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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 2:15 pm on 8th January 2020.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland 2:15 pm, 8th January 2020

The answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s question is perhaps in some of the exchanges we had during that debate, when I was reaching out to him to suggest that he ought to support our orderly withdrawal from the European Union so that we could get on to the next phase of negotiations. Since then, we have had a general election that provides a clear mandate for this Government to take us forward, to deliver the withdrawal agreement, and to get into that next phase of negotiations. I think we need to focus on that.

We have are already engaged extensively with the devolved Administrations in our preparations for the negotiations, and we will of course continue to involve all parties, including those in Northern Ireland, as we begin those negotiations. Indeed, this speaks to the absolute necessity and the vital urgency of restoring a functioning Executive in Northern Ireland as soon as possible. The Government will support Parliament in scrutinising the negotiations. We have made a clear commitment in this Bill to Parliament’s scrutiny of the withdrawal agreement Joint Committee. To that end, clause 30 provides that when disputes arise, they must be reported to Parliament. Further, clause 34 states that only a Minister will be able to act as the UK’s co-chair of the withdrawal agreement Joint Committee, and clause 35 ensures that all decisions must be made by a Minister in person. That Minister will be accountable to Parliament. We therefore believe that new clause 47 should not be pressed.

The Government fully recognise the important role that devolved Administrations will play in ensuring that our independent trade policy delivers for the whole of the UK. It is the responsibility of the UK Government to negotiate on behalf of the United Kingdom, and it is vital that we retain appropriate flexibility to proceed with negotiations at pace. However, we have been clear that the devolved Administrations will remain closely involved. Therefore, there is no need to make provisions in statute when the Government are already working tirelessly to ensure that the views and perspectives of devolved Administrations are given full consideration in the United Kingdom’s trade policy. As such, I would urge hon. Members not to press new clause 64.