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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:46 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative 4:46 pm, 2nd October 2019

My Lords, it is always a privilege to follow a fellow Scot, although I will deal with a rather different matter.

We are dealing with the proposals in Article 50 for withdrawal from the European Union. It is important to note that, once a country such as ours has given such notice, it is the duty of the Union—I want to read the exact words—to,

“negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union”.

In other words, the withdrawal agreement has nothing whatever to do with the future relationship, except that it be in the light of that future relationship. That is the agreement we have to reach, and it is that agreement and that agreement only that defines the date on which we leave the European Union. There is no requirement to agree any arrangement about future relationships. That is a framework, not an agreement—a framework which is set up at that time. Therefore, it is extremely important to realise that, in order to satisfy the rules of the European Union set out in Article 50, we are not required to agree the future relationships. Those are for the future. The immediate matter is to agree the terms on which we withdraw. One term which has been negotiated so far, and which I hope will continue, is that there will be an implementation period in which the rules remain substantially the same.

Therefore, the question of the withdrawal agreement is quite simple. It deals with matters and obligations that arise at the withdrawal date, and that date—the one on which the withdrawal agreement is agreed—is the date for leaving the European Union. Also, Article 50 does not mention anything about crashing out or any expression of that sort if it is not possible to reach an agreement two years after the original notice; it just says that that is what will happen.

In my submission, it is absolutely essential that future relationships on the one hand and the obligations of withdrawal on the other are distinct and separated out from one another. Otherwise, we have a terrific burden of trying to agree the future relationships at this stage, when Article 50 clearly contemplates that that is a distinct matter and does not require agreement for now. I am hoping to be well under the six minutes, because that is what I have to say.