All 14 contributions to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 (Ministerial Extracts Only)

Read Full Bill Debate Texts

Thu 26th Jan 2017
Points of Order
Commons Chamber

1st reading: House of Commons
Wed 1st Feb 2017
Mon 6th Feb 2017
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
Commons Chamber

Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Tue 7th Feb 2017
Wed 8th Feb 2017
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
Commons Chamber

3rd reading: House of Commons & Committee: 3rd sitting: House of Commons & Report stage: House of Commons
Tue 21st Feb 2017
Tue 21st Feb 2017
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Mon 27th Feb 2017
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 1st Mar 2017
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 7th Mar 2017
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 7th Mar 2017
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Tue 7th Mar 2017
Mon 13th Mar 2017
Mon 13th Mar 2017

Points of Order

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
1st reading: House of Commons
Thursday 26th January 2017

(7 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Further to that point of order, I call Mr Secretary Davis.

David Davis Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Mr David Davis)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Of course, if I am wrong, I apologise. I will send the right hon. Gentleman the quote that I gave from The Scotsman at that time.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

--- Later in debate ---
Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point of administration, and it might be that the Leader of the House would like to say something further to the point of order.

David Lidington Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr David Lidington)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I completely concede that it is a perfectly reasonable request, and I will make sure that that happens.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Once again, that was not a point of order for the Chair, but we are having a very well-balanced session of points of order.

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
2nd reading: House of Commons
Wednesday 1st February 2017

(7 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Notices of Amendments as at 31 January 2017 - (1 Feb 2017)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

David Jones Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union (Mr David Jones)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I start by paying tribute to all the right hon. and hon. Members who have contributed to what my hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson), in her excellent maiden speech, rightly called an historic debate? Members on both sides of the House, supporters of both leave and remain, have spoken with passion and sincerity, and there have been some outstanding contributions. Several times over the past two days we have seen this House at its very best. A wide range of issues have been raised during the debate. I will seek to address them in the time available to me, but I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I do not address every single point made by every single speaker.

Let me be clear: what we are considering is the most straightforward Bill possible. The Bill is necessary to implement the referendum result and respect the judgment of the Supreme Court; it is positively not a vehicle for determining the terms of the broader negotiations that will follow. The Bill follows one of the largest democratic exercises in this country’s history. As pointed out by many hon. Members, an issue that has been central to political debate in this country for decades was finally put to the people of the United Kingdom, and the people made their decision.

We have heard repeatedly from hon. Members on both sides of this debate, on both sides of the House, that they fully respect and accept the referendum’s outcome. Today is an opportunity for all of us to demonstrate that respect by supporting this small but important Bill.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Given the time I have available, I will not give way; I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me.

A number of themes that I would like to touch on emerged in the debate. The first is the referendum itself. Parliament voted overwhelmingly to put this historic question to the people, and we must trust the people’s decision. There must be no attempt to remain inside the EU, no attempt to rejoin it through the back door and no second referendum, as a few hon. Members have urged. This country has voted to leave the European Union, and it is the duty of the Government and of this House to make sure we do precisely that.

Wes Streeting Portrait Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the time available, I cannot.

Secondly, I would like to touch on engagement with the devolved Administrations, which has figured strongly in this debate. Before and throughout the referendum campaign, it was clear that the outcome would apply to the whole United Kingdom, and that is what we are committed to delivering. We are committed to securing the best deal for the whole United Kingdom, in the interests of all its constituent nations and regions. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear her determination to uphold and strengthen the Union, and we will continue to engage with the devolved Administrations through the established Joint Ministerial Committees. We understand that there are unique and diverse interests across the UK.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not know why the hon. Gentleman does not understand; I am not taking his intervention.

In particular, we are wholly committed to the Belfast agreement and its successors. We will work with the Irish Government to maintain the common travel area on the island of Ireland and not return to the borders of the past. We have received, and we are grateful for, the submissions from the Scottish and Welsh Governments, which are being considered.

That said, the Supreme Court was clear in its judgment that triggering article 50 is a reserved matter for this Parliament, and that the devolved legislatures do not have a veto. But we have been clear that we will work very carefully to ensure that as powers are repatriated from Brussels back to Britain, the right powers are returned to Westminster and the right powers are passed to the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Many hon. Members raised the question of the status of EU citizens living and working in the United Kingdom. Let us be clear: this Government value and appreciate the role that they play in our economy and in our communities, and we are determined to provide as much certainty as we can, as soon as we can. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been clear that guaranteeing UK citizens’ rights in the EU, and EU citizens’ rights in the UK, is one of our immediate objectives in the upcoming negotiations. Indeed, we stand ready to reach such a deal right now if the other countries of the European Union agree. To the EU citizens who are living, studying and working in the UK I say, “You will still be welcome in this country, as we trust our citizens will continue to be welcome in yours.”

Clive Efford Portrait Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

--- Later in debate ---
John Bercow Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

These debates will run for a long time to come, but that is not a matter for the Chair.

David Jones Portrait Mr David Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Moving on to the forthcoming negotiations, I want to repeat that although we are leaving the EU, we are not turning our back on Europe. We will be seeking a broad new partnership with the EU outside the single market, including a bold and ambitious free trade agreement. We will maintain strong relationships with our European partners as we work together on issues such as security, justice and migration.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way on that point?

John Bercow Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. The hon. Gentleman is an excitable Zebedee. It has been made abundantly clear to him that the Minister is not giving way.

David Jones Portrait Mr David Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have made clear commitments to protect workers’ rights, and will ensure that they keep pace with the changing labour market. Let me be as clear as it is possible to be: all the workers’ rights that are enjoyed under EU legislation will be preserved by the great repeal Bill and brought across into UK law. Let me also say that we have no plans to withdraw from the ECHR.

Let me deal with the question of Euratom. Euratom and the EU share a common institutional framework, including the European Court of Justice, a role for the Commission and decision making in the Council, making them uniquely legally joined. Triggering article 50 therefore also entails giving notice to leave Euratom. The nuclear industry is of key strategic importance to the UK, and we have been clear that this does not affect our intention to maintain close and effective arrangements relating to civil nuclear co-operation, safeguards and safety with Europe and the rest of the world.

Let me move on to the role of Parliament. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out our plan for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal in her speech at Lancaster House, and she has confirmed that Parliament will have its say on the final deal we achieve with the European Union by putting that deal to a vote of both Houses. There has already been extensive scrutiny in both Houses, and we will publish our White Paper tomorrow, before Committee. The White Paper, however, is entirely separate from this Bill, which simply gives the Government the power to trigger the process of exit from the EU, in accordance with the instructions that we have received from the people of this country.

There has also been much debate over the past two days about the many opportunities that leaving the UK—[Interruption]—that leaving EU affords the UK. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, we will be an outward-facing, bold and global country, seeking ambitious trade deals, forging new friendships and consolidating existing partnerships, and we will remain a tolerant and open country. The triggering of article 50 will start the process of our withdrawal from the European Union, and during that process, the House will have plenty of opportunities to debate and play a crucial role in scrutinising the great repeal Bill and related Bills to come. My right hon. Friend has set out a detailed plan for building a new partnership between an independent United Kingdom and the European Union in the years to come.

Let me say how much I agree with the hon. Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman): the people have made their decision, and now we must strive for an outcome that, as she said, works not just for the 52% or the 48%, but for the 100%. All of us in this House must work together in the national interest, but let me repeat that tonight we are not voting on the outcome, nor on the wider issues, but simply to start the process. It is absolutely essential that Parliament moves quickly, under the timetable that this House voted for in December, to trigger article 50 by the end of March.

In short, this is a straightforward Bill that delivers on the promise made to the people of the United Kingdom to honour the outcome of the referendum. We must trust the people, and I commend this Bill to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

--- Later in debate ---
18:58

Division 134

Ayes: 100


Scottish National Party: 50
Labour: 36
Liberal Democrat: 7
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Independent: 3
Plaid Cymru: 2
Conservative: 1
Green Party: 1

Noes: 336


Conservative: 318
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Labour: 6
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 62(2)), That the Bill be now read a Second time.
--- Later in debate ---
19:12

Division 135

Ayes: 498


Conservative: 318
Labour: 166
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1
Independent: 1

Noes: 114


Scottish National Party: 50
Labour: 50
Liberal Democrat: 7
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Independent: 3
Plaid Cymru: 2
Conservative: 1
Green Party: 1

Bill read a Second time.
--- Later in debate ---
19:32

Division 136

Ayes: 329


Conservative: 317
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1

Noes: 112


Scottish National Party: 50
Labour: 47
Liberal Democrat: 8
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Independent: 3
Plaid Cymru: 2
Conservative: 1
Green Party: 1

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Monday 6th February 2017

(7 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Corrigendum to the Committee of the whole House Amendments as at 6 February 2017 (PDF, 57KB) - (6 Feb 2017)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

David Jones Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union (Mr David Jones)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This short Bill has attracted a large number of new clauses that fall into a number of broad categories. I will first deal with the issue of parliamentary scrutiny, which has engaged the attention of a large number of hon. and right hon. Members. From listening to the debate, I am clear that there is actually a considerable amount of common ground across the Chamber. The Government also agree that parliamentary scrutiny is essential as we withdraw from the European Union. Indeed, the whole object of leaving the European Union is to ensure that our Parliament can take back our own laws. For that purpose, scrutiny is essential.

I recognise the thoughtfulness in the wording of many of the amendments that seek to formalise the mode of scrutiny, but it will probably surprise nobody that I will not accept any of them. This is a straightforward Bill that gives us the means to respect the result of the referendum and the judgment of the Supreme Court. As the Court made absolutely clear, this is about not whether we leave or the terms on which we leave, but simply the mechanics under which we trigger the process of leaving. In many cases, the amendments discussed today have virtually nothing to do with the Bill, and I resist them for two principal reasons. First, many are unnecessary in that what they seek to achieve is effectively already being done by the Government. No one can deny that the Secretary of State, as the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) recognised, has been assiduous in his engagement with Parliament. The process has been the source of intense scrutiny over the past seven months.

Stephen Gethins Portrait Stephen Gethins
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister tell us whether reassuring EU nationals is unnecessary?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will come to EU nationals later. As I explained a moment ago, I am currently dealing with the issue of scrutiny, not with the issue of EU nationals.

One can see from the Secretary of State’s record of engagement that he has given an oral statement on an almost monthly basis—far more than the bimonthly or quarterly updates to Parliament requested in the new clauses. Ministers from across Government have been at this Dispatch Box many times to debate our EU exit. The Prime Minister has given a statement after every Council, including one today. That is in addition to holding debates on the EU exit in Government time, and 15 appearances at Select Committees by Ministers and officials from all Departments.

Helen Goodman Portrait Helen Goodman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am pleased that the Minister understands that parliamentary scrutiny is essential, but we have heard from Government Back Benchers that everything will have to close down once the negotiations begin. Therefore, what has happened in the past seven months is not, strictly speaking, relevant to what will happen over the next two years. The purpose of new clause 3 and new clause 28 is to provide forward-looking scrutiny.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I understand the hon. Lady’s point. However, it is not the case that everything will, as she puts it, “close down”. There will certainly be negotiations and it is important that they continue, to a certain extent, with privacy. At the same time, the Government have made it clear, time after time, that we fully appreciate the need for engagement with and scrutiny by Parliament, provided, of course, that it does not adversely affect the negotiations.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister agree that the final deal should in fact be scrutinised by the British people, who should have the final say on whether it represents their reasonable expectations when they voted to leave? If it does not, they should have the chance to stay in the EU.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The British people have had their say very clearly: they have instructed this Parliament that they wish to leave the European Union. I know that the hon. Gentleman does not like that result, but that is the hard fact.

We have aimed at all times scrupulously to fulfil Parliament’s legitimate need for information, and we will continue to do so. As well as keeping Parliament informed, we will pay regard to all the motions passed on the outcome of negotiations associated with the Bill—as proposed in new clause 176—just as we have already paid regard to the motions passed on Opposition days on 12 October and 7 December.

On the provisions of new clause 3 concerning information sharing, the Secretary of State has been clear since the very early days following the referendum that he will keep Parliament at least as well informed as the European Parliament as the negotiations progress. The new clause asks us to reaffirm that position so that Parliament receives the same documents that the European Parliament or any of its committees receive from the Council or the Commission.

The Government are absolutely resolute that the House will not be at an information disadvantage compared with the European Parliament, but the new clause is flawed, simply because the United Kingdom Government may not be privy to what information is passed confidentially between the Commission, or the other EU institutions, and the Parliament. In the same way, the House would not expect the Government to pass all our documents relating to a highly sensitive negotiation to the other side.

What I can do, however, is confirm that the Government will keep Parliament well informed, and as soon as we know how the EU institutions will share their information, we will give more information on what Parliament will receive and on the mechanisms for that, including on the provision of arrangements for the scrutiny of confidential documents.

The second category of amendments and new clauses, which, again, I must resist, because they pre-judge the negotiations to follow, ask for formal reporting on myriad subjects or for votes on unilateral commitments. The exact structure of the negotiations has not yet been determined and may very well be a matter for negotiation itself. Therefore, setting an arbitrary reporting framework makes no sense at all. There will be times when there is a great deal to report on, and times when there is very little. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have already made serious undertakings as to how they will report to the House.

Chris Leslie Portrait Chris Leslie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, because I know there are a lot of issues to be covered. However, to take just the example of the European arrest warrant, could he at least give us an indication of what the Government’s objectives are? Does he want us to stay part of it?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clearly, we require, and we are looking to achieve, close co-operation with the European Union on security matters, but, again, these will be a matter for negotiation, and as the negotiations progress, we will keep the House informed.

