All 10 James Duddridge debates involving the Department for Exiting the European Union

Thu 9th Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Commons Chamber

3rd reading: House of Commons & 3rd reading & 3rd reading: House of Commons & 3rd reading
Mon 7th Oct 2019
Tue 1st Oct 2019
Mon 18th Mar 2019

Oral Answers to Questions

James Duddridge Excerpts
Thursday 9th January 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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10. Whether the UK will be required to comply with (a) EU law and (b) rulings of the European Court of Justice after the UK leaves the EU.

James Duddridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (James Duddridge)
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I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Lia Nici) on her election as the first Conservative MP for Great Grimsby since 1945—fantastic!

The withdrawal agreement ensures that the current role of the European Union institutions, including the European Court of Justice, and the obligation to comply with European Union law as it is now end with the implementation period on 31 December 2020. There are limited exceptions, such as citizens’ rights, to give businesses and individuals certainty. The agreement enables a relationship between sovereign equals.

Lia Nici Portrait Lia Nici
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I thank the Minister for his response. Does he agree that coastal areas such as my Great Grimsby constituency voted particularly to ensure that we take back control of our fishing laws, and that it is essential, following Brexit, that laws governing fishing are decided here in the UK?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I agree with my hon. Friend. I recognise the importance of this issue as I, too, represent a coastal constituency. As we leave the EU, we will be an independent coastal state and we will introduce our own independent fisheries policy. We will be able to control access to and management of our waters. That presents opportunities for the UK fishing industry, and the Government are determined to make the most of such opportunities for the people of Grimsby and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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On 30 January, I shall be holding a public meeting to explain the terms of the withdrawal agreement. When I held my last meeting relating to the previous withdrawal agreement, concern was raised about the European Court’s ability to determine issues that arise. Will my hon. Friend confirm that, under articles 167 to 181 of the new withdrawal agreement, while the Court can have matters referred to it, it cannot actually determine, because we will now have an arbitration panel, over which the UK will have a large degree of control?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I can confirm that the withdrawal agreement establishes an arbitration panel as part of the standard mechanism for settling disputes between the UK and the EU. After 31 December, the Court of Justice of the European Union will no longer be the final arbiter of disputes under the disputes resolution mechanism. I look forward to an invite to my hon. Friend’s event.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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I thank the Minister for his assurances on the ECJ. People in Heywood and Middleton voted to leave the European Union by a quite significant margin. Does he agree that the critical reason for that was a wish to take back control of our laws to this place and not to be dictated to by Brussels?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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It is wonderful to see my hon. Friend in the Chamber—he is not the first Conservative MP for his constituency since 1945, but the first ever Conservative MP for Heywood and Middleton. This Government have prioritised negotiating a deal that disentangles us from the European Union’s legal order and does indeed take back control of our laws.

Kieran Mullan Portrait Dr Kieran Mullan (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con)
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7. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on the effect on the NHS of the UK leaving the EU.

James Duddridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (James Duddridge)
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I congratulate my hon. Friend on his election. His experience as an A&E doctor will, I am sure, pay dividends here. I promised my office that I would make no jokes about his scrubbing up well as a new Member of Parliament.

Ministers from the Department for Exiting the European Union continue to hold regular discussions with Health and Social Care Ministers. The NHS is, of course, of the utmost importance to the Government. As was outlined in the Queen’s Speech, the national health service’s multi-year funding settlement, which was agreed earlier this year, will be enshrined in law for the first time ever.

Kieran Mullan Portrait Dr Mullan
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I thank the Minister for that response. I know that my constituents in Crewe and Nantwich are delighted to see the deadlock broken and the good progress that we are making toward delivering Brexit responsibly by the end of the month. Does he agree that significant measures have rightly been taken to ensure the continued flow of medicines after Brexit, and that the NHS will continue to be a fantastic place for EU citizens to work in years to come?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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The Government are moving forward on the implementation of the withdrawal agreement, and we are confident that the deal will be ratified on 31 January. Under the terms of the agreement, we will enter the implementation period following 31 January, during which medical supplies will continue to flow as they do today. My hon. Friend makes a good point about EU nationals working in the health service. Since the referendum, almost 7,300 more European nationals have been working in NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups, which should be welcomed.

Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP)
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During the election, the Prime Minister promised 50,000 extra nurses. Given a one-third increase in EU nurses leaving the UK, does the Minister accept that the Prime Minister must ditch his anti-immigrant rhetoric, and that there must be improvements to the settlement scheme so that EU citizens feel both welcome and secure in the UK?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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There have been improvements in tier 2 visas and 700 more EU doctors have come on board. The hon. Lady talks about the manifesto and 50,000 more nurses. We will do more on the nurse bursary scheme, as was promised during the general election.

Philippa Whitford Portrait Dr Whitford
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My German GP husband, who has been looking after patients for over 30 years, was quite offended by the Prime Minister criticising EU citizens treating this “as their own country”.

There has been a lot of concern about the possible increase in drug prices for the NHS under a US trade deal, but what estimate has been made of the increased bureaucratic customs costs for the 37 million packets of drugs that come from the EU every month?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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The hon. Lady talks about bureaucracy, but one of the reasons why we want to take back control is to reduce that bureaucracy. We will be in control of our own destiny to manage the very issues that she highlights.

Brendan Clarke-Smith Portrait Brendan Clarke-Smith (Bassetlaw) (Con)
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Will my hon. Friend confirm that the NHS will receive far more than £350 million a week in additional funding as the UK leaves the EU, including in my home constituency of Bassetlaw?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I welcome my hon. Friend to the House and can certainly confirm that.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
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8. What discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the level of fees payable by EU citizens who are the spouse of a UK national and continue to reside in the UK after the UK leaves the EU.

James Duddridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (James Duddridge)
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The Secretary of State regularly discusses the rights of EU citizens with the Home Secretary and other Cabinet colleagues. To protect the right to reside, EU citizens who are resident at the end of the implementation period must apply for settled status by June 2021. This is a free-of-charge process, and we have already received well over 2.6 million applications to the scheme.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne
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I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, and obviously I am delighted by the progress that the settlement scheme is making in encouraging EU citizens who are here to remain. In common with many colleagues in the House, I spent a number of days in the last few weeks knocking on doors and talking to my constituents. One of the people I came across was an EU citizen—an Italian who was married to a British lady and had lived here for over 50 years, working all the time and paying his taxes. He wanted to become a British citizen, but is faced with an application fee of £1,700. Does my hon. Friend think that that is fair? Is there something that we can do to encourage people who have lived here for a long time to become British citizens?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I am more than happy to meet my right hon. Friend to talk about the specifics of that case and the EU settlement scheme. Yesterday the Minister for immigration talked about why that issue would not be covered by the withdrawal agreement Bill, but I am more than happy to chat to my right hon. Friend about that individual case.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP)
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Does the Minister have even the tiniest twinge of conscience at the sheer immorality of demanding that somebody pay an extortionate sum simply to be allowed to continue to live in their own home?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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The settlement scheme is free.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
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To what extent is the Government’s EU settlement scheme in this country being replicated by the EU27, including with reference to fees and charges?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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My hon. Friend makes a good point. The Prime Minister made a big, bold offer for EU citizens, and we urge member states to do the same.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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Will the Minister further outline whether he intends to level the fees between European partners and Commonwealth partners such as Canada to ensure that there is a level playing field for immigration? Is he aware that that would reduce the fees paid by Commonwealth spouses?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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Such issues are for the Home Office, but an advantage of taking back control is that we can look at our relationships with other parts of the world, particularly the Commonwealth, which makes up a third of the world by population.

Joy Morrissey Portrait Joy Morrissey (Beaconsfield) (Con)
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Can my hon. Friend assure EU citizens in Beaconsfield that there is no charge for applying for settled status?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I thank the right hon.—[Interruption.] Sorry, my hon. Friend—the title does not go with the constituency. I do not know her well, but she is already a great improvement, and I agree fully.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
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9. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on protecting the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after the UK leaves the EU.

--- Later in debate ---
Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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T3. In beautiful Hastings and Rye, we have two ancient fishing communities, one of which is the under-10 metre beach-launch fleet, which is, by its very nature, environmentally and ecologically responsive and sustainable. It is vital that this ancient fishing tradition be given room and opportunity to flourish. Can the Secretary of State confirm that specific attention will be given to our under-10 metre boats, so that they are given more autonomy and flexibility in a post-Brexit Britain?

James Duddridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (James Duddridge)
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May I take the opportunity to say that I have the utmost respect for the previous Member for Beaconsfield? I was simply trying to say that as a Government Minister, I found the particular line of questioning raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey) much more helpful to respond to. I hope that the House will take that as an apology to the previous Member for Beaconsfield.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart) on her question, and on her election to the House. I can confirm that we will pay special attention to the 10-metre fleet; it is an issue that I am aware of, as a coastal MP; in Southend, we have some under-10 metre boats. I also confirm that as we leave the EU and become an independent coastal state, the Government will develop a domestic fisheries policy that promotes that fleet, which is profitable and diverse, and uses traditional practices to protect stocks and our precious marine environment.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
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T7. For many decades, our creative industries and particularly our performing arts have been a major export of the UK. Will the Minister explain what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport about the impacts of Brexit—a hard no-deal Brexit, in particular—on the movement of our performing arts between here and Europe?

--- Later in debate ---
Damien Moore Portrait Damien Moore (Southport) (Con)
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T5. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the UK will remain an open, dynamic and welcoming place for EU citizens to study in our world-class universities, and that Britain continues to lead the way with the internationally recognised quality of our higher education?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I thank my hon. Friend for that question. The Government are clear that they wish to continue to attract students from the EU and the rest of the world to study here in the UK. The UK’s higher education institutions have long-established traditions of attracting the brightest minds at all stages of their education and research careers, as we saw yesterday with the alumna of the London School of Economics. This being our last oral questions, I thank civil servants for their support. I particularly thank my private office and Cara Phillips. They have been wonderful.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op)
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The Secretary of State knows that Airbus contributes billions of pounds in taxation, employs tens of thousands of people and wants business continuity after a short transition period. Will he give an undertaking today that the European Union Aviation Safety Agency will continue as is—rather than us inventing new, bespoke regulatory systems for the sake of divergence—so that Airbus can plan ahead, invest and continue to make its contribution to our economy?

