There have been 11 exchanges between David Hanson and Department for Exiting the European Union
|Sat 19th October 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) Acts||3 interactions (42 words)|
|Thu 4th April 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (32 words)|
|Wed 3rd April 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill||28 interactions (1,773 words)|
|Fri 22nd March 2019||European Council: Article 50 Extension||3 interactions (90 words)|
|Mon 4th February 2019||Leaving the European Union (Westminster Hall)||15 interactions (69 words)|
|Thu 14th June 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (20 words)|
|Thu 3rd May 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (29 words)|
|Mon 22nd January 2018||Leaving the European Union (Westminster Hall)||5 interactions (34 words)|
|Tue 12th December 2017||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||11 interactions (114 words)|
|Wed 6th December 2017||European Union (Withdrawal) Bill||21 interactions (190 words)|
|Thu 2nd November 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (30 words)|
I agree, and that is a point that I will develop. In recognition of the previous Prime Minister, although she said that, I always felt that she had a profound sense of public duty, that she properly recognised the real risks of no deal, and that ultimately she would not have taken us there. I do not have that trust in the current Prime Minister.
There have to be checks, and they have to be done at the border with England, Scotland and Wales, or Northern Ireland—there is no getting away from that. The argument that the Prime Minister tried to deploy earlier that he is not putting a border in the Irish sea is just wrong—it is absolutely wrong. Any goods that do not fall within the restricted category of goods proven not to be going any further than Northern Ireland and not to be going into manufacturing will be subject to checks, because that is the test written into the deal.
I can certainly confirm the latter. A second referendum would create further uncertainty and division. We do not think it is the right way forward.
If the Committee takes up all the time, there will be no Third Reading. That is up to the Committee, which is why I want to make progress and get to some of the speeches. I am looking around to see who wishes to speak.
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I thank my hon. Friend for all that. One problem with this whole negotiation is getting hung up over some clause or other in some EU treaty when we all—we or the UE—face a much bigger dilemma: how do we settle this political crisis? We have to consider how we find a resolution to this dispute, and achieve a reconciliation in our country and an outcome to this debate that can settle the Brexit argument and deliver the referendum result from 2016.
Yes, but it does so through a Bill and it gives the Prime Minister the opportunity to make her case to Parliament, but without any constraint on that at all. Given that this is a very novel legal approach—a rushed piece of legislation, with a Bill being driven through the House in one day—we should be cautious about the scope we attach to that Bill. Attaching an ability to go for a very long extension of several years—potentially five years if Parliament decided that is what it wanted—is worthy of further deliberation.
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I think my right hon. Friend’s comments were directed at my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson), rather than directly at me, so I will not become engaged in this discussion.
Regarding the provisions for subsections (6) and (7), the question still remains of what would happen if there were a counter-offer from the European Union. My contention is that that should then be a matter for the Government to bring before the House in a statement, to be challenged in the usual way. If at that point the House was unsatisfied with the Government’s proposal, it would still be open to it, through an initiative of the sort we have seen today, to introduce a Bill placing a further constraint on the Government, perhaps by requiring them to accept a counter-offer, for instance of a two-year extension, so that we could have a fuller, longer and perhaps more considered debate on what in my view would be a really big decision, because we would have gone five years since the first referendum and achieved nothing. The risk of not leaving the European Union at all and ending up arguing about a second referendum would grow. I believe that opting for such a lengthy extension would a very big decision, and one that would warrant a separate Bill with a separate, much longer and much more detailed discussion.
My right hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Is it not also true that the Prime Minister has invited the Leader of the Opposition to discuss the political declaration and the withdrawal agreement? The amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) would effectively curtail those discussions. Should we not pass the Bill cleanly in order to maximise the opportunities for that process?
I will be speaking to my amendment, but I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman desires flexibility to deny Brexit altogether, given that he represents a leave constituency. The point of my amendment, which I hope he will look at a little more closely, is to stop the Prime Minister agreeing anything that may be unacceptable to the House. The date I have picked is the one currently being discussed by the European Union. Therefore, should the Prime Minister agree a date that the House finds unacceptable, she would have to come back to the House to suggest it, rather than being able to do what she can at the moment, which is to pick a date that this House may find unacceptable. That is the point of my amendment.
The right hon. Gentleman makes a compelling case on people’s concerns about what may happen in a Brexit without a withdrawal agreement, but the European Union has explained to us on many occasions that the withdrawal agreement is now basically a hermetically sealed box, and many of the things he discusses in relation to the future relationship, such as trading, are encompassed in the political declaration, which cannot be binding—we have been told that many times. I genuinely fail to understand why, if he is so concerned about our leaving without an agreement, he does not just vote for the withdrawal agreement and then set about making his case for what should be in the political declaration, which cannot be binding until we have formally left the European Union.