The commitments that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have given are important. That is why the Government published the White Paper on our negotiating position last week, with an introduction by the Prime Minister, once again stating our clear aims for the negotiations. That includes, for example, the implementation phases referred to by hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas)—those are part of our objectives.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, I will not give way, because I have little time.

The Secretary of State announced in the recent White Paper that there will be a further White Paper published on the great repeal Bill so that Parliament can be fully informed of the provisions of the Bill in good time. After that, the Government will continue upholding their commitment through the primary and secondary legislation that will undoubtedly be required.

New clauses that ask for specific reporting to Parliament after article 50 is invoked, including new clauses 3, 20, 22, 29, 51, 111 to 130, and 151—on our relationship with EU agencies, competition policy, environmental regulations, the UK renewables sector and virtually every other aspect of our relationship with the EU—are dangerous. They would bind us to an inflexible timetable of updates as we try to navigate a complex set of negotiations.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am following the Minister’s speech carefully. Does he agree that it is a mistake to put the procedures of this House into primary legislation, giving the courts an unnecessary locus to interfere with our affairs?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely important point. If these provisions were put into the Bill, there is no doubt that they would become justiciable, therefore leading to further delay. What this country requires at the moment is certainty and speed, and instead we would have uncertainty and delay.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Would the Minister acknowledge that there is at least a possibility that a new trade agreement will not be agreed in a very tight two-year period? If he does acknowledge that that is a risk, why will he not put in place a transitional arrangement to protect our businesses from crashing out of the EU without such an arrangement?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I can go no further than what I have already said. Of course, transitional arrangements require bilateral agreement. We have already indicated that that is what we are aiming at, but it takes two to tango in this regard.

Amendment 78 would require the Foreign Secretary to publish a work programme for UKRep for the duration of the negotiating period. This is simply an attempt to delay notification by creating new obligations on and impediments for the Government.

I turn now to a matter that has, quite understandably, exercised a large number of colleagues. I want to refer to these amendments and new clauses in detail. They relate to the status of EU citizens. Providing certainty for this group of people is an important issue for the Government. That is why the Prime Minister, in her speech, made it one of our 12 priority objectives for negotiations.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not give way, I am afraid—I have very little time.

While these amendments call for different cut-off dates and vary in wording and terminology, they all share the same aim—to guarantee the status of EU nationals currently in the UK. The Government wholeheartedly agree with this aim. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, most recently this very afternoon, securing the status of EU nationals is one of the foremost priorities of this Government. We have stood ready to reach an agreement from the beginning, because it is not in anyone’s interest to allow any uncertainty over this issue to continue.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not give way because I have little time.

As the Prime Minister told the House this afternoon, the Government recognise that European citizens who are resident in the UK make a vital contribution both to our economy and to our communities. That contribution was highlighted very personally in the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa). Without them, we would all be poorer, not least our important public services such as the national health service.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not give way any further.

This is less an issue of principle than of timing, with a few EU countries insisting that there can be no negotiation without notification, and that therefore nothing can be settled until article 50 is triggered. We could not be clearer about our determination to resolve this issue at the earliest possible opportunity, ensuring that the status of UK nationals in the EU is similarly protected. Some hon. Members have called for a unilateral guarantee now, but we have a very clear duty to UK citizens living in other EU member states, of whom there are about 1 million, to look after their interests and provide as much certainty as possible for their futures as well. Some hon. Members have suggested that we should, in effect, offer a unilateral guarantee to EU nationals in the UK while at the same time failing to achieve security for our own nationals abroad. That is a course that would carry the risk of a prolonged period of stressful uncertainty for them, which we are not prepared to accept. Only after we have passed this Bill into law can my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister trigger article 50—

Gerald Howarth Portrait Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will take no further interventions; I am sorry. Only after the Bill has become law can my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister trigger article 50 and thus provide certainty not only to EU nationals living within our borders, but to our nationals overseas.

New clause 33 calls on the Prime Minister to set out a draft framework, especially with regard to the new immigration system, prior to notification. We have already set out in our White Paper that we will introduce an immigration Bill, and I reassure colleagues that Parliament will have a clear opportunity to debate and vote on the matter. The great repeal Bill will not change our immigration system; that will be done by a separate immigration Bill and subsequent secondary legislation. Nothing will change for any EU citizen, whether they are already resident in the UK or moving from the UK, without Parliament’s approval.

Gerald Howarth Portrait Sir Gerald Howarth
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend, who is doing a fantastic job in this position on behalf of the British people. We are all concerned about our constituents who are EU citizens and who want certainty on this matter, but I am advising my constituents who express concern to me that they should write to their own Governments, who are standing in the way of sorting out this problem. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that foreign Governments who are standing in the way of a settlement on the matter are left in no doubt that we find that objectionable?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend makes an important point.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Bear with me. This will be a matter for negotiation in due course, but ultimately we must all be conscious of the fact that we are dealing with human beings—families, and people who are concerned about their futures and their careers. Not only do we have a duty in that regard, but there is a duty right across the European Union to protect the interests of those individuals.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will give way in a moment. I can tell the House that I have discussed the matter on numerous occasions with my EU counterparts. They assure me that they fully understand that it is an issue of simple humanity that must be put at the top of the agenda when the negotiations commence. We must wait until the negotiations commence, and until they do, we must not make any concessions.

Margaret Ferrier Portrait Margaret Ferrier
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for finally giving way. I want to talk about my constituent Mr Joerg Nueter, who is from Germany and who came to see me on Friday. He has lived in Scotland for almost four years, and he is understandably concerned about his future and the uncertainty surrounding his residency. There is nothing preventing the Government from providing that certainty to him and to millions tonight. Will the Minister do that now?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We owe the primary responsibility to our citizens in EU countries, but we also owe a duty to EU nationals in this country to ensure that their interests are protected. Frankly, this is a matter for their Governments, too.

This has been an interesting, lengthy and important debate, but I must resist all the new clauses and amendments.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will be very brief. I am pleased that the Minister has recognised the thoughtfulness of new clause 3 and other new clauses and amendments, and I note his intention to keep the House well informed. It is deeply disappointing that he has resisted new clause 3, however, so we seek to test the will of the Committee on the matter.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

20:48

Division 137

Ayes: 284


Labour: 214
Scottish National Party: 53
Liberal Democrat: 8
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Independent: 3
Conservative: 1
Green Party: 1

Noes: 333


Conservative: 319
Democratic Unionist Party: 7
Labour: 4
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1

Chris Leslie Portrait Chris Leslie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Ms Engel. I seek your guidance on how right hon. and hon. Members can divide on some of these incredibly crucial issues. The knife in proceedings has curtailed not just debate but our opportunity to vote on such incredibly important matters as the European arrest warrant and the single market. What can be done? Why could we not have more votes on these new clauses?

--- Later in debate ---
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr Lindsay Hoyle)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. I think that the hon. and learned Lady’s speech has come to an end. Let us now please hear from the Minister.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait The Chairman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Mr Salmond, you should know better. [Interruption.] Order. One second.

--- Later in debate ---
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait The Chairman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the occupant of the Chair, I have the right to make decisions in this Committee. [Interruption.] Just a moment. I rightly wanted to bring in the hon. and learned Lady, which I did. When the SNP Whip comes and asks me to give a couple of minutes to ensure that the SNP has another voice, which I did, I certainly do not expect advantages to be taken of the Chair on the agreement that I met. That is the issue. Sit down.

Robin Walker Portrait Mr Walker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you for your chairing of this debate, Mr Hoyle. [Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait The Chairman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. Calm down, Mr Wishart. This is a very serious matter. It is so serious that I want to hear what the Minister has to say in response to the debate. It is very serious and I want to hear it.

Robin Walker Portrait Mr Walker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is a hugely important debate. [Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait The Chairman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. Mr Salmond, will you clarify something for me?

--- Later in debate ---
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait The Chairman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am saying that I am sure that was not the case. I did not accuse you; far from it. Let us now get the Minister on his feet.

Robin Walker Portrait Mr Walker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Hoyle.

We have heard from all four corners of the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] Everyone who has spoken in the debate agrees on the importance of engaging closely with the devolved Administrations and legislatures as we embark on the forthcoming negotiations.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Hoyle. I have to say that I have great respect for you as the Chairman, but I hope you can understand the frustration that we all feel that only two SNP Members have been called to speak in this debate, which is important for the future of Scotland and our position within Europe. I am asking what you can do, Mr Hoyle, to make sure that the voice of the people of Scotland is heard correctly in this debate. It has not been heard this evening.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait The Chairman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I assumed my place in the Chair, and I have tried to ensure that a second SNP voice was heard, and we were listening to that. That is what I agreed to, and that is what I have done. In fairness, I think the SNP has done better than it was going to otherwise, in which case, let us hear what the Minister has to say.

Robin Walker Portrait Mr Walker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Engaging with the devolved Administrations and discussing their priorities is exactly what the Joint Ministerial Council on EU Negotiations was set up for. It brings together the constituent parts of the United Kingdom to discuss each Government’s requirement for the future relationship with the EU, and to seek a UK approach to and objectives for article 50 negotiations.

I recognise the spirit in which the hon. Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman) presented her new clause, and I recognise her and her party’s dedication to the Union. However, the JMC is not a legislative or statutory body, and it would not be appropriate to change that in the way new clause 4 proposes. I say that not only for the reasons given by my right hon. Friends the Members for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) and for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) and my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke), but because it provides a neutral forum for confidential discussions, which this new clause would undermine.

When it comes to the new clauses and amendments, we take very seriously our responsibility to ensure that we get the best deal for every part of the United Kingdom—Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and indeed, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) said, England—as well as for the UK as a whole.

Robin Walker Portrait Mr Walker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I can give way only once.

Ian Murray Portrait Ian Murray
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am delighted that the Minister has been able to give way. I wonder whether he and other Ministers will take it on board that Members who tabled amendments in all good faith have not even been able to speak to them because of the programme motion tabled by the Government. The Government have been forced kicking and screaming by the Supreme Court to the Chamber to present the Bill. It is about time that they thought again, and gave us more time for debate

Robin Walker Portrait Mr Walker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The House voted for a programme Order, and that programme Order has been followed by the Chair.

We have not yet made final decisions about the format for direct negotiations with the European Union. That is a matter for the Prime Minister, representing the interests of the whole United Kingdom. Moreover, it is important to recognise that there are two sides to the negotiation, and we cannot say for certain how our side will progress until we know how the EU side will approach it. In the context of amendments 46, 55 and 88 and new clause 140, it is important to note that Supreme Court ruled—I quote from the summary—

“Relations with the EU and other foreign affairs matters are reserved to UK Government and parliament, not to the devolved institutions.”

The summary went on to state:

“The devolved legislatures do not have a veto on the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU”.

While that provides welcome legal clarity, it in no way diminishes our commitment to working closely with the people and the devolved Administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as we move towards our withdrawal from the European Union.

I have made it clear that the Government will negotiate on the right approach for the whole United Kingdom. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn), who made a passionate speech, and to the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan). They made important points about the significance of the Belfast agreement and its successors. I must emphasise to them that the position of the UK Government remains unchanged. Our absolute commitment to those matters is reflected in our White Paper, which mentions the Ireland Act 1949, as well as a commitment to the common travel area and our bilateral relations with the Republic of Ireland. While I accept all the points that the hon. Member for St Helens North made so well about the importance of respecting those agreements, I can assure him that the Government respect them, and I do not think that his new clauses are necessary.

We have heard a range of suggestions from Members on both sides of the House about how to engage the devolved Administrations and, indeed, every part of our United Kingdom. The Government will continue to do that through the JMC process, which is firmly established and which functions on the basis of agreement between the UK Government and the devolved Assemblies. We have also heard suggestions for huge constitutional reforms which are beyond the scope of the Bill. New clause 168 proposes that the Government establish a national convention on exiting the European Union. Amendment 91 requires a duty to consult representatives at every level of government, regions and the sectors.

I have already spoken about the role of the JMC, and Ministers throughout the Government are organising hundreds of meetings, visits and events involving businesses in more than 50 sectors across the United Kingdom. They are consulting a number of representatives, including the Mayor of London, who is mentioned in some of the amendments. New clause 168 would get in the way of those established processes, and the idea of a national convention would cause unacceptable delay to a timetable that the House has clearly supported.

We are committed to engaging closely with the devolved Administrations and all parts of the country to secure a deal that is in the best interests of the whole United Kingdom. However, as the Supreme Court ruled, relations with the EU are not a devolved matter, and no part of the UK is entitled to a veto. I urge Members not to press their new clauses and amendments, so that the Bill can make progress in the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole.

Baroness Chapman of Darlington Portrait Jenny Chapman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister opened his remarks by saying that the JMC was not on a statutory footing. That is precisely the point of our new clause. He has given us warm words and platitudes about his respect for the devolved Administrations, but I am afraid they are not enough, and we will press the new clause to a Division.

--- Later in debate ---
23:54

Division 138

Ayes: 276


Labour: 205
Scottish National Party: 53
Liberal Democrat: 9
Independent: 4
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Green Party: 1

Noes: 333


Conservative: 319
Democratic Unionist Party: 7
Labour: 2
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1

--- Later in debate ---
00:07

Division 139

Ayes: 62


Scottish National Party: 51
Labour: 5
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Independent: 2
Green Party: 1

Noes: 333


Conservative: 319
Democratic Unionist Party: 7
Labour: 3
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1

New Clause 158
--- Later in debate ---
00:21

Division 140

Ayes: 267


Labour: 200
Scottish National Party: 50
Liberal Democrat: 9
Independent: 3
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Green Party: 1

Noes: 330


Conservative: 319
Democratic Unionist Party: 7
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1
Labour: 1

The occupant of the Chair left the Chair (Programme Order, 1 February).