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

James Duddridge Excerpts
3rd reading: House of Commons & 3rd reading
Thursday 9th January 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Notices of Amendments as at 2 January 2020 - (3 Jan 2020)
James Duddridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (James Duddridge)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This Bill will implement in UK law the withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, ensuring that the United Kingdom departs from the European Union with a deal at the end of this month. We are delivering on our promise to the British people. It was a pleasure to spend yesterday afternoon in Committee of the whole House, and I would like to pay tribute to Members across the House for the contributions they have made throughout the debates and the constructive spirit, particularly more recently, in which everyone has engaged. I have no doubt that today’s proceedings will be of a similar calibre, and the Secretary of State, who is in his place, and I are very much looking forward to today.

I would like to thank the Public Bill Office for its support to all Members and officials across Government, not just at the Department for Exiting the European Union, for their hard work in ensuring the delivery of this Bill and for supporting Ministers throughout, many of whom have contributed behind the scenes rather than at the Dispatch Box. I would also like to thank the three knights of the realm who stood in as Deputy Speakers in Committee and Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition.

This Bill is essential in preparing our country for leaving the European Union and will ensure that the deal that has been reached can be implemented. It also ensures that we can protect the rights of citizens who have made their lives here, that there is no hard border on the island of Ireland and that we take back control of our money and our laws. The Bill will shortly move to another place, with its substantive stages beginning on Monday, and I know that the House will be watching its progress with great interest.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
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I notice that today, the President of the European Commission is reported as saying that it will be virtually impossible to conclude a trade deal within a year. Given that we start off with exactly the same regulations and tariffs, I am mystified as to what the problem is. What does the Minister think the problem is, given that we are going to protect workers’ rights? Unless they want to shackle us forever with business rules, what is the problem?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I have seen that report, but from my discussions with the Secretary of State, that does not reflect the tone of the meeting with the Prime Minister. There is a political declaration and an interest to move forward and sort this within 11 months.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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The Minister mentioned the fact that the Bill will be going to the other place and the much more positive atmosphere that has applied in this place. Does he believe that that sends a message to the other place as to how they should conduct themselves, and does he have any reservations about the fact that the unrepresentative make-up of the other place, in respect of the over-representation of remain forces, might derail the hitherto smooth progress of this excellent Bill?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention. Just as we will be watching the House of Lords carefully next week, they have been watching us carefully during the Bill’s passage. They will have listened to the change in tone and seen the majorities by which votes were won, and I am sure that they will reflect on that in their deliberations, doing a proper job of scrutiny as part of the whole democratic process. Mr Speaker—sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker—

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
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Will the Minister give way?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I will give way, because it will give me an opportunity to get the sex of Madam Deputy Speaker right the second time.

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Perkins
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The Minister might have said in his answer to the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) that if he thinks the other place is unrepresentative, there is a way that we could deal with that and ensure that they are elected by the people, like we are.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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We do like elections on this side of the House at the moment, but I am not going to be drawn into reform of the House of Lords, which is slightly out of scope of the withdrawal agreement Bill.

Madam Deputy Speaker, this is an historic milestone—leaving the European Union with a deal on 31 January. It will soon be upon us, and I am delighted that we can then move on to other national priorities and help the country come together. I commend this Bill to the House.

European Union (Withdrawal) Acts

James Duddridge Excerpts
Wednesday 8th January 2020

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Duddridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (James Duddridge)
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I beg to move,

That this House approves, for the purposes of section 2(2)(a) of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019, the report made by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union under section 2(1) of that Act, published on 8 November 2019 titled “Report under section 2(1) of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No.2) Act 2019”.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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With this we may take the following motion:

That this House, for the purposes of section 13(6)(a) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, has considered the statement made by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union under section 13(4) of that Act on 8 November 2019 titled “Statement under section 13(4) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018”.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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In a bid to improve my popularity, Mr Speaker, I will be very brief, and, following speeches from the Front Benchers and a few others, we should be able to conclude the debate quickly.

The Government were required by law to table these motions, which relate to a report and statement published by the Government on 8 November 2019. Last October, Parliament failed to approve the revised deal negotiated by the Prime Minister. That triggered a requirement for the Government to seek an extension of the article 50 period to 31 January, which in turn triggered reporting requirements under section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and section 2 of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. The statement outlined how the Government proposed to proceed in the light of the House of Commons vote in October. A report for the purposes of section 2 was also published, explaining what progress had been made in negotiations on the UK’s relationship with the EU. Both are available on gov.uk, and are also in the Vote Office.

Let me add, for the benefit of Members who have not read the documents, that they make it clear that the Government have no further plans to change the terms of the withdrawal agreement regarding our exit on 31 January. The reason is quite simple: we will be leaving the European Union with the Prime Minister’s deal at the end of this month.

Withdrawal Agreement: Proposed Changes

James Duddridge Excerpts
Monday 7th October 2019

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

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

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab)
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(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union if he will make a statement on when the Government intend to publish the full legal text of their proposed changes to the withdrawal agreement and political declaration.

James Duddridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (James Duddridge)
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We are unconditionally committed to finding a solution for the north-south border that protects the Belfast/Good Friday agreement and the commitments that can best be met if we explore solutions other than the backstop. The backstop risks weakening the delicate balance embodied in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement between both main traditions in Northern Ireland, grounded in agreement, consent and respect for minority rights. Any deal for Brexit on 31 October must avoid the whole UK, or just Northern Ireland, being trapped in an arrangement without consent in which it is a rule taker. Both sides have always been clear that the arrangements for the border must recognise the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland and, reflecting that, be creative and flexible. Under no circumstances will the United Kingdom place infrastructure checks or controls at the border.

On Wednesday 2 October, the Government proposed a new protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. These were serious and realistic proposals that reflect the core aims put forward by both the UK and the EU. These proposals are consistent with the Belfast/Good Friday agreement and deliver our aim of avoiding any checks or infrastructure at the border. The proposals were set out in detail in an explanatory note and in a letter to the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. The Prime Minister deposited both documents in the Library on Wednesday 2 October and published them in parallel on gov.uk. To support these negotiations, a draft legal text was also shared with the Commission on a confidential basis. The Prime Minister’s Europe adviser, David Frost, and UK officials have been in intensive discussions with the Commission for some time now and will continue to meet their counterparts from taskforce 50 for further technical talks this week. These meetings will cover our proposals on the protocol and the political declaration to reflect the goal of a comprehensive free trade agreement.

The previous withdrawal agreement and political declaration would have trapped the United Kingdom within European regulation and customs arrangements. The Prime Minister is continuing talks with the EU leaders today, including the Prime Minister of Sweden, the Prime Minister of Denmark and the Prime Minister of Poland. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union is also travelling to EU capitals, including visiting Amsterdam and Valletta over the course of this week. Discussions with the Commission are ongoing and thus sensitive, and we must ensure that we as a Government act in a way that maximises our chance of success in these negotiations. We will of course keep the House informed as the discussions continue. The legal text that we have shared with the Commission will only be published when doing so will assist the negotiations.

We hope that those in Brussels will decide to work with us over the upcoming days. If they do, we will leave with a new deal. If they do not want to talk, we are prepared to leave without a deal. We need to get a new deal or a deal, but no more delays. We must get Brexit done so that the country can move forward and focus on other issues, such as the cost of living, the NHS and other domestic priorities.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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Thank you for granting this urgent question, Mr Speaker. The Government have presented the EU with a 44-page legal text, a seven-page memorandum and a four-page letter. In this House, we have seen the memorandum and the letter, but not the full legal text. Frankly, that is not good enough, because without the full legal text, we are being asked to guess at the detail of the Government’s proposals, or, worse, we are being asked to take the Prime Minister’s word on it. We do not want a summary. We do not want the Prime Minister’s interpretation of the text. We need to see the full legal text. And it matters, because there appears to be what the Taoiseach has called a “contradiction”—his word—between what the Prime Minister tells the House and the words of the legal text.

Last week, in response to a question from the right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green), the Prime Minister said that “the proposals we”—that is, the Government—

“are putting forward do not involve physical infrastructure at or near the border or indeed at any other place.”—[Official Report, 3 October 2019; Vol. 664, c. 1389.]

I noted the words used by the Minister just now, and I hope he can clarify this. The contradiction the Taoiseach appears to be highlighting is that the legal text may say something different on that very issue, and the Minister will know just how important that is.

Can the Minister now clear the issue up at the Dispatch Box? Does the full legal text bear out the Prime Minister’s assertion to the House that his proposals do not entail physical infrastructure at the border, near the border or in any other place? That is what he said, and that is what prompted the Taoiseach to say that the full text should be published. That goes to the heart of the only defence the Minister has put forward—that of confidentiality.

Both the Taoiseach and the President of the EU Commission have called for the legal text to be published. That shoots through the confidentiality argument. They want us to see the text so that we can properly debate and scrutinise what the Government are putting forward. The only party insisting on secrecy are the UK Government, so the question is obvious: what are the Government hiding?

Then there is the question of a level playing field. As the House knows, no Labour MP could support a deal that strips away or undermines workers’ rights, environmental protections or consumer rights, yet that is the very—[Interruption.] I hear the claims that it does not. If it does not, the Government should publish the text and assure the House. Before I first came to the House, and since I have been in the House, I have dealt with summaries and interpretations of texts, and I have seen texts, and there are differences between the full text and somebody’s summary or interpretation. If it is clear that the text does not undermine workplace rights, environmental rights and consumer rights, the Government should publish it and assure the House. What is being hidden? Will the Minister agree now to do the right thing and publish the full legal text forthwith?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for those comments. Last week, I was able to tell the House that proposals would be tabled to the EU by the end of the week. Not only were we able to table those proposals, but we were able to publish them and share them with the House. It is the Government’s intention to share as much as possible, but at a time that is right, and not at a time when getting a good negotiation through takes precedence.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about the Prime Minister’s position in relation to his assertion that there would be no checks at the border, near the border or at any other place. I have not seen the Taoiseach’s exact comments, but I can confirm that the position that the Prime Minister stated is still correct today and is the Government’s position, and I see no reason why that is going to change.

In relation to level playing fields, we are not hiding anything. We do not wish to undermine workers’ rights. We will keep those workers’ rights. Truth will tell over time, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman sees the results of the negotiation. He wants a deal, and I want a deal. The Government genuinely do not think that sharing the full text now will make doing a deal more likely.

