“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on last week’s European Council. Before turning to the progress on our negotiations to leave the EU, let me briefly cover the discussions on Russia, Jerusalem, migration and education. In each case the UK made a substantive contribution, both as a current member of the EU and in the spirit of the new, deep and special partnership we want to build with our European neighbours.
Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe. Since then, human rights have worsened: Russia has fomented conflict in the Donbass and the peace process in Ukraine has stalled. As I said at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet, the UK will do what is necessary to protect ourselves and work with our allies to do likewise, both now and after we have left the EU. We were at the forefront of the original call for EU sanctions, and at this Council we agreed to extend those sanctions for a further six months.
On Jerusalem, I made it clear that we disagree with the United States’ decision to move its embassy and recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement. Like our EU partners, we will not be following suit. But it is vital that we continue to work with the United States to encourage it to bring forward proposals that will re-energise the peace process. This must be based around support for a two-state solution and an acknowledgement that the final status of Jerusalem must be subject to negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
On migration, when we leave the European Union we will be taking back control of our borders and laws, so we will be free to decide our own approach independently of the EU. But as part of the new partnership we want to build, I made it clear at this Council that we will continue to play our full part in working with the EU on this shared challenge. We will retain our maritime presence in the Mediterranean for as long as necessary; we will work with Libyan law enforcement to enhance its capability to tackle people-smuggling networks; and we will continue to address the root causes of the problem by investing for the long term in education, jobs and services, both in countries of origin and transit.
When it comes to education, our world-leading universities remain a highly attractive destination for students from across the EU, while UK students also benefit from studying overseas. UK and EU universities will still want to work together after we leave the EU and to co-operate with other universities from around the world. We will discuss how to achieve this in the long term as part of the negotiations on our future deep and special partnership. In the meantime, I was pleased to confirm at this Council that UK students will be able to continue to participate in the Erasmus student exchange programme for at least another three years, until the end of this budget period.
Turning to Brexit, the European Council formally agreed on Friday that sufficient progress has been made to move on to the second stage of the negotiations. This is an important step on the road to delivering the smooth and orderly Brexit that people voted for in June last year. I want to thank Jean-Claude Juncker for his personal efforts, and Donald Tusk and my fellow leaders for the constructive way they have approached this process. With Friday’s Council we have now achieved my first priority of a reciprocal agreement on citizens’ rights. EU citizens living in the UK will have their rights enshrined in UK law and enforced by British courts, and UK citizens living in the EU will also have their rights protected. We needed both, and that is what we have got, providing vital reassurance to all these citizens and their families in the run-up to Christmas.
On the financial settlement, I set out the principles for the House last week and the negotiations have brought this settlement down by a substantial amount. Based on reasonable assumptions the settlement is estimated to stand at between £35 billion and £39 billion in current terms. This is the equivalent of around four years of our current budget contribution, around two of which we expect will be covered by the implementation period. It is far removed from some of the figures that have been bandied around.
On Northern Ireland, as I set out in detail for the House last week, we have committed to maintain the common travel area with Ireland; to uphold the Belfast agreement in full; and to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland while upholding the constitutional and economic integrity of the whole United Kingdom, and we will work closer than ever with all Northern Irish parties and the Irish Government as we now enter the second phase of the negotiations.
The guidelines published by President Tusk on Friday point to the shared desire of the EU and the UK to make rapid progress on an implementation period, with formal talks beginning very soon. This will help give certainty to employers and families that we are going to deliver a smooth Brexit. As I proposed in Florence, during this strictly time-limited implementation period, which we will now begin to negotiate, we would not be in the single market or the customs union, as we will have left the European Union. But we would propose that our access to one another’s markets would continue as now, while we prepare and implement the new processes and new systems that will underpin our future partnership.
