One of the things that interests me about the right hon. Gentleman’s argument is what we will do when we are trying to resolve a dispute over a trade agreement at a supranational court—[Interruption.] They will not be elected representatives. The World Trade Organisation court of dispute does not consist of elected representatives. Government Members seem quite happy to hand over control to the WTO court of dispute resolution and pretend that that is somehow more democratic. [Interruption.] Calling me silly is not worthy of the right hon. Gentleman.
We have been sovereign all this time. On our money, we have always had our sovereignty. We set our own budgets. We are represented at EU budget setting by our democratically elected representatives. As I have said, we have even had opt-outs, negotiated by Tory Governments, from some of those financial agreements. We have negotiated opt-outs, variations, rebates and all sorts of specific conditions for the UK.
The phrase used is “money, laws and borders” and I cannot remember which way around they are, but on borders we chose, rightly or wrongly—and we can decide for ourselves whether it was right or wrong—how we interpreted the requirements on the free movement of people, one of the four freedoms of the single market, which, I remind hon. Members, a Tory Government took us into. Other EU nations have interpreted that freedom differently. We chose, as a sovereign nation, not to participate in the Schengen area. We decide how we police our borders and whether or not there are enough border police.
We have also chosen to benefit from freedom of movement, which I acknowledge will end after 31 January. It is a freedom that I wish we had valued more and whose passing I will truly mourn, but it never undermined our sovereignty. That is implied even in the wording of the clause, because it states that “sovereignty subsists notwithstanding” various provisions. Of course, we agree—and will continue to agree after debate, scrutiny and amendment—to many other rules beyond our borders. International treaties, trade agreements and security co-operation arrangements all carry commitments to shared rules and to abiding by the rules of supranational bodies of dispute resolution, most of which are not elected, but Parliament’s sovereignty will remain intact.
I ask the Minister respectfully if he will explain the legal and practical purpose of clause 38. Even the phrase, “It is recognised”, has the feel of a political rather than a legal statement. The purpose of the Opposition’s amendment 11 is to discover the Government’s intention. We think that stating that Parliament is sovereign
“and has been so during the period since the passage of the European Communities Act 1972”
is entirely consistent with what the Government themselves said in their White Paper only a few months ago. We have been sovereign all that time.
I am sure that Members know this, but our sovereignty was never in doubt and was not diminished. I could spend a long time asking what this non-argument about sovereignty has all been about, but I am pretty sure that a lot of it—perhaps most of it—has been a false argument to distract attention from the desire to deregulate this country and turn us into a bargain basement nation with no attention given to workers’ rights, environmental protections, health and safety or any of the other regulations in which we played a part in Europe, which we have implemented and which have helped us help the people we represent. I would like the Government to explain the point of clause 38.