David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con)
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I welcome my hon. Friend the Minister’s statement in response to the urgent question, and we all hope for no further delays on the Brexit negotiation. Is he aware that business groups across the country want certainty, to allow them to plan for the future? What discussions has he had with them to reassure them?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
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I thank my right hon. Friend for that question. Clearly, he has been talking to business groups in his constituency. Businesses certainly do want certainty, and whether it is meetings with business groups in England, Northern Ireland or Wales, everyone wants to get Brexit done. The last thing they want is more delay. We have had delay and delay and delay, and the answer to delay cannot be more delay.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP)
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I congratulate the Minister on managing not once but twice to include all this week’s Brexit buzzwords in such a short but, I am sorry to say, not particularly informative answer.

The Government have made public only their version of a seven-page explanatory document based on a full 44-page legal text. Last week, a number of Government loyalists criticised Opposition Members for saying we were likely to oppose the Prime Minister’s plan before we had read it properly. They then went ahead and committed themselves to supporting it before they had read it properly—they cannot have seen it or read it properly, because nobody has seen it yet.

It is simply not acceptable for us to be asked to commit to support something based on the Prime Minister’s version of what it says, because none of us can trust what he tells us. Last week, he twice gave us a promise from the Dispatch Box—once to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) and once to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady)—that the Government are going to restore full control of Scotland’s fishing to the people of Scotland. If only that were true.

The Taoiseach told us that the Prime Minister’s version of what is in the 44-page confidential document was not accurate. The Prime Minister told us last week that there would be no checks on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but even the seven-page summary tells us that that was not true.

Does the Minister not accept that if he is to have any hope of Parliament agreeing to the withdrawal agreement, he must trust Parliament and allow us to see the full agreement now, not at the last minute when there is no time to read 44 pages of detail? When will the document be published? When can we expect to be asked to vote on the deal? How much notice will we have regarding the detailed legal text? Going back to the question that is still being dodged, does the Prime Minister’s proposal mean that there will be additional infrastructure anywhere in relation to the Irish border? If so, where will it be?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

The legal text will come forward at the right time. The hon. Gentleman is critical of Tory Members for supporting the Prime Minister before seeing all the detail, but I would not be critical. Indeed, I suggest that my hon. Friends should always support the Prime Minister as a matter of default. I understand that SNP Members will be more sceptical, but they will have all the information in front of them before they are asked to vote. However, we will not provide the legal text if it gets in the way of the negotiations and the deal, which I think the hon. Gentleman would want.

Sarah Newton Portrait Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Government approach the final stages of the negotiations to get the necessary changes to the backstop, is it not the case that if the EU believes that this House will not support the Government’s deal, it is less likely that a deal will be achieved? We have heard people say, month after month, that they want the Government to negotiate a deal, so I say to Opposition Members who, like me, want a deal that now is the moment to speak up and support the Government in getting that deal.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. Now is the time for a deal, but the way that the House has behaved has made a deal less likely and made it more likely that we will have no deal. However, it is not too late. The Government are reaching out across the Chamber to our friends on the other side, saying, “Join us in supporting a deal. It is the right thing for the country.”

Jo Swinson Portrait Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Earlier this year, the Government said that if we left the EU with a deal, we would keep our world-leading standards and rights on food, quality, employment and environmental protections. That commitment was pretty flimsy then, but people now fear that it has been ditched in desperation, and the Government will not even publish the text. The public have a right to know whether the Prime Minister is prepared to sacrifice the quality of food on supermarket shelves, the rights of workers to take holiday and our children’s right to breathe clean air.

--- Later in debate ---
James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

We are supposed to be temperate in our language, but, quite frankly, that is a load of rubbish. That is not our intention, and if our constituents are worried and scared as a result of what the Liberal Democrats say, that is a terrible thing; it simply is not true.

Andrew Percy Portrait Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I said from this spot a few weeks ago that it did not matter what the Government brought back, because there are Members in here representing leave seats who will always find a reason to vote against what the Government bring forward, because their real aim is to stop us leaving. Is it not the ultimate irony that the people who are giving the biggest croggy to a no-deal Brexit are the very people who repeatedly stand up and tell us that we have to vote for compromise but then vote against any compromise—any deal—that is put on the table?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is right. That is a particular problem with the Liberal Democrats who, for perfectly respectable reasons, do not want a no-deal exit but who will not back a deal. It makes sense for us all to get behind a deal, which is better than no deal. That is what the Government want to do, and we reach out to all Members to support a deal.

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

Something does not quite add up on there being no physical infrastructure at any other place, which is probably one reason why the Government’s proposals are currently not acceptable to the European Union. The Prime Minister told the BBC last week that

“there will have to be a system, for customs checks away from the border.”

The explanatory note says that such checks will

“take place at traders’ premises or other designated locations… Goods moved under either mechanism would be under customs supervision by one or other customs authority from the point at which they are declared for export until they are cleared by customs in the territory of import for free circulation”.

Can the Minister name any jurisdiction in the world where there are customs checks but no customs infrastructure?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

The Government are looking for a tailored solution. Of all the trade between the UK and Northern Ireland, only 1% of goods cross the border. As well as trusted trader schemes, goods could be examined by authorities at commercial sites run by hauliers and freight forwarding companies. That is already provided for under existing transit rules, under which logistics services are commonly approved as authorised consignees for these very purposes. It already happens.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Were any of the frightful diminution of rights mentioned by the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) to occur, it would clearly require primary legislation by this Parliament, wouldn’t it?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

Yes. We would not propose it; I would not support it; and I do not think my right hon. Friend would support it. Perhaps the Liberal Democrats can say whether they would support it.

Mary Creagh Portrait Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We know the Prime Minister thinks that preparation is just for girly swots, but at least the last Prime Minister gave us a 90-page White Paper on her proposals and we got to see them at the same time as the European partners. Here we are, 11 days before the summit, and we have this pathetic rag—four pages—and an explanatory note. It would be comical if the Good Friday agreement and the promises contained therein did not rest on this. Can the Minister explain the magic thinking by which we have a border down the Irish sea and a border on the island of Ireland without border posts?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I acknowledge, as I think the whole House would, that we are working to a compressed timescale compared with the previous negotiations, but those negotiations were not successful. Following the same tack in our negotiating strategy and expecting a different result would be foolish. It is time for a change of tack in the negotiations, which I welcome.

Victoria Prentis Portrait Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As a member of the “MPs for a Deal” group, it would make my life easier if we were to include environmental and workers’ protections, as requested by many Opposition Members, but does the Minister agree that the right place for those protections is probably in the political declaration?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for her work with the “MPs for a Deal” group, which brings together MPs from across a number of political parties. I welcome her introduction of the political declaration, as getting that right will set the tone going forward from 1 November, after we have left on 31 October, and will form the basis of the future economic partnership and the first-in-class free trade agreement that most hon. Members want.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for his response to our questions, and I wish him well in his job. Can he confirm that there is no intention to change the original position that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will take back control of our seas and our fisheries, enabling our fishing sector to grow and create jobs, and that we, the citizens of this great nation, will be in charge and in control?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I can give the hon. Gentleman that confirmation, but I encourage him to discuss the detail with my colleagues at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. If that is not to his satisfaction, I will be happy to talk to him about fishing rights or impact at the same time.

Rachel Maclean Portrait Rachel Maclean (Redditch) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is the agenda of Members from the Opposition parties to overturn the referendum result, put a stop to Brexit and revoke article 50? Will he confirm that this Government and this Prime Minister will not let that happen?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

With great sadness, I can confirm that I fear that some Members on the Opposition Benches and in this House simply do not want to follow the mandate of the British people. They do not want to exit and they will use every trick and turn in the book to frustrate it. That is not to say that there are not some genuine concerns, and I recognise those, but she is right: some people, having offered the referendum to the electorate, do not like the result and are trying to interfere and overturn the democratic will of the public.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can the Minister confirm whether the full legal text has been shown to the Democratic Unionist party? If it has, why is it reasonable for one party to be able to make an informed judgment about the Government’s proposals while everyone else is kept in the dark?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I am not going to get into the detail of—[Interruption.] Opposition Members who have been Ministers will realise that lots of people see documents, and Ministers do not constantly want to be in the position of saying who has seen what documents, which versions and when. I will not comment on who has seen which documents or indeed on documents that I have seen or have not seen.

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I love the way that Opposition parties are implying that if only they could see these documents, they would rush to support the deal. I think the British public are now wise to the way in which Parliament has frustrated the Government’s negotiating position. Would it be possible for the Government to strengthen their negotiating hand by holding a vote on these proposals, in the way that we did on the Brady amendment in January, and show that there is a majority in this place for them?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I think members of the public are getting wise to what is going on: this Government are trying to deliver Brexit and this Parliament, collectively, is trying to frustrate it. My hon. Friend raises the interesting solution of putting this to a vote, and I will discuss that with my ministerial colleagues.

Angela Eagle Portrait Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Has the Minister seen the documents?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I have already said that I will not comment on which documents I have and have not seen, or which versions I have and have not seen. This is a document that we are negotiating on. It makes sense to look at that document, negotiate on that document and come back to the House with a final document. This House does not want a blow-by-blow account; it wants to deliver a deal.

Richard Drax Portrait Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As has been said by honourable colleagues on the Government Benches, it is a well-known fact, and the public are not fooled, that most MPs in this place—in all positions in this place—do not want to leave the EU. That is a dishonourable stance to take, after the EU referendum. Will my hon. Friend reassure the public and us that we will honour this referendum and leave the EU, with or without a deal, on 31 October?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I can reassure the people of Dorset and the United Kingdom that we will be leaving on 31 October. Our preference is to do so with a deal, but we are very much ready to leave with no deal.

Anna Soubry Portrait Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (IGC)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sure, Mr Speaker, that you may not have heard the use of the word “dishonourable” to describe those of us who think that our great country has made a mistake and are doing nothing more than speaking out with the freedom that I thought was at the heart of our democracy. I would have hoped that the hon. Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) might have withdrawn his comments. In any event, it is very odd that we are all being asked to support a deal, the details of which we know very little of, unless of course our name is Arlene Foster. We want to know the details of these customs arrangements, and of the structures and infrastructure, because of the position in other countries, notably Norway and Sweden. Sweden is a member of the single market and the customs union, and Norway is in the single market but not the customs union, and they have a hard border. May we therefore have these unicorn details please?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I must say that although I am reaching out across the Floor, I have given up on reaching out to the right hon. Lady. There are many Opposition Members and there is still hope for people who will support a plan, but I suspect that under no circumstances will she support a plan, regardless of what we produce and what it says.