During this period, we intend to register new arrivals from the EU as preparation for our future immigration system, and we will prepare for our future independent trade policy by negotiating and where possible signing trade deals with third countries, which could come into force after the conclusion of the implementation period. Finally, the Council also confirmed on Friday that discussions will now begin on trade and the future security partnership. I set out the framework for our approach to these discussions in my speeches at Lancaster House and in Florence. We will now work with our European partners with ambition and creativity to develop the details of a partnership that I firmly believe will be in the best interests of both the UK and the EU.
Since my Lancaster House speech in January we have triggered Article 50 and begun and closed negotiations on the first phase. We have done what many said could not be done—demonstrating what can be achieved with commitment and perseverance on both sides—and I will not be derailed from delivering the democratic will of the British people. We are well on our way to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit. That is good news for those who voted to leave, who were worried the negotiations were so complicated it was never going to happen, and it is good news for those who voted remain, who were worried that we might leave without being able to reach an agreement.
We will now move on with building a bold new economic relationship, which, together with the new trade deals we strike across the world, can support generations of new jobs for our people, open up new markets for our exporters and drive new growth for our economy. We will build a new security relationship that promotes our values in the world and keeps our families safe from threats that increasingly do not recognise geographical boundaries. And we will bring our country together—stronger, fairer, and once again back in control of our borders, our money and our laws.
Finally, let me say this. We are dealing with questions of great significance to our country’s future, so it is natural that there are many strongly held views on all sides of this Chamber, and it is right and proper that we should debate them, and do so with all the passion and conviction that makes our democracy what it is. But there can never be a place for the threats of violence and intimidation against some Members that we have seen in recent days. Our politics must be better than that. On that note, I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement. The past couple of weeks have been very eventful for the Government. The Prime Minister has travelled to Brussels three times. On the first occasion, she returned empty-handed because of her partners in the DUP. The second was a last-minute dash across the channel for breakfast with Barnier to save the deal that allowed for progress to phase 2. Now, on the third occasion, she returns home early as the UK once again has to sit out the second day of a major EU summit.
When the Prime Minister returned last week to make her Statement to Parliament, for one, brief, shining moment, her Cabinet was united. Some on the Tory Benches even found themselves echoing the warm words of EU figures such as Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker. We all paid tribute, quite rightly, to the Prime Minister’s tenacity in securing a sufficient-progress decision, first from the Commission and then from the European Council.
Unfortunately, the Cabinet unity was short lived and gave way to a weekend of unsanctioned briefings and policy proposals. Yet again, the Foreign Secretary used a newspaper interview to engage in an open conversation with the Prime Minister, with a warning that she should not seek to maintain full regulatory alignment with the EU to avoid the UK becoming what he described as “a vassal state”. The Environment Secretary suggested that the Tories should abandon their manifesto commitment to keep EU-derived employment and workers’ rights and scrap the vital protections contained in the working time directive. Such briefings from Cabinet members are not only unhelpful and undermine the Prime Minister and her Government, but could damage the UK’s wider interests.
Despite the positive news that EU leaders gave formal approval for the launch of phase 2 talks, the summit served as a reminder that, while we focus on our withdrawal from the EU, the EU is focusing on its own challenges and shaping its own future. Important discussions took place on co-ordinated efforts to stem illegal migration; the need to increase the resilience of the economic and monetary union; education and culture; and climate change. While Theresa May confirmed the UK’s intention to remain a part of Erasmus+ until 2020, the EU27 took decisions on the longer-term future of that programme and many others. The conclusions also feature important commitments to the implementation of the Paris agreement, the continuation of sanctions against Russia, and restating the agreed position on Jerusalem and a two-state solution. To give the Prime Minister credit, she has spoken out on these issues, but will the Leader tell the House whether President Trump has returned the Prime Minister’s call from last week? If he has, what discussions took place regarding Israel?
It is quite an irony that while Michael Gove prepared to launch his broadside on EU-derived workers’ rights, EU members committed to implementing the European pillar of social rights, accelerating important social initiatives already in progress at national and EU levels, and taking renewed action to tackle the gender pay gap. I suspect that the Prime Minister might have a particular interest in the last area, given last week’s revelations of a significant gender pay gap among special advisers at No. 10.