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 7th February 2017

(7 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Committee of the whole House Amendments as at 7 February 2017 - (7 Feb 2017)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for that intervention, and I will come to that, but the central theme of the case I will seek to make this afternoon is that a vote in this House must be before the deal is concluded; that is the dividing line that makes the real difference here.

David Jones Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union (Mr David Jones)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Secretary of State, and I think that this may be helpful—[Interruption.] Forgive me, the shadow Secretary of State. I hope that this will be helpful to him. He has mentioned the fact that the Government have made a commitment to a vote at the end of the procedure. Later, when I address the House, I will be outlining what I intend that vote shall be, but it may be of assistance to him now to know what is proposed. First of all, we intend that the vote will cover not only the withdrawal arrangements but also the future relationship with the European Union. Furthermore, I can confirm that the Government will bring forward a motion on the final agreement, to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it is concluded. We expect and intend that this will happen before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement. I hope that is of assistance.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Minister, I am very grateful for that intervention. That is a huge and very important concession about the process that we are to embark on. The argument I have made about a vote over the last three months is that the vote must cover both the article 50 deal and any future relationship—I know that, for my colleagues, that is very important—and that that vote must take place before the deal is concluded, and I take that from what has just been said.

--- Later in debate ---
Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am going to press on, because I am not sure that my trying to explain what the Minister is going to tell us is working particularly well.

David Jones Portrait Mr David Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If it is of any assistance to the shadow Secretary of State and to the Committee, may I say that with your leave, Ms Engel, I hope to be able to speak immediately after him?

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have made the case for accountability and scrutiny, I have made the case for a White Paper, I have made the case for reporting back and I have made the case for a vote. We have got this concession, and I think the most helpful thing, in the circumstances, would be for hon. Members to be given the opportunity to test what the Minister has said.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I had hoped to speak at the end of the debate, but it may be of assistance to the Committee if I deal with some of the matters that the shadow Secretary of State touched on. However, I do not want to go into the details of the various amendments that other hon. Members will no doubt wish to speak to. With your consent, Ms Engel, I will address them briefly at the end of the debate.

May I first repeat what I said to the shadow Secretary of State when I intervened on him a few moments ago? The Government have repeatedly committed from the Dispatch Box to a vote in both Houses on the final deal before it comes into force. That, I repeat and confirm, will cover not only the withdrawal agreement but the future arrangement that we propose with the European Union. I confirm again that the Government will bring forward a motion on the final agreement—

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will just finish the sentence, because it is rather important. The Government will bring forward a motion on the final agreement to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it is concluded, and we expect and intend that that will happen before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement.

Nick Clegg Portrait Mr Clegg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister stress to the Committee again that that applies to both the withdrawal agreement and a final agreement on the future relationship between the UK and the EU? It is my view, which is shared by many others, that the former is feasible within two years but the latter is highly unlikely. What will happen if a withdrawal agreement is reached but not a new agreement between the UK and the EU?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I must preface what I am about to say by saying that we do not expect that we will not achieve such an agreement, but my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already made it clear that if we cannot come to an agreement, we will have to fall back on other arrangements. The Government have consistently been clear about that.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This point goes back to the conversation we had yesterday about the importance of transitional arrangements. The Minister cannot guarantee that the new trade agreement will be concluded within two years. If we do not have a transitional agreement, it will be like jumping out of an aeroplane without a parachute. Why will he not agree to negotiate that transitional arrangement now in case we need it?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What the hon. Lady says is, of course, true. An agreement has to be negotiated by two sides, and it is always possible that we will not be able to achieve such an agreement, but I believe that we will. We have also made it clear that we see it as important that during the negotiations for the new arrangements, whatever they are, we consider what implementation period may be necessary following the agreements.

Lord Clarke of Nottingham Portrait Mr Kenneth Clarke
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for speaking at this stage and enabling us to have the process that he is talking about, and I congratulate him on that. He says that Parliament will have a vote before the agreement is concluded. Does that mean before agreement has been reached with the other 27 countries, or after agreement has been reached but before it has been put into effect?

I believe that parliamentary sovereignty requires that Parliament should have the ability to influence the Government’s position before they conclude the deal, so that those with whom the Government are dealing—the other parties to the negotiations—know that the British Government have to produce an agreement that will get the support of Parliament. If the Government wait until hands have been shaken with all the other Europeans before coming here, Parliament will be told, “If you reject the agreement, you will have nothing and it will be a WTO disaster.” That would give the Government a majority, but not a very satisfactory conclusion.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I fully appreciate the points that my right hon. and learned Friend is making. This is clearly going to be a complex, lengthy and difficult—

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I first deal with the point that my right hon. and learned Friend has made? After I have done so, I will come back to the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies).

This will be a difficult and complex agreement, and the negotiation will, from time to time, be subject to reports to the House, to the Exiting the European Union Committee and so on. What we are proposing, and what I am committing to from the Dispatch Box, is that before the final agreement is concluded—the final draft agreement, if you like—it will be put to a vote of this House and a vote of the other place. That, we intend, will be before it is put to the European Parliament. That is as clear as I can make it.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

After we trigger article 50, the EU27 will decide a deal in their interests. If that deal comes to this House and we vote it down, and subsequently the Commission and the European Parliament agree it and say, “Like it or lump it,” what will we do then?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would have thought that, in the circumstance that this House had voted down the agreement, it would be highly unlikely that it would ever be put to the European Parliament. Of course, there are all sorts of scenarios to be considered.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Just for clarification, I think the Minister said that there would be a vote on, as it were, the final draft agreement. I just wanted to check that I had heard him correctly.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes—before the agreement is finally concluded, in other words. That is the intention.

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I want to come back to the point made by the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg) about the timing of the two deals that are being negotiated in parallel: the exit deal and the framework for our future relationship. I think we can be a little more optimistic than he is. In article 50, it is envisaged that the negotiation for the exit agreement can only be done taking into account the framework for the future relationship. Article 50 envisages those two agreements being negotiated in parallel, so I think that what the Minister has set out has every prospect of coming to fruition.

Natascha Engel Portrait The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Natascha Engel)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I implore Members to keep interventions shorter. They are very, very long—they are little speeches—and we have got very little time. I implore Members to keep them a bit briefer.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend is right. Article 50 states that the negotiations for the withdrawal agreement should be set against the framework of the continuing relationship. On the face of it, a twin-track approach is envisaged in article 50.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister raised our hopes for a second, and then I felt myself deflate as he said that if things did not work out, we would

“fall back on other arrangements.”—[Official Report, 25 January 2017; Vol. 620, c. 295.]

Can he be absolutely clear about what he meant by falling back on other arrangements?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It would depend on precisely what was agreed, but if there were no agreement at all, which I think is an extremely unlikely scenario, ultimately we would be falling back on World Trade Organisation arrangements. That is nothing new. It has been made very clear previously, including by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Alistair Burt Portrait Alistair Burt (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can the Minister clarify a point that was raised by the shadow Secretary of State and that is important to us all? An agreement at the end of the process might be an agreement that there is no agreement at all, and that we will go to the default position. I believe that what the Minister has announced will give the House a vote if there is a deal, or indeed if there is no deal. Can he confirm that the House would get a vote in those circumstances, which is what I understand the assurance to be?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is very hard to see what meaningful vote could be given if there had been no deal at all. Having said that, I have no doubt at all that in the absence of any agreement whatever, that absence of agreement would be the subject of statements to this House.

Alex Salmond Portrait Alex Salmond
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is inflating and deflating people as he goes along. May we get back to the manuscript amendment? If the concession is as significant as the Minister is leading us to believe, it is really important that it comes forward as an amendment. If the Government are not prepared to make that happen, surely the message to the other place is that what the Minister has said should be encapsulated in an amendment that can be properly re-debated here.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are debating the issue at considerable length now. I have, on behalf of the Government, made what I believe is a serious commitment and it should be accepted as such. Frankly, in those circumstances, I see no need for a further amendment.

Dominic Grieve Portrait Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is not the problem that the Government and the House have the fact that we do not know at what stage the negotiations will be concluded? They could be concluded, with months to go, within the two-year timeframe. In those circumstances, I would expect the House to be able to consider the agreement—even, perhaps, before it was provisionally agreed with the Commission, because there would be no time pressure.

Equally, however, we could end up in a situation where the agreement is made at one minute to midnight at the end of the two-year period. If the Government do not then conclude an agreement to bring it to the House after that, but before it goes to the European Parliament, we could end up with no deal at all. The Minister may agree that the Government have a real dilemma. It is important that the House should understand those limitations, because they go fundamentally to the question of whether an amendment can be reasonably crafted to meet that situation.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. and learned Friend makes a very fair point. As we proceed, we have to keep reminding ourselves that we are where we are because the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union. What we are seeking to achieve is a departure from the European Union on the best possible terms. I strongly believe that what the Government are proposing is as much as possible in terms of a meaningful vote at the end of the process.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I give way to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden).

Pat McFadden Portrait Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Timing is significant only if it further empowers Parliament to have a meaningful say on the negotiations. Can I ask the Minister again: what will happen if the House declines to approve the draft agreement that he intends to bring before us?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think that I have already answered that extremely clearly. There will be a meaningful vote. The vote will be either to accept the deal that the Government will have achieved—I repeat that the process of negotiation will not be without frequent reports to the House—or for there to be no deal. Frankly, that is the choice that the House will have to make. That will be the most meaningful vote that one could imagine.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will take one further intervention, from the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna).

Chuka Umunna Portrait Mr Chuka Umunna (Streatham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The point is that if this is to be a meaningful concession, the House needs the opportunity to send the Government back to our EU partners to negotiate a deal if one has not been reached. Going to World Trade Organisation rules will be deeply damaging for our economy and wholly unacceptable.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but frankly I cannot think of a greater signal of weakness than for the House to send the Government back to the European Union saying that we want to negotiate further. That would be seized on as a sign of weakness and therefore I cannot agree with it at all.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would like to make further progress. I have taken a large number of interventions and I am sure that other hon. Members wish to speak.

Let me say this. It will be a meaningful vote. As I have said, it will be the choice between leaving the European Union with a negotiated deal or not. To send the Government back to the negotiating table would be the surest way of undermining our negotiating position and delivering a worse deal. In any case, we cannot unilaterally extend—

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I give way for the final time to the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn).

Hilary Benn Portrait Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

When the Minister first revealed his concession to the shadow Secretary of State, there was a bit, which he has not read out in the speech that he has just been giving, that referred to timing, intention and the position of the European Parliament. Will he please repeat what he said the first time round? I think it important that the House should be able to hear that.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will, if that will be of assistance to the right hon. Gentleman, although I did, in fact, read out the same words twice. I will read them again so that he fully understands the commitment that the Government have made. The Government have committed to a vote on the final deal in both Houses before it comes into force. This will cover both the withdrawal agreement and our future relationship with the European Union. I can confirm that the Government will bring forward a motion on the final agreement, to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it is concluded. We expect and intend that that will happen before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not take any further interventions; I have already been more than generous.

I turn to the amendments. The shadow Secretary of State has referred to his new clauses 1, 18, 19, 28, 54, 110, 137, 175 and 182, which all seek, in one way or another, to ensure that Parliament will have a vote on the final deal that we agree with the European Union. Let me assure Members again, as I have said in answer to interventions, that the House will be involved throughout the entire process of withdrawal. Again, I remind the House of the extent of the Secretary of State’s engagement.

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have a very brief question for the Minister. If the European Parliament votes down the deal, Europe will carry on negotiating. He is saying that if the British Parliament votes down the deal, that will be the end of the negotiations. We pride ourselves on our sovereignty in this House; the Minister’s position seems to be a denial of that sovereignty.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With huge respect, I am not entirely sure that the right hon. Gentleman understands the process. At the end of the day, the role of the European Parliament will be to grant or withhold consent to the deal agreed by the European Council, and there can be no assurance that there would be further negotiations. May I say that we are some considerable way away from that position. As I have said, as the negotiations proceed, there will be very many more opportunities—many, many more—for this House and the other place to consider the negotiations.

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Harper
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I tempt my right hon. Friend to give way one more time?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am afraid not; I have already been very generous.

I was reminding the House of what the Secretary of State has already done in terms of engagement. He has made six oral statements and there have been more than 10 debates—four in Government time. More than 30 Select Committee inquiries are going on at the moment. Furthermore, there will be many more votes on primary legislation between now and departure from the European Union.

I suggest that the amendments that I have referred to are unnecessary. I reiterate that both Houses will get a vote on the final deal before it comes into force and I can confirm, once again, that it will cover both the withdrawal agreement and our future relationship. However, we are confident that we will bring back a deal that Parliament will want to support. The choice will be meaningful: whether to accept that deal or to move ahead without a deal.

Alex Salmond Portrait Alex Salmond
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I rise to speak to new clause 180 and amendment 50, in my name and those of my hon. Friends. I also want to speak very favourably about new clause 110, which is in the name of the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie). It is the strongest of the other amendments, although I should say that any amendments from this group that are put to the vote will have our support as they are all trying to increase parliamentary supervision of the process.

Before the Minister led us through the dance of the seven veils, I was going to question him on the irrevocability or revocability of article 50. I still think that that goes to the heart of what we are debating. However, I say directly to the Minister, with regard to what he described as a “serious announcement”, that if one makes a serious announcement in the course of the Committee stage of a Bill of this importance, it should be followed by an amendment. If we were here debating the Dangerous Dogs Bill, which I remember debating some time ago, and a serious announcement was made, that serious announcement would be followed by an amendment to the Bill. If that is good enough for a Bill of that description, how much more important is it to have such an amendment when we are debating the biggest constitutional change facing this country for half a century.

--- Later in debate ---
David Jones Portrait Mr David Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you very much indeed, Ms Engel, for giving me a second bite of the cherry.

