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Main power in connection with other separation issues

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 8th January 2020.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office) 1:45 pm, 8th January 2020

Before I address the provisions we are debating, I wish to acknowledge the enormous hard work and professionalism of officials in the Department for Exiting the European Union, in which I had the privilege to serve for more than two years, and in the territorial offices in which I have served since, in bringing this Bill and the withdrawal agreement to the position they are in today. I pay tribute to all those in the devolved Administrations and the Northern Ireland civil service who have contributed to our work on EU exit and to ensuring that the whole UK is able to leave the European Union in an orderly way. The Bill may have been a long time in coming, but it is delivering on a mandate for the whole United Kingdom. It has been a privilege to work with colleagues from every part of the United Kingdom in preparing and delivering it.

I agree with Thangam Debbonaire about the importance of the Good Friday Belfast agreement. It is absolutely right that it has been a central focus of the exit process from the start. We do not need amendment 1 to state our firm commitment to both the Good Friday agreement and the principle of consent, or, indeed, my party’s absolute commitment to the United Kingdom.

I shall talk briefly to the purpose of clauses 18 to 37 and schedules 3 and 5 before I go into the detail of the amendments. As a Northern Ireland Minister, I make no excuses if most of my focus in respect of the amendments is on Northern Ireland. I am sorry not to have heard from more Northern Ireland colleagues so far; I shall try to make time to ensure that I can.

First, the clauses set out how EU law will be wound down at the end of the implementation period. Secondly, they enable the UK to fulfil its international obligations under the financial settlement. Thirdly, and crucially, they implement the regulatory, customs and other arrangements contained in the Northern Ireland protocol; protect rights and arrangements contained in the Belfast Good Friday agreement; and avoid a hard border. Fourthly, they update the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 so that it operates as intended in the light of the withdrawal agreement. Fifthly, they allow UK courts to interpret UK laws and not to be inadvertently bound by historic European court cases. Sixthly, they provide a mechanism for Parliament to consider EU legislation that raises a matter of vital national interests, thereby increasing parliamentary scrutiny. Seventhly, they ensure that the Government are properly accountable for their work in the withdrawal agreement Joint Committee, and that Parliament should be informed on formal dispute proceedings that arise from the withdrawal agreement. Eighthly, they guarantee that we can ratify the withdrawal agreement on 31 January by ensuring that once the Bill receives Royal Assent there are no further parliamentary hurdles to ratification. Ninthly, they repeal unnecessary or spent enactments relating to EU exit.

I shall now address the amendments—