The right hon. Gentleman has been saying that he would like to have certainty—I completely accept the worries about a possible no deal and not knowing what is going on, which is crucial for businesses—but, in relation to the amendments restricting exactly how long the Prime Minister can agree to on her own, how will he feel if the Prime Minister comes back and says, “I have accepted, because I am able to, a two-year extension”, and all the uncertainty for his constituents about what will happen is magnified for two years?
On the points the right hon. Gentleman has made about amendment 6, does he not agree with me that, as opposed to representing a sincere interest in and respect for the devolved Administrations, it is a very clever way of preventing the quick and effective enactment of this Bill?
The right hon. Gentleman has made the point that the Northern Ireland Assembly has not been sitting. It has not been sitting since January 2017, and there is no expectation that the Assembly will be sitting any day soon. Further to that point, the right hon. Gentleman, as a former direct rule Minister in Northern Ireland, will know that it would be an unmitigated disaster for Northern Ireland if this country were to leave without a deal. It would be an unmitigated disaster in terms of security—he will know all about the threat from dissident republicans, and he will also know that Sinn Féin would use a no-deal Brexit to campaign for a border poll to take Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom and into a united Ireland.
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the arrest warrant, and I have to say to him that I am well aware of a case in the county of Staffordshire. A person under an arrest warrant was convicted in his absence of murder, but it in fact transpired that he was working in Staffordshire, and he was then found not guilty because he was actually working in a restaurant in England at the time when he was supposed to have committed the murder in Italy.
I would like to speak to amendment 1, standing in my name, which addresses similar themes to the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), who spoke earlier.
I was quite horrified when I read this brief Bill, because it mandates the Prime Minister to seek an extension, but there is no date associated with that extension, as other Members have mentioned. On top of that, as we know, article 50 enshrined the date on which we would be leaving: 29 March. The Prime Minister, as was quite within her rights—my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) said it was her untrammelled prerogative—decided, when she went into her negotiations, that she would accept a new date, which was offered to her by the European Union, having been agreed in a room, in a debate in which she did not participate. She accepted a date that was not of her choosing.
My concern is that, whatever date this House considers to give the right amount of time, if the Prime Minister is not fettered, as the right hon. Member for Delyn (David Hanson) mentioned, she is quite within her rights—nobody here is seeking in any way, shape or form to curtail those rights—to accept another date that is offered to her and which might be the only date on offer. Whatever date this House might choose, for whatever associated reasons or purposes, the Prime Minister is quite within her rights to accept—or reject—the date on offer from the European Union.
I find that incredibly worrying. Depending on which side of the argument hon. Members find themselves, they could have the Prime Minister seeking a date in line with the House’s instructions, but not having to agree the date, even if the EU says that she can have it. That would be a rather bizarre scenario, but the Bill would not stop it, so whatever date the House fixed on could, in theory, only be asked for, but then be rejected.
The other side, which worries me far more, is that the Prime Minister could go along with a date—as yet unspecified by this House and with no associated justification—and be offered a date, let us say, two years in the future. I would suggest that at that point most hon. Members would have severe concerns about the legitimacy of whatever was being agreed by the Prime Minister—or any of us in this House—with the date set so far in the future.
Amendment 1, which stands in my name and that of 21 other hon. Members, simply proposes a date that has already been accepted by the European Union—I know that Guy Verhofstadt has talked about the end of June, but the European Union has suggested this date on many occasions—as a date that it would be comfortable extending to. It is also a date that would not oblige us, by default, to fight in the European elections. It would mean that the Prime Minister could accept the date offered to her—to the 22nd—but could not arbitrarily accept any other date offered without bringing it back and discussing with the House whether it met what the House wishes to achieve.
The right hon. Member for Delyn talked about not tying the Prime Minister’s hands, but if the House truly wishes to shape the next phase—I really do not like this process, but I am trying to look at it constructively—it is incredibly important that she does not have carte blanche to sit in a room in Brussels, meekly accept a date that is fixed, and then come back to the House, which will not be able to alter that date. I picked the 22 May date, because she can agree anything up until that point. After that date, with which we are all familiar, we will not have the Prime Minister accepting a date that may end up coming to this House and not finding favour. We are then back in the long grass. We are back to arguing about the date. We are back to arguing ad infinitum, to the great uncertainty for the many businesses who feel that what is going on here today is beyond a farce.