May I deal first with the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie), the Chair of the Treasury Committee? He asked direct questions that had been raised during the debate. I thought that I had answered them with some clarity, but I am happy to clarify further. First, he asked what this honourable House would be asked to approve. It would be the final agreed draft of the agreement before it was submitted to the European Parliament. He mentioned that we had indicated that we expected and intended that that would happen before the European Parliament debated the agreement. The reason why that formulation is used is that what the Commission does with the information it sends to the European Parliament is out of our hands. Although we would do our very best to ensure that the House voted first, we cannot control what the Commission does.

My right hon. Friend raised the issue of equivalence. Of course, the difference is that the European Parliament has a role prescribed for it in article 50, but this House does not. In practical terms, I suggest that a vote of this House would be a matter of significance. Finally, he raised transitional arrangements, which have been mentioned by a number of hon. Members. As the Prime Minister has already made clear, it is our intention, if necessary, to look to a period of implementation for whatever arrangement we arrive at with the European Union.

Lord Clarke of Nottingham Portrait Mr Kenneth Clarke
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will, briefly.

Lord Clarke of Nottingham Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will be brief, for a change. My right hon. Friend has confirmed that the vote will be put to Parliament after the deal has been done with the Commission and the Council. It is therefore a done deal, and the European Parliament and this House can either take it or leave it. The alternative is the WTO. Will he confirm that that is exactly what was offered in the White Paper a few days ago?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What we have sought to do today is to provide clarity, and I hope that, through my previous contribution and now, I am providing that clarity. It would indeed be the final draft agreement that we would contemplate being put before the House.

As I was saying, this has been an important debate and the quality of the contributions has been extremely high. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) said, we have to remember that this will be the most important negotiation that this country has entered into for at least half a century. It is therefore entirely right that the House should play an important part in the process of the negotiation of the agreement.

I have heard the words “rubber stamp” being used, but that is far from what the Government have in mind. We have every intention that, throughout the process of negotiation, the House will be kept fully informed, consistent with the need to ensure that confidentiality is maintained. I do not think that anyone would regard that as an unreasonable way forward. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) highlighted the need for reporting, and the Government intend to do that.

I should like to speak about a number of other measures that I have not dealt with previously, but which have attracted attention in the debate. New clause 18 would specify that any new treaty with the EU should not be ratified except with the express approval of Parliament. I can only repeat the commitment that I have made several times this afternoon at the Dispatch Box: there will be a vote on the final deal.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Many of us welcome the progress that has been made and my right hon. Friend’s assurances. It is clear from what he has said that there will be every opportunity for debate, discussion, questions and votes, as is proper in this House.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is absolutely right. The suggestion that the Government would not keep the House informed is really unworthy, given that we have been scrupulous in doing so thus far.

New clause 110 is similar to new clause 18, but it also specifies that any new relationship would be subject to approval by a resolution of Parliament. I believe that the measure is unnecessary. It asks for a vote of each House on a new treaty or any new agreement reached with the EU, but I repeat again that there will be a vote on the final draft treaty and any other agreement. In any event, as my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) pointed out, it calls for a vote before terms are agreed, leaving it open to the Commission to change its mind or position without any apparent recourse for this place.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not give way as I have very little time.

New clause 137 would require the Government to seek to negotiate a new agreement with the EU if Parliament rejects a deal. Again, I reject the measure. Although we are confident that we will achieve a deal acceptable to Parliament, if Parliament were to reject that deal, it would be a sure sign of weakness, as I have said, to return to the EU and ask for other terms. We would be likely to achieve only a worse deal. Furthermore, there is no obligation on the EU to continue negotiating with us beyond the two-year period specified in article 50.

New clause 175 would effectively require the Government to request that we remain a member of the EU if the terms were not approved by Parliament. Frankly, to do so would be to betray the outcome of the referendum, and the Government are not prepared to accept that. I must make it absolutely clear that the Government want Parliament to be engaged throughout this process.

Clive Efford Portrait Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister confirm that the Government’s position is to diminish the status of this House compared with that of the European Parliament in respect of having oversight of this process?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is absolutely ludicrous. The European Parliament’s role comes at the end of the process; it has oversight to the extent that it rubber-stamps the agreement or not.

New clauses 18 and 19 would require any new treaties agreed with the EU to be subject to the ratification of Parliament. We have always said that we will observe the constitutional and legal obligations that apply to the final deal, and that remains the case. As we have confirmed, the final agreement will be subject to a vote of this House before it is concluded.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

For the very last time.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister abide by the recommendation in the report of the Exiting the European Union Committee that when the Government bring the deal to Parliament, they should have regard to the requirement that Parliament has adequate time to consider any statement before the proposed terms are put to each House for approval?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We will, of course, consider all the recommendations of the Select Committee and respond formally to its report in due course.

We approach the negotiations not expecting failure, but anticipating success. Let me remind Members that we are seeking in the Bill to do one simple, straightforward thing: to follow the instructions we received from the British people in the referendum. Remaining a member of the European Union is not an option. The process for leaving the EU is set out in article 50, and it is not within our power unilaterally to extend the negotiations.

New clause 99 envisages yet another Act of Parliament to approve the arrangements for our withdrawal and our future relationship with the EU. It would require yet another Act of Parliament for us to withdraw from the EU in the absence of a negotiated deal. The new clause is wholly otiose. While we are ready for any outcome, an exit without a trade agreement is emphatically not what we seek. However, let me be clear that keeping open the prospect of staying in the EU, as is envisaged by new clause 99, would only encourage the EU to give us the worst possible deal in the hope that we would change our mind.

Amendment 43 calls for a referendum on our membership of the European Union after we have negotiated a final deal. That was tabled by the Liberal Democrats.

This has been an important debate. We have considered the new clauses and amendments very carefully but, for all the reasons I have given, we reject them and invite Members not to press them to a Division.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have listened carefully to the debate. There are inevitable problems with an 11th-hour concession, and there have been claims and counter-claims about the nature of the concession made. Whatever No. 10 may or may not be briefing, until today there was never a commitment to a vote on both the article 50 deal and the future agreement with the EU; there was never a commitment to a vote, before the agreement was concluded, on a final agreed draft—it is simply rewriting history to suggest that there was—and there was never a commitment to a vote in this House that is intended and expected to take place before the vote of the European Parliament. Those three things have never been said before, and I have gone through all the records before making that assertion. For anybody to suggest that this is not a significant concession is to be blind to these developments.

I recognise that that leaves a number of unanswered questions, most importantly about the consequences and precise timing of the vote. As the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) says, to some extent we just do not know. From the various work I have done in Brussels, it is quite clear that the plan there is to have a deal that is capable of being put to the European Parliament in October 2018. That should be the ambition, because if a deal were put to this House in October 2018, there would be a number of consequences for the House to consider. I accept that there are questions. It is important that others reflect on the concessions that have been made and consider what kind of amendment might capture them.

In the circumstances, I will not press new clause 1 to a Division in the hope—although this is not my decision—that it will allow space for other new clauses to be put to the vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 110

Future relationship with the European Union

“(1) Following the exercise of the power in section 1, any new Treaty or relationship with the European Union must not be concluded unless the proposed terms have been subject to approval by resolution of each House of Parliament.

(2) In the case of any new Treaty or relationship with the European Union, the proposed terms must be approved by resolution of each House of Parliament before they are agreed with the European Commission, with a view to their approval by the European Parliament or the European Council.”—(Chris Leslie.)

This new clause seeks to ensure that Parliament must give approval to any new deal or Treaty following the negotiations in respect of the triggering of Article 50(2), and that any new Treaty or relationship must be approved by Parliament in advance of final agreement with the European Commission, European Parliament or European Council.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

18:14

Division 141

Ayes: 293


Labour: 212
Scottish National Party: 54
Liberal Democrat: 9
Conservative: 6
Independent: 4
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
Green Party: 1

Noes: 326


Conservative: 312
Democratic Unionist Party: 7
Labour: 6
UK Independence Party: 1

--- Later in debate ---
18:29

Division 142

Ayes: 88


Scottish National Party: 52
Labour: 22
Liberal Democrat: 8
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Independent: 3
Green Party: 1

Noes: 336


Conservative: 319
Democratic Unionist Party: 7
Labour: 6
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1

New Clause 5
--- Later in debate ---
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait The Chairman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. Let us move on, and let us keep going. I call the Minister.

Robin Walker Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Mr Robin Walker)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What a remarkable debate this has been. I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) on speaking for 58 minutes and for the ingenuity with which he made sure that the Committee heard so many Scottish voices. It will be clear to those who read the record that the voice of Scotland has been heard loud and clear in scrutinising this Bill.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) on making a clear and concise speech. Indeed, other hon. Gentlemen in the Chamber could have learned from his conciseness.

--- Later in debate ---
Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way?

Robin Walker Portrait Mr Walker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will come back to the hon. Lady later, because I suspect she wants to address environmental issues and I will come to those in my speech.

Our programme of analysis is important in enabling us to seize the opportunities and in ensuring that our EU exit is a smooth and orderly process. As we discussed yesterday, the Joint Ministerial Committee on exit negotiations was set up to develop a UK-wide approach to the forthcoming negotiations. I know that analysis has been and can be exchanged confidentially through that forum. The Committee should be in no doubt that policy relating to EU exit is underpinned by rigorous and extensive analytical and assessment work. As with all internal analytical work in government, it is not the standard practice to give a public commentary as the analysis develops.

We have said all along that we will lay out as much detail as possible on EU exit, provided that doing so does not risk damaging our negotiating position. The House voted on a motion that confirmed that there should be no disclosure of material that could damage the UK in negotiations. In any negotiation, information on potential economic or financial considerations is very important to the negotiating capital and position of all parties.

Most of the new clauses and amendments would require the Government to publish analysis or assessment work before the process of negotiating with our European Union partners begins and, indeed, before the Prime Minister provides a notification under article 50, as Government Members have pointed out repeatedly. Those include new clause 5, which stands in the names of the Leader of the Opposition and many other Members; new clause 49, which stands in the names of the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith) and many other Members; and new clause 143, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for North East Fife (Stephen Gethins) and many other SNP Members; as well as more than 40 other proposals that I do not intend to list. The common requirement is that we publish information at a time when it could either delay the triggering of article 50 or jeopardise the UK’s negotiating position. That runs contrary to the approach that has already been accepted by this House. For that reason, I cannot accept those new clauses and amendments.

I want to touch briefly on amendments 24 to 26, which were tabled by the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) to ensure that the Government take account of our responsibilities to represent the interests of Gibraltar, the Crown dependencies and the overseas territories. I assure him that we are doing exactly that. The amendments are not necessary. I met the members of the Joint Ministerial Council for the overseas territories this morning to take their views on board in this process.

Mike Gapes Portrait Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Given that I was not able to make a speech, I am very grateful to be able to intervene. Is it not the case that we need more than a personal consultation with the Minister? This House and this Parliament should be aware of the implications for the overseas territories, the Crown dependencies and Gibraltar.

Robin Walker Portrait Mr Walker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman makes a very fair point. I am very pleased to say to him that the very first debate I replied to as a Minister—the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) was kind enough to name Westminster Hall “Brexit Minister Hall”, because of the number of debates we have had there on this issue—was on Gibraltar and the impact of leaving the European Union. Colleagues across the House represent the interests of Gibraltar extremely well. I have had regular and productive meetings with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, who has made sure that its voice is heard very clearly by the UK Government. All the Chief Ministers of the overseas territories are being consulted, as are the Crown dependencies.

As a former Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, I welcome the interest in new clause 98, which makes reference to the Equality Act 2010 and protected characteristics. We are, of course, assessing a wide range of impacts as we develop our negotiating position, and we will continue to do so throughout the negotiation period. The Equality Act already provides a strong framework to ensure that the UK is well placed to continue driving equality forward. I assure the Committee that all the protections covered in the Equality Act 2006 and the Equality Act 2010 will continue to apply once the UK has left the European Union.

The Prime Minister has been clear: we want the UK to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, and more united and outward-looking than ever before. We want to get the right deal abroad, but ensure we get a better deal for ordinary working people at home. In the White Paper, we set out our ambition to use this moment of change to build a stronger economy and a fairer society by embracing genuine economic and social reform.

New clauses 42 to 48 and new clause 187 were tabled by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) who, sadly, is no longer in her place. What they have in common is a requirement for the Government to publish impact assessments no later than 18 months after Royal Assent. We cannot know, however, that 18 months after Royal Assent we will not still be engaged in negotiations with the European Union. If we were, those negotiations might be at an important and decisive stage. The new clauses could significantly jeopardise our negotiating position, so I hope the hon. Lady will not press them.

Similarly, new clause 167, in the name of the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra), requires publication no later than 12 months after Royal Assent, and new clause 17, in the name of the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie), specifies publication 30 days after the Act comes into force. In each case, I reiterate and amplify my previous objection that the United Kingdom might well be in the middle of negotiations with the European Union.

I turn now to the new clauses tabled by the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) and others, including new clauses 101, 102, 103, 106 and 107. I would be happy to give way to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) on the matter of the environment at this point.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister acknowledge that moving environmental policy from the EU to domestic policy through the repeal Bill will not be enough on its own? We need to make it enforceable and monitorable. What legal measures will he put in place to ensure we can enforce environmental legislation? While I have his attention, and at the risk of challenging his stereotype, how does he plan to replace the nuclear safety function if we recklessly leave Euratom?

Robin Walker Portrait Mr Walker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady raises very important points, which we will debate in detail when we come to the great repeal Bill. On Euratom, we absolutely want to continue to collaborate internationally to achieve the best and highest standards of nuclear safety, as well as to continue to work on nuclear research, where our country has been a global leader.

