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European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - Report (6th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 8th May 2018.

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Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union) 7:30 pm, 8th May 2018

I thank my noble friend for his support. [Laughter.] Noble Lords laugh, but this is an important issue that actually is something to do with the contents of the Bill, unlike some of the other amendments we are considering. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, for her somewhat grudging support of our position. Since the Foreign Secretary was mentioned so much, I think it only fair we should mention the sterling performance of the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, this morning on the radio, who, in rejecting the so-called EEA/Norway model, set out for us with great clarity what the Labour Party’s position is. She said that they “kind of want to stay in the same kind of place”, effectively.

Amendments 110A and 112BC seek to make continued participation in the EEA a negotiating objective for the Government. The UK is a party to the EEA agreement by virtue of its membership of the EU. At the March European Council we agreed with the EU that the UK is to be treated as an EU member state for the purposes of international agreements for the duration of the time-limited implementation period. This means that international agreements to which the UK is a party by virtue of our EU membership will continue to apply to the UK as they do now. This includes the EEA agreement. The agreement reached at the March European Council on the application of international agreements throughout the implementation period is a positive and significant step and will enable us to secure continuity in our relationships with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein for that period.

Once the implementation period ends, we will no longer be participants in the EU’s international agreements, including the EEA agreement. We will instead seek to put in place new arrangements to secure our future relationship with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein outside the EU. Seeking to negotiate to remain in the EEA agreement would not pass the first test that the Prime Minister set out for our future economic partnership with the EU. It would not deliver control of our borders or our laws. On borders, it would mean we would have to continue to accept all four freedoms of the single market, including freedom of movement. On laws, it would mean the UK having to implement new EU legislation on which, in future, we will have little influence and, of course, no vote. This would not deliver on the British people’s desire as expressed in the referendum to have more direct control over decisions that affect their daily lives.

Some noble Lords think that the EEA would be the right relationship for the UK to have with the EU. I and the Government simply do not agree. As I set out, it is not right for the UK, nor, necessarily, would it be right for Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, whose institutions were not designed to accommodate a member like the UK. Other noble Lords view the EEA as the right course because they believe the Government should seek any port in a storm. The Government are entering negotiations convinced of success and we will secure the right deal for the UK. I cannot support an amendment that rejects before even starting our objective of seeking the broadest and deepest possible partnership with the EU, covering more sectors and co-operating more fully than any free trade agreement anywhere in the world today. Therefore, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.