Border Arrangements

Exiting the European Union – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25 October 2018.

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Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts and Heritage) 12:00, 25 October 2018

What progress he has made on securing an agreement with the EU on future border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

Our White Paper proposals will ensure that there is frictionless trade at the border, which is in the interests of businesses but will also avoid any potential extra infrastructure at the border in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts and Heritage)

Does the Secretary of State understand why some of us who have Irish heritage are worried by what is said by some Conservative Members such as Mr Baker, who said a moment ago that under no circumstances could Northern Ireland be split off from the United Kingdom? He knows full well that the Belfast agreement envisages that prospect if the people of Northern Ireland and the people of Ireland agree to it, and that is Government policy. Will he confirm his commitment to the Belfast agreement, and will he also confirm the Government’s commitment to the agreement made last December with the EU about the future of the border in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I certainly do understand all the sensitivities on this side. In fairness, I think my hon. Friend Mr Baker was referring to the negotiations, and whether we would accept anything relating to them that would have the effect of drawing a line down the Irish sea or threatening the integrity of the UK. But, of course, the Belfast agreement says that nothing should happen in relation to Northern Ireland without the consent of Northern Ireland, and we will not allow the EU to threaten that.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

Last week I met a group of young people from Northern Ireland who were members of Our Future Our Choice. They were clearly extremely worried about the border arrangements, and also very worried that they might not retain the right that I have had, and the Secretary of State has had, to live, work and study in the European Union. What guarantees can the Secretary of State give them that they will be able to continue to do that after we have left the EU?

Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I think we can provide that assurance, not just in relation to the progress that we have made in the withdrawal agreement, but as a result of the commitment made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that would guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the event of no deal. For those who are anxious about the uncertainty that lies ahead, the very worst outcome would be a second referendum, which is the policy of the Liberal Democrats, and which would only make that uncertainty worse.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

On Monday, the Prime Minister said that if the UK and the EU were to make a legally binding commitment to a

“temporary UK-EU joint customs territory”,—[Official Report, 22 October 2018; Vol. 648, c. 47.]

the EU’s proposal for a Northern Ireland-specific customs proposal “is no longer needed”. If it is “no longer needed”, does that mean that it will no longer be in the withdrawal agreement, or does the Prime Minister really mean that she thinks it will no longer ever need to come into force?

Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I think the Prime Minister was very clear on that. We will not be able to accept any Northern Ireland-specific arrangement that would leave Northern Ireland in a customs regime that was separate from that of the rest of the United Kingdom. It is as simple as that.