EU-UK Partnership: EU’s Mandate

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:02 pm on 4th June 2020.

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Photo of Paul Blomfield Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (International Trade) (Brexit and EU Negotiations), Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) (Brexit and EU Negotiations) 3:02 pm, 4th June 2020

And the question will be answered, but one of the things the hon. Gentleman will learn is that there is no firmer upholder of standards than you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The hon. Gentleman is right to focus on the mandate that the Government secured in December, and we acknowledge that the arithmetic the general election produced gives them a clear a majority in the House, but instead of talking about process, we should focus on the substance of the mandate. What was that promise? It was not, “Get Brexit done at any price.” It was, “Get Brexit done on the basis of the oven-ready deal.”

That deal promised the British people

“an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership” with

“no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all sectors”.

It promised to safeguard workers’ rights and consumer and environmental protection, and to include

“effective implementation domestically, enforcement and dispute settlement.”

The Minister talks about deals such as that with Canada as a reference point. He will know that the comprehensive economic and trade agreement contains some provisions for a level playing field with enforcement mechanisms, and in fact negotiations are taking place for those to be enhanced.

Delivering on those promises matters, because the Government have sought to talk down expectations about their ability to achieve the pledges they made to the British people. We face a huge economic hit as a result of covid-19. We must not make that worse through a bad deal on our future relationship with the European Union.

The director general of the CBI said on Tuesday:

“For many firms fighting to keep their heads above water through the crisis, the idea of preparing for a chaotic change in EU trading relations in seven months is beyond them. They are not remotely prepared. Faced with the desperate challenges of the pandemic, their resilience and ability to cope is almost zero.”

One of those firms, Nissan, warned yesterday that tariffs on cars exported to the EU would make its business model unsustainable if we left the transition, for example, on the much-vaunted Australia model—the “no deal exists” model. Meanwhile, obviously concerned about progress, the Governor of the Bank of England has urged banks to step up their preparations for the UK leaving the transition period without a future trading relationship in place.

Of course, the deal is not just about goods and services; there are nine other strands to the talks, among which security is critical. At the general election, the public were promised

“a broad, comprehensive and balanced security partnership …underpinned by long-standing commitments to the fundamental rights of individuals, including continued adherence and giving effect to the”

European convention on human rights,

“and adequate protection of personal data”.

However, since the election, the Government have rowed back on their commitment. On 11 March, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told the Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union that

“we may not necessarily have concluded everything on internal security by”

31 December.

That is of deep concern, as the former Prime Minister, Mrs May, pointed out yesterday at Prime Minister’s questions. Without a comprehensive security agreement, even for a short period, extradition would be slower and more bureaucratic, law enforcement agencies would find it harder to get crucial information for investigations as they lost access to EU-wide databases, and it would be more difficult for UK investigators and prosecutors to collaborate with EU partners.

We have left the European Union. The task now is to build the best possible new relationship for jobs and the economy in all parts of the UK through tariff and barrier-free trade in goods and services, to maintain the security of the UK by retaining existing co-operation as far as possible, and to maintain protection for workers, consumers and the environment. And of course nothing must be done that undermines the Northern Ireland protocol and the Good Friday agreement.

That is what the country was promised at the election. That is the deal that the Government have to deliver. They have said that they will deliver that deal by December. They should confirm today that they remain confident that the oven-ready deal that they pledged to the British people, summed up in the political declaration that they signed with the European Union, will be delivered—not any deal; that deal—and by the end of the year. They should also spell out how they plan to, in the words of their own motion, “facilitate essential parliamentary scrutiny” on their progress.