Other Members who have a better legal brain than mine—I have no such qualifications whatever—are looking at the Bill line by line and saying it is shoddily and poorly drafted, and that it does not stand up to scrutiny. The argument that comes back—I have heard it a few times this afternoon—is that, “Well, we haven’t had a lot of time and this is to stop no deal.” My amendment does not do anything to harm the Bill’s objectives. It gives the Bill belt and braces to ensure that the Prime Minister, to whom everyone says, “Let’s give her some latitude and trust”, is not able to accept something that is certainly beyond the wishes and scope of this House or the people who voted to leave the European Union.
I hope my amendment is given serious consideration, since we are now supposed to be engaging constructively with the process in a cross-party consensual way to try to get something through. I would be far more comfortable if the Prime Minister was not allowed free rein, or untrammelled prerogative, as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset said. As the House may have observed, we have already tried that and it has not got us terribly far. I therefore ask Members please to consider this amendment. It is very small. It does not stop anything. It simply might stop what some Members have maybe not thought through too well, which is the date.
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My right hon. Friend will know that the Department has been engaged in no-deal preparation for about two years now, although it has been ramped up in the last few months, and we fully expect to be absolutely ready if this country leaves the EU without a deal.
We all have a responsibility. As I and other members of the Government have been saying for many months, the most orderly way to leave is by backing the deal, but other Members have taken a different view. The Government fully intend to have a meaningful vote next week, and, as a consequence of a vote either way, I am sure that a statutory instrument will be introduced to the House early next week. That is the timeframe I have been led to believe. I think that is where we are.
I beg to move,
That this House has considered e-petition 224908 relating to leaving the European Union.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson. This is certainly not the first petition that relates to leaving the European Union; it is not even the first this month, and nor is this the first debate on such a petition that I have led.
Exactly: we return to it. I will read the petition, entitled “Brexit re article 50 it must not be suspended/stopped under any circumstances”, into Hansard so that it can have its full say:
“The full details are well known to everyone the media has covered it fully, the British people MUST be given the Brexit they voted for anything else is not acceptable to the British public ARTICLE 50 must not under any circumstances be hindered/suspended/stopped for any reason whatsoever the time is here to take action as there has been excessive feet dragging/delaying tactics by those opposed to Brexit.”
The petition ran for six months and received 116,470 signatures.
Obviously this issue continues to exercise members of the public, just as it exercises Members of this House, and it will continue to do so. In recent debates, we have seen that passions run high and that there are different opinions in the House. Similarly, I am sure, colleagues’ inboxes will reflect the number of people saying a variety of things. Although I am a London MP and my situation will be different from that of MPs for other parts of the country, the number of my constituents who want to have a second referendum or stop Brexit entirely is probably equal to the number of people who do not want to go through the process and who want to leave tomorrow with no deal. A whole load of people are in the middle, including myself. I voted leave and campaigned for Vote Leave.
I was happy to support the Prime Minister’s original deal because it did most of the things that I required, although clearly not all of them. It allowed us to leave the EU’s political institutions, to stop paying the huge membership fees to the EU each year, to end freedom of movement—not so we can stop immigration, but so we can have a controlled, better managed immigration system—and to start the process of striking trade deals with countries around the world, and even to ratify them The deal was imperfect because we would not have been able to get started on putting those deals into place until after the implementation period and we had that future relationship agreed with the EU.
The main sticking point that seemed to trouble a number of colleagues was the Irish backstop. Other issues concern some people but, as we saw in recent votes, the Irish backstop seems to be the main sticking point. Having questioned the Prime Minister, Ministers and civil servants, I concluded that I was a bit more relaxed about the backstop than other Members were, because I believe it is not comfortable for the EU to have it, any more than it is for the UK. I do not buy the line that the EU would want to keep us in the backstop forever, through a pseudo-permanent customs union, because if the backstop were ever to come into force, Northern Ireland would suddenly become the most competitive region of the European Union. It would have full access to both the UK market and the EU single market. Economically, that would be very uncomfortable for the EU because it would allow us to cherry-pick. The EU said, right at the beginning of the negotiations, that we would not be able to cherry-pick and break down any of the pillars, but actually the backstop would allow us to do it, because it would allow us to have access to the single market and customs union, without freedom of movement. Imagine a member state such as Hungary allowing that arrangement to stand for any length of time.
The backstop would allow us to have access to the single market and customs union without paying the membership fees. Imagine France, who would bankroll us, allowing that to stand for any length of time. Looking at new trade deals that the EU would want to happen, those countries looking in would say, “Well, hold on a sec. What is happening with the UK?” It would suddenly become Europe’s backstop, because those countries would not be sure about the relationship they had with the UK for any length of time.
