Brexit: Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:51 pm on 9th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union) 3:51 pm, 9th January 2019

It was not drafted just for that; it has also taken account of the latest developments. Many noble Lords contributed in the first debate and we did not get the chance to reply to them. So, while making my points, I will seek to reply to the many questions asked of me of the debate at the time. I thought that would be helpful to the House.

The deal will pave the way for an unprecedented economic relationship with the EU—one that no other major economy has. We will have a new free trade area with no tariffs, fees, quantitative restrictions or rules of origin checks. We will also have an independent trade policy and strike free trade deals with partners outside the EU. I highlight to my noble friend Lady Hooper that this is being taken forward by my right honourable friend in the other place Dr Liam Fox.

Some noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Owen, Lord Mancroft, Lord Lea of Crondall and Lord Monks, suggested a Norway-style EEA option as an alternative to the bespoke deal that is on the table. However, an EEA deal would leave us unable to end free movement without the EU being able to take retaliatory action. It would also not cover a range of important issues such as customs, external security or Euratom. Others have put forward a Canada-plus option as an alternative. However, we believe that we need a solution that allows for frictionless trade and at the same time avoids a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. A Canada-style deal would not provide for this and would therefore be unacceptable.

Some noble Lords, including my noble friends Lord Shinkwin and Lord Hailsham, spoke about economic forecasts and assumptions of late. Let me highlight to noble Lords what has happened in our economy since the referendum. Total UK exports rose by 10.9% in 2017 compared with 2016. We have increased our exports from the equivalent of 28% of GDP to 30% of GDP. Of course we must not be complacent, but this does not represent the doom and gloom declared by many speakers. I agree with the passionate speech made in December by my noble friend Lady Meyer, who said:

“We should believe in ourselves”.—[Official Report, 5/12/18; col. 1077.]

My noble friend Lord Wasserman and the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, were correct in their contributions. The security of our nation is paramount. That is why we have negotiated the terms of the most comprehensive security relationship in the EU’s history. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and my noble friend Lord Risby also raised the important issue of the UK’s participation in Galileo. The EU’s current stance is to bar the UK from full involvement in developing Galileo. The Prime Minister has made it clear that we cannot allow our Armed Forces to depend on a system that we cannot be sure of. As such, the Government will take forward plans, working closely with key international partners, for a new system that will fulfil our security requirements and provide appropriate resilience. We can of course discuss the matter of our past contributions to the Galileo project in future talks with the EU, as specified in the December joint report.

Many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord Whitty, my noble friend Lord Heseltine, the noble Baronesses, Lady Bakewell, Lady Randerson and Lady Thornton, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, spoke passionately about the UK’s scientific and education programmes. Noble Lords rightly asked about future collaboration with the EU on science and technology, and of course on higher education programmes. The withdrawal agreement offers certainty to universities and other UK recipients of EU research funding programmes, including Horizon 2020, by providing for continued UK participation until the current programmes end in 2020; and for the lifetime of individual projects, replacing the need for the Government’s existing funding guarantee.

We have been clear that we want to explore association with EU research and innovation programmes, Horizon Europe and Euratom research and training, and will of course be prepared to make an appropriate financial contribution if we do participate. That is why the political declaration sets out that the future relationship will include terms for the UK’s participation in EU programmes in areas of shared interest, including science and innovation, and culture and education.

Many noble Lords, predominantly on the Liberal Democrat Benches, spoke at length about their favourite subject: a second referendum. I repeat yet again that in June 2016, 17.4 million people voted to leave. The British people confirmed that decision the following year by voting for parties committed to delivering Brexit. This deal delivers for the British people.

The Liberal Democrats, I know, have history on this. Indeed, it was the Liberal Democrats under Nick Clegg who first called for a “real referendum on Europe”. I looked again at a copy of that leaflet and I have to say that nowhere did it call for “two real referenda on Europe”. What we need now is certainty and clarity and not the chaos and confusion of a second referendum and all the division that it would bring.