John Bercow Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That may well be true but I hope that the right hon. Lady, who is not too delicate a flower, can bear the almost unendurable pain of the criticism of the Minister with such stoicism and fortitude as she feels able, in the circumstances, to muster.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last week, the Leader of the Opposition said that no self-respecting Labour MP could vote for the proposals, yet we are now being pressed on a confidential document, the production of which would undermine yet again our negotiating position. Does the Minister agree that to reveal the documents would make no deal more likely?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for asking that question. No deal is indeed made more likely by the House not supporting the Government’s position. As for the Leader of the Opposition, I think that MPs and the public are coming around to the idea that he is flip-flopping on these issues left, right and centre, and want a general election so that they can re-elect a Government with a strong Conservative majority.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A few days ago, I asked the Minister whether the term “infrastructure” included cameras. He was not quite sure at the time; now that he has had a few days to go away and look it up, will he give us an answer?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I do not think I said that I was not quite sure. I think I used the words, “It would have been something that was considered,” but that the House should not read anything into that in any way. I think that is what I said, virtually verbatim, and that remains the position.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I wonder whether the Minister could help the House. Opposition Members say that they are not supporting a deal because they are worried about workers’ rights, yet if we had a deal, it would be this House that would decide on workers’ rights, and if they were ever in government, they could do whatever they liked. Can we conclude only that the Opposition do not think they will ever be in government?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I think everyone in the House believes in higher protections for workers’ rights and maintaining and expanding them over time. My hon. Friend makes an interesting point about the Opposition’s level of confidence: not only are they not confident that they will be in government to improve workers’ rights, but they do not seem to be confident that they will even win a general election. They are running scared of going back to the people because they know that they are trying to overturn the will of the people who wanted Brexit.

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

Paragraph 13 of the memo issued last week confirms that even if the European Union agrees to the proposals, and even if Parliament then agrees them, they would not come into force for more than a year, unless they had also been endorsed by the Northern Ireland Executive, which has not met for several years. Will the Minister confirm that if the Northern Ireland Executive continues to fail to meet, the proposals automatically fall away after 12 months?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

The right hon. Gentleman is right: we are in a constrained period and we are trying to do an unprecedented amount of work. Even separate to the problem of which he speaks directly, there are already many hurdles to get over, but we will work together with all our partners to re-form Stormont—that is our priority in relation to Northern Ireland—so that we can get this deal through.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the most recent general election, more Chelmsford constituents emailed me about the environment and animal welfare than about all other issues put together. I am enormously proud of the way in which the Government are leading the world on protecting the environment and on endangered species. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Lib Dem’s suggestion that this deal, which is to resolve the issues on the Irish border, could somehow be used to undermine our standards on the environment, animal welfare or workers’ rights is pure scaremongering and totally irresponsible?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. We will maintain environmental and animal welfare standards. I know that she works tirelessly to improve those standards, both in Chelmsford and with Back Benchers. I remember many a campaign that she has led in her time in the House of Commons, particularly on environmental issues, recycling, and changing behaviours and perceptions. I thank her for that work, and there is nothing in this process that means that we are going to go back on any of those commitments. In fact, the Government are committed to going further, as she has demanded.

Sarah Wollaston Portrait Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is almost as if members of the Government have been taking lessons dancing around slippery poles this afternoon. Essentially, we do not have a credible deal, because there are no customs borders anywhere in the world without some form of physical infrastructure. We have a Government who are still insisting that they will obey law, but only those parts that it chooses to obey. Will the Minister at least confirm that the Government will comply with the spirit and the provisions of the Benn Act in full?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

In answer to the latter question, yes. When it comes to slippery poles, the thing that is slippery is introducing a ten-minute rule Bill to say that if hon. Members, for whatever reason, cross the Floor of the House and leave their party they should stand in a by-election, then not doing that when she crosses the Floor of the House. That is slippery.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend the Minister had a strong outing on this subject on 26 September—a date that I happen to remember. Today, I noticed a subtle difference in his wording, as he talked about our leaving with a deal or being “prepared” to leave without a deal on 31 October. Will he confirm not only that we are prepared to leave without a deal on 31 October but that we will actually leave without a deal on 31 October, unless we have deal?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank my right hon. Friend, and confirm that nothing has changed since his birthday—I think that that was what he was referring to. Apologies for not congratulating him at the time. My language was not nuanced in any way. We will be leaving on 31 October with a deal or without a deal.

John Bercow Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If I were charitable, I would say that the right hon. Gentleman turned 58 on 26 September, but I am afraid that I must not mislead the House. [Interruption.] I call Chris Bryant.

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

May I ask about the political declaration, which is of as much concern to many of us as other elements of the withdrawal agreement? The former Prime Minister was quite right to say that if there is no deal, there is no deal on security. All the elements of security are shunted forward into the political declaration. I wonder where we are with extradition, because since the original version of the political declaration was signed, four major European countries have said that they will not on any terms extradite their nationals to the UK if we are no longer members of the European Union. Will that not pose a significant problem for us if we want people to face justice in this country?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that. Obviously, the broader case is that the convention of the ’50s on extradition will come into play. There is a problem with four or five countries, and we are having discussions with them. They are quite significant difficulties, as they concern constitutional arrangements, but there are other arrangements that are not entirely satisfactory to try people in their home country that can be used if we do not secure a workaround. It is not ideal, but there are workarounds, and we are progressing them.

Bim Afolami Portrait Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister update the House on the volume of trade that would be subject to special customs arrangements that have attracted so much heat and light in discussions? Will he confirm that with good political will on both sides problems can be resolved?

--- Later in debate ---
James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. People said that it was impossible that negotiations would reopen, but negotiations did effectively reopen after the Prime Minister spoke to President Macron and Chancellor Merkel, so I am optimistic. I am optimistic because negotiations are ongoing now: David Frost is in Brussels as we speak; my Secretary of State is travelling around, whipping up support and enthusiasm from other member states; and I understand that at around the time we are speaking—if not as we are speaking—the Prime Minister is on the phone to other Prime Ministers to whip up enthusiasm for the deal and avoid no deal. If only there were that much enthusiasm on the Opposition Benches.

Liz Saville Roberts Portrait Liz Saville Roberts (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With respect, who do the Government think they are kidding? The reaction from the EU to the Prime Minister’s proposal is courteous but critical, and it is abundantly evident that no agreement will be reached on his terms. We ask only of the Prime Minister that he is straight with people and their Parliament, and acknowledges this. Can the Minister therefore guarantee that the Prime Minister will not hold a meaningless vote before the European Council meeting?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

To paraphrase a famous quotation: well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? EU representatives are negotiating. When we put papers in front of them, they are not going to say, “Gosh, this is wonderful. Thank you very much for making all these compromises. Let’s accept that wholeheartedly and send you back to celebrate.” They are bound to probe and see how far the Prime Minister is going to go. We have already compromised significantly; this is a good solution in which the UK Government have made a number of compromises. It is now time for the EU Commission and member states to say that they are up for compromising as well.

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my hon. Friend share my frustration with the attitude of the Opposition parties, particularly the Scottish National party, who seem more intent on sowing discord and division in our United Kingdom than acting in the national interest? If they really were working for the economy and peoples of our country, they would get behind the Government and support us as we try to get a deal to leave the EU in good order on 31 October.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for speaking up for Scotland in this Parliament, and for focusing on the nitty-gritty of the economy. No deal will not be as good as a deal for the whole United Kingdom, including Scotland, so he is right to ask colleagues on both sides of the House—including Scottish National party Members and other Scottish Members—to back a deal.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister may not be aware of this, but until about half an hour ago I had no idea who he was. From his answers today, I wonder how he can be so deeply unpleasant to so many colleagues on the Opposition Benches. The fact is that today he has said that it is not loyal or legitimate to stand up for our constituents when we are asking questions about what is contained in the deal. Some of us would vote for a good deal if we could see it—if we did not live in a secret society and a secret state. Will he wake up to the fact that there is a lot of good will in this House for a deal, if we could actually see it?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I am flabbergasted that the hon. Gentleman says he does not know who I am, because previously when I was at the Dispatch Box he asked me whether I knew about Huddersfield, and afterwards he thanked me for not mentioning that I was a comprehensive schoolboy who went to school in Huddersfield and he is the Member of Parliament for Huddersfield who was privately educated in the south of England.

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid (Banff and Buchan) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my hon. Friend agree that at least some SNP Members are simply attempting to undermine the progress that has already been made and that this Government are attempting to make towards a deal? Does he find it as worrying as I do that, when challenged on passing on the Brexit preparation funding to local authorities in Scotland, the First Minister said:

“We should not be having to spend a single penny on Brexit preparations”?

Is that not taking a political view of Brexit preparations, rather than looking at what is good for the economy of Scotland?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for speaking up for Scotland. He raises a very important point about fund distribution, and while some of these things are in the purview of the Cabinet Office, I am happy to have a discussion with him about how we can improve the situation.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

Alex Sobel Portrait Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are here on 7 October. The Government’s plan was for Parliament to be prorogued and not return until 14 October. Under the original plan, we would have had no scrutiny at all of the withdrawal agreement and very little time when we returned. Is that not the case, Minister?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

If Parliament had not been in Session, I would have been helping to negotiate with member states, and perhaps we would have collectively, having spent more time doing that, got a deal.

Robert Goodwill Portrait Mr Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Much nonsense has been spouted about the impracticalities of dealing with consignments when they reach their destination, rather than when they cross the border. Is it not the case that Britain’s biggest port by value operates on that basis already? Goods inbound to Heathrow airport do not stop at the border or near the border; they arrive at Heathrow and are dealt with there. Indeed, if the Minister were to visit the UPS hubs at East Midlands airport or in Cologne or Louisville, Kentucky, he would see tens of thousands of parcels crossing borders, with the duties, tariffs and VAT being dealt with in parallel with those goods travelling.

--- Later in debate ---
James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

My right hon. Friend served in the Department for Transport and knows these issues incredibly well. I look forward to talking to him in more detail about East Midlands airport and UPS, particularly because Southend airport is doing a little bit of transit of goods with Amazon. He is right that these things can happen without intricate checks.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

Lady Hermon Portrait Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister will be well aware that the withdrawal agreement we already have says that it protects the Belfast/Good Friday agreement “in all its dimensions”—those are the precise words. The withdrawal agreement also protects the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the principle of consent. I would like the Minister to take a few moments to explain in detail to the people of Northern Ireland in particular how the Prime Minister’s new proposals guarantee those essential features of the withdrawal agreement.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

The reason why they are an improvement on the backstop is that the backstop could have left Northern Ireland linked to the EU in perpetuity without any consent. This consent mechanism is a massive improvement. I thank the hon. Lady for the discussions we have had. I think she wants to have another discussion with me after this, and I am more than happy to do that.