Returning to the Brexit negotiations, it is clear that the second phase will be challenging and needs good will and trust on all sides. In that respect, I repeat my comment from last week, to which I have already alluded: the Cabinet must stop freelancing and the Prime Minister must insist that her Ministers back her. David Davis’s mixed and contradictory messages last week were unhelpful. I hope that at the next Cabinet meeting, which I think is tomorrow, the Prime Minister will be able to ensure that all Cabinet members are prepared to accept the principle of collective responsibility and accountability, even during the upcoming Christmas Recess.
Tomorrow, the Cabinet discusses our future relationship with the EU. Perhaps because of deep divisions, it has taken 18 months for that discussion to take place. The clock is ticking down. It is clear that a transitional period will be possible only if there is high-level agreement on a future relationship that can be struck in the EU’s original timescale, but with phase 2 talks beginning shortly it is essential that these discussions are productive and that the Government can set out their end goal, engage with the public to explain it, urgently communicate it to the EU and remain committed to securing that outcome.
Assuming that consensus is achieved at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting—that might be a big “if”—will the Minister confirm when the UK expects to communicate its detailed wish list to Parliament and to Michel Barnier’s team? The noble Baroness will understand why I raise this key point again: businesses are making decisions now about their future regarding location and employment issues. Will she confirm the terms that the UK is seeking for the transition period? In the light of the comments made from the EU side that it would not extend transitional arrangements to Gibraltar, will she confirm that the Government will challenge that position?
The noble Baroness referred to Northern Ireland in the Statement. What we have heard on Northern Ireland so far has been nothing beyond the aspirational. Will she tell us what practical considerations have been made and what decisions are being taken to ensure there is not a hard border, given the Government’s commitment to saying it cannot remain in the single market and the customs union? Some of us are struggling to understand how that can be achieved.
The Prime Minister’s very welcome commitment on Erasmus+ was in the context of only the current Budget. When can universities and students expect certainty on their ability to participate in the programme post-2020?
Last week, the noble Baroness disappointingly confirmed that the joint report does not cover onward movement of UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU but said that this would be revisited in phase 2 of the negotiations, yet today’s Statement refers to UK citizens’ rights being “protected”. Can she reflect on that? “Reciprocal agreement” implies equal status between citizens of the EU and citizens of the UK. However, a Commission memo published on
The Prime Minister said in her Statement that until the UK withdraws from the EU, it continues to play a full role in meetings. Can the noble Baroness therefore say whether the Fisheries Minister, George Eustice, last week left the Agriculture and Fisheries Council early to attend votes in the Commons? If so, has there been any detrimental impact on the UK fishing fleet or has it lost out on access to any EU quotas as a result? Or did it really not make any difference?
My Lords, it is the time for end-of-term reports, and this Statement represents that of the Government in respect of Brexit. Like the assiduous student that she was, the Prime Minister has carefully presented her course work. She has one agreement to show for almost nine months of negotiations since the triggering of Article 50. It is in three parts. The Government have agreed to honour their financial commitments—good, but this was merely bowing to the inevitable. They have agreed to allow EU migrants to stay in the EU—good, but this principle was never seriously in contention. It has kicked the Northern Ireland problem down the road—bad, but given the fundamental incompatibility contained in the Government’s position, this is an inevitable delay until or unless the Government work out what they want their trading relationship with the EU to be.
In terms of legislation, we are to have at least eight Brexit Bills and 1,000 statutory instruments before March 2019, and in reality many of these will be needed well before then. Yet not a single piece of primary legislation, far less a single statutory instrument, has been enacted and no Brexit-related Bill has even completed its passage through a single House. It is extremely difficult to see how the Government plan to get all this legislation through in a timely manner, but given the importance of the subject matter, can the Leader of the House give us an assurance that the Government will produce their proposals in time for both Houses to deal with them properly and within the normal conventions on timetabling?