That was my thought process, but unfortunately not enough colleagues agreed. The one good thing about that evening’s vote was that it did not take me long to vote and get through the Lobby—there were not enough colleagues with me. Clearly, the House has had its say. Following the second set of votes, including on the so-called Brady amendment, I am pleased that we now have a clear signal to send the Prime Minister back and say, “Okay, fine. I know we spent a long time negotiating this, but if you”—the EU—“just shift a little bit we can get this done.”
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The hon. Lady is generous in giving way. She will be pleased to know that I agree with her, and I go to Prayers, too. Irrespective of religion, I very much believe that it is important to discuss things honestly, accept our differences and come to a conclusion together. If we are delegates, we are just delivering what the people have said, but if we are not delegates, we are representatives. Is it not for us to make a decision according to our conscience and to what we believe is best for our country? That is exactly what we are all grappling with, including the Liberal Democrats. It does not help to denounce one another all the time and to call some people remoaners.
The hon. Lady has made her speech and interventions; if she does not mind, I will leave it there and we will have to agree to differ.
My concern is that we may end up looking weak because we cannot get behind a deal by the Prime Minister. My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam said that he could settle for the withdrawal agreement. When I went to see the Prime Minister before Christmas, I said, “I truly believe you are trying to do your very best on this.” Whatever anyone from any political party thinks, the Prime Minister has a very difficult job. Her tenacity is astonishing. I said, “At the moment, whether people believe in leave or remain, we have the absolute right to walk out the door, shut it behind us and say, ‘We will not put up with any more interference in our legislation from a group of countries.’ We can choose, but we will not be obliged.” We have the absolute right to do that, but I said we were like a load of nervous sheep in a pen.
I cannot hover around the idea of a backstop that 27 other countries may hold the key to. We are trying to get back sovereignty; we must not dilute that sovereignty by giving 27 other countries the whip hand over us. They have their own agendas. Each country would have a veto. It may well be that Gibraltar, or our fishing, comes up on the agenda. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam: I do not think the EU will want to keep us in the backstop, but I fear what they will exact to let us out.
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. At the time, I was very worried about whether there was some undue influence, whether we should have purdah and other things that were taxing our brains at that point. The European Union was advocated for by the leader of the Government at the time; a lot of big names tried to make the case for it, and a lot of money was associated with that. Even so, the British public had 40 years of knowing what they had, and they did not like it. People want to call them stupid or deluded—those are some of the things thrown at my constituents who voted to leave—but they were prepared to take the opportunity to leave.
There was a split decision, but did anyone ever think it would be more decisive than it was? It struck me how many people participated in the referendum—it was overwhelming. When I was out knocking on doors, people told me they had not voted for many a year, but they were going to vote. The referendum galvanised and engaged people in a way that we often struggle to. If we do not get on with this, the public will ask, “What is the point of taking part in any votes whatever? We got ourselves out the door for that special occasion; we were motivated.”
I do not know what motivated some people; they may have had different motivations, but they still wanted to leave the club. That is why they got out the door that morning in vast numbers and went to vote. This petition reflects a frustration; people think that we are cloth-eared in here and did not wake up to the sheer number of people who decided they had to vote to leave. This was a topic that had engaged them, if nothing else, for decades. No party, leaflets or knocking at their door had got them out, but this did. The former Prime Minister would not like to hear that some people did not bother to read his leaflet, but some people felt they had enough personal experience to make up their mind; the leaflet was not going to change that. They were glad of the opportunity of the vote.
I do not believe the European Union will want a “kick the can down the road” delay to article 50. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam: if it were for a few weeks, that might well be tolerated, so long as it was just to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. In that respect, I disagree with the petition, but I have sympathy for where it is going.
I could not vote for the withdrawal agreement, and 240 people felt the same way. When I went to see the Prime Minister after the big defeat, I said, “Will I want to pay £39 billion? No; it will stick in my craw, but it is a one-off. Do I want the European Court of Justice to have jurisdiction over us during the implementation period? No, but I can stand it. Can I lock us into a backstop? No.” I have gone through the debates, arguments and thought processes; that has to be fixed.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam: Brussels said that it will not tell us what we want to hear, but I believe and hope that it will listen, now that things have been distilled down. I do not wish to be the teenager trashing the flat, as someone said; I wish us to have a good relationship. I do not want us to be rancorous. I hope the people who have signed this petition will accept that we have not ignored the fact that 17.4 million people, many of whom said they had not voted for a very long time, got out the door that day because this was the one thing they wanted delivered. It is up to us to deliver it.
