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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 18th April 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 5:45 pm, 18th April 2018

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to Amendment 6—tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Crisp—concerning the co-ordination of international aid and development policy once we have left the EU. This matter is important and I hope to respond with some adequacy to the points that have been made.

As noble Lords know, the Government have committed to meet all the financial obligations that we have to the European Development Fund and other EU development instruments up to December 2020, when both the implementation period and the current EU Multiannual Financial Framework will end. As a world-leading development donor, we will continue to honour our commitments to the world’s poorest and seek to shape how the EU spends those funds through all the means available to us after exit. Once we have left the EU, the EU will remain one of the largest development spenders and influencers in the world, as will the UK. Let me assure your Lordships that we want to retain a close partnership with the EU in the future. It is in the interests of both the UK and the EU that we work coherently together—a point rightly emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Collins—in response to specific crises overseas and in helping the world’s most vulnerable people. Importantly, we share the concerns and values of the EU, and the commitment to the sustainable development goals, Paris climate change agenda and Addis Ababa agreement on financing for development. We share a commitment to the 0.7% contribution and to testing new and innovative approaches to financing the “billions to trillions” agenda.

The EU’s development priorities are closely aligned with the UK’s; indeed, they have been shaped to a considerable extent by the UK during our EU membership. For example, our approach to addressing the root causes of migration and meeting humanitarian needs from the outset in a way that prepares for longer-term crisis response are based on our common experiences and joint shaping of best practice in development programming. Where we hold these shared commitments and objectives, it is in our mutual interest to find ways to continue working together, on a case-by-case basis, to ensure that we can collectively draw on expertise and resources, achieve our global development objectives and deliver the best value for money. As the Prime Minister said in her Munich speech,

“if a UK contribution to EU development programmes and instruments can best deliver our mutual interests, we should both be open to that”.

In September last year, we published a future partnership paper setting out our desire for future co-operation with the EU on development that goes beyond existing third country arrangements and builds on our shared interests and values. As we enter a more forward-looking phase of negotiations with the EU, we look forward to discussing what this partnership will look like.

However, while we have clearly signalled to the EU our openness to a future partnership on development, that partnership will be contingent on the current discussions between the European Commission and member states on how the EU will finance international development after 2020. Put simply, the EDF will not exist in its current form after 2020, and nor will the other instruments that currently fund development programmes through the EU budget. The European Commission and member states are engaged in ongoing discussions about how the EU will fund its development priorities in the future, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce. It is not at all clear currently whether the EU’s future development finance instruments will allow participation by non-member states. The current set of instruments—including ECHO and the EDF—are open to contributions from members of the EU only. We are encouraging the EU to design a more open and flexible enabling framework within which it can work with its partners to tackle global development challenges and build a secure, stable and prosperous world. We envisage that holding these development financing instruments open to third countries would enable the UK to work through the EU on a case-by-case basis where we judge our development impact would be amplified.

Finally, assuming that the EU designs a set of future development instruments that is open to non-member states to participate in, we would of course need to be satisfied with the terms of such participation. In particular, we would need to be assured of adequate governance arrangements to allow us to track and account for our spending and the results we deliver. We are also clear that the UK’s world-class development sector should be eligible to implement EU programmes to which the UK contributes. I say to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that in this context, I think I can say that while the Government are in agreement with the spirit in which the amendment is offered—the spirit of a future partnership with the EU on development—we do not agree that it would be appropriate to legislate at the moment for a future partnership that as yet, we know so little about, or indeed that relies on EU instruments that will be obsolete by the end of the implementation period.

I said at the beginning that I wanted to try to provide a response of some adequacy because this is a very important issue. Very good ongoing work is taking place. I hope that this provides your Lordships’ House with the reassurance that the UK is closely engaging with the EU to shape that vital future relationship and, in those circumstances, that the noble Earl feels able to withdraw his amendment.