Future Relationship with the EU: Negotiations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:10 pm on 19th May 2020.

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 1:10 pm, 19th May 2020

I am grateful for this opportunity to update the House on the progress of our negotiations with the European Union. I have today laid a written ministerial statement before the House, which provides a comprehensive update on the third round of our negotiations with the EU on our future relationship. We have also today made public the UK’s draft legal texts. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade has also published the new tariff schedule that we will operate at the end of the transition period for those countries with which we do not have a free trade agreement.

Negotiators from the UK and the EU held full and constructive discussions last week via video conference. The talks covered trading goods and services, fisheries, law enforcement and criminal justice, and other issues, with both sides discussing full legal texts. The discussion underlined that a standard comprehensive free trade agreement, alongside other key agreements on issues such as law enforcement, civil nuclear and aviation, all in line with the political declaration, could be agreed without major difficulties in the time available. There remain, however, some areas where we have significant difference of principle, notably on fisheries, governance arrangements and the so-called level playing field. The EU, essentially, wants us to obey the rules of its club, even though we are no longer members, and it wants the same access to our fishing grounds as it currently enjoys while restricting our access to its markets.

It remains difficult to reach a mutually beneficial agreement while the EU maintains such an ideological approach, but we believe that agreement is possible if flexibility is shown. The agreements that we seek are, of course, built on the precedents of the agreements that the EU has reached with other sovereign nations. To help facilitate discussions in the fourth round and beyond, the Government have today published the full draft legal text that we have already shared with the Commission and which, together with the EU’s draft agreement, have formed the basis of all discussions. The UK texts are fully in line with the Government’s document entitled, “The Future Relationship with the EU: The UK’s Approach to Negotiations” which was published on 27 February. Copies of the legal text have been placed in the House of Commons Library and are also available online at gov.uk.

The Government remain committed to a deal with a free trade agreement at its core and we look forward to the fourth round of negotiations beginning on 1 June, but success depends on the EU recognising that the UK is a sovereign equal.