EU-UK Partnership: EU’s Mandate

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:52 pm on 4th June 2020.

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 2:52 pm, 4th June 2020

The right hon Gentleman is right; it is our intention. Indeed, it is a commitment in the political declaration that accompanies the withdrawal agreement that both sides will work towards ensuring that we have a zero-tariff, zero-quota approach. One of the problems we face is that the European Union is placing an unprecedented demand on the United Kingdom, which is that in order to secure that zero-tariff, zero-quota approach, we accept a suite of commitments—the so-called level playing field commitments—that would place obligations on the UK Government and our institutions to follow EU law in a way that no other sovereign nation would and in a way that no other free trade agreement requires. That takes us to the heart of the UK’s approach.

In all these appearances and opportunities in which the House has allowed me, on behalf of the Government, to explain our approach, we have taken a consistent line, and that is in keeping with the political declaration. We want a free trade agreement with the European Union, and the free trade agreement that we seek is built on precedent. There is nothing novel, outrageous or excessive about our requests, and the free trade agreement that we seek is, as I say, one that builds on precedents from Canada, Japan and South Korea and agreements that other sovereign nations have entered into with the EU.

The challenge that we face, however, is that the European Union argues that, because of the size of our market and our geographical proximity, we should be subject to rules of the club that we have left, which they impose on no other sovereign nation. At the same time, the EU insists that in the hugely important area of fisheries, it should continue to have access on terms that are similar, if not identical, to the common fisheries policy, which so many people in this country recognise as having worked against the interests of our coastal communities and of marine conservation.

It is on that basis that the fourth round of negotiations is currently being conducted. David Frost, our negotiator, is negotiating hard today, and I am sure that Michel Barnier will update us with his perspective on these negotiations tomorrow. We will also be laying a written ministerial statement next week and, of course, should the House require any further updates on the progress of the negotiations, I would be delighted to give them.