My Lords, the UK and the EU have agreed a deal that works for the UK’s economy, security and the union. As noble Lords will be aware, the House of Commons has rejected this deal on three occasions. It is now for the next Prime Minister to seek a way forward that honours the result of the 2016 referendum.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. As he is aware, there are effectively only three months remaining in which to negotiate a variation of the deal that will get past the House of Commons. Will my noble friend take this opportunity to tell the House what discussions are taking place at the level of officials to see what leeway can be achieved regarding the political declaration? We are mindful that each of the remaining candidates is in favour of a deal, and it would be shameful if it fell through because of lack of time to negotiate.
My Lords, the various backers of Boris Johnson, such as Dominic Raab and David Davis, have backed him on the basis that we must leave the EU on
I wish it was that funny. Could the Minister undertake to explain to Mr Johnson that if there is no deal, there will be no transition period? If he does nothing else, he will have earned his place here as a Minister if he takes this message back, because Mr Johnson does not seem to understand it.
I am fascinated by the degree to which the Opposition want to comment on Conservative leadership elections—I note that nobody is commenting on the Liberal Democrat leadership election at the moment. I and other ministerial colleagues have had discussions with a number of the candidates. We have had some fascinating discourse on the possible options for the new Prime Minister to take forward.
As the noble Baroness will be well aware, that is really not a policy responsibility of my department, so I will pass on that one.
My noble friend is well aware that the deal was agreed jointly between the UK Government and the EU. Any solution will also need to be agreed jointly.
Parliament has expressed its view on these matters many times, both in the other place and in this House. I am sure that both Houses will continue to express their views in the future.
My Lords, the Minister expressed some surprise in an earlier answer at the interest that was being shown in the Conservative Party leadership. I am sure he will not be surprised to learn that the interest is due to this being an election for not just the Conservative Party leader but the next Prime Minister. Could he therefore give a slightly better answer on what he anticipates the policy of that upcoming Prime Minister to be?
I take the noble Baroness’s point: I was being slightly facetious in my answer. Of course there is interest in what the policy of the next Prime Minister will be, but I do not know who that person will be yet and therefore I do not know exactly what that policy will be.
As always, my noble and learned friend makes some wise points, but an amendment was agreed in the House of Commons: the so-called Brady amendment on alternative arrangements to ensure no hard border. That remains the one positive amendment passed, indicating where support in the House of Commons might lie, but of course we need to persuade the EU of the merits of that.
This morning, answering the noble Lord’s question. My time is gainfully occupied. I was in Portugal last week to sign a treaty on reciprocal voting rights to ensure that UK citizens in Portugal and Portuguese citizens in the UK can participate in local elections. We are pursuing a number of such treaties. We are also getting on with no-deal preparation because, as I have repeated many times, that remains the legal default.