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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:16 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union) 9:16 pm, 2nd October 2019

I am not going to take any more interventions on this. I do not wish to go any further. Noble Lords will draw the political conclusions they wish to from the answers that I have given, but that is the Government’s position and I am not going any further than the answer that I have given.

No-deal preparations were raised by many noble Lords, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, my noble friend Lord Lilley and the noble Lord, Lord Monks. Noble Lords will understand that the Government’s position is that, if it is not possible to reach a deal, we will have to leave on 31 October with no deal. We are committed to preparing for that outcome. As I said at the opening of this debate, we are ramping up the preparations. All necessary funding will be made available, and we will make all the necessary preparations to ensure stability for citizens, consumers, businesses and the economy.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, will be pleased to know that the Government continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations. With regard to the question from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, we are committed to managing the policing implications of Brexit in the UK through a collective approach, notwithstanding that policing is, of course, a devolved matter in Scotland. I have participated in many meetings with the devolved Governments of Scotland and Wales, and with the Northern Ireland Civil Service, where precisely these matters have been discussed.

Noble Lords, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, and the noble Lord, Lord Monks, asked about Operation Yellowhammer. Departments have identified a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts of a challenging no-deal exit, some of which involve the use of existing regulations and powers. Such activities are not uncommon in challenging situations, but, as I said, the Government have no intention of using the Civil Contingencies Act for Operation Yellowhammer. To answer the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Monks, extensive work to prepare for all scenarios has been under way for more than two years on food supply chains. The Government have well-established ways of working with the food industry on food supply chain issues and we are using these to support preparations for leaving the EU.

Noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, raised the vital issue of citizens’ rights. I reiterate to the House this Government’s unwavering commitment to protecting the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU. EU citizens make an invaluable cultural and economic impact on the UK and we thank them for their patience and contribution to our society. Our focus now is on securing reciprocal assurances from our European counterparts—guarantees that supplement existing member state commitments and the steps we have already taken to protect the rights of UK nationals.

As part of securing reciprocity, I can assure the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, that we have legislated for the EU settlement scheme through the Immigration Act 1971. Indeed, as of August 2019, 117,300 Portuguese citizens have applied for the scheme, which will protect their rights in all scenarios—approximately half of the Portuguese citizens living in the UK. To reassure the noble Viscount, my right honourable friend the Brexit Secretary spoke with the Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs last month to highlight the steps we are taking to protect EU citizens and called for reciprocal protections for UK nationals in Portugal. This builds on the rights we have already secured. In June I also signed a voting rights treaty with Portugal in Lisbon that means that UK nationals living in Portugal and Portuguese citizens living in the UK can continue to participate in local elections.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, asked about family reunification for refugees. I can tell him that refugees from the EU would be entitled to apply via the settlement scheme and have family rights as part of that in line with other EU citizens. The status of non-EU refugees does not change as a result of Brexit.

The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, whom I welcome to his new post as chair of the EU Committee, asked about the impact on the EU Committee’s scrutiny process of the Government’s policy of attending EU meetings only where the UK still has significant interest. This policy has already been effective in unshackling officials from meetings that are no longer relevant to the UK to focus on our national priorities. As I made clear in my recent letter to him, the Government will continue to meet their commitments to facilitate the scrutiny process, including preparing EMs and updating the committee on the progress of files under scrutiny. We have also committed to sharing information on which meetings the UK will attend. Of course, I would be very happy to meet with him to discuss this further.