As far as the future trading relationship is concerned, and indeed on a host of other issues, including the Government’s attitude to ongoing migration to and from the EU, it is pointless pressing the Leader on the Government’s attitude because they literally have no policy. Can she, however, confirm that last week’s agreement means that Northern Ireland citizens who retain their EU citizenship will have more rights than other UK citizens? If, as I believe, this is so, it will be deeply offensive to many people. Given that the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, said to your Lordships’ House last Monday that,
“we are not ruling out”—[
UK nationals retaining EU citizenship, will the Government now positively propose to the EU that UK citizens will be able to retain their EU citizenship so that the majority of us are not reduced to second-class status in comparison with our Northern Ireland compatriots? Given that when the Government do eventually adopt a policy on our future trading relationship with the EU this will be of fundamental importance to the Brexit negotiations, and indeed the country’s position going forward, will the Leader of the House give an assurance that both Houses of Parliament will be able to have a full debate and vote on the Government’s proposals before they are transmitted to the EU? Would not anything less be inconsistent with Parliament taking back control?
In order that people at large might have a clearer understanding of the consequences of Brexit for the economy, will the Leader now seek to persuade the Prime Minister and the Brexit Secretary to publish the infamous sectoral reports? They contain nothing which is commercially sensitive or could jeopardise our negotiating position and there is no reason why everyone should not be able to see them. The current arrangements for parliamentarians to see them are disproportionately restrictive and should in any event be relaxed, but the documents should simply become publicly available. The only conclusion one can draw from the Government’s current approach is that they do not want people to see how complicated Brexit will be in practice or to understand the depth and beneficial nature of our current economic relationships with the EU.
Finally, will the noble Baroness confirm the estimate in today’s Financial Times that Brexit is already costing, not benefiting, the UK some £340 million a week, as a result of lower growth which has flowed from the referendum result? It is very tempting at this stage of the term to give the Government an overall mark for their term’s work, but I fear that that would be embarrassing. I simply pose the question asked by many a frustrated and disappointed supervisor: “Don’t you think it would be better if you took another course?”.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their comments, but I am somewhat disappointed that they do not seem to have fully welcomed the fact that we have made sufficient progress and that we can now move to talk about the future. They have been saying that this is what they want for months, yet now we achieve it, unfortunately it seems that they are not as keen as perhaps they said they were originally.
To answer the noble Baroness’s question, we will start talking to the EU 27 about the shape of the future relationship and the details of the implementation period straightaway and the EU will be producing guidelines in March to further aid those discussions. The noble Baroness also asked about Gibraltar. I can confirm that the UK Government are committed to engage with the Crown dependencies and overseas territories, including Gibraltar, of course, as we prepare to exit the EU, to ensure that their interests and priorities are taken into account. We will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of any other state against their wishes. We had the fifth meeting of the UK-Gibraltar ministerial forum on
The noble Baroness asked about Erasmus. As she rightly acknowledged, the Prime Minister announced our intention to continue to participate in the Erasmus programme for at least another three years, until the end of the current budget period. Anything further than that is for the future negotiations, but that commitment shows how much we value the Erasmus programme and understand its importance. In relation to onward movement, I fear that I can say no more than I said last week: this was an issue we were hoping to resolve, it has not yet been resolved but we have been very clear that we want to come back to it at the next stage of the negotiations. On her question about the Fisheries Minister, he certainly managed to balance his responsibilities in representing the UK in the recent discussions with taking his role as a parliamentarian extremely seriously.
The noble Lord, Lord Newby, asked about citizens’ rights. As we have said all along, we wanted a reciprocal agreement on citizens’ rights and that is what we have agreed. We now want to make sure that we turn the agreement into the legal agreement we will see in the withdrawal and implementation Bill. He asked about the sectoral reports. Everyone can see them, they are available for anyone to see and I certainly encourage all noble Lords to do so.
The discussions in relation to us leaving the EU were very constructive. We have now agreed to move on to phase 2 and to start to talk about our future relationship, which is extremely welcome.