It is a real pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson, and a rare pleasure to be back in Westminster Hall. Before I was appointed Chief Whip for the SNP, I covered a lot of Brexit debates in here; in fact, we called it the Brexit Minister hall, because we discussed the subject so frequently. It is good to see that has not changed. I do not think I will speak for two hours, but as a Whip this is a rare opportunity for me to speak. As the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) said, the Chamber is usually so busy.
The petition is quite intriguing. It jumps out at me the point that article 50 must not “under any circumstances” be extended, whether for technical reasons, as the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully) said, or for a general election, a zombie apocalypse, alien invasion or any circumstances. Brexit must go ahead on 29 March. But that date is not some sort of geological fixture or part of the fundamental laws of physics. It is a date that was put in to a piece of legislation, largely as a sop to Back Benchers. The original European Union (Withdrawal) Bill talked simply of “exit day”, which would be defined by statutory instrument. I wonder if we might be in a much calmer place if the original clause had stood. People are becoming fixated on 29 March—at least that is what the people who signed the petition seem to think must happen.
I want to dwell on the point made by the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood). We hear that the British people must be given the Brexit they voted for and that anything else is not acceptable, but what is the Brexit they voted for? All the ballot paper said was, “to leave the European Union.” That might simply mean leaving the political institutions, as the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam said and I suspect a lot of people thought. The hon. Member for St Albans said people had had 40 years of Europe and they did not like it. I have had slightly less than 40 years of European membership—only slightly less—and I have quite liked it.
Perhaps some of the people who voted to leave did not like the bogeyman that the European institutions had become. Perhaps they did not like the political institutions. Perhaps they did not like the political establishment that argued for remain, of which many of us in effect find ourselves a part. It is more difficult to make the case that they did not like their European health insurance cards, which allow them to access medical treatment wherever they go in Europe, that they did not like being able to travel visa-free across the European continent and take advantage of sunnier climates and cheaper holidays, that they did not like the medicines they get access to through the European Medicines Agency and that they did not like the safe regulation of nuclear materials.
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The hon. Lady is right, although she is playing with words, on the Treasury analysis. It is not that the economy would shrink 10% from the point where it is now; it would shrink 10% from the point where the Treasury projects it would otherwise be. The net effect is that we would be 10% worse off through a no-deal Brexit.
I hear my right hon. Friend’s case and I agree that it is prudent for all Departments to prepare for all possible outcomes. We will continue to engage with business to reduce uncertainty wherever we can. Over the next few weeks and months, our preparations for what is an unwanted contingency will become increasingly visible to him and the country.
As I said, the talks are continuing, and we are seeking to reach agreement on the full text of the withdrawal agreement by October this year, as has been set out many times by both the Commission and the UK Government.
On a point of order, Mr Hanson.
I would not let you down, Mr Hanson. Is it in order for a Minister to decline to take an intervention when she has 25 minutes remaining and she has not addressed many issues that have been discussed, including Northern Ireland and the border?
Thank you, Mr Hanson.
Our country will be free to harness our people’s abilities, talents and genius to develop a new, dynamic and beneficial future for our country. It is eminently possible that we will strike an agreement between the EU and the UK. Let us get on with the job and deliver for the British people.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson. I wish to speak about the many amendments that concern environmental regulation, specifically new clause 27, amendment 104 and new clauses 62 and 63. Like many other speakers, I have received some excellent briefing material from Greener UK, which encapsulates the ambitions of many in the non-governmental organisation community, and I would like to thank it for the enthusiasm with which it has engaged with colleagues on both sides of the House. It has made an excellent effort in seeking to make very clear what it expects. It is clear also that there is a consensus about what we are trying to achieve. There is just a slight disagreement about how exactly to legislate for it.
I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House, irrespective of what they think should be done to the withdrawal Bill, would congratulate the Environment Secretary on the excellent commitments he has made in recent weeks. They have shown very clearly that the ambition for environmental regulation after Brexit is not merely to maintain the status quo, but to take UK environmental regulation further. That is great news.
We also want the environmental principles enshrined in UK law. We debated that point at length the other week, and there was some satisfaction that that was indeed the Environment Secretary’s intent for the Bill he will bring forward. I agree with my near neighbour, the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), that it was a shame that Hansard could not record his nodding during the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), but there is no doubt that those of us in the Chamber clearly saw his acquiescence to the requests being made.
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As I said, the DEFRA consultation on the new enforcement body must be published urgently; I agree with the NGO community on that, and Members on both sides will want to encourage the Environment Secretary to do exactly that. I also agree that our ambition should be that the new Bill to establish this new body, and to make the UK’s environmental ambitions post-Brexit clear, should be passed through Parliament by March 2019. We will all want some reassurance from the Secretary of State in the near future that that is indeed his ambition.
