[5th Allotted Day]

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Act – in the House of Commons at 2:27 pm on 9th January 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Barclay Stephen Barclay The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 2:27 pm, 9th January 2019

I pay heed to my hon. Friend, because he is one of the most serious thinkers in our party and I know he engages very seriously on these issues. Of course, the former permanent secretary to the Treasury is also someone we all listen to intently. The point is that there are a number of things that are different in this instance. First, on trade deals, a significant amount of time is often taken up by the first phase of understanding the regulatory positions of both sides. Well, after 45 years of being part of the European Union that regulatory understanding is already there. Secondly, there is a difference because often there are six-week time lags in trade rounds. If people are flying back from Canada or the US, the physical geographical issues can constitute a delay. Clearly, our geographical relationship with Europe will allow us to inject much more pace into those trade rounds and accelerate them. Thirdly, the fact is that we have a political declaration that sets a framework for those trade discussions to take place.

Fourthly, there is also the issue of the incentives that the UK offers—I was going to come on to this point—including the position on security, which is obviously of interest to many member states in Europe, and the fact that the backstop is uncomfortable for the EU. On day one of the backstop fishing rights are lost, which is why President Macron may not be keen on entering into the backstop. There is also the fact that the backstop breaks the four freedoms, which have always been safely guarded by the European Union. The backstop is not a desirable place for the Europeans to enter, which is why there is an incentive for them to get momentum into the trade agreements.