Michael Tomlinson Portrait Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister was asked whether the Government are committed to publishing the details, but would that question not carry more weight if those on the Labour Front Bench had not already closed their minds? Within minutes of the deal being proposed last week, they said it was not good enough. Sadly, too many minds on the Opposition Benches—with honourable exceptions—are already closed. Is it not time to just get on with it?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

It is certainly time to get on with it. I think that there are a significant number of Opposition Members who have more open minds than those on the Labour Front Bench, and we look forward to working with them over the coming days and weeks.

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

One reason why we need to see the legal texts is that there is every chance that this Government are planning to throw food and environmental standards under the bus for the sake of securing a dodgy trade deal with President Trump. Forgive us if we do not find the Minister’s reassurances very reassuring. We would like to see the full legal texts. While he is at it, could he have a word with the Prime Minister to make sure that the Trade Bill comes back in the Queen’s Speech, so that we have a chance at least of ensuring that planetary health comes before the interests of US trade lobbyists?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

We will continue food and environmental standards. I have made that clear, and I will pass on the hon. Lady’s comments to the Prime Minister with pleasure.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In Michel Barnier’s speech in October last year, he said that a hard border in Northern Ireland needed to be avoided; that customs checks would be required, but they could happen using existing customs transit procedures; and that regulatory checks would need to increase, but they could continue to happen in the Irish sea. Does that not sound remarkably like the Prime Minister’s deal? Is it not time for the EU to negotiate in good faith, so that Members across the House can vote for this deal and we can leave on 31 October?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for that information, and I had not quite linked the two together. Perhaps we should call it not the Prime Minister’s proposal, but the Barnier solution.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It has been interesting to watch the Minister’s position morph from “We are prepared to leave without a deal” to “We will be leaving without a deal” in the course of this afternoon. Is he aware that in Edinburgh at lunchtime today, the Court of Session accepted from the Prime Minister “unequivocal assurances” that he would comply with the Benn Act? Is the Minister now departing from that promise made by the Prime Minister to the Scottish courts?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

Just to be clear, we will leave on the 31st and we are prepared to leave on the 31st—that adds information, rather than detracts—and we will abide by the Court decision.

Jo Stevens Portrait Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This morning, a Cabinet source was quoted as saying that the reason the Prime Minister is removing the level playing field protections on consumer, workers’ and environmental rights is that the Government know they would

“seriously restrict our ability to deregulate and do trade with other countries.”

That is the real aim of the Government’s Brexit proposals, is it not—to deregulate our economy and cut back rights?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

No, it is not.

Jack Dromey Portrait Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have to say that the world of work wants a deal to be done, but the Minister’s contempt for Parliament today makes it less likely that a deal could ever be arrived at. Serious questions have got to be answered seriously. May I ask the Minister about this specific point, as someone, like many in this House, who fought for decades for peace in Northern Ireland and would never, ever put that at risk? The Prime Minister talks in his letter about the

“very small number of physical checks needed”,

including at

“other points on the supply chain.”

I asked the Prime Minister last week:

“Where are they, and what are they?” —[Official Report, 3 October 2019; Vol. 664, c. 1409.]

He was unable to answer. Can the Minister?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I have tried to be as open as I can within the remit of trying to get a good negotiation. On the record, in response to an earlier question, I went through the trusted trader scheme and where checks could take place.

Tom Brake Portrait Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can the Minister confirm whether he has seen the most recent legal document and read it, and say whether it confirms when a data adequacy agreement between the UK and the EU will be agreed? Without one—whether it is deal or no deal—very little is likely to be crossing any border.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I see all the papers I need to, but I will not go through them, on a paper by paper basis, saying which version I have seen and when I have seen it. I simply will not do that; it is not helpful to the Government process.

Ruth George Portrait Ruth George (High Peak) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If the Minister is so convinced that this is a good deal, whether or not he has seen the paperwork, why will the Government not put that deal straight to the British people?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

Because they have already voted for Brexit.

Paul Sweeney Portrait Mr Paul Sweeney (Glasgow North East) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I raised with the Prime Minister on Thursday the concerns of the Irish Deputy Prime Minister, Simon Coveney, about the nature of the democratic issue in Northern Ireland, where a minority could potentially hold a veto over the wishes of the majority. The Prime Minister assured me that he would seek discussions with the Irish Deputy Prime Minister, so can the Minister update me on whether those discussions have taken place—or when they are scheduled—and what the outcome of them might be?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I heard the hon. Gentleman in the questions to the Prime Minister. I have not discussed this issue with the Prime Minister since then, so unfortunately I cannot update him, but I am happy to do so in correspondence.

Mike Gapes Portrait Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (IGC)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last year, The Economist reported from the Norway-Sweden border—at Svinesund—and said:

“Even with the latest technology being outside the customs union entails a hard border”.

There is automatic number plate recognition, and there are lorry parks and the confiscation of alcohol. How can we have anything but that if the Government proposals come forward?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman refers to one border. There are many borders around the world. Technologies can be used to avoid a hard border, and this Government are committed to having no hard border.

Chris Elmore Portrait Chris Elmore (Ogmore) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Do the Government stand by the December 2017 joint report, in which the UK is committed to the avoidance of

“any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls”

in Northern Ireland?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

Yes, entirely.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Are the proposals for the Northern Ireland border the Government’s vision of the perpetual future relationship on the border, or are they actually another form of backstop until some glorious new customs relationship is reached between the whole of the UK and the European Union?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

There will be the point of exit on 31 October; a future economic partnership and a final relationship; and the consent point for the Northern Ireland Assembly to review the issue. So there are many junctures in the future where things can change.

Karin Smyth Portrait Karin Smyth (Bristol South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Have the Government sought and received advice on the compatibility of their proposals with strands 2 and 3 of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

As a matter of course, the Government do not share the legal advice they receive, nor do they confirm or deny whether they have sought legal advice. That is standard practice not related to this specific issue, but more generally.

Jim Fitzpatrick Portrait Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As someone who supported Prime Minister May’s deal and wants to support a deal as opposed to no deal, and further to the answer to the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon), may I ask the Minister to reassure me that strenuous efforts are being made in Northern Ireland to recover the support for a deal that seems to have been lost since the DUP changed sides and supported a deal?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

Work is going on in Northern Ireland at a number of levels. I have been involved more at a business level, looking at the detail of the arrangements. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been involved on a more political level, as have a number of members of the Cabinet. This is obviously the big issue remaining: the Northern Ireland-Ireland border within the withdrawal agreement. All of the Government are working towards solving that. I am more than happy to discuss this issue with the hon. Gentleman in more detail, because I know he has a high level of expertise on it. I personally very much respect his position, and his thoughtful comments on this issue and many others.

Ged Killen Portrait Ged Killen (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister wrongly says that the backstop threatens power sharing. The Government’s solution is to hand a veto to one side, undermining strand 2 of the Good Friday agreement. What assessment has been made of the economic harm all this uncertainty presents for the promotion of business and investment in Northern Ireland?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

The whole idea of Brexit is to reposition the economy not only of Northern Ireland but of the whole United Kingdom around the growth areas of the world. That is not to say that we are turning our back on our European friends, whose trade is very important, but global growth in the longer term is with the rest of the world. It positions Northern Ireland alongside the UK in a much better place for long-term economic growth.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby (Lewisham East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government’s proposal makes it clear that the UK will not be in a customs union, there will not be a close single market alignment and there will be even less protection for rights than the May deal offered. Given that, how do the Government expect the proposals to win cross-party support in this House?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I think the Government expect cross-party support because there are a number of colleagues who have behaved very reasonably. I am afraid I did not hear who the hon. Lady was quoting at the beginning of her question, but I am more than happy to talk to her about that later on. Apologies, but I did not hear the beginning of her question.

Martin Whitfield Portrait Martin Whitfield (East Lothian) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Are cameras on the border infrastructure?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

To be frank, I was not being careful with my terminology. If the hon. Gentleman is asking, “Is there no infrastructure?”, there is no infrastructure. In relation to cameras, I saw cameras in Northern Ireland on the main road. I do not think it would be tenable to have cameras all along the border. They would simply be ripped down and be targets for terrorists to attack. I think he has successfully stretched my desire not to comment in any more detail. Certainly, he has done so effectively.

General Affairs Council

James Duddridge Excerpts
Thursday 3rd October 2019

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Written Statements
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
James Duddridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (James Duddridge)
- Hansard - -

The UK did not attend the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Brussels on 16 September 2019.

The UK Government have decided that from 1 September until exit day, UK Ministers and officials will only attend EU meetings where the UK has a significant national interest in the outcome of the discussions.

[HCWS1847]

Irish Border: Customs Arrangements

James Duddridge Excerpts
Tuesday 1st October 2019

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

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

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

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union if he will make a statement on the Government’s proposals for checks and customs arrangements on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to replace the current backstop.

James Duddridge Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (James Duddridge)
- Hansard - -

We are committed to finding a solution to the north-south border that protects the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. We can best meet those commitments if we explore solutions other than the backstop. The backstop risks weakening the delicate balance embodied in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, which was grounded in agreement, consent and respect for minorities. Removing control of the commercial and economic life of Northern Ireland to an external body over which the people of Northern Ireland have no control risks undermining that balance. Any deal on Brexit on 31 October must avoid the whole or just part—that is, Northern Ireland—being trapped in an arrangement where it is a rule taker.

The Government intend to set out more detail on our position on an alternative to the backstop in the coming days. In the meantime, I assure the House that under no circumstance will the UK place infrastructure, checks or controls at the border. Both sides have always been clear that the arrangements for the border must recognise the unique circumstance of the island of Ireland and, reflecting that, be creative and flexible.

The Prime Minister’s European Union sherpa, David Frost, is leading a cross-Government team in these detailed negotiations with taskforce 50. We have shared in written form a series of confidential technical non-papers, which reflect the ideas the United Kingdom has been putting forward. Those papers are not the Government setting out their formal position. These meetings and our sharing of confidential technical non-papers show that we are serious about getting a deal—one that must involve the removal of the backstop.

Hilary Benn Portrait Hilary Benn
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, but we are not much the wiser. Today, there are no border posts or checks on goods crossing the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and the backstop is there to ensure that remains the case after Brexit. That is what the joint declaration of December 2017 committed to. The Government’s position now, however, is that the reality of Brexit will require customs checks on the island of Ireland. That is the inexorable logic of the Prime Minister’s statement this morning that a

“sovereign united country must have a single customs territory.”

