I welcome my hon. Friend’s optimism. She is absolutely right. During the implementation period, the UK will be able for the first time in 40 years to design and develop its own independent trade policy, with the freedom to sign, negotiate and ratify trade deals with countries outside the EU. That is an important benefit precisely because, as she says, 90% of global growth will come from outside the EU, and we need to maximise that for our businesses and our citizens.
The provisions in the Bill in no way diminish the importance of the EU (Withdrawal) Act, which colleagues on both sides of the House worked so hard to scrutinise. That Act remains vital to the exit process, and any changes made to it by the withdrawal agreement Bill will not change its purpose. It was not appropriate for the EU (Withdrawal) Act to account for an implementation period, as the Act needed to be passed without prejudice to negotiations to ensure a functioning statute book on exit day. Now that we have secured agreement on the implementation period, we must ensure it is given proper domestic legal effect, which includes deferring the point at which some of the Act takes effect.
The negotiated financial settlement covering the UK’s financial commitments to the EU and the EU’s financial commitments to the UK provides predictability to current recipients of EU funding, including farmers, businesses and academics, with the UK continuing to get receipts due under the current EU budget plan. This is an issue of great importance to the House. We are a country that honours its international obligations, but it is important to recognise that the financial settlement was reached on the basis of both sides’ commitment to reaching a deal. If one side fails to live up to its commitments, there will be consequences for the deal as a whole, which includes the financial settlement.
The withdrawal agreement Bill will include a standing service provision that allows the Government to make payments due under the financial settlement. Although the amounts to be paid will vary and are a function of the terms of the settlement, the Bill will only allow payments to meet the financial commitments required by the withdrawal agreement. Parliament will want to monitor those payments, and it will be important to ensure that the payment mechanism balances the Government’s legal responsibility to pay the financial settlement with Parliament’s duty to scrutinise.