EU Withdrawal Agreement

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 2:44 pm on 18th December 2018.

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Photo of Stephen Barclay Stephen Barclay The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 2:44 pm, 18th December 2018

Let me first pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for his work through the Exiting the European Union Committee. He will be aware of a number of the public statements that have been made—for example, in respect of the French position on safeguarding the rights of UK nationals in Europe. However, he points to the wider point about the best way to secure the rights of our own nationals in the EU, which is through the deal that the Prime Minister has agreed.

The right hon. Gentleman will be familiar with the written ministerial statement that I tabled about the position of EU citizens in the UK, which this House has long debated. As a former Health Minister, I am very conscious of the hugely valuable role that EU citizens play in our NHS, as in many other parts of our business and public life. We have made that unilateral declaration, but the right hon. Gentleman is correct that that has not been offered in all the 27 member states. Obviously that is an area of focus for us. A number of statements have been made, but the deal is the best way of securing those rights for UK nationals.

When the Prime Minister entered into this negotiation, she was told that there was a binary choice between two off-the-peg models—what are colloquially known as the Canada option and the Norway option—yet she has secured a bespoke option. From listening to this House, we have heard loud and clear the concern about the backstop element of the deal, notwithstanding the fact that there is no alternative deal that would not bring a backstop. The right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber is an experienced parliamentarian, but he must know that it is not an option for Scotland to remain in the single market when the people of Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom, and that United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.

The truth is there are three deals on offer, including the deal that the Prime Minister has secured and the option of no deal, which is not desirable. It is worth pointing out to the House that although the Government are preparing extensively for the consequence of a no deal, not all the factors that affect a no deal are within the Government’s control, as the situation is affected by what businesses themselves do and what other member states do.