Whatever proposals have in fact been put to the EU taskforce, the Tánaiste, Simon Coveney, has described them as a “non-starter”, an Irish Government spokesman says the taskforce has indicated that the UK’s non-papers

“fall well short of the agreed aims and objectives of the backstop”,

and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has told the BBC that

“it’s not possible to put anything like a customs facility in Newry, Fermanagh or many other locations away from the border”.

I have the following questions to put to the Minister. Are the Government proposing customs clearance sites or zones anywhere in Northern Ireland? Does the Minister understand the risks that any such sites would create for the peace brought by the Good Friday agreement, and have the Government taken legal advice on the compatibility of their proposals with that agreement? Do the Government’s proposals comply with section 10(2)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which rules out regulations that

“create or facilitate border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after exit day which feature physical infrastructure, including border posts, or checks and controls, that did not exist before exit day”?

Are the Government proposing to track lorries cleared at any such sites using GPS? How can an alternative to the backstop be built on systems and technology that are not currently in place? Finally, when exactly will the Government share with this House and with the people of Northern Ireland their proposals for a replacement to the backstop? I ask because it is unacceptable for us to be kept in the dark about what is being proposed in our name on such an important matter.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

There were eight or nine questions there, and I will try to cover them all, but if I do not, perhaps we will pick them up in questions. I think it is completely reasonable that the Government can use non-papers to have those technical discussions. The Government are seeking to have a good discussion with the Commission, rather than disguising anything. The previous Government shared more, and actually it led to proposals being rubbished before they were properly worked through. These technical papers are not even our final proposals to the Commission—they are very much working documents—but we will be giving proposals to the Commission shortly.

Clearly, the Government will want to comply with subsection (2)(b). The right hon. Gentleman asked about legal advice. I think he will understand that I am not going to get into whether legal advice has been taken, or what legal advice has been given; for normal reasons, those things are not shared with the House. He asked about the impact of physical checks. There is no intention to have physical checks at the border. I am not choosing my words carefully there; there are no plans to do that, I can reassure him. Perhaps he was thinking about some of the reports in the Northern Ireland press suggesting there might be checks near the border. That is not the intention. Those reports simply are incorrect. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to GPS and technology. I am afraid I cannot get into the detail of the proposals at that level now, because they are subject to ongoing negotiations and discussions at the Commission.

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In his discussions with businesses, is the Minister finding the same as I am, which is that the real challenge businesses are facing is the prolonged uncertainty of kicking the can down the road? Of course, all businesses would rather leave with a deal, but when faced with the choice of leaving at the end of October with no deal or prolonging the agony for many months to come, businesses simply want this done and for us to leave at the end of October.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for that, and he makes a very good point. The British public do want us to get on with this, and the best way we can get a deal is continuing serious discussions, through use of these technical papers, with the EU and coming forward with more concrete proposals shortly.

Tony Lloyd Portrait Tony Lloyd (Rochdale) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let us return to the question of the Irish border, because it matters. The Good Friday agreement was a guarantor that we had moved beyond the period of conflict. What we are risking now is not only a dangerous time in the history of this country, but our relationships across the island of Ireland and the world. We are 70 days into the premiership of Prime Minister Johnson and there are 30 days until the Brexit date. It is now time that the House had clarity from this Minister or from other Ministers about what the Government intend to do to deliver on the Irish border.

Everybody in the House knows that the backstop was there to guarantee that there would be no hard border across the island of Ireland. That is fundamental to delivering on the Good Friday agreement. We all know that while the European Union has said that it is prepared to negotiate around the words of the backstop, it is not prepared to compromise on the spirit of it—that Northern Ireland should be part of the customs union and the single market regulatory standards of the European Union. When the Prime Minister says that “the reality” of Brexit is that there will need to be customs checks on the island of Ireland, it is in stark contrast to the words of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland this morning that there would be no checks five or 10 miles into Ireland. That would be in breach of the joint declaration of 2017, and importantly, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) pointed out, would be in breach of section 10 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which made it clear that any arrangements for Northern Ireland after exit day that featured border posts or customs controls would not be acceptable.

The Minister has to come clean to the House about what the future holds for us. The Good Friday agreement is far too important for us to put it at risk by fooling around. If this were just farce, we might all laugh at the high-wire tricks of the Prime Minister, but this is dangerous. It puts the Good Friday agreement and its hard-won gains in jeopardy. It is not just Northern Ireland and Ireland that deserve better, as the Irish Foreign Minister said, but this House and the whole country. The Minister has got to do better.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I agree with the hon. Gentleman: the Good Friday/ Belfast agreement is essential. Where we differ is on where we feel conflicts may be brought about on that agreement. He feels they will be brought about by removing the backstop; I think there is a greater risk of leaving the backstop there and ending up in a situation in which Northern Ireland is part of the customs union in perpetuity and takes a different direction. I think that is the greater risk, and I remind him that the alternative arrangements are not a solution to the backstop. The alternative arrangements would always have to be there. What we are doing is putting a date on when we will get that sorted out, rather than leaving an indefinite period.

Justine Greening Portrait Justine Greening (Putney) (Ind)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The country is facing no deal precisely because the Government have not published a Brexit plan, yet. The key protagonists who sold Britain Brexit are now in charge, and all we are asking is for them to get on with it and tell us what the plan is to deliver what they promised. Back in April 2016, the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—now Secretary of State for the Environment—said:

“There is no reason why we have to change the border arrangements in the event of a Brexit”.

Clearly, what is being discussed now is something very different from what voters were told during the referendum campaign. The House is simply asking what the plan is to deliver what was promised. I do not understand why the Government will not just get on with it and tell us what their plan is.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

The Government are actively getting on with it, and that is what the negotiations are about. I would gently say that revealing the detail of our negotiating position—the technical papers and emerging proposals—would actually deliver what the right hon. Lady and I do not want. We do not want no deal: we want a deal—

Justine Greening Portrait Justine Greening
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

You’ve given it to them!

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

To be clear, we have given technical non-papers. We will give the proposal to the Commission shortly.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The future of peace and normality on the island of Ireland will critically depend on the actions of the Prime Minister over the next few weeks, and I for one am deeply concerned that he shows every sign of not understanding or not caring, or both, about the potential implications of the course that he is following.

What discussions have the Government had with the Government of our co-guarantors of the peace process, the Government of Ireland, before lodging this non-plan? What discussions did the Government have with the political parties that represent a significant majority opinion in Northern Ireland before lodging this non-plan? Is the Minister even mildly concerned that the director of the CBI in Northern Ireland has said that the proposals suggest that the

“U.K. govt doesn’t take NI’s economy or peace process seriously”?

Does that comment cause any concern to the Government?

Through various Ministers at the Dispatch Box, the Government have sworn blind that they are negotiating hard for a better deal, but the Minister let the cat out of the bag—there is not even a detailed proposal on which to negotiate. Will the Government now own up to the fact that there is no detailed proposal, there have been no proper negotiations and the Government’s strategy is to look for a no-deal Brexit while blaming everyone but themselves for the problem?

Will the Minister unequivocally repeat the comments of the previous Prime Minister that there will be no customs controls at the border or anywhere else, as required by the Good Friday agreement? Given that this Prime Minister has unilaterally reneged on a promise that he personally signed up to as Foreign Secretary in December 2017, is it any wonder that this side of the House, the other side—increasingly—and an increasing number of Governments in the European Union are coming to the conclusion that he simply cannot be trusted?

--- Later in debate ---
James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

Northern Ireland is key to the Government and the Prime Minister. In fact, it is the principal discussion point with the Commission. The Prime Minister has said that we want to get rid of the backstop and this is “the most important thing”. Far from Northern Ireland being on the side as part of the negotiations, it is at the centre of them.

The hon. Gentleman asks about discussions: clearly, extensive discussions have been had with the Irish Government and other entities in Northern Ireland. He says that I have let the cat out of the bag by saying there are no proposals: there are technical papers in the non-papers, and the final proposal will come shortly. It is very much actively being discussed with the Commission on a daily basis. He asked me to confirm on behalf of the Government that there will be no customs control at the border, and I am happy to say that that remains unchanged.

Andrew Griffiths Portrait Andrew Griffiths (Burton) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister confirm that it is the Government’s position that they want to leave with a deal if possible? Will he also confirm that should the European Commission and European leaders decide not to accept the proposals, the Government will leave with no deal? My constituents voted 63% to leave. They have been waiting three years for Brexit. Will the Minister tell the Prime Minister that they are behind him and to make sure that we get on and deliver Brexit on 31 October?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend and his constituents who overwhelmingly supported Brexit. I can confirm that plan A is to get a deal, and that is what we are working towards and why there is so much focus on the proposal that will come shortly. It makes no sense to share the detail of the negotiation with the House if it makes getting a deal done less likely. Collectively, the House wants a deal and the strategy that we are taking forward makes it more likely that we get a deal while being fully prepared for no deal.

Gregory Campbell Portrait Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As a Member who lives in the non-customs zone that has not been discussed, and given that we will, I hope, get definitive proposals in the next few days, can the Minister at least draw a little comfort among the negativity that has pervaded the EU that they are no longer talking about no reopening of the withdrawal agreement, that it is sacrosanct and there is no possibility of ever going back to it? At least now there is a glimmer of light.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question because it gives me the opportunity to say how things have changed. There was a time when Michel Barnier was saying, “No more negotiations”, and that he did not have a mandate to negotiate on issues that are important in Northern Ireland and across the United Kingdom. Now the Prime Minister’s sherpa is regularly in Brussels and there are regular discussions at prime ministerial level and between the Secretary of State and Michel Barnier.

Stephen McPartland Portrait Stephen McPartland (Stevenage) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Many people speak on behalf of the communities affected in Northern Ireland, but what have the Government done to speak directly to those communities on what ideas they have for alternative arrangements that would be acceptable to them?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

Specifically on alternative arrangements, there is an architecture that supports these discussions. There is a technical-level group, which is chaired by the Secretary of State, and which includes industry experts, and there is also a business consultative group working towards alternative arrangements under a deal that will come after exit day.

Tony Lloyd Portrait Tony Lloyd
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

You don’t believe that.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman says he does not believe it. I chaired the group last time, along with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. There is constructive agreement and frank discussion within that group, and that happens outside the consultative group forum as well—I have set up several bilateral meetings with businesses since.

