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European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:24 pm on 22nd October 2019.

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Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 1:24 pm, 22nd October 2019

Because it is absolutely clear on the face of the Bill and from what I have said that this country will maintain the highest possible standards and will give this House the collective ability to keep pace with Brussels and, indeed, to do better.

As I say, we have the highest possible environmental standards. We will match the environmental standards that Brussels brings forward. Indeed, we now have the opportunity to do better. I have stressed for four years—[Interruption.] No, that is not true. It is said from a sedentary position that we have always had the opportunity to do better. I am afraid that that is mistaken. There are plenty of ways in which we are currently prohibited from going forward with higher standards. Under the Bill, we will have the power in this House to do something for which I think the people of this country have yearned for years, which is to strengthen controls on the live transport of animals. I hope we will do that now. That is currently forbidden under EU law.

On fiscal measures, we will now have the power to cut VAT on sanitary products. As for the protection of workers, we will now be able, under the Bill, to take action against employers and agencies who undercut our laws, including where agencies bring in overseas labour from the EU so that local people do not get a look in. That is currently impossible within the EU.

Clause 34 and the accompanying provisions in schedule 5 include a duty on any Minister—to get to the point that has been raised—who introduces relevant legislation to make clear that workers’ rights will not be weakened in any way. Whether it is tackling air pollution or enhancing biodiversity, this country can do better than simply sticking with EU norms. We can achieve our vision of a dynamic, high-wage, low-tax market economy precisely because we champion high skills and high standards.