There have been 16 exchanges between Kwasi Kwarteng and Department for Exiting the European Union
|Thu 27th June 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||35 interactions (748 words)|
|Wed 12th June 2019||Leaving the EU: Business of the House||3 interactions (2 words)|
|Thu 16th May 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||35 interactions (1,005 words)|
|Thu 4th April 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||49 interactions (1,213 words)|
|Mon 25th March 2019||European Union (Withdrawal) Act||3 interactions (2 words)|
|Fri 22nd March 2019||European Council: Article 50 Extension (Urgent Question)||89 interactions (2,477 words)|
|Wed 20th March 2019||EU Withdrawal Joint Committee: Oversight (Urgent Question)||58 interactions (2,228 words)|
|Mon 18th March 2019||Article 50 Extension Procedure (Urgent Question)||102 interactions (3,901 words)|
|Thu 28th February 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||38 interactions (964 words)|
|Thu 21st February 2019||Northern Ireland Backstop: Conditional Interpretative Declaration||12 interactions (1,366 words)|
|Thu 14th February 2019||UK’s Withdrawal from the EU||3 interactions (3 words)|
|Thu 24th January 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||56 interactions (1,431 words)|
|Mon 14th January 2019||Leaving the EU (Westminster Hall)||14 interactions (2,302 words)|
|Thu 6th December 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||31 interactions (925 words)|
|Mon 3rd December 2018||EU Membership: Second Referendum (Westminster Hall)||13 interactions (2,413 words)|
|Thu 14th December 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||9 interactions (68 words)|
Given that we do not know what our future relationship will look like at this moment in time, can I seek assurances from the Department that, in the event of a clean break from the European Union, we will be seeking mutual co-operation on matters such as security?
According to Mr Barnier, a no-deal scenario would represent
“a break in the level of talks…risks to intelligence pooling… inconsistencies in applying sanctions regimes”,
and would leave the rules of co-operation with Europol and Eurojust still to be determined. Given the risks that no deal would present to our security, is the Minister happy that both of the Tory leadership contenders crow about their willingness to deliver no deal?
Does the Minister agree that we must increase our level of security on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, given the threat that dissident republicans pose? In the knowledge that we are now moving to a position where hopefully we will leave in a few short months, we need to be exceptionally mindful of that security risk to all our citizens.
I see that yesterday the Minister tried to mitigate fears about a no-deal departure by saying that it
“is not a world war.”
That might be an insight into his thinking, but is “less damaging than a world war” really a benchmark for success? Does he agree with the Security Minister, the right hon. Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace), who said:
“A no-deal situation would have a real impact on our ability to work with our European partners to protect the public”?
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After studying the Government’s no deal notices, the National Farmers Union has said that a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” for British agriculture. Why then does the Secretary of State talk up a no deal as a viable option and back a leadership candidate who supports leaving on 31 October, “do or die”?
What progress has been made in setting up the successor scheme to the EU’s geographical indications system, which has proved so commercially lucrative for food and drink manufacturers, including people who produce Welsh beef and Welsh lamb?
In the recent Tory leadership debate, the Foreign Secretary challenged his rival over no deal, saying:
“Let me ask Boris a question: what would you say to a sheep farmer in Shropshire that I met whose business would be destroyed by 40% tariffs?”
What would the Minister say to that sheep farmer?
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I thank the Minister for that answer. The British Ceramics Confederation has been clear that what it wants to see is a deal for certainty for the ceramics sector, but as part of that it also wants to see the UK’s participation in a customs union. The benefits of a customs union work for EU-UK trade, but without that common external tariff and the continuation of trade deals with countries such as South Korea, which is now the biggest emerging market for the ceramics sector, our industry will suffer significantly. Will Ministers meet me and a delegation of ceramics providers so that we can look at ways of mitigating those problems if necessary, and ultimately changing Government policy for the better?
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The Secretary of State referred earlier to the number of statutory instruments that have been laid to date; can he tell the House how many SIs remain to be enacted in order for us to exit the EU in an orderly fashion on 31 October?
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In the answer that the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng) gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) a moment ago about the devastating impact of tariffs on sheep farmers in the event of a no-deal Brexit, he appeared to give the impression that the Government would compensate farmers for the cost of those tariffs. Can he please clarify this for the House: is it the Government’s policy, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, to pick up the cost of the tariffs that farmers would face—yes or no?
Data flows are absolutely vital for business, for health and for security, and in many other areas, but the problems would be immense in the case of a no-deal Brexit. We heard yesterday in the Exiting the European Union Committee that, even in the case of leaving with a deal, the UK would no longer have any influence over the general data protection regulation, even though the GDPR is becoming a standard right around the world, well outside the European Union. Is this a case of giving up control or taking back control?
If the rumours are true, the withdrawal agreement Bill will come back to the House shortly. There is no credible analysis, including from the Government, that shows that any form of Brexit will be beneficial to the UK economy, so will the Bill include a detailed economic and environmental impact assessment of its impact on every single sector, region and nation of this country?
Financial services are a critical part of the UK’s economy and one of our top exports. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the withdrawal agreement does not include a specific section on financial services and that access to the EU market after any transition would be a matter of separate negotiation? Will he update the House on his most recent discussions on the issue with his EU counterparts?
I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. The creative industries tell me that their economy is already suffering, with the concerns of musicians in particular, for example, not being addressed in any part of the Government’s negotiations or deal. They will have to move kit and people around the European Union, and they are already losing out on bookings. What discussions is the Minister having with representatives of, for instance, the Musicians’ Union about this problem?
The European Union is mired in low economic growth. Many of its countries have eye-watering levels of youth unemployment and its currency has to be constantly supported by quantitative easing. Can my hon. Friend understand why anybody would want to chain us to this rotten corpse?