Angela Eagle Portrait Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Section 10(2)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, on the Irish border, says there can be no hard border that undermines the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which enacted the Good Friday agreement. It also makes illegal an agreement that creates or facilitates border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic that feature physical infrastructure that was not there before. Can the Minister explain how on earth what we learned overnight is compatible with the law?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I am unclear what the hon. Lady means by “what we learned overnight”. If she means the press report on RTÉ in Ireland, I can tell her that it simply is not true. I can categorically say to her that there are no plans and never have been any plans for any physical checks. This is not a right to reply, but I will be more than happy to take that up with her in more detail, in relation to the Act and more generally, particularly when everything else has come out in the wash.

Craig Mackinlay Portrait Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister agree that this whole Northern Ireland-Republic border issue is confected nonsense designed to derail Brexit? Has he considered the Jameson lorry that goes from the south to the north and the Bushmills lorry that goes from the north to the south—different currencies, different excise duties and different tax rates? These are trusted traders. They are trusted now and will be in the future. Does he consider that the current VAT system of Intrastat returns and quarterly accounting could form the basis upon which a proper border arrangement can be easily made?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

There are different people in this Chamber: some have a legitimate desire for Brexit not to happen; equally, some Members have genuine concerns and recognise the legitimate decision of the general public and the need to get on with Brexit. It is unhelpful to conflate the two. My hon. Friend refers to a specific solution. There are many solutions being considered that were in the non-papers, but I do not want to comment on those until the proposal is formally made to the Commission.

Tom Brake Portrait Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On the “Today” programme this morning, the Prime Minister said that he would like to “veil” the Government’s proposals on the Irish border in “decent obscurity”? Can the Minister explain how individuals and businesses are supposed to prepare for Brexit if it is veiled in decent obscurity? For clarification, could he say how much he expects these proposals will cost small and medium-sized enterprises in Northern Ireland and how many of those businesses he expects to fail as a result of the Government’s proposals? Will he finally admit that there is no version of Brexit that works for Northern Ireland?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

The point of the business consultative group that met in Belfast a few weeks ago was to share ideas in confidence so that the UK Government could develop their position and feed that into the consultative papers, so there is structurally a process in place to involve businesses. Under the terms of reference, that is purely to look at deal relationships. In many ways, deal and no deal could be similar in terms of the crossover of systems that could be used, but those discussions are very much ongoing.

Paul Masterton Portrait Paul Masterton (East Renfrewshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Given that we cannot know what is needed to make the Irish border work until we have sketched the outline of our future relationship, and regardless of the shortcomings of the backstop, is not this fixation on trying to find an alternative permanent solution to the border now a complete waste of time, energy, money and, ultimately, political capital?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

We need to find a solution to the border issue, and the original withdrawal agreement gives us extra time beyond exit date to do so. We are trying to bring forward those issues, work on them closely now and get more of the work done before a deal and exit day in order to avoid ending up in a long-term and complicated situation that causes problems in Northern Ireland, for the integrity of the UK and for our relationship with the EU.

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

I want to take the Minister back to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) about the Government’s obligations to obey the law and abide by legislation passed by the House. Section 10 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 says that Ministers must

“have due regard to the joint report from the negotiators…during phase 1”—

in December 2017—and that nothing in the Act

“authorises regulations which…create or facilitate border arrangements…which feature physical infrastructure, including border posts, or checks and controls, that did not exist before exit day”.

He has told us to discount reports from RTÉ overnight that suggest that the Government were planning infrastructure a few miles from the border. Would he regard such physical infrastructure a few miles back from the border as incompatible with the legislation this House has passed?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I am tempted to give a simple answer to a straight question, but, because it relies on detail, I will write to the right hon. Gentleman and confirm what I think is the bleeding obvious. Given what he says, it seems to me that there is an obvious answer—[Hon. Members: “Give it!”] I have said I will give him a good answer and make sure it is proper in relation to that Act.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The British Government are not going to build a hard border in Northern Ireland, the Irish Government say they will not allow a hard border in Northern Ireland, and the EU cannot build a hard border in Northern Ireland, so who is going to build this hard border?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend eloquently makes a point. We have said that we will not put a border in place, the Irish do not want to put a border in place, and the EU do not want to put one in place along the north-south line.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland told BBC Radio Ulster this morning:

“I’m clear that we can’t have customs facilities in the places mentioned in the reports”

overnight, but Parliament needs to know; we need clarity. The people deserve to know what the Government’s plans are. Can the Minister tell us who is speaking for the Government on these matters—the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will my hon. Friend, with his customary good grace, take this opportunity at the Dispatch Box to confirm the seriousness with which the Government are seeking to respect the Good Friday agreement, in contrast to the unworthy characterisation by the Labour Front Bench that this is part of some great big game? Secondly, can he alert the House to whether there are existing procedures in the north and south of Ireland by which companies import and export to countries outside the EU using existing customs clearances and checks?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

The answer to the second part of my right hon. Friend’s question is that there are established systems that can also be used.

The issue of Northern Ireland is incredibly important. It is central to the delivery of a deal on Brexit. One of the first things that I asked to be able to do was visit the border. It is sometimes difficult to get down to the border: there is a certain resistance to allowing Ministers out of Whitehall, or, if they do get into Northern Ireland, allowing them out of Belfast. However, I went down to Newry and insisted—although I think that some people were not too keen—on visiting the border and criss-crossing and talking to people about the issues. I think that that is the responsible thing to do, to understand the problems at least broadly, so that we can develop solutions as much as possible.

Hywel Williams Portrait Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A significant proportion of the exports of the Northern Ireland food industry, particularly ready meals, goes through the Republic, through Holyhead and then on to the UK home market. What assessment has the Minister made of the effects of Government policy on the border—whatever that is—on the viability of the Northern Ireland food trade, on the supply for the home market, and, critically for me, on the economic prospects of Holyhead?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

We are prioritising free flow across the border rather than customs revenue in the case of no deal, but we want as much free flow as possible in either scenario. There is detailed thinking on the ports at a thematic level, and also specific thinking port by port.

Charlie Elphicke Portrait Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Ind)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Minister will know, in a deal or a no-deal Brexit, the use of the transit convention will mean that there will be no need for any infrastructure checks or controls at the Dover border. Could that not be applied to Northern Ireland as well? May I also ask whether the Minister agrees that all that the House really needs to know is what discussions Members of the House who are not members of the Government have been having with the European Union?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for all his work on the short straits. I understand that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has visited both the Dover and the Calais sites, and I thank my hon. Friend for the support that he has been giving to the Cabinet Office, particularly in looking at no deal. I think that Dover was ahead of the game; other ports can learn from that, and have indeed done so, as has the Department.

As for my hon. Friend’s second question, I do not really want to get into the weeds when it comes to how people took advice on other Bills in the House. I will limit myself to the nature of the question asked by the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn).

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

Does the Minister accept that any new infrastructure or surveillance at or near the border carries serious risks? The Northern Ireland journalist Dearbhail McDonald has said:

“It’s hard to explain to those who have not lived through a conflict that claimed more than 3,500 lives, in a region with a smaller population than most large UK cities, how the border permeated every aspect of our lives.”

Should the Government spend a bit more time talking to those communities?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

As I have said, I went to the border. It does not take long to feel the pain, the fear and the uncertainty. That is part of daily life, separate from Brexit in many ways, and I take it incredibly seriously. I discussed it while I was there, and reflected on it throughout the day and subsequently.

May I add, on a more light-hearted note, that the hon. Lady has still not taken me up on the kind offer that I made when responding to my last urgent question? I look forward to having a cup of tea with her.

Luke Graham Portrait Luke Graham (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

During my time in the Cabinet Office, some colleagues and I produced a paper based on customs collaboration, which meant using existing ports and airports and enabling EU and UK customs officials to work together in undertaking checks to ensure that there was no border infrastructure. It also involved leveraging existing VAT and cross-border accounting systems, again to ensure that there was no requirement for a border. Can my hon. Friend give us any more details of the current proposals, and tell us whether they run along similar lines?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for all the work that he is doing. There are themes in which I have seen him very much engaged. I am not sure that I have seen the specific paper that he has mentioned, but I would welcome a briefing from him—with officials—so that it can be fed into the Government’s thinking.

Lady Hermon Portrait Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Ministers regularly refer to their commitment to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. Even the Prime Minister trots out the words that he is “committed to the Belfast/Good Friday agreement”, but I wonder whether he has any idea of what that actually means. It means the Prime Minister standing up and defending the agreement, not only in his words but in his actions. Will the Minister take the opportunity to rule out the suggestion, contained in a UK Government document, that there will be a string of border posts, not at the border but some miles from it? That would represent a physical infrastructure, which this Government must know is contrary to both the spirit and the letter of the Good Friday agreement. Will the Minister accept and confirm that?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

Obviously I recognise the importance of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. As for the specific terminology “a string of border posts” being in a Government document, I have certainly not seen it. I can say to the hon. Lady that I do not think it is in any Government documents, and that I can refute the contents of the RTÉ article. If she wants to pick out bits of the article, or any document that she thinks it refers to, I shall be more than happy to look at them, but that is not Government policy, that is not what we are doing, that is not the intent, and as far as I am aware, the report is incorrect.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Given that 95% of cross-border trade on the island of Ireland is engaged in by trusted traders who want to comply with whatever the new arrangements will be, and given that the Republic of Ireland’s own no-deal planning assumes controls away from the border even at the point of destination, what is the problem?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

It is a complex situation, but one to which we think we can find an answer. A category of “trusted traders” is certainly something that any competent Government would be looking into, but I do not want to go into the details of the proposals, for reasons that I have already given.

Ben Bradshaw Portrait Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let us try again. Can the Minister simply confirm that any new physical checks or infrastructure, whether at the border or away from it, would be illegal under the Good Friday agreement and the withdrawal Act passed by the House last year?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I think I have already answered that question in part. I have agreed to write in response to the part that I have not answered, and I will copy the right hon. Gentleman into my response.

Greg Clark Portrait Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Ind)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my hon. Friend agree that at this stage of the negotiations, it is not unreasonable to be able to share proposals before they are definitive and to be able to probe a response, and does he agree that the best course—before we reach the stage at which a formal submission is made—is for the confidentiality on both sides to be reflected, to provide the maximum space for the progress that is required?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I recognise that as a potential way forward. I think it would limit the Government’s negotiating capacity, and there will clearly be opportunities for the House to interact in that way at some point in the future, but I will reflect on my right hon. Friend’s comments and discuss them with the Secretary of State.