My Lords, given that the Northern Ireland question was responsible for rescuing the Prime Minister in the first stage of negotiations when she agreed a regulatory alignment on standards and the adjudication of those standards, not just physical controls on the Irish border, within the whole of the UK—that is, the customs union and the single market have to be aligned in order to keep the border open—and now that has been accepted for the transitional talks, what is the point of leaving the single market and the customs union? Does she think that the EU is magically going to give us a better deal by being exactly aligned with the customs union and the single market outside it?
We have always said that the details of how we maintain an open border will be settled in phase 2 of the negotiations, when we agree our future relationship, and that is what we will do. We have also been very clear that alignment is about pursuing the same objectives, but achieving this could be done through different means. It does not require regulatory harmonisation.
My Lords, the Leader seems disappointed that the Statement has not been welcomed as it might have been. I do welcome it but I do not think it is as it has been portrayed; that is, the progress that has been made thus far is simply the opening gambit and the real hard work is going to come in the next phase. It seems to me that so far not a great deal has been achieved, except that we can go on to talk about the next phase. I will make a quick observation and then put a question.
I have some knowledge of Russia. It seems that Russia does not need to defeat the West because it gets the West to defeat itself; the Russian policy seems to be to destabilise, and Brexit and the way it is being conducted actually feeds that agenda. We do not talk about that enough. If you look at the rise of the far right, such as what has gone on in Austria, the very strong links with Russia are there. This is not simply about Ukraine.
I would be much happier if I heard the word “might” rather than “will”. We talk about how we “will” get the best deal. By definition, we will get the best deal because it will be the only one that we come up with so it will be the best, but that is not the same as saying that it will be the best deal that we could have got or the best for this nation. Would it not be better for the Government to get away from thinking that if you make assertions, that creates reality, and to be more honest with the British people by saying we “might” get, rather than we “will”, when it might not be in our power to achieve the “will”?
I am afraid I do not agree with the right reverend Prelate that progress has not been made. We have made a lot of progress in phase 1, not least in giving clarity to UK citizens living abroad and EU citizens here about their status. We have discussed a financial settlement. We have discussed the very important issue of Northern Ireland and have all agreed that we do not want a hard border and have thought about how we might achieve that. In terms of where we go next, I think we are in a good position. The EU Council conclusions state:
“The European Council reconfirms its desire to establish a close partnership between the Union and the United Kingdom … The European Council reconfirms its readiness to establish partnerships in areas unrelated to trade, in particular the fight against terrorism and international crime, as well as security, defence and foreign policy”.
These things are the basis for a good deal.
My Lords, I am sure we welcome the good news brought by the noble Baroness from the Prime Minister, but I think many in your Lordships’ House share the confusion about how we are to get to the Panglossian outcome in Ireland without remaining part of the single market. Is the noble Baroness able to explain that, and how having the Government,
“work closer than ever with all Northern Irish parties”,
My Lords, I am afraid I can say only what I have said already today and several times last week. Everyone has pledged that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. We have always said that details of how to maintain an open border will be settled in phase 2 of the negotiations. If we do not achieve that outcome, which we believe we will, we will look to negotiate specific solutions for the Northern Ireland border.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is unhelpful for negotiators on the EU side to say, as I understand Michel Barnier is reported to have said, that no bespoke agreement can be reached with the UK? Every single trade agreement that the EU has reached with third countries has been a bespoke agreement, and it is manifestly absurd to argue that ours cannot be one. This will be about trade but also about co-operation on security and intelligence. Does my noble friend agree that effective collaboration, particularly on intelligence, depends at least as much on trust in relationships as it does on the legal framework, and that evidence of serious good will in wanting this to be genuinely a deep and special relationship will be of huge importance in ensuring that security and intelligence collaboration can be as effective in future as it certainly is now?
My Lords, if the Minister is saying, as I believe she is, that the UK will have left the European Union on
As we have said, we are looking for a time-limited implementation period to ensure that businesses and individuals have to make only one set of changes. We want a swift agreement on the implementation period. Our objective is for access to each other’s markets to continue on current terms, based on the existing structures of EU rules and regulations but for a time-limited period.