Earlier, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset spoke at much greater length than I intend to on the detail of this, but he is absolutely right that the Environment Secretary is clearly meeting the ambitions of everybody who is contributing to this debate from an environmental perspective. Some might choose to put their fingers in their ears, say it cannot possibly be so and seek to manufacture disagreement where there is none, but the Environment Secretary—in this Chamber, in the press, in the speeches he has been giving to the environmental community, and in his meetings with NGOs, I believe—has been very clear about what he intends to do.
Seeking to amend the Bill simply for the sake of amending it does not add anything to our ambition for stronger environmental regulations post-Brexit. We can be very confident that the Government are leading us in the right direction on environmental regulation. They are going far further than the EU currently does, and that is the key point: we should see current EU regulation merely as the floor for UK environmental regulation post Brexit, not the ceiling. I am confident that the Secretary of State has every intention of doing that.
I rise to speak to amendment 88, tabled in my name and those of my hon. Friends in Plaid Cymru and colleagues from other parties. It would prevent Ministers of the Crown from being able to replace, abolish or modify the functions of EU entities without first laying impact assessments on its effect before both Houses of Parliament. I appreciate that impact assessments are not popular among some Ministers; indeed, the Brexit Secretary made it clear last week that he does not believe in them at all, especially in terms of large-scale changes. It appears that he does not believe in applying a bit of forethought and method; perhaps a wet finger in the wind might suffice, or even the slaughter of white and black cockerels at midnight and the examination of their entrails afterwards. In the interests of clarity, by “impact assessment” I do not mean a sectoral analysis; my definition of impact assessment, as any good dictionary will tell us, is a
“prospective analysis of what the impact of an intervention might be, so as to inform policymaking”.
Beyond the single market and customs union, there are upwards of 45 pan-European agencies that form the basis of our international relations across a range of policy areas. These agencies are intertwined with hundreds of EU programmes designed to progress societal, economic and environmental standards, from ensuring that planes can safely take off and land to the regulation of life-saving medicines.
Clause 7 will allow Ministers to put aside the advances made by our membership of those agencies, regardless of any formal assessment of the impact that action would have on our society, economy and environment. We have already seen the European Medicines Agency abandon the UK and move to Paris, with Amsterdam taking the European Banking Authority, resulting in the loss of over 1,000 jobs. Before being able to replace, abolish or modify any EU entity functions, this place should know exactly how doing so will affect their constituents.
I represent a university constituency, and we have a strong interest in new research and student mobility programmes, and in the agencies through which those programmes operate. For example, Erasmus+ is managed by the Education, Audiovisual and Cultural Executive Agency. There are 2,000 international students in Bangor. Without the participation in the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 scheme, without the continuation of Interreg funding, and without Erasmus+, universities in the UK will lose much of their competitive edge, and my constituency of Arfon will be hit disproportionately hard.
There is a ready-made solution for the Westminster Government as they navigate the labyrinth of Brexit. Norway has negotiated participation in 12 EU programmes and 31 EU agencies. The areas covered include anything from research co-operation and statistics to health and traffic safety. Norway has done this through its membership of the European economic area. It is about time that this Government paid due regard to the impact of their actions in formulating policy, and I therefore urge them to reconsider the issue of EU agencies and the programmes that they facilitate, while they still can.
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It is a great honour to follow the wonderful women from Wealden and Walthamstow in their different speeches this evening. This is not a time to re-argue the referendum debates—they happened last year. This is the time to look forward, not to think about what we have left behind but to think about how we forge new relationships not only with the EU but with its single market and with other parts of the world.
One of the reasons why the Bill and tonight’s discussion is so important is that it is about the way we as legislators intend to act. The rest of the world is watching us, and if we want to have deep, close co-operative relationships with other parts of the world, it is up to us to act in a predictable manner, to be honest and transparent. I am proud that as a Conservative during my time in Brussels I helped the Conservative-led Governments champion the better regulation agenda, which I have mentioned before. It is an agenda that says, “Before you make any changes to law, you consult those who will be affected and you consider the impacts, and you don’t make decisions behind closed doors.” That is why I added my name to amendment 3, as so many different pieces of European legislation would be affected.
The Library mentioned three of those, with one being fisheries, mesh size and fishing nets. Everybody who has been watching “Blue Planet” knows how important protecting our sea is. I am glad that the Library said it would be relatively straightforward to bring that piece of legislation directly into British law. It also talked about the open internet access law, which is fundamental to freedom of speech in a digital age; it deals with whether or not someone’s internet provider can block or throttle content from others. That piece of law will need a number of policy decisions to be made when it is brought from European law into British law.