Angela Smith Portrait Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The House is being asked to take it on trust that the Government have credible proposals for alternatives to the backstop, so let me put the Minister to the test in a slightly different way. Is he confident that this border that is not going to be a border will be fully developed and ready for operation, and in compliance with the Good Friday agreement, at one minute past midnight on Friday 1 November 2019?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

That is certainly our intention. While on my feet, may I take the opportunity to say that I think I misheard the right hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) and may have answered the question that I thought he asked rather than the question he actually asked? I apologise. I will look at Hansard and get back to him properly.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Anyone with any business experience knows that complex and sensitive negotiations are not best conducted in public or with the input of those who may want an entirely different outcome to the purpose of those negotiations. Anyone claiming otherwise is in my view motivated by a desire to undermine Brexit rather than a desire for greater detail.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I know it to be true because, before my hon. Friend came to this House, I had to negotiate the cost of my printing requirements at elections, and I know that he is a very canny negotiator who knows all the tricks. I listen to him carefully when he says what happens in business negotiations. I have great respect for his position.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think that the Minister is seeking to assure us that there will not be any customs posts, checks or controls anywhere at or near the border.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

indicated assent.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

But the Prime Minister has said this morning that Irish customs checks will be the reality after Brexit. So where will the checks envisaged by the Prime Minister take place?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

The right hon. Gentleman is right in his first statement. I am entirely trying to reassure the House on behalf of the Government of the first point. I had the pleasure while getting changed this morning of listening to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Radio 4. I did not have the pleasure of tuning into Radio Ulster, but I will hot foot my way back to the Department and ask for a transcript of what I presume the right hon. Gentleman is referring to.

Michael Tomlinson Portrait Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is it not the case that whatever is put forward as the solution to the Irish border will not be sufficient for some in this Chamber; it will not be good enough for those who want to revoke and remain; and it will not be good enough for those who want more dither and delay? May I urge my hon. Friend to press on with his determination and with his clarity and to ensure that, come what may, we leave on 31 October?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for that supportive comment. We are resolved. We will press on. We will try to get a deal. That is our preference, and we will do so and leave on 31 October.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Governments are notorious for getting IT projects wrong in terms of both cost and time for implementation. Can the Minister confirm that one of these non-papers states that this mythical off-the-shelf technological solution that could be implemented in the event of a no-deal will be able to be adapted to any future arrangements and will answer the question posed by Michel Barnier about how a virtual solution can check cows?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

As tempting as it is, I have been clear that I will not get into the detail of those proposals or non-papers.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I remind everybody that this Government are creating a new customs border because they want to leave the European customs union and they do not want to accept the backstop. Customs checks are primarily there not for loads that are compliant and have the right documentation, but for goods that enter a country illegally. How do the Government intend to deal with non-compliant cargo and stop widespread illegal activity?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

That is clearly a very important issue. It is one of the issues that I looked at when I was on the border.

I am not sure that I used exactly the right words in the House. I should have said that the Government will never put in place infrastructure checks or controls at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Just to be very clear, that is what I meant to say.

Chris Ruane Portrait Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Has the Minister read the non-papers? If he has not, how can he say what is or is not in the non-papers?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

First, I have not said what is or is not in the non-papers. As a Minister, I see all the papers I need to see. I am not going to list papers that I have seen, papers that I have read, papers that I have had input into, drafts or versions. I am not going to get into that.

Emma Little Pengelly Portrait Emma Little Pengelly (Belfast South) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Despite the fact that border checks or infrastructure are not mentioned in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, this Government have committed to avoiding a hard border, which this party agrees with. The Minister will be aware of the surprise and dismay among many in Northern Ireland at this leaked RTÉ proposal. What engagement does the Minister intend to undertake with businesses, which are particularly impacted by this? Will he repeat to them what he has said here today—that this is not Government policy, and nor will it ever be Government policy, because such a proposal would for many constitute a hard border?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Lady. It is important that, as well as my saying it, Government communications rebut the inaccuracy. I will make sure that that happens rapidly and in the right forums across Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. I thank her for that. I will do that. It is not something I was immediately going to do, having said it in the House, but it is certainly something I should do, and it is a helpful suggestion.

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

Can we just be clear here? The Minister said earlier that there would be no customs checks at the border, which obviously suggests that they will be done elsewhere, yet he suggests that what RTÉ is reporting is untrue. He has now just had to correct himself. The Prime Minister said that there would be customs checks in Ireland. So who are we to believe in this process? None of those things are compatible and none of them appear to be compatible with section 10(2)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, let alone the Belfast/Good Friday agreement.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

To clarify, the Government have no plans to put in those checks. We clearly cannot compel the Irish Government to do or not do anything.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There has been much talk of a 10-mile buffer zone on the border. Can the Minister outline the stage that discussions are at as they pertain to where the Republic of Ireland intends to carry out its checks and in what form? The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has said clearly that it will not put up any border controls at all, so how ironic is it that, in the event of a no deal, it will be the Republic of Ireland and the Taoiseach that will have to erect and man hard border controls?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his continued support and thoughts on this issue. He and other colleagues feeding into the process have added great value, and I hope that we will continue those discussions as we move through the process, as the Commission are given proposals and the House debates these issues more fully.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I crossed the border several times this weekend, and what was remarkable about the crossing was that it was utterly unremarkable. So it should remain. To me, there are three options available to us. There is a border in the Irish Sea; there is a hard border on the island of Ireland—which of course puts at jeopardy the Good Friday agreement—or we all remain in the customs union. The Minister has said that remaining in the customs union is a greater risk than jeopardising the peace brought about by the Good Friday agreement. Can he explain why?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

Unlike the hon. Lady, I do not want to put a border in Northern Ireland or in Scotland. I believe full-heartedly in the Union. It creates a risk in terms of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement because it puts Northern Ireland into a different position if alternative arrangements are not dealt with, and that is unacceptable. The Government believe that that would cause problems in relation to the Good Friday agreement.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister will know that the Good Friday agreement provides for a referendum for the people of Northern and southern Ireland on reunification if they so want. He will also know that 58% of the people in Northern Ireland voted to remain. Given that we have this problem with an open border with open migration, and with a closed border in breach of the Good Friday agreement, would it not be best for the Prime Minister to come forward with his agreement, which I assume will be the backstop within Ireland itself, and put it to the people in a public vote so that we can get Brexit done by finding once and for all whether we want this Brexit mess or not—as opposed to his divided kingdom?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman accused me of dividing the kingdom, but he asked specifically in the same sentence for a vote on parting the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom, as one—the Union—has voted, and it voted for Brexit. That is what we are going to deliver.

Martin Docherty-Hughes Portrait Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In order to make a proposed border solution work, there will have to be an element of Northern Ireland Executive control over the implementation of any putative agreement. With no extant Northern Ireland Executive, the only solution for that would be imposition on the people of Northern Ireland through direct rule. One does not seek to address democratic issues on one part of these islands by taking democracy away from another, so will the Minister tell the House what his Government are doing to address this democratic outrage?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

We are trying to get Stormont back up and working.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister said there would be no hard infrastructure at the Irish border. Does the term “hard infrastructure” include cameras?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I do not want to get into the detail of the actual proposal, but I will say that while there are not cameras across the whole of the border, there are cameras on parts of the border. However, the hon. Gentleman should not infer anything from that; I do not want to get dragged into the detail, but clearly it would have been one of the options that were looked at.

Sarah Wollaston Portrait Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister accept that customs clearance sites would involve physical infrastructure, and that it would not matter whether they were at the border or some miles distant from it?

--- Later in debate ---
James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I have been very clear that there will be no infrastructure on the border. I have also been clear that the proposals are currently under negotiation, and I will not go into the detail of those proposals in the House.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Irish Government stated last night that these non-papers are a non-starter. With just 30 days to go until exit day, when does the Minister propose to put forward credible proposals that can be negotiated with the EU?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

The Prime Minister has been very clear: that will happen before this weekend.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Over the last 15 minutes, the Minister has been at pains to stress the distinction between technical non- papers and final papers which are forthcoming. On the basis of that distinction, may I therefore ask him a simple question: without going into the detail, can he give the House an assurance that any final proposals that relate to the Irish border will not row back in any way from any of the solemn commitments signed up to in December 2017 in the joint report between the UK and the EU?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

First, may I thank the hon. Gentleman genuinely for his service on the Front Bench? When I took over this role, my predecessor said how much he respected the full team, and now that he is on the Back Benches, perhaps we can have a fuller and more honest discussion than we might have had when we were both Front Benchers.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Prime Minister has said that there will be checks, so whether at a border or a non-border, that does create a border. Whether in a non-paper or a paper, the reality is that there will be checks if the leader of our country has said so. However, the European Commission has said that it has not received any proposals from the UK that meet all the objectives of the backstop, as we have been reiterating and demanding. When will the EU see these proposals?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

Before the weekend.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

So far, we have had nonsense and non-answers on these non-papers, so can we have a clear answer on this question? Can the Minister rule out direct rule being imposed to implement any of these alternative arrangements on the border?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

Is the hon. Gentleman asking whether the Minister will rule out imposing direct rule?

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Temporarily, for the border arrangements.

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

That is not the Government’s plan. The Government’s plan is to get Stormont going.

Gavin Robinson Portrait Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for acknowledging that the Belfast agreement is not a one-dimensional document—that it is concerned not solely with north-south relations, but with east-west relations as well. Given the noises that we have heard from Dublin last night and this morning, will he reflect on the comments made by Shane Ross, the Irish Transport Minister, in the summer, who talked of border checks and customs checks in the Irish Republic until he was told that it was politically inconvenient to talk about that, or even those made by the European Commission, which at the start of September recognised, and spelt out very clearly, that it would require customs checks on the Irish side?

James Duddridge Portrait James Duddridge
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question because it gives me the opportunity to note how much work has already been done. That which was unacceptable and unresolvable, we are now discussing actively and moving forward on. We are at a snapshot between now and next Friday, with those proposals being delivered to the Commission. So we really are moving forward.

It was always going to be the case that some of the negotiations happened nearer the end of the time limit, but progress has been made consistently, from what was quite an entrenched position, which was particularly disappointing given the sensitivities around Ireland and Northern Ireland and the border and the Good Friday agreement. It would have been nice to have done this in a slightly more deliberative way, and earlier; but we are trying to set up the negotiations in such a way that we will get the best possible result for the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and that is getting a deal.

Compliance with the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019

James Duddridge Excerpts
Thursday 26th September 2019

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

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

Ian Murray Portrait Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

(Urgent Question): I am happy to have been slightly delayed by an actual point of order. My urgent question is to ask the Prime Minister to make a statement on compliance with the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019.