On the environment, the Prime Minister made very clear in her speech that Parliament will have the opportunity to debate and scrutinise any policy changes that result from our exit and the forthcoming negotiations. I have given evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee and have appeared before the House on a number of occasions. I have been clear that the UK will still seek to be an international leader on environmental co-operation. As part of the great repeal Bill, as the hon. Lady says, we will bring current EU law, including the current framework of environmental regulation, into domestic British law. We will ensure that that law has practical effect. This will preserve protections, and any future changes in the law will be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny. This House will therefore have the opportunity to debate this and other topics throughout the process.

That and future debates will no doubt draw on many assessments of what leaving the EU will mean for a wide variety of issues. The Government will also shortly be launching two closely linked Green Papers on food, farming and fisheries, and on the environment. They will be the next important stage in our dialogue on future policy with industry, environmental non-governmental organisations and the wider public.

No one can say what the final elements of the new agreement with the EU will be, and we do not know exactly how the timetable will work after negotiations are concluded. Parliament will have its say, but so too will others. Greater certainty will emerge as we go through the process, but for now there remain unknowns. For these reasons, we do not consider it wise or prudent to fix now in statute what the Government must publish at the end of a process that has not even begun or been timetabled. Doing so would constrain the flexibility of the UK Government at the end of the process and therefore potentially during negotiations. I come back to the simple purpose of the Bill—to allow the process of negotiation to begin and, in so doing, to respect the decision of the people of the UK in the referendum.

New clause 167, on young people, was also tabled by the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston, who unfortunately has had to leave us. I recently participated in a roundtable, along with colleagues from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, with a wide range of young people from all over the country—from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England—to talk about their views on Brexit. It was interesting to hear from groups such as Undivided, bringing people together from both sides of the campaign to talk about the future. Every Member wants to focus on delivering a bright future for the young people of the UK, so I welcome the intention behind the new clause, but we can do that by coming together to represent the 100%, focusing on the future, getting the right deal for the UK in a new partnership with the EU and working together to deliver the opportunities those young people want.

Unfortunately, the new clause would require us to produce an economic analysis and so put us in the position of potentially giving information to the other side in the negotiations that could prejudice our position. The new clause also mentions the importance of Erasmus. The Government recognise the value of international exchange for students and are considering all the options for collaboration in education and training post-Brexit. In the spirit of looking to the future, however, we should not use the Bill to publish information that could undermine our negotiating position.

For all the reasons I have set out, I hope that hon. Members concerned will not press their amendments. We will produce careful assessments of the vast majority of these factors as we prepare for and take part in the negotiations, and we will use them as evidence to protect the national interests of the United Kingdom, but we cannot and should not commit to putting that information into the hands of the other side. Well intentioned as the amendments are, I urge the Committee to reject them so that we can get on with the Bill in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In responding, I shall be as concise as I was earlier and simply say that although the Minister has said that the Government are internally carrying out rigorous analytical assessments, he has not given us the guarantees we sought on the publication of Her Majesty’s Treasury’s impact assessments of our future trading relations with the EU. For that reason, we will be pushing new clause 5 to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

21:13

Division 143

Ayes: 281


Labour: 210
Scottish National Party: 54
Liberal Democrat: 9
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Independent: 3
Green Party: 1

Noes: 337


Conservative: 319
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Labour: 6
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1

--- Later in debate ---
21:28

Division 144

Ayes: 79


Scottish National Party: 52
Labour: 11
Liberal Democrat: 9
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Independent: 3
Green Party: 1

Noes: 333


Conservative: 317
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Labour: 4
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1

The occupant of the Chair left the Chair (Standing Order No. 83D).

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
3rd reading: House of Commons & Committee: 3rd sitting: House of Commons & Report stage: House of Commons
Wednesday 8th February 2017

(7 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Committee of the whole House Amendments as at 8 February 2017 - (8 Feb 2017)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Albert Owen Portrait Albert Owen
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend is right to press the Minister, because we have had some very thin talk on this important matter. The industry wants this working party, and it wants Government to give some clear assurances. I make my appeal to the Minister, through my right hon. Friend, to do that tonight. I am sure that he is listening.

Caroline Flint Portrait Caroline Flint
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend.

As a remain campaigner, I saw many positive benefits from our membership of the European Union. I am determined that this House will respect the referendum outcome and seek the best for my constituents from our new relationship.

Some in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet talk as though Brexit will be nothing but boundless prosperity. Some remainers talk as though Britain is hurtling off a cliff and they are all doom and gloom. The reality is likely to be something in between. After a long and sometimes difficult marriage, we are getting a divorce. During that process, we need to leave behind some of the false promises and distortions of the referendum campaign. Dramatic false claims only damage trust. We need to replace the rhetoric with honest discussion and honest endeavour to achieve the best outcomes from the path that our country has chosen. That is how we rebuild trust and secure a deal that most leave and most remain voters can accept. That is the way I will be approaching the discussions in the months ahead.

--- Later in debate ---
Liam Byrne Portrait Liam Byrne
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There is a reason why Russia has had its credentials suspended by the Council of Europe, and that is that it is not prepared to honour the great European Magna Carta that British civil servants helped to draw up under Churchill’s inspiration in the years after the second world war.

The Conservative manifesto—

Liam Byrne Portrait Liam Byrne
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will give way in a moment, as I want to put a specific question to the Minister.

The Conservative manifesto is not well read on the Government Benches; we study it forensically and in detail. In 2010, the manifesto said that the Conservatives would introduce a British Bill of Rights, replace the Human Rights Act and ensure that the European Court of Human Rights was no longer binding over the UK Supreme Court, ensuring that the European Court of Human Rights could no longer change British laws. That position was repeated in the 2015 manifesto. I hope that the Minister can say that that plan is now in the bin.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I have resisted intervening throughout the course of the debate, but I think I can help him to this extent: I do not know whether he was present during the wind-ups on Second Reading, but I informed the House that the Government have no plans to withdraw from the European convention on human rights.

Liam Byrne Portrait Liam Byrne
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is good to put that on the record, but the fact is that there are plans—plans were set out in the Conservative manifesto in 2010 and in 2015, and the draft British Bill of Rights that is circulating in the Ministry of Justice contains similar plans. That is why in August 2016 the Justice Secretary told the House that a British Bill of Rights would be introduced, and the House wants categorically to know whether that British Bill of Rights will have the implication and result of taking us out of the European Court of Human Rights. That is the point that I want the Minister to put beyond doubt by accepting new clause 193.

--- Later in debate ---
Albert Owen Portrait Albert Owen
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is always interesting to follow the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley). I will concentrate my brief remarks on Euratom. As the Minister and the Committee will know, its principal goals are the promotion of research and the dissemination of information; the establishment of safety standards; and facilitating investment. It also governs the supply of ore and nuclear fuels.

Euratom establishes a nuclear common market. The Eurosceptics always used to say, “We want to be in the common market,” yet their decision is to pull out of it. I believe that the Government want to retain the principal goals, and they stated on the publication of the Bill that we are leaving Euratom only because of legally binding arrangements, but that is debatable—I have seen conflicting legal advice—and cynics suggest that it is more to do with the European Court of Justice.

The Government say that they support Euratom and want us to continue both to co-operate and to have the highest standards. The hon. Member for Wells (James Heappey) is absolutely right that we are world leaders on nuclear standards, but in co-operation with other countries, which is why it is so important to keep Euratom, the umbrella body.

The purpose of new clause 192, which is supported by the industry and industry bodies, is to continue co-operation and have greater certainty. I have raised this matter with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who was very courteous. He said he had met the industry and was sure that we will be able to continue outside Euratom, but that is not what the industry in general believes. The hon. Member for Henley (John Howell) said that the management of the JET energy research programme in Oxfordshire did not want the proposal, but the workforce have lobbied me in great numbers through the union, saying that there are risks if we pull out.

Access to information and data sharing are important. We will be way behind if we pull out. Companies in the industry need to plan in advance; they need that certainty. Euratom deals with nuclear co-operation with the United States. It is ironic that although we are talking about coming out of Europe and trading with the United States, we need to be part of Euratom to get agreements to move fuels to the US, Japan, Canada and other countries. Renegotiating will take an awful long time.

Ideally, the Minister would retain the UK’s membership of Euratom even if we left the European Union. If the Government proceed to give notice to withdraw, we must have an agreement on transitional arrangements. We must also have sufficient time to negotiate and complete new arrangements with EU states and third countries such as the US, Japan and Canada. If in two years an agreement cannot be reached, the UK should remain a member. Our standing in the nuclear industry is at stake, as are jobs and our reputation as a major country in nuclear research. I hope that the Minister takes that on board.

David Jones Portrait Mr David Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have listened to a large number of very important contributions this afternoon from right hon. and hon. Members, and a large number of proposals have been considered. I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I say that I prefer—

Chris Leslie Portrait Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give way before he says that he would prefer not to give way to anybody?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will give way once and no more.

Chris Leslie Portrait Chris Leslie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister agree that it is totally farcical that I have tabled 35 proposals but have been unable to speak to any of them? Does that not prove that the curtailing of the debate leaves Parliament unable to scrutinise withdrawal from the EU?

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I commend the hon. Gentleman for his enthusiasm and say that the House has voted for and adopted a programme motion.

Baroness Hoey Portrait Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The public watching need to know that this is not the right place for many of the amendments and new clauses to be debated. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) has said, this is not the right Bill.

David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is what I was about to say. I would like to address all the amendments if I can, so I hope that the House will forgive me if I take no further interventions.

The amendments serve as a valuable reminder of the numerous important matters that will need to be considered and discussed throughout the process of negotiation. They seek to ensure that specific aspects of our future relationship with the European Union are prioritised by the Government. Let me take this opportunity to tell the House once again that we are committed to delivering the best possible deal for the whole of the United Kingdom. However, we can only set about delivering that deal after we have triggered article 50. It is not appropriate, therefore, to seek to tie the hands of the Government on individual policy areas at this stage; that could only serve to jeopardise our negotiating position.

I will do my best to respond to each of the amendments, given their broad scope, but for the avoidance of doubt, there is a common response to them all: elementally, this is a straightforward procedural Bill that serves only to give the Prime Minister the power to trigger article 50 and thereby respect the result of the referendum. As a consequence, these amendments are not for this Bill. Instead, they are for the many future debates that will take place in this House and the other place—

Chris Leslie Portrait Chris Leslie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Ms Engel. The Minister said that the amendments were not for this Bill. Will you remind the House that the Chair has ruled that all the amendments are within the scope of the Bill?

Natascha Engel Portrait The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Natascha Engel)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Chair’s ruling has been mentioned time and again. The Content of amendments is a matter for debate.

David Jones Portrait Mr David Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Ms Engel. The amendments will be debated at a later stage.

New clauses 2, 7, 100, 163 and 193, as well as amendments 32, 34, 40 and 55, would require the Prime Minister either to have regard to, or to set out in a report, a number of matters prior to triggering article 50. Those include, but are not limited to, the common travel area with the Republic of Ireland and the preservation of peace in Northern Ireland; tariff-free trade with the European Union; workers’, women’s, human, civil, social and political rights; climate change and environmental standards; and the British economy and economic model. The White Paper published last week sets out our strategic aims for the negotiations and covers many of the topics that hon. Members have addressed in these and other amendments.

With regard to the common travel area, for instance, we have already stressed that we are committed to working with both the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to recognise the unique economic, social and political context of the land border between the UK and Ireland. We have also made it clear that we are seeking a bold and comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union that is as tariff-free and frictionless as possible.

On new clause 7, which concerns the preservation of EU tax avoidance measures, the Prime Minister has made it very clear that we will convert the acquis into British law, and that it will then be for the British Parliament to decide on any changes to that law, with appropriate scrutiny. Similarly, amendments 7, 9 and 38 to clause 1 and new clauses 16, 70 and 133 seek to require the Government to commit to a position on specific issues before triggering article 50. Amendment 7, for example, seeks to ensure that the UK continues to participate in EU common foreign and security policy after withdrawal from the European Union. A matter such as that cannot be resolved through unilateral action and, instead, must be clearly addressed through discussion with the other 27 member states of the EU. We have been clear that we want to see continued close co-operation on foreign and security policy with European partners, but those discussions can begin only after article 50 has been triggered.

New clause 16 is designed to ensure that the employment rights of those living or working in the UK will be unaffected by the Bill. The Government have made it clear that not only will there be no change to employment protections as a result of triggering article 50, but we will protect and enhance the rights people have at work.

--- Later in debate ---
David Jones Portrait Mr Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, I will not give way.

I am grateful for the contributions of Members to this Committee stage. The Bill respects the judgment of the Supreme Court. I urge right hon. and hon. Members to support both clauses of the Bill. Clause 1 gives the Prime Minister Parliament’s authority to notify the European Council of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU. It also makes it clear that this power applies notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972; this is to address the Supreme Court’s conclusions on the status of the 1972 Act. I urge all right hon. and hon. Members who have tabled amendments not to press them to a Division, so that we can make progress with the Bill, start the process of withdrawal and work to deliver a deal that respects the vote of the British people in the referendum.

Paul Blomfield Portrait Paul Blomfield
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the few seconds left to me, I want to say that we will not withdraw the new clause and we will hold the Government to account in respect of the Secretary of State’s commitment to achieve a deal that provides for the exact same benefits as we enjoy from our current membership of the single market.