The Library also mentions the bank capital requirements, which is really boring law—it was five years of my life. It is deeply detailed but really important to our major financial services legislation and will involve policy decisions. So we need to make sure those policy decisions are made in an open and transparent way.
I am very glad that, thanks to the leadership of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), the new sifting process has been put in place, not only under amendment 3, but under amendment 393, which the Government now support. I am also pleased that overnight last night they announced they would support a new European scrutiny instruments committee, which will scrutinise the various changes that need to be made to our law in this transposition and bring in expert guidance. We need the expertise of the Treasury Committee to look at changes to banking law and of the Environmental Audit Committee to look at changes to environmental law, because only in that way will we ensure that these details are properly addressed.
Clause 7 is complicated. It says that the Government will only be allowed to deal with “deficiencies”, but the Bill contains no definition of them. We have heard Ministers tonight say that they will look again at this issue of deficiencies and whether they can give more clarity on that. Where a significant policy decision is being made that affects real stakeholders in the real world, we should have affirmative decisions.
There are also confusing powers in the Standing Order on what powers the statutory instrument committee will have. It says that the committee can turn a negative into an affirmative procedure only where a provision is of the type specified in paragraphs 1(2), 5(2) or 6(2) of schedule 7 of the law. When we read those paragraphs, we see that they are actually very limited. So that committee will need to think very hard about the principles of transparency that it wants to engage in, because it is in all our interests to make sure that when we move on to these new agreements—this new legislation—we give certainty not only to those watching us from overseas, but to the many people and businesses that these legal changes could affect.
New clause 17 relates to clause 12 —[Interruption.]
Clause 12 relates to the financial provisions of Brexit. New clause 17 seeks to clarify that a specific legislative instrument is needed to authorise payment in relation to a withdrawal agreement settlement and that that can be permitted only if approved by a resolution of the House of Commons.
It is important that we do not glide by some of the big aspects of Brexit. It has massive ramifications, one of which is the fabled “divorce bill” as it is sometimes characterised. Some people say that it is simply the settlement of obligations and liabilities, but phase 1 of the discussions, which the Government have agreed with Michel Barnier to conduct before we move on to phase 2 on the framework of future trade relations, has to include a financial settlement. It is therefore important that Members of Parliament understand it, approve it and enter into the arrangement with their eyes wide open.
We are not considering small sums of money. Last week, it was widely reported that the financial deal had been made, but we can never be absolutely sure about such reports. It was also reported that the Prime Minister had a deal with the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU on the Northern Ireland border, and we all know what happened to that in recent days. However, it feels as though Ministers, the European Commission and others have sort of agreed a financial settlement, so last week we tabled an urgent question to press the Government. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury responded to it, but unfortunately she was a bit coy about the divorce bill. We were not allowed to know how much it would be. We were told that it was still part and parcel of the negotiation process, and how dare we ask? We were also told that it was unreasonable of us to intrude on sensitive negotiating arrangements. It seemed peculiar to me that it was all right for the British Government to tell Michel Barnier, Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Commission how much HM Government and British taxpayers were prepared to pay, but somehow Members of Parliament, never mind the British public, were not grown up enough to know the real sum.
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The hon. Gentleman is making an extremely important point. Lots of people who had become really fed up and disaffected with politics and politicians took out their frustrations in the referendum. As the hon. Gentleman has said, many of them genuinely believed that if we left the European Union, there would be more money to be spent on our NHS. He is right: not only will we not have that money, but our economy could begin to retreat—and if we do not get a good deal but fall back on WTO rules, it undoubtedly will—and we will have to put aside, by way of example, £3 billion for Brexit, money that could have gone to the NHS. So my question to the hon. Gentleman is this—
May I just ask this question? Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that there are many forms in which that disaffection may be manifested as we see our NHS actually—
The right hon. Lady was making an incredibly important point, Mr Hanson. It is not just a question of the divorce bill—the financial settlement—and it is not just a question of the billions to be set aside for Brexit preparations. The bigger issue that the right hon. Lady was raising is what will happen in a dynamic economy if our trade opportunities shrink, and if obstacles and tariffs are put in the way. This is not just our assessment, or opinion. The Chancellor himself published a table in his Red Book which showed what he and the Office for Budget Responsibility expected to happen to tax receipts over the next few years. He anticipates that by 2021 tax receipts will have fallen by not just £10 billion or £15 billion, but by £20 billion. That is £20 billion less revenue for the Exchequer to spend on the vital public services we want. This is a triple whammy, therefore, in terms of the costs of Brexit, and it is a surprise to many members of the public, who were told precisely the opposite.
