My thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, for this debate. I will ask the Minister five quick questions about the yawning gap between the EU’s and the UK’s negotiating positions on the future relationship. First, the political declaration agreed sets out the basis for the future relationship, but while the European Commission’s position on the negotiations in February adopts the same structure as the political declaration, the UK’s negotiating objectives are markedly different. Can the Minister explain why the political declaration framework was so quickly surrendered?
Secondly, can the Minister confirm whether Gibraltar is included in the territorial scope of the agreement automatically, or will it require, as the Commission believes, the prior agreement of Spain to be included?
Thirdly, the EU sees the future EU/UK relationship being encapsulated in an association agreement, which the political declaration also mentions favourably. Is that the UK’s aim as well?
Fourthly, the political declaration agreed to forge an economic partnership that will be underpinned
“by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition”.
Does that remain the UK Government’s explicit objective, as they signed up to in the political declaration?
Fifthly, on state aid, the UK wants its own regime of subsidy control, but everyone accepts that state aid rules will continue to apply to firms in Northern Ireland after transition, as well as to UK mainland firms with employment activities inside Northern Ireland. Will the Minister acknowledge that the UK’s so-called regime of subsidy control will be available and apply to only some UK companies, and far from all?
Finally, we are, as we all know, in the midst of a global crisis of proportions unimaginable just a few weeks ago. With such chasms between the parties on the future relationship discussions, so much attention rightly focused elsewhere and so much catastrophic disruption of our lives already baked into the next 12 months, how can it be anything other than reckless to proceed on the existing timescale for concluding a transition deal?