My Lords, last week my noble friend told the House that the Cabinet was united. It really is not helpful when articles and interviews are given by members of the Cabinet, particularly those intimately involved with these negotiations, which in effect undermine the Prime Minister’s excellent work, which we should all be applauding. If the Prime Minister cannot bring herself to give the sack to some of them, can she at least put gags in their crackers?
I can only repeat what I said last week: the Cabinet is united and we are looking forward to a very constructive discussion tomorrow.
My Lords, to try to keep her party united the Prime Minister makes a lot in her Statement of preparing,
“for our future independent trade policy by negotiating and where possible signing trade deals with third countries”,
in the implementation period. Does the Leader of the House accept that, once you have gone for signing trade deals with third countries, you require a hard border, because in order to enforce rules of origin and ensure that as a result of trade deals which bring in agricultural produce from other parts of the world that do not meet EU standards, you have to have a border that enforces those standards? Does she therefore accept that that statement is incompatible with her assurance that there will be no hard border in Ireland?
No, I am afraid I do not, because we have all pledged that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
My Lords, I am sorry, but I did give the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, the next go and the Lib Dems after that. We will then hear from the Conservative Benches.
My Lords, the Statement says that the Government will propose that our free trade with the EU should continue as now. Do the Government fear that the Eurocrats will be arrogant enough to refuse this offer which, as I have mentioned before, would be much more in EU exporters’ collective interest than it would be in ours because, if we are all forced back to the WTO, they will pay us some £13 billion in extra tariffs and our exporters will pay them about £5 billion? Can the Government assure your Lordships that they will hold firm on this offer, enlisting, if necessary, the support of EU exporters? Going further, why should our free trade together not continue indefinitely? Would that not also be quite helpful with the Irish border problem?
I am afraid I do not agree with the noble Lord. The fact that we have got to where we are shows that there is willingness on both sides to work together to make sure that we have a good outcome for both the EU and the UK. I look forward and expect that we will continue the phase 2 negotiations, including around the details of the implementation period, in the constructive manner we have seen so far.
My Lords, the Statement starts and ends with references to the foreign and security relationship we hope to build with the European Union after we leave. The Council conclusions of the 28 member Governments, of which we remain, for the moment, one, talk about a new initiative in closer security co-operation among Europeans, which will presumably exclude the United Kingdom. Given that some members of the Conservative Party may be deeply unhappy at any special relationship with the European Union on foreign policy and security after we leave, would it not be a good idea for the Government to begin to set out publicly, for their own public as well as for those with whom they are negotiating, what sort of foreign policy and security relationship we wish to have? I also draw attention to the last sentence, which has some fine words on violent language and threats of violence. Given that the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail have led in using violent language against people who have been “traitorous” to the Conservative Party, as they put it, is the Prime Minister planning to call in the editors of those two newspapers by any chance?
I think the Prime Minister is quite clear in the Statement about the fact that we do not agree with or tolerate such language. In relation to defence, the noble Lord may have been referring to the launch of PESCO, which is an important initiative to encourage collaboration across the European defence industry and has the potential to drive up defence investment across Europe. Although we do not plan to join the PESCO framework, we want to keep open the option to participate at a project level, including after we have left the EU, so we were pleased with the Council conclusions that allow that. In terms of our future relationship, the noble Lord will be aware that we have published a future partnership paper on Foreign Policy, Defence and Development and indicated, for instance, our interest in future partnerships, including a capability collaboration through the European Defence Agency and the Commission’s European defence fund.
My Lords, I made it clear that the Conservative Benches were going to come first and then the Cross Benches.
Has my noble friend noticed the statement of the Italian Prime Minister, who believes that the outcome of the talks ought to be not a CETA-type agreement, not an off-shelf agreement, but one specifically designed for and tailored to Britain’s needs? Is that not extremely encouraging? Are not some of the comments we have heard from the Opposition completely inappropriate when we know that the shadow Chancellor wants to be outside the customs union, the shadow Home Secretary wants to be inside the internal market and the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, says that the whole point of their tactics is to reverse Brexit completely?