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In the same way that public opinion changed from 1973 to the present—
I will take your instruction, Mr Hanson, but I think that the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) knows where I stand on that point.
I was hoping to hear some clarity from Labour’s Front Bench tonight, instead of more confusion. I was hoping to hear some key arguments about why the Opposition are putting forward some of these amendments to deal with the consequences of the divorce bill. I wanted to hear them deal with who should pay, with freedom of movement and with the single market. I wanted a hard and fast line, but I am afraid that we heard even more confusion.
We have had a diet of this confusion for some time. The right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) said that we must leave the single market and respect the referendum result. The hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Tom Watson) said that we should stay in the single market and the customs union permanently. The hon. Members for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth) and for Darlington (Jenny Chapman) said on another occasion that we have to leave the single market. The right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) said that we should keep freedom of movement. The right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), the Leader of the Opposition, and the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), the shadow Brexit Secretary, have said that freedom of movement ends with Brexit.
We really need more clarity from the Labour party. If it is going to try to persuade us on these key issues, it needs a single position. At least the Government, for all the problems that have been pointed out, have a single position. I think that would be a good starting point.
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I am grateful for your comments, Mr Hanson. You are right I have not been present in this particular debate for the whole time, but I have been in many of the debates and this is the first time I have stood up to speak on the issue. I shall not detain the Committee for very long.
Following on from the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (Dr Williams), of course people in every democracy have the right to change their minds. The correct way to do that is through the same means by which the referendum came about in the first place: a political party should say in its general election manifesto that it wants a referendum, win that election and hold another referendum. The Lib Dems tried that at the most recent election; admittedly, they gained seats, but they lost votes. That is the way to do it, not by calling on the most immediate opinion poll.
Opinion polls change. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South and other Members may be interested in a poll taken by Lord Ashcroft the day after the referendum. He surveyed all those people who had voted for Brexit and found that 94% of them had not voted for it on economic grounds, so a lot of the arguments about economics do not apply to the people who voted to leave.
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This Bill, first and foremost, is about exiting the European Union successfully, with certainty, continuity and control, as the right hon. Gentleman will know. I draw his attention to schedule 2(7), which makes it very clear that in the event that a provision imposed a fee or charge, or conferred a power to sub-delegate, it would go to the affirmative procedure and this House would have the opportunity to vote on it.
I turn to amendment 339 on sub-delegation. It is right that this House keeps strict control over all financial matters, but this Bill is about ensuring continuity. I remind the Committee that this power is available only if the public authority is taking on a new—[Interruption.]
Thank you, Mr Hanson.
The power is available only if the public authority is taking on a new function under this Bill, and the fees and charges must be in connection with that function. The amendment would force Ministers to exercise this power on behalf of public authorities, such as the Financial Conduct Authority, which this House has made statutorily independent from Ministers. The Government believe that it is right that where Parliament has already granted the power to set up rules within these independent regulators, fees and charges of the type envisaged by this power should continue to be exercised by those public authorities. For good reasons, they have been made independent of Government, and Parliament should have the option to maintain that status quo. I stress that the terms on which any public authority would be able to raise fees and other charges will be set in the statutory instrument that delegates the power to them; and that, as I said, any such delegation would trigger the affirmative procedure, ensuring that this House considers and approves any delegation of the power and how it would be exercised.
Amendment 340 on cost recovery has the disadvantage that it would prohibit what I hope Labour Members would consider to be progressive principles of ensuring a spreading of the burden of regulation. It also might not allow regulators to cover the cost of enforcement.
Clause 12 and schedule 4 are about delivering a successful EU exit with certainty, continuity and control. Clause 12 is not about enabling the payment of any negotiated financial settlement, and neither is schedule 4 about subverting the normal process of raising taxation. The amendments muddy the waters of what these provisions are for. These provisions are simply about ensuring that the financial aspects of taking back control and preparing to take a fully independent position on the world stage are put on a sound and proper footing.
I can say two things. First, let me deal with the premise of the hon. Lady’s question. We are in a position in which the European Council will come to a conclusion in the middle of December—I think that it meets on 13 and 14 December. I have said at this Dispatch Box today, while she was listening, that we will undertake the negotiation as fast as possible thereafter. How much more urgent we can be, I do not know.
I have answered questions on that issue in previous question sessions and I have been very clear that it is our intention to seek agreement with the European Union on mutual recognition of protected names of origin, and we will continue to work on its delivery with colleagues at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as we enter the future partnership negotiations.