The issue of our membership of Euratom has caused concern among Members on both sides of the House, which the Minister failed to allay in his closing remarks. To clear up any doubts, such as those that the hon. Member for Wells (James Heappey) expressed, I remind the House that the Nuclear Industry Association has made it clear that we should not leave Euratom. It is not in the interests of the industry or people’s jobs. They will watch how the House votes on new clause 192, and will judge the Government accordingly. I hope that Members will recognise that and vote for the new clause, and for all the other helpful amendments we have tabled.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

17:52

Division 152

Ayes: 291


Labour: 216
Scottish National Party: 54
Liberal Democrat: 9
Independent: 4
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
Conservative: 1
Green Party: 1

Noes: 336


Conservative: 321
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Labour: 5
UK Independence Party: 1

--- Later in debate ---
18:06

Division 153

Ayes: 289


Labour: 216
Scottish National Party: 54
Liberal Democrat: 9
Independent: 4
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Green Party: 1

Noes: 336


Conservative: 320
Democratic Unionist Party: 7
Labour: 5
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1

Clause 1
--- Later in debate ---
18:19

Division 154

Ayes: 288


Labour: 215
Scottish National Party: 54
Liberal Democrat: 9
Independent: 4
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Conservative: 1
Green Party: 1

Noes: 338


Conservative: 320
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Labour: 6
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1

Amendment proposed: 11, page 1, line 5, at end insert—
--- Later in debate ---
18:32

Division 155

Ayes: 288


Labour: 216
Scottish National Party: 54
Liberal Democrat: 9
Independent: 4
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Green Party: 1

Noes: 337


Conservative: 320
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Labour: 5
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1

Amendment proposed: 43, page 1, line 5, at end insert—
--- Later in debate ---
18:44

Division 156

Ayes: 33


Labour: 22
Liberal Democrat: 7
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Green Party: 1

Noes: 340


Conservative: 321
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Labour: 6
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1
Independent: 1

Amendment proposed: 86, page 1, line 5, at end insert—
--- Later in debate ---
18:56

Division 157

Ayes: 288


Labour: 217
Scottish National Party: 53
Liberal Democrat: 9
Independent: 4
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 2
Conservative: 1
Green Party: 1

Noes: 327


Conservative: 320
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Labour: 5
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1

Question put (single Question on successive provisions of the Bill), That clauses 1 and 2 stand part of the Bill.
--- Later in debate ---
19:14

Division 158

Ayes: 496


Conservative: 318
Labour: 163
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1
Independent: 1

Noes: 111


Scottish National Party: 52
Labour: 45
Liberal Democrat: 7
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Independent: 3
Green Party: 1

Clauses 1 and 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
--- Later in debate ---
19:33

Division 159

Ayes: 290


Labour: 214
Scottish National Party: 54
Liberal Democrat: 9
Independent: 4
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Conservative: 2
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
Green Party: 1

Noes: 332


Conservative: 317
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Labour: 6
UK Independence Party: 1

New Clause 192
--- Later in debate ---
19:45

Division 160

Ayes: 287


Labour: 214
Scottish National Party: 54
Liberal Democrat: 9
Independent: 4
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Conservative: 1
Green Party: 1

Noes: 336


Conservative: 319
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Labour: 5
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.
--- Later in debate ---
20:01

Division 161

Ayes: 494


Conservative: 319
Labour: 161
Democratic Unionist Party: 8
Ulster Unionist Party: 2
UK Independence Party: 1
Independent: 1

Noes: 122


Labour: 55
Scottish National Party: 52
Liberal Democrat: 7
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 3
Plaid Cymru: 3
Independent: 3
Conservative: 1
Green Party: 1

Bill read the Third time and passed.

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 21st February 2017

(7 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: HL Bill 103(h) Amendment for Committee (PDF, 52KB) - (21 Feb 2017)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Moved on Monday 20 February by
Baroness Evans of Bowes Park Portrait Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick Portrait Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I made my maiden speech in the House of Commons in 1972, during the Third Reading of the European Communities Bill, in favour of our membership of the European Union. I little dreamt that 45 years later I would be standing up to advocate the reverse procedure—namely, that we should withdraw from the organisation that I advocated joining. However, it is not me who has changed but Europe, as was symbolised by its change of name from the European Economic Community to the European Community and finally to the European Union. Increasingly, I became concerned about the incompatibility of the growing integration and our national democracy and accountability. I also became more sceptical about the advantages of the single market.

I voted in the referendum to leave but I fully accept that we have to take account of the 48% who voted to remain. Many of us understand and share the concerns about links for universities and the status of foreign nationals in this country. That is, I think, common ground and those are objectives in the negotiations. Equally, I believe that those who voted to remain have a duty not to undermine the Government’s negotiating position.

I admired very much the speech made yesterday by the noble Baroness. I also admired very much the speech made by Keir Starmer when he led for the Opposition. He did not attempt to conceal the divisions in the ranks of the Labour Party. I assure noble Lords opposite that there is no temptation to gloat, because it was like looking in a mirror at the Conservative Party in the 1990s. Mr Starmer made it very clear that the idea that the referendum was, as he put it, consultative simply did not hold water.

I admired Mr Starmer’s speech but I did not admire the speech of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has an extraordinary ability to say two completely contradictory things simultaneously. He said that he did not dispute the result; at the same time, he called on people to rise up. He said that people might change their minds. What he meant was that he might be able to change their minds. All this from a man who promised a referendum on the EU constitution and even published a Bill, but then ensured that the constitution was written in a different order to avoid a referendum.

The former Prime Minister said that people were not given the full facts—that the decision was made on imperfect knowledge. Of course, in a negotiation no one has full knowledge of where we will end up. As for not being given the full facts, people have had more than 40 years in which to make up their minds. He said that Brexit was driven by ideology. I am not sure what ideology he had in mind. If anything, the opposite appears to be the case—European unification as a movement has been almost a religion.

Noble Lords have mentioned endlessly in this debate “membership of the single market” as though that in itself is simply an argument. They have made no attempt to calculate the costs, as my noble friend Lord Lawson referred to yesterday, of the rules of the single market, and they have not bothered to confront the fact that many countries that are not members of the single market have increased their exports to the single market more than members, and certainly more than we, have done. They never bother to comment on the fact that the three largest trading partners of the European Union have no special trading arrangements with the EU, while six of its 10 top trading partners have no special trading relationship or agreement. As my noble friend Lord Lawson said yesterday, there is no reason why there should be a cliff edge.

If noble Lords are sincere in saying that they accept the result of the referendum, it should be possible for them to do all they can to support the Government in their negotiations in the national interest. The amendments being talked about seem more like additions to the Bill, in that they attempt to lay down conditions on the Government’s negotiating position.

On EU nationals, I have great sympathy with what has been said. But the Prime Minister has made it clear that so does she and that this is an objective of the Government. There is, however, no response from other countries in Europe and it would make no sense to make a unilateral gesture that would simply leave the 800,000 British nationals in Europe subject to the leverage of other people in the negotiations.

Equally, when it comes to a parliamentary vote on the deal, the Prime Minister has again said that there will be a vote, so it seems naive to say that Parliament should have the right both to reject whatever deal may be negotiated and simultaneously to decide to stay in the European Union. There are two objections to that argument. First, it would be a denial of the result of the referendum and, secondly, as surely as night follows day, it would make it perfectly inevitable that the EU would offer the worst possible deal in order to have it rejected by Parliament.

I recognise and acknowledge the anxieties of the 48% that should be taken into account. Surely we all want the best possible deal and the best possible access for our exports. But as the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, said on referendum night, I suspect before the result was announced:

“In. Out. When the British people have spoken you do what they command. Either you believe in democracy or you don’t. Any people who retreat into ‘we’re coming back for a second one’—they don’t believe in democracy”.


I believe in democracy and I believe that we should proceed rapidly with the Bill without amendment.

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
2nd reading (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Tuesday 21st February 2017

(7 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: HL Bill 103(h) Amendment for Committee (PDF, 52KB) - (21 Feb 2017)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Lord Bridges of Headley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Exiting the European Union (Lord Bridges of Headley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Bill before this House is just 137 words long, yet it has been the subject of almost 20 hours of debate and it is, and has been, an historic debate. On my rough calculation, about 1,000 words have been spoken for each word in the Bill and there are more to come. However, with quantity has undoubtedly come quality and I thank everyone who has spoken. Simply to read out the names of all 183 speakers would take me several minutes, so I ask your Lordships to forgive me—and maybe even thank me—for not addressing every point made by every single speaker.

The level of interest in this Bill is hardly surprising. Our nation’s membership of the EU has been part of the mental map, a fixed point, for many people for decades. So when I hear the concerns that have been raised by your Lordships about what the future holds, I do not dismiss them with a complacent flick of the hand. After all, like many in this House, I too voted to remain last year. I believe that significant opportunities lie before us, but any change brings challenges in its wake—challenges which this House has a rightful role to highlight and debate.

If anyone was in any doubt about the value of this Chamber in the legislative process, they should certainly read the debate of the past two days and the work of our excellent committees. Consider the subjects raised by your Lordships: the rights of citizens, immigration, Ireland, universities, our nuclear industry, agriculture—I could go on. These are all important issues but we must not confuse the policies that flow from Brexit with the core purpose of this Bill. This Bill’s core purpose, indeed its only purpose, is to start the process of leaving the European Union. This was noted by a number of noble Lords and they are right. Other noble Lords were right to point to the democratic process that has brought us here.

The electorate voted for a Government who had pledged to hold a referendum, and respect its result. Parliament then voted—by a majority of six to one in the other place—to hold a referendum. The question people were asked, one agreed upon by Parliament, was brutally simple, as the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, said: did they want to leave or remain in the European Union? Some 33.5 million people entered the polling booth that day last June. This was not, as the noble Lord, Lord Newby, suggested, just an expression of a point of view. It was a decision. As the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, said, they knew what they were voting for, and 17.4 million people picked up that stubby little pencil and voted to leave. That was the point of departure.

Parliament attached no conditions, no small print, no caveats. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said:

“It is simply unacceptable for Parliament—for this House—not to honour its commitments. That is what happened when Parliament enacted the referendum Bill”.—[Official Report, 20/2/17; col. 123.]


As the noble Lord, Lord Darling, said, there is no alternative.

So here we are tonight, debating a Bill that was passed, unamended, by the other place by a majority of 384 to start the negotiations. It is a Bill to deliver on the result of the referendum, so that we can, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, put it, get on with the negotiations so we can get the best deal for the UK. As he said,

“there is no turning back”.—[Official Report, 20/2/17; col. 22.]

At this point it would be somewhat churlish, and the sign of a bad loser, not to compliment the skill of one of our number—I refer, of course, to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. He is a worthy adversary and I now know whose door I would knock on were I ever to need legal help, although I fear it would have to be pro bono.

Let me now address some of the issues raised by your Lordships over the last two days: first, parliamentary scrutiny. I really do not like to say this after almost 20 hours of debate, but in terms of parliamentary scrutiny, we are just about approaching base camp. As the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, put it, we have a long way to go. As well as this Bill, Parliament will vote on the great repeal Bill to repeal the European Communities Act. Primary legislation such as an immigration Bill and a customs Bill, and secondary legislation, will be required to ensure that our statute book is operable on the day we leave the EU.

The Government have announced that we will bring forward a Motion on the agreement to be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it is concluded. We expect and intend that this will happen before the European Parliament debates and votes on the final agreement. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, asked whether a further Bill might be needed to authorise our withdrawal from the EU. The noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, asked if this vote will be under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act. The Government’s commitment is to bring forward a government Motion, which goes above and beyond the constitutional requirements set out in CRAG, and, of course, any new treaty that we agree with the EU will be subject to the provisions of CRAG before ratification.

The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, raised the issue of revocability of the notice to withdraw. There is obviously no precedent for a country triggering Article 50, let alone seeking to reverse such a decision. As a matter of firm policy our notification will not be withdrawn. A clear majority of the electorate voted to leave the European Union and we will respect the will of the British people. There can be no attempt to remain inside the EU, and no attempt to rejoin it. Further, extending the negotiating period cannot be guaranteed by an amendment in this Bill; extending the negotiating period requires unanimity of all 27 members. It is not within the Government’s gift or Parliament’s.

To those who argue that Parliament should be able to amend a treaty put before it, I would echo the words of my noble friend Lord Hill of Oareford: how would this be taken by our European partners? We have said we will approach these negotiations in good faith. We, like them, want to have a smooth and orderly Brexit. So if Parliament was given the power to unravel the agreement after months of painstaking negotiations, how could our European partners know that the agreement would be honoured? They could not. Consequently, this approach would inject more uncertainty into the whole process. I do not say this just because I believe Britain needs certainty, although I certainly do believe that, but because I firmly believe that Europe needs certainty too. If Parliament could amend one treaty and send it back because it did not like some terms, what is to stop it amending the revised treaty and the one after that?

This House and the other place will have the opportunity to scrutinise and debate the Government’s approach as the negotiations proceed. My noble friend Lord Boswell suggested that Parliament be involved as much as possible, and I totally agree. We have promised to give this Parliament at least as much information as the European Parliament, while protecting our national interest. The key point, as the noble Lord, Lord Empey, said, is that we need to be realistic. These are going to be tough negotiations. So parliamentary scrutiny, yes; giving away our negotiating position, no.

Other noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, raised the issue of publishing our assessment of the impact—the costs and benefits. At this point, all I would say is that such an assessment would surely undermine our position, and be exactly what those on the other side of the table want.

Let me now turn to the issue of a second referendum. The noble Lord, Lord Butler, asked if the views of the people on the final deal are irrelevant. The Government clearly do not think the views of the public are irrelevant, as we are honouring the views they expressed in the referendum. We are engaging with the public, and will continue to do so as the negotiations are scrutinised and the agreement is voted on in Parliament. As my noble friend Lord Hague said, we cannot go round in circles. We need certainty and clarity—certainty and clarity that would be dashed by a second referendum. As the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, argued, we could descend into a world of “neverendums”.

As to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Newby, that such a referendum would bring the country together, let me ask this: given that the Liberal Democrats argue the first referendum has created so much division, why would a second one bring the country together? To insert a second referendum now would backslide on this Parliament’s and this Government’s commitment to honour the result. As a number of noble Lords have said, it would undermine our negotiating position and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, put it, that way lies peril.