On my noble friend’s first point, which picks up on the point that my noble friend made earlier, we are indeed looking to negotiate a bespoke trade agreement. All these agreements are in fact bespoke to the countries involved in them. I also agree with the comments he made at the end of his remarks.
My Lords, the Minister might perhaps help us parse two very short words which relate to the time-limited stand-still period. The words are “as now”. Can she confirm that they cover trade in goods and services, including agricultural and fish products, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and all other aspects of the single market?
As I have said, our objective is for access toeach other’s markets to continue on current terms, based on the existing structure of EU rules and regulations. The framework will mean that we will start off under the CJEU and will be under it for part of the period. But the Prime Minister has always said that if we can agree provisions that will be part of the future relationship, such as a dispute resolution mechanism, we will aim to bring them forward at an earlier stage.
My Lords, I understand that quantum mechanics says that it is possible for an electron to be in two places at the same time. Does this explain the behaviour of the Benches opposite? In the other place, an amendment to allow us to remain in the single market and the customs union proposed by Ian Murray, who used to be the shadow spokesman on Scottish affairs, was whipped against by the Labour Party and defeated by 311 votes to 76. What are we to make of the Leader of the Opposition attacking the Government for being divided when they do not know which part of their anatomy differs from the other?
What is most important is that we are now moving into phase 2 of the negotiations, with a united Government looking for the best deal that we will achieve for the UK and the EU.
My Lords, to pick up on the point that my noble friend has just made about phase 2, last week Monsieur Barnier said that the treaty that is likely to emerge from the end of this process,
“will be accompanied by a political declaration … which will describe the framework for our future relationship. A political declaration. But it cannot be anything else. In technical, legal terms it simply is not possible to do anything else”.
Does my noble friend agree with what Monsieur Barnier says?
What I can do is read to my noble friend from the EU Council conclusions, which say:
“While an agreement on a future relationship can only be finalised and concluded once the United Kingdom has become a third country, the Union will be ready to engage in preliminary and preparatory discussions with the aim of identifying an overall understanding of the framework for the future relationship … Such an understanding should be elaborated in a political declaration accompanying and referred to in the Withdrawal Agreement”.
My Lords, meanwhile in the world as a whole, with all the challenges of climate change and the new political pressures that are at work, a gigantic migration problem is building up, which will make the challenges which we face at the moment seem small by comparison. In the midst of all our tactical preoccupations, what work is being done with our European allies to formulate a strategic policy towards how this issue of migration in the world is to be handled? How are we going to ensure that this is done effectively when we are deliberately moving to an arm’s-length relationship with those who share the burden in Europe?
We certainly are working closely with our European partners and are committed to playing our full part in tackling the shared challenges posed by the global migration crisis. As the Statement said, we are committed to maintaining a maritime presence in the Mediterranean. The Royal Navy has intercepted 172 smuggling boats and saved more than 12,000 lives since Operation Sophia began. We are continuing the deployment of the Border Force cutter to the central Mediterranean to support the search and rescue activities under Operation Triton. To date, cutters have rescued more than 13,000 migrants across the central Mediterranean and Aegean. We are taking our responsibilities extremely seriously and are working with the EU in terms of looking at where these migrants are coming from and trying to help stabilise states. We take this extremely seriously and will continue to work with the EU, the UN and international partners to make sure that we work together to tackle this problem, because together is the only way we will achieve it.
My Lords, in her Statement on
“a time-limited implementation period based on current terms”.—[
Of course, today she has said that if we Brexit in March 2019, we would not be members of the European Union after that. To pick up on the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, if we fast forward two years from now to the annual Fisheries Council to determine total allowable catches, will there be a British Minister at the table to defend British fishing interests? How does the noble Baroness see this working?
As the Prime Minister says, it will depend on the next phase of negotiations, but currently we expect the implementation period to be two years.