EU-UK Partnership: EU’s Mandate

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:15 pm on 4th June 2020.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee, Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 3:15 pm, 4th June 2020

To answer the second point first, I am, of course, very conscious of what is going on in the negotiations. I hear what has been said repeatedly by the Government with respect to maintaining and protecting our vital national interests, and I believe that that will be the outcome—namely, we will ensure that we are not made subject to EU state aid in the way in which we have experienced it in the past. I have made the case. I can say more about it, but I do not need to for the moment.

With respect to the question of arbitration, it refers back in a funny way to my reference to John Bright, who was one of the initiators of the notion of international arbitration in the Alabama case. I will simply say this. I believe that the European Court’s jurisdiction cannot be allowed, but I go further: I think that some form of arbitration may be necessary, but not, under any circumstances, including our being subjugated to the rules and jurisdiction of the European Court.

I will now move on. For our report, my Committee consulted with 24 Select Committees, and we are immensely grateful to all of them for their contributions. The Prime Minister, in a written statement, followed by a Command Paper in February, made it clear—in line with Acts of Parliament that had already been passed, not to mention the outcome of the general election—that there would be no rule for the European Court of Justice, nor any alignment of our laws with the EU, and nor would any of the European institutions, including the Court, have any jurisdiction in the UK. Those statements and policies are entirely consistent with the democratic will of the British people. We asked the Government to publish their draft legal text, and I am glad to say that that has been done.

The timing of this debate is crucial because the Prime Minister will engage in a high-level meeting towards the end of this month. I ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for the exact date when that will take place, the agenda that will be before the meeting and who will attend on behalf of the EU and the EU27. This, in turn, is crucial, because Germany takes over the presidency on 1 July and there is all the sensitive history associated with Germany’s engagement with the EU, which I have debated and written about since April 1990, and have discussed face-to-face with many of its leading politicians, including Helmut Schmidt and others. My approach has been demonstrably justified by events. For example, the coronavirus package would move the EU towards greater EU fiscal and political integration, which the Germans would influence much more heavily than even they do today. Their slogan for the presidency is:

“Together. Making Europe Strong Again”

I simply add that we were not a minute too soon in leaving the EU.

The Government, in their Command Paper, say that by the end of June there is the opportunity for the

“outline of an agreement…capable of being rapidly finalised by September. If that does not seem to be the case...the Government will need to decide whether the UK’s attention should move away from negotiations and focus solely on…preparations to exit the transition period in an orderly fashion.”

Recent correspondence between our chief negotiator, David Frost, and Michel Barnier indicates that there is no real progress in the negotiations, because the EU is invariably asking for the impossible and, as correctly indicated by David Frost, the EU is not offering a “fair free-trade relationship” but a

“low-quality trade agreement…with unprecedented…oversight of our laws and institutions..”

Our vital national interests, which derive from our democracy and self-government, which is what this debate is about, are paramount.

I was extremely glad to hear what the Leader of the House said at today’s business questions on the issue of the extension of the transitional period, because he used the hallowed words of the late Margaret Thatcher, “No, no, no.” I am delighted to hear similar sentiments expressed by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster this afternoon. Any extension of the transition period, through which Mr Michel Barnier is outrageously trying to seduce remainers, would simply prolong negotiations; as David Frost stated, it would create more uncertainty, leaving us paying far more to the EU and binding us to EU laws, when we have democratically and lawfully decided to leave the EU by our own sovereign decision and our own sovereign legislation.

As for the Labour amendment to this motion, it completely turns the purpose of the “good faith” and “best endeavours” in article 184 of the withdrawal agreement, which places an obligation on the EU to enshrine European sovereignty, on its head. The amendment would betray that and with it the democratic will of the British electorate. In conclusion, I urge the Government to review the Northern Ireland protocol, which raises concerns about EU law and European Court jurisdiction, and the status of Northern Ireland. I look to the Government to ensure that the whole UK leaves on our own terms, because our sovereignty and self-government is an absolute bulwark of our freedom and our democracy.