The noble Lords, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, and Lord Morris of Handsworth, turned to the issue of EU nationals. They spoke of the valuable contribution that EU nationals make to the UK and I agree. A number of noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, raised the issue of the rights of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU. Many noble Lords commented that both groups have felt unsettled by the result of the referendum last summer. The Government share their wish for a fair and speedy resolution to this issue. They hoped this issue could be sorted out before we triggered Article 50. I was delighted when last year the Prime Minister suggested to EU leaders that they should come to an agreement covering both EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU as soon as possible. Many favoured such an approach but others did not, saying they wanted to wait until formal negotiations begin. Therefore, we cannot begin formal discussions on this pressing issue until we have triggered Article 50. That is why we need to pass this Bill as soon as possible.

I note the strong views expressed about the wish for the Government to move unilaterally on this issue. As my noble friend Lord Lamont said, a unilateral move by the Government to address the issues facing EU nationals in the UK, however well intentioned, will not help the situation of the hundreds of thousands of our own citizens in the EU. They could end up facing two years of uncertainty if any urgency to resolve their status were removed by the UK making a one-sided guarantee. We need to act fairly and provide certainty for both groups of people as quickly as possible, and that will remain the Government’s position.

We are sighted on the future of UK nationals working in EU institutions, about which my noble friend Lord Balfe spoke. We should indeed thank them for their work and we intend to do all we can for them in the months ahead.

Let me now turn to issues regarding our approach to the negotiations. We must do all we can to create the right conditions for a grown-up negotiation with our European partners, which is why, as I have said, we need to show that we are negotiating in good faith. However, it goes further than that. As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham, said, this country will continue to face challenges that European nations face, such as terrorism and human trafficking. We will continue to share a thirst for knowledge and research and we must never forget that it remains overwhelmingly and compellingly in our national interest that the EU should succeed. Our approach will be to seek to collaborate and co-operate on issues wherever it is in our national interest to do so.

Some have characterised the Government’s approach to the negotiations as extreme Brexit. I would argue that it is nothing of the kind. It sets out an approach for a new partnership, to work together and trade together to our mutual benefit. It reflects a world where digital technology is turbocharging the forces of globalisation, as my noble friend Lord Howell remarked. To repeat, it reflects the fact that people voted to leave the EU.

The noble Lords, Lord Mandelson and Lord Hain, spoke passionately of their wish to protect jobs and investment, and I applaud their sincerity and the consistency of their views. Where I part company with them and others such as the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, is that this means we must remain in the single market or in the customs union. Staying in the single market would mean not controlling our borders; it would mean remaining under the EU’s rules without having any say over them. Maintaining our current status in the customs union would mean not having the ability to strike our own trade deals. These are issues on which the British people made their views quite clear, and doing as the noble Lords suggest would mean not leaving the EU.

Secondly, our European partners made it perfectly clear, before and after the referendum, that the four freedoms are indivisible—a point my noble friend Lord Tugendhat made. We respect that, which is another reason why the Government are taking the approach set out in the White Paper.

However, this Bill is about the process of our leaving the EU. It is not about the shape of the negotiations to come, nor the Government’s approach. I will happily debate these matters with your Lordships, and I am sure that there will be other occasions on which to do so over the coming months and years. But as the other place has shown, and as my noble friend Lord Hunt said, the Bill is not the place to put constraints on the Government’s negotiating position.

A number of your Lordships—the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, the noble Lords, Lord Empey and Lord Murphy, and the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, to name just four—raised the matter of the island of Ireland and Brexit. They are entirely right to highlight the challenges we face. I can assure your Lordships that the Government are fully committed to the Belfast agreement and its successors. Nobody wants to return to the borders of the past, so we will make it a priority to deliver a practical solution as soon as we can. I can also assure the House that we are consulting closely with Ministers in the Republic and Executive Ministers in Northern Ireland.

I further assure the noble Lord, Lord Empey, that the comments he raised about the border have been clearly heard in government. As he knows, the open border for people and businesses has served us well. We had a common travel area between the UK and Ireland long before either country was a member of the European Union. We will work to deliver a practical solution that allows the maintenance of the common travel area with the Republic while protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom’s immigration system.

Over the last two days, inevitably attention has focused on what divides us, so finally I will focus on what brings us together. First, we agree that in this debate everyone in this House, no matter what their view, should be heard and respected. We are all here because we want to help our country prosper and thrive in the future. To question and scrutinise is certainly not a sign of being unpatriotic. We can all agree that this House has a clear and proper role in scrutinising the Bill. It is equally clear that, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay,

“it would not be proper or correct for this House to frustrate the triggering of Article 50”.—[Official Report, 20/2/17; col. 102.]

Furthermore, at the end of the negotiations, we all agree that the United Kingdom will still wish to co-operate with the European Union and work with our European partners to tackle the challenges we all face.

Finally, whether one voted to leave or remain, we can all agree that, after 20 hours of debate, it is time not to remain but to leave this House and to go to bed.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 27th February 2017

(7 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: HL Bill 103-II Second marshalled list for Committee - (27 Feb 2017)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Portrait Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I think the Committee has heard quite enough from me so I will not speak on this other than to say that this will come up when we discuss the single market and I will reserve our comments until then. The Committee will probably know that we will not be supporting this amendment.

Lord Keen of Elie Portrait The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for the amendment concerning the European Economic Area, which seeks to ensure that the UK remains a member of the EEA.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I wonder if the Minister will give way—

Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Not yet, no. While I understand the issues raised and agree with the desire to debate them in this House, I cannot accept the amendment.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I wonder if the Minister can clarify—

Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I wonder if the noble Lord will allow me to make a little progress before he launches into the water. This Bill is about the process of our leaving the European Union. It is not about the Government’s approach. I will happily debate these matters with your Lordships, and I am sure that there will be other occasions on which to do so over the coming months and, indeed, years. But as the other place has shown, this Bill is not the place to put constraints on the Government’s approach.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What is it that the Minister says? I am obliged to him for giving way. As this is the first time we have heard from the Minister on this subject since the weekend, I wonder if he would care to comment on one of the most significant happenings. A very distinguished Member of this House, who sat through almost the whole Second Reading on Monday and Tuesday—a former Deputy Prime Minister for whom we all have the greatest respect—has said that he is going to oppose his own Government on this. He is completely against Brexit. What is the Government’s reaction? Are they not going to take account of the views of someone so distinguished, someone with such great experience of government and of the European Union? Would the Minister care to respond?

Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes, of course. The noble Lord to whom the noble Lord refers is not in the House today.

It is my intention to make some progress with this matter. The Prime Minister clearly set out her vision for the future of the UK post-exit in her speech on 17 January, including our future trading relationship with the EU. She was clear that we do not seek membership of the single market. Instead, we seek the greatest possible access to it through a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement. We want the UK to have the freest possible trade in goods and services with the EU’s member states but also to be able to negotiate our own trade agreements. As the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Epsom, observed, we seek our own, bespoke deal.

The United Kingdom has always been a leading voice for free trade, not only in the European Union but globally, and we have been consistently clear that we want the maximum possible freedom to trade for businesses in both Britain and Europe. But we also want to take back control of our laws and control immigration to Britain from Europe.

Being a member of the EEA would mean complying with the EU’s rules and regulations that implement the four freedoms—in respect of capital, goods, services and people—without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are. It would mean accepting a role for the European Court of Justice that would see it still having direct legal authority in our country. It would mean not having control over immigration. EU leaders in the other 27 states have been clear as to their belief in the indivisible nature of the four freedoms, and we respect that. The people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, not to maintain partial membership of its bodies or institutions. When the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union institutions, they did not intend that we should leave by the front door and rush back to attempt entry by the back door.

As set out in the White Paper, we recognise that we will require alternative forms of dispute resolution once we leave the EU and are no longer subject to the European Court of Justice. But again, these mechanisms are common both to agreements between the EU and third countries and in international agreements to which the United Kingdom is also party, of which there are many examples. Once we leave the EU, the EEA agreement will no longer be relevant for the United Kingdom. It will have no practical effect. It will be an empty vessel. That is because the agreement is defined as covering all EU members and those three EFTA states—Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway—which have chosen to join the EEA. As we are leaving the EU, we will automatically be outside this definition, as found in Article 126 of the EEA agreement. So there is no choice open to us to leave the EU and remain a member of the EEA, which would require a separate negotiation with the EU and the three EFTA states that I have just mentioned. For example, Switzerland, which is also a member of EFTA, has separate bilateral agreements with the EU even though it is not in the EEA. EFTA membership is not, of course, the same as EEA membership.

Although it will have no practical effect after the EU exit, we are considering what steps might need to be taken formally to terminate the EEA agreement as a matter of law, as we will remain a signatory to the agreement. This could be done through Article 127 of the EEA agreement on giving 12 months’ notice, or by some other means, but no decision has yet been taken on that. We have laid out in the White Paper, however, the relationship we are seeking: a new strategic partnership which includes a new customs agreement and an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement. We are seeking the greatest possible access to the single market as part of this.

The noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, referred to the fact that we would not be at the table. That is absolutely right, and that is not what 52% of our population voted for when they voted leave. It is one thing to have power without responsibility; it is another to have responsibility without power, and that is what we would have in these circumstances. It was suggested that freedom of movement could be open to a variety of interpretations. That is not the view in Europe. It is open to only one interpretation—one which we have been under for a number of years.

The noble Baroness, Lady Quin, referred to the report of the House of Lords committee. I can reassure her that we take the terms of that report very seriously, and we will be taking forward our consideration of it in due course. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, referred to the suggestion that somehow we could keep our options open so far as the EEA is concerned, but that is not the case. EEA membership is not an option that is simply open to us if we leave the EU. As I said, it becomes an empty vessel. We have to face up to the indivisibility of the four freedoms, as insisted upon. It is not a case of going to Europe and saying, “We would like to negotiate out of one of the four freedoms”. We are told repeatedly that they are indivisible, and we have to take that into account.

At the end of the day, we cannot embrace membership of the EEA any more than membership of the EU without freedom of movement in Europe. In these circumstances, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw this amendment on the understanding that we cannot retain membership of the EEA for the reasons I have sought to set out.

Lord Liddle Portrait Lord Liddle (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before the noble Lord sits down, there is one issue on this question which is very important to the national interest. When the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, came to the Select Committee to answer questions about the Government’s negotiating strategy, I asked him whether—as part of a transitional arrangement—they had ruled out membership of the single market or the EEA, and he said they had not. Can the Minister clarify the Government’s current position?

Whatever the Front Bench opposite thinks, most observers think it will be impossible to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement within the practical 15 months of negotiation that will be available after the German elections. This implementation phase that the Prime Minister talks about is in fact a transition. Are the Government saying that under no circumstances would we consider being members of the EEA, or the single market? If they are, we are facing the most horrendous cliff edge as an economy.

Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, I do not accept that we face a cliff edge—there is no cliff and therefore no edge. We fully intend to negotiate a suitable settlement within the period set out in Article 50 and that is the course of action on which we are setting out at this time.

The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, questioned whether this amendment was within the scope of the Bill. That is a question for others, but clearly it is not related to the purpose of the Bill. The Bill is concerned with process and, if we lose sight of that, we are liable to become rudderless in very difficult waters.

Lord Liddle Portrait Lord Liddle
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister give me an answer to the question? It is a reasonable question on such a vital matter of national importance: is this ruled out in a transitional arrangement or not?

Lord Keen of Elie Portrait Lord Keen of Elie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With respect, the noble Lord’s question proceeds on a supposition that I do not accept.

--- Later in debate ---
Noble Lords will also understand, of course, that Northern Ireland’s citizens can, if they so wish, post Brexit, become citizens of the European Union by becoming citizens of the Irish Republic. That is an issue which should be raised—and all this is against the backcloth of an election on Thursday to establish a new Executive and at least three weeks of negotiations—and I am convinced that the issues that have been touched upon in this House will be dealt with there. We should remind ourselves that the people of Northern Ireland voted to stay in the European Union. The people of Northern Ireland voted to accept the Good Friday agreement. The people of the Republic voted for that, too, but the people of the United Kingdom voted to come out of the European Union. This is a tough task and I wish the Government well in it.
Lord Dunlop Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office and Scotland Office (Lord Dunlop) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Murphy, to the Front Bench. He played a hugely important role in negotiating the Belfast agreement and he brings huge authority to this debate. I also thank all those who have taken part in the debate on this group of very important amendments relating to Northern Ireland. All the contributions have been thoughtful, sincere and passionate. I pay tribute to the work of the EU Committee and, in particular, its report on Northern Ireland, which has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords. The whole House is very conscious of the political situation in Northern Ireland and the need to provide support to the parties there, with Assembly elections this Thursday and the aim of re-establishing strong and stable devolved government. I am sure that we are all united in this place in our sense of duty to the people of Northern Ireland who support the devolved institutions and want to see the forward momentum of the peace process maintained.

The people of Northern Ireland have seen the benefits that flow from the peace process: a reduction in violence, although it is still far too prevalent; economic and social progress; and the gradual normalisation of everyday life. Around this Chamber, on each side and in every part, are noble Lords who have made significant contributions to the peace process and to the progress Northern Ireland has experienced over the last 20 years or so. I have said many times from this Dispatch Box that we have enjoyed the longest unbroken period of devolved government in Northern Ireland for 45 years, a period that started in 2006 on the watch as Northern Ireland Secretary of the noble Lord, Lord Hain, who opened this debate. In our House and in the other place support for establishing, re-establishing and then maintaining the devolved institutions has been a bipartisan effort. The Government recognise and are grateful for the level of bipartisan support that the parties opposite continue to provide. It is for the Northern Ireland parties to work together to form a functioning Executive, and we all have a role in supporting those efforts. Everyone in this House wants and is working for the same outcome.