The car industry, British steel, and the travel industry are all citing Brexit as a major cause of concern in their sectors. Does the Minister consider that to be project fear or project reality?
The Minister reminded us that the Government have done an economic analysis of a number of Brexit scenarios, but, very pointedly, they have not given us an analysis of the impact of the scenario that they are going to ask us to vote on in a few weeks’ time. Every analysis they have done of every Brexit scenario has shown that the economic damage to Scotland caused by Brexit is always made even worse if we also lose our rights under free movement of people. How does the Minister justify imposing this additional economic damage on a country that rejected Brexit by 62% in 2016?
I want the result of the referendum to be respected. I want the 62% of sovereign citizens in my nation to have their declared will respected. Does the Minister not realise that, every time he or his colleagues say that Scotland has to put up with this because Scotland is part of the Union, they are driving another nail into the coffin of that Union? Does he not appreciate that his comments today will simply persuade more and more Scots that, next week, the way to protect Scotland’s interests is by returning an increased number of SNP candidates to the European Parliament and by making sure that, in 2024, Scotland participates in those European elections as a full sovereign member of a partnership of equals?
4. What recent assessment the Government has made of the economic effect of the UK leaving the EU customs union. 
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Protecting our national security from organised crime and terrorism is of course the first duty of any Government. My constituents want to know that we will still be able to participate in the European arrest warrant and share criminal record checks if or when we leave the EU, so what further progress has been made on what was put into the political declaration so many months ago?
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Earlier this year the Government announced that £55.6 million will be made available to local government to cover the additional expenditure resulting from Brexit, and it is important that councils such as Stockport are prepared from day one after we leave the EU, so that my constituents can have uninterrupted local services. How will my hon. Friend ensure that, as local authorities make their bids for the Stronger Towns fund, towns and villages such as Cheadle are able to feel the benefit?
One of the ways that the Government could start moving on regeneration, not just in England but across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, is to set out when the consultation on the shared prosperity fund will start. It was meant to start before December 2018, but Ministers from the Treasury, the Wales Office, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy do not know when it will be. Perhaps Ministers from the Department for Exiting the European Union can give us some answers for a change.
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T2. It is three years since the EU referendum and the chemical industry on Teesside and beyond is still nervous about the future. That is having a major impact on jobs and investment. Time and again I have raised this issue with Ministers and time and again they have failed to provide the assurances needed; what has the Brexit Secretary got to say now? 
What preparations have the Government made to establish a UK investment bank to take over the responsibilities and functions of the European Investment Bank and indeed to do more for investment in the infrastructure and businesses of the UK?
All of the leave campaigns promised that we should leave with a deal. Last week, no deal was rejected by over 71% of MPs, and the Prime Minister’s deal has also been overwhelmingly rejected. Will the Government finally admit that there are alternatives to leaving without a deal that can gain more support from Parliament than the Prime Minister’s deal?
No deal did not appear on any ballot paper in 2016 and was ruled out by all the main leave campaign groups. Does the Minister therefore agree that it would be totally unacceptable to crash out without a deal, without first putting it back to the people?
Leaving without a deal would affect everybody, not least our dentists. I hope you will find it in order, Mr Speaker, for me to raise the issue of dentistry in a no-deal situation at this point. A third of the 6,500 European qualified dental registrants intend to leave UK dentistry. The British Dental Association chair, Mick Armstrong, has said:
“Government has failed to even acknowledge the scale of the crisis”.
I know that Ministers have recruitment and retention issues of their own at the moment, but is not the chair of the British Dental Association right, and what are the Government going to do about it?
The Government have had any number of opportunities to take no deal off the table. Last night, Parliament had to start the almost unprecedented step of passing legislation that is fiercely opposed by the Government to put Parliament and these islands where the Government should have put us a while ago. Last week, we had the astonishing spectacle of the Chief Whip going on the record to say that the Prime Minister had got it all wrong. Does the Secretary of State agree with the Chief Whip?
It is very noticeable that the Prime Minister is still refusing to talk to anyone who might say anything she disagrees with, but we will see what comes out of the talks. Given that it is the clear will of this House that no deal must be avoided and that this Parliament is in the process of passing legislation to prevent no deal from happening, is it tenable for any Minister of the Crown to continue actively to promote a no-deal Brexit that has been rejected by Parliament and was never endorsed by the people in the first place?
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The Government have failed to pass the Trade Bill, the Agriculture Bill, the Fisheries Bill, the financial services Bill and the environment Bill, and they have even failed to introduce the EU withdrawal Bill. Does that not show those who think we are ready to leave in a no-deal situation on 12 April that the Government are not prepared for that at all?
That was not really much to do with my question, which was about regulatory standards. Weightron Bilanciai, a Chesterfield-based industrial weighing machine manufacturer, had to spend around £50,000 to have all its products re-certified in the Netherlands, because they will no longer be certified and recognised for sale in the EU after we leave. Are the costs paid by UK manufacturing and the impact on British businesses the most serious example of the Government’s failure to come up with a trade deal?
The Minister said that anything can happen. Total Lindsey oil refinery contacted me this week to warn me about the risk, in the event of no deal, of the equivalent of Chinese steel dumping but with US gasoline if we end up with 0% import tariffs. That will result in the loss or downgrading of up to 900 jobs in my area. Does he agree that that would irrevocably damage our local economy?
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We all had a late night last night, but this is a zombie Secretary of State with zombie Ministers. When will they wake up? Yesterday, the all-party parliamentary manufacturing group, which I chair, was told by a leading professor from the business schools of both Sheffield and Birmingham that, however we leave Europe, we will have a 4% to 5% drop in GDP, but that GDP in the constituencies and towns that voted to leave will drