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European Union: Future Relationship

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:40 am on 27th February 2020.

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 10:40 am, 27th February 2020

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his questions and for the constructive way in which he approaches these matters. This Government are wholly committed to implementing the withdrawal agreement, to respecting and enacting the Northern Ireland protocol, and to giving effect to the political declaration and its aim of securing a comprehensive free trade agreement without tariffs, quotas or quantitative restrictions. He asked specifically about the maintenance of standards, and the requirement that we follow EU law and ECJ judgments in order to secure workers’ rights and environmental protections. We do not believe that is necessary, and the EU does not require submission to its legal order from any other sovereign independent state. Ultimately, the best guarantor of environmental protections and workers’ rights is a sovereign UK Parliament that is determined to lead in the world, just as this Government are doing in those areas.

It is vital to ensure that our manufacturing sector, like all sectors of our economy, is equipped to take advantage of new economic opportunities. That is what the Government are doing, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will say more about how we can supercharge every part of our economy when he delivers the Budget statement on 11 March. The free trade agreement that we seek should ensure tariff-free access to markets, and provisions on rules of origin that will allow the manufacturing sector to flourish in the future.

The hon. Gentleman pointed out that the need to ensure that negotiations are concluded by the end of the transition period on 31 December necessarily means that they will have to proceed at pace. They will, but as I pointed out, and as he acknowledges, because we are seeking relationships for which there is already a precedent between the EU and other countries—precedents such as those between the EU and Canada, Japan, South Korea and others—it should be possible to make rapid progress. I note that my good friend, Dr Martin Selmayr—he is now the EU’s permanent representative to Austria, and he previously worked for the President of the Commission—has said that it would be entirely possible to conclude those negotiations in a timely fashion, and not for the last time, Dr Selmayr and I are in complete agreement on that.

The hon. Gentleman made a point about customs checks and a border down the Irish sea. There will be no border down the Irish sea, and we will ensure that there is unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses to the rest of the United Kingdom.

I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman’s sincere beliefs and his commitment to appropriate scrutiny, but the problem for the Labour party more broadly is that its approach to Europe would mean that we would have no control over our fishing borders, no effective control over our borders, and no way of charting our own independent economic destiny. Looking at that proposal, I am afraid all I can say, as someone once said, is, “No, no, no.”