The Government are very conscious that as we negotiate the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU and secure our position as an open, successful trading nation, we need to make certain that the unique interests of Northern Ireland are protected and advanced. There can be no doubt about the priority the Government attach to the interests of Northern Ireland and, as the noble Lord, Lord Lester, noted, to providing strong reassurance to the people of Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech and the White Paper set out the 12 principles that will guide our approach to the negotiations. Two of these refer explicitly to the needs of Northern Ireland. The first makes clear that the Government remain fully committed to the Belfast agreement and its successors as part of securing a deal that works for all parts of the United Kingdom and strengthens the union. The second highlights the importance of protecting our strong and historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the common travel area. Nobody wants to see a return to the borders of the past. The border is clearly a vital economic and trade issue. We recognise that the Northern Ireland economy is deeply integrated with that of Ireland, as well as with that of the rest of the United Kingdom. The issue of milk has been raised very vividly on a number of occasions so I will not repeat what was said.

However, this is more than just an economic issue. It is a social and psychological issue as well. For example, it is about families who use hospital services or are signed on with a GP across the border, or about the coaches of Northern Irish rugby supporters travelling to Dublin to watch Ireland play in the Six Nations. It is about the ease of everyday living and how you feel about the place in which you live. The open border for people and businesses has served us well and none of us wants to see the border issue become a renewed source of tension or division between different parts of the community in Northern Ireland. We want to ensure that goods and people can still move freely across the border and the Prime Minister has been crystal clear that the Government want trade across the Irish and Northern Ireland border to remain as frictionless as possible.

Of course, I recognise that this raises practical issues of the sort that the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, and others raised at Second Reading about what specific solutions might be put in place to achieve our desired outcomes. Such questions have been raised again today. As we have said before, and as the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, expressed so succinctly and eloquently, this is a straightforward Bill that gives the Prime Minister the power to start the process of withdrawal; it does not concern the wider negotiating process that will follow or the Bills that will come before this House and the other place on such matters as immigration and customs to give effect to what is agreed. To address the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, we will look to negotiate the best possible deal to secure practical cross-border co-operation on matters of justice and security. However, we start from a position of shared interests and common ground. The relationship between the United Kingdom and Ireland has never been closer or stronger than it is today.

There is a very strong joint commitment from the Irish Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK Government to find a practical solution that recognises the unique circumstances on the land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and all the social, political and economic implications that flow from them. I believe that the EU will be sensitive to the specific challenges around the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Only last week the President of the European Commission, following a meeting with the Taoiseach, said:

“During the BREXIT negotiations, the EU and Ireland must look to minimise the impact. We don’t want hard borders between Northern Ireland and Ireland”.


I also welcome Guy Verhofstadt’s comments about prioritising,

“the specific needs of Ireland and Northern Ireland”,

and Michel Barnier’s remarks about doing the,

“utmost to uphold the success of the Good Friday Agreement”.

This reflects, I think, an acute appreciation in Brussels and in other European capitals of the important role the European Union has played in helping to ensure and preserve peace in Northern Ireland, a point touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice. I hope that this will continue.

Before I turn specifically to the amendments I want to address a point raised by both the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on the even-handedness with which the UK Government deal with the political parties in Northern Ireland. Let me be very clear: the Government recognise the importance of establishing good working relationships with political leaders representing both unionist and nationalist traditions. We have always said that we govern in the interests of the whole community in Northern Ireland. In recent years, two very significant cross-party agreements—Stormont House and Fresh Start—have been reached, which demonstrates our ability to work effectively across the community with the major parties in Northern Ireland.

I turn now to the three amendments. Amendment 2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hain, would include in the Bill an undertaking by the Prime Minister to support the maintenance of the open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. No such undertaking is necessary in the Bill, as my noble friends Lord Trimble and Lord Howell have made clear, particularly in light of the strong assurances that I have given and our desire to keep this Bill clean and simple.

The Government’s intentions on this matter are already clear and there is no fundamental difference between us on the outcome that we seek. Maintaining the common travel area and protecting the high level of operational co-operation that underpins it will be an important priority for the UK in the talks ahead. As has already been pointed out, there has been a common travel area between the United Kingdom and Ireland for many years. Indeed, it was formed before either of our two countries were members of the European Union and reflects the historical, social and economic ties between its members.

Similarly, we recognise that Ireland is by far Northern Ireland’s biggest trading partner with goods exported worth £2.1 billion and imports of £1.6 billion in 2015. This underlines the strong mutual self-interest that exists. We will work closely with the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to find practical solutions to keep cross-border trade as seamless and frictionless as possible.

In finding solutions to the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, my noble friend Lord Empey sought reassurance that we will not create an internal border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. I can give my noble friend firm assurance that this Government are clear that we must do nothing that makes any citizens of our country feel strangers in that country. Our guiding principle as we leave the EU will be that no new barriers to living and doing business within our own union are created.

Amendment 10 would exempt provisions derived from the Belfast agreement. The Government’s commitment to the Belfast agreement and the three-stranded approach—which makes clear that the government of Northern Ireland will be determined by consent—is rock solid, including the principles that recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose. The United Kingdom’s departure from the EU will not change that. The institutions, including the North/South Ministerial Council and the six implementation bodies, remain intact. So while the Government do not disagree with the core sentiment lying behind this amendment—namely, unwavering support for the Belfast agreement—there is no need to legislate for it.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Smith of Basildon Portrait Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, if we can get back to the amendment—I thought for a moment we had segued into the next debate—it is on a second referendum or ratification that I think initially sounded quite attractive to a number of noble Lords. However, when you actually look at the amendment it is flawed.

First, there is the point made about the two parts of the amendment. Paragraph (a), which says that it must be,

“laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament”,

fails to recognise the primacy of the other place. That is not how we have handled this Bill or other issues. On that point, our later amendment on a meaningful vote is a better way to judge parliamentary opinion and for Parliament to deal with this issue.

Demands for a second referendum started even before the polls closed on the first one. An online parliamentary petition called for a second referendum should the first have less than a 60% vote for either remain or leave on a 75% turnout threshold. That set a high bar and it received around 4 million signatures. We do not require that level of support for Governments; the last time we had a turnout of higher than 75% was back in 1992, nearly 25 years ago. This amendment does not seek such conditions. I agree that it would be strange to set new and different conditions for a second referendum from the first one but the point has been made previously in debates that for such a major constitutional issue to be decided by a simple majority has caused concern.

National referendums are rare in the UK. As we know, there have been three UK-wide ones. In 1975, Harold Wilson called a referendum on remaining in or leaving the European Economic Community. In 2011, during the coalition Government, we had a referendum on whether to change first past the post to the AV voting system. Then we had the EU referendum in 2016. I must confess that I am naturally cautious about politicians demanding a national referendum on an issue. If I was a cynic—of course, I am not—I would suggest that we do that rarely on a point of principle but more often because we think it will endorse a position we take and give us the result we want. However, I feel differently when there is public demand for a referendum. I accept that it is not always easy to judge that. Certain petitions and polls are not satisfactory. Yet it becomes clear over time and the polls for the EU referendum were evidenced by the turnout.

Let us look at the public support for these referendums. In the EEC referendum in 1975, 64% voted. That was probably depressed by most people thinking that it was clear the UK would remain. Some 72% voted in the referendum in 2016. Yet when we had the referendum on the voting system, for which there was no real public demand as it was politician-led, it motivated fewer than half our fellow citizens, with a turnout of just 42%. My fear now is that, with no significant public demand for a second referendum at this time, this is being seen as a campaign to challenge the result of the first referendum. That in itself creates a mood of opposition and hostility from the public.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, reinforced that view in his speech, but in the The House magazine he said it was “implausible” not to grant a second referendum if public opinion shifts in favour of the EU. What if it shifts away and more people are opposed to the EU? Is that still grounds for a second referendum? Not according to his article. Indeed, the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, spoke of having a second referendum so people could express a change of mind. That is not solely a reason to have one.

As the previous debate illustrated clearly, the coming months of negotiations will be complicated and complex. We are pressing the Government to ensure that Parliament is kept fully engaged and informed throughout the whole process, and that Parliament has the opportunity for a real, meaningful final say on the exit arrangements or deals. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, made a good point on this when he said that the Government did not want to engage with Parliament through a vote and had to be persuaded to do so by a court judgment. However, Parliament will now have to make its judgment and the MPs who do so will be accountable to their constituents. That is what parliamentary sovereignty means: taking responsibility.

I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Newby, that his logic is flawed because he and others from his party feel no need to respect the result of the referendum. The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, just refuted this but I find that hard to accept. I do not, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, said, call the result the will of the people. I am not sure that referendums express that. However, there is a clear result. The noble Lord’s party said that there is no need to respect that result and voted against it in the House of Commons. It is now calling for a second referendum. Is that to be the same, to be seen as advisory, or do we just accept what a second referendum says? I find it hard to see the circumstances in which a second referendum could deal with all of the detail that would be required on the terms of an exit deal and not just be a rerun on the principle of continuing the process to leave or staying in. That is, in effect, the same as the first one.

The final judgment on the exit deal has to be very measured. It is going to involve forensic detail and it cannot just be an appeal to the emotions without hard, actual facts. In the first referendum, we saw different sides campaigning; they lobbied around the principle of staying in or leaving. I am on record as saying that I was deeply unimpressed with both the remain and leave campaigns. I have not yet been convinced that the approach of a referendum works well when dealing with the detail of negotiations over a period of two years. We have to have some faith in our Members of Parliament and in your Lordships’ House to make a serious, factual judgment on the benefits or otherwise of a final deal. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Warner, who asked whether we trusted the Government. I have been clear that I do not trust the Government enough to wave them off for two years and come back, and that is why we have later amendments about parliamentary engagement and votes. However, there is no impediment: if, as time and negotiations progress, there is genuine evidence of a widespread public demand for a second referendum, that should be listened to, but at this stage, our priority has to be that Parliament has the final say.

Lord Bridges of Headley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Exiting the European Union (Lord Bridges of Headley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the House will be delighted to hear that I intend to speak briefly on this amendment, as I get the sense that many of your Lordships’ minds have already been made up on this issue. I am going to explain why the Government believe that this approach would be wrong in principle and wrong in practice. A number of your Lordships have already made a number of good points, which I will not repeat.

I begin by taking a step back to consider people’s trust in politics today. It is at a somewhat low ebb. For many people, there is a sense that too many politicians say one thing and then do another. There is a sense that Parliament is divorced from day-to-day life, and this frustration and disillusionment with mainstream parties encourage them to look to others to represent their views. This is the backcloth to the debate on this Bill and this amendment.

Let us not forget the democratic path that has brought us here. The Conservative Party promised to hold a referendum and respect the outcome. This Parliament gave people the choice of whether to leave or to remain in the European Union: a choice without caveat or condition. It was a choice that the people exercised, having been told by the Government in the leaflet sent to every household in the land:

“The Government will implement what you decide”.


The majority voted to leave, not to have a second referendum and not to think again. The people have spoken and this Bill delivers on their wish.

My first question to your Lordships is: would it help build trust in politics if we, the unelected Chamber, were to tell the people, “We did not like your first answer; please try harder”? I think not: quite the reverse. When Scotland voted against independence, what was the response from any politicians? I shall quote one:

“You have to abide by the outcome ... I don’t think re-opening old wounds would be good for Scotland”.

Those were the words of Mr Nick Clegg. Whatever the cynical machinations of the Scottish Nationalists today, I believe that what Mr Clegg said was true then as regards Scotland and is true today as regards Europe. We promised a referendum, not a “neverendum”. The government leaflet said the referendum was a once-in-a-generation decision, not a twice-in-five-years decision. We cannot keep asking the question until we get the answer that some want.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon Portrait Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is making the case against a question that we did not ask, which is, “Shall we have another referendum on in or out?”. We accept that that is not going to happen. We accept that the Government have a mandate for Brexit. Will he tell us what mandate they now have for leaving the single market?

Lord Bridges of Headley Portrait Lord Bridges of Headley
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am sorry to say that the noble Lord is just making my point for me. We had a referendum in which people were asked very explicitly whether they wanted to leave or remain in the EU. The leaflet that I have here said it very clearly, and many people in this House and outside it—on both sides of the argument—made the case that a vote to leave was a vote to leave the single market. That was the choice, people were aware of it and that was the decision that they made. We are going to come on to this in the next hour or so.

Furthermore, many people on both sides of the argument, leave and remain, are now coming together to make a success of our exit from the EU and to forge a new place for our nation in the world. Why would we want to open up all those old divisions again by holding a second referendum, as this very debate has just shown? Well before last June, a number of politicians argued—

Lord Dykes Portrait Lord Dykes (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

When the Minister talks about the advisory referendum which was giving an opinion, that was the result that we had to respect at the time. Of course, there are comparisons with other European countries; in the process of the European constitution and subsequent Lisbon treaty, it was very interesting that in France, Denmark and the Republic of Ireland, there was always under the compulsory written constitutions a “no” vote in that first referendum. Each one was reversed by their Governments because they knew it was a vote about the unpopularity of internal politics and nothing to do with Europe.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Bridges of Headley Portrait Lord Bridges of Headley
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hear what the noble Lord is saying, but I am sorry to say that that boat, and all this argument, sailed when we passed the referendum Bill. That is just simply the fact.

Well before last June, a number of politicians argued that a referendum on our membership of the EU was needed precisely because Europe was poisoning the body politic. One politician said some years ago that it was,

“time we pulled out the thorn and healed the wound, time for a debate politicians have been too cowardly to hold for 30 years ... Let’s trust the people with the real question: in or out”.

Again, these were the words of Mr Nick Clegg back in 2008. I agree with the Nick Clegg of 2008. Now that we have had that referendum, I would argue that another would put that thorn back into British politics, and rub salt in the wound.