintain the warmest sort of arrangements because we respect the outcome of the referendum and the importance of the UK internal market.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

The Secretary of State is stoical in the circumstances, but there is an excessive number of rather loud private conversations taking place. An air of solemnity should descend on the House as we are about to hear from the Chair of the Select Committee.

Photo of David Davies David Davies Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee

We are seeing record numbers of people in work in Wales and record amounts of foreign direct investment, and we have a set of proposals that will allow Wales to benefit from access to the single market and new trade deals across the world. Is it not about time that Members of Parliament on both sides of the House got behind the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Wales as they lead Wales to a better future outside the European Union?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

My hon. Friend is right, and I pay tribute to him for the work he does as Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee. Not only does the UK remain the No. 1 destination for foreign direct investment, but Wales has seen a 20% increase in the employment created out of that investment. Our exports are growing to record levels and, interestingly, those to areas outside the European Union are growing at a faster rate than those to the European Union.

Photo of James Duddridge James Duddridge Chair, High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill Select Committee (Commons)

The White Paper is a little light on the benefits of World Trade Organisation rules. Will the Secretary of State discuss the benefits of those rules with the Welsh Government alongside the White Paper?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

I will naturally continue an ongoing dialogue with the Welsh Government about a whole host of issues. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade yesterday agreed to and committed to consult widely, including the devolved Administrations. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that there are great opportunities as we leave the European Union to look at new markets, but nor should we undermine the existing complex supply chains that have built up over 40 years. The Chequers White Paper, I believe, allows us to do both.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Will my right hon. Friend reach out beyond the Welsh Government to businesses in Wales to exemplify the opportunities that are going to be created as we leave the European Union?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We often, rightly, give a lot of attention to the devolved Administrations because they are elected bodies in the nations themselves, but businesses in Wales depend on the UK market and their view is also important as we develop and evolve our policy towards the negotiations to leave the European Union.

Photo of Christina Rees Christina Rees Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

I join in the birthday wishes to my youthful shadow Minister, my hon. Friend Chris Ruane.

It has been two years since the Prime Minister met the First Minister of Wales in Cardiff Bay and stood on the steps of the Senedd, telling politicians and journalists how important the Union is and that she wanted the Welsh Government to be involved in Brexit discussions, so why was the White Paper not shared with the Welsh Government until barely 12 hours before its publication?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Lady is right that the document was shared with the Welsh Government before it was published. I can also say that many extracts—[Interruption.]

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman. The microphone is not functioning as well as it should be, and I therefore suggest that a modest bellowing by the right hon. Gentleman will suffice.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I can point out to the hon. Lady that not only was the document itself shared with the Welsh Government before publication, but—I would say, probably more importantly—as the document was being drafted, various extracts were shared with the Welsh Government and their input during the drafting stages contributed to the document in its totality.

Photo of Christina Rees Christina Rees Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

It is not good enough. The Secretary of State knows the terms of the JMC, which state that the UK Government will work with the devolved Administrations

“to agree a UK approach to…Article 50 negotiations”.

After two years of broken promises on Brexit talks, who should the people of Wales blame for the contempt shown to them—the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Wales or both?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Lady is ignoring that we shared the drafting of the document with the Welsh Government before we had concluded the document itself. They had an integral part in contributing and sharing their views. I would also say that it was considered at length at the JMC that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster chaired days before the document was shared.