Uk’S Withdrawal from the EU

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:12 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 2:12 pm, 27th February 2019

It is the hon. Gentleman’s hon. Friends, as well other colleagues across the House, who have been seeking to intervene, and if somebody intervenes on me, I think, in justice, they deserve a considered response to the point that they have made.

Amendment (a) instructs Ministers to seek “a permanent…customs union”, but the political declaration already provides for the benefits of a customs union—no tariffs, quotas or checks on rules of origin. At the same time, the political declaration says that rather than trying to seek a voice in EU trade deals, the UK should have an independent trade policy. Beyond the label of “permanent…customs union”, it is not clear to me what outcomes the Labour amendment is seeking that the political declaration does not offer.

Secondly, the amendment instructs Ministers to seek

“close alignment with the single market”,

but the EU has already said that the deal provides for the closest relationship possible outside the single market, and frictionless trade in goods and agrifood is one of our key negotiating objectives. The truth is, looking at the EU position, that it has said that completely frictionless trade is possible only if we stay in the single market. That would mean accepting both free movement and EU state aid rules in full—things that the Labour party’s leadership has said it does not want to see. That is why, I assume, its amendment is ambiguous about what a “close” relationship really means.

Thirdly, the amendment instructs Ministers to seek “dynamic alignment on rights”. We are committed to ensuring that leaving the EU will not lead to any lowering of standards in relation to workers’ rights. We are prepared to commit to giving Parliament a vote on whether it wishes to follow suit in the future whenever EU standards in areas such as workers’ rights or health and safety are judged to have been strengthened.

Fourthly, the amendment instructs Ministers to seek “participation in EU agencies”. The political declaration sets out how we aim to participate in EU programmes in a number of areas and have the closest possible relationship with EU agencies in the heavily regulated sectors.

Fifthly, the amendment instructs us to seek

“agreement on the detail of future security arrangements, including” participation in specific EU tools and measures. Anybody who has listened to the Prime Minister speak from the Dispatch Box, whether as Home Secretary or Prime Minister, can be in no doubt about her commitment to the closest, most effective possible partnership now and in the future between police and law enforcement agencies in this country and those in other parts of the European Union.

The amendment ignores the very real negotiating challenge of the EU’s position. It says that, as a third country outside the Schengen area and without free movement, there would be restrictions on the UK’s ability to participate in some EU tools and measures. We do a disservice to the House if we do not recognise the reality of that negotiating challenge.

The deal that the Government have negotiated provides the best way forward for this country to build its future relationship of friendship and deep partnership with the EU outside membership of the European Union. With the work that the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General are undertaking to get the changes that this House has asked for to the Northern Ireland backstop, I believe we can come back with a deal that the House should be willing—indeed, eager—to endorse. That way, we will be able to deliver a result that honours the outcome of the 2016 referendum but does so in a way that protects the jobs, prosperity and security of citizens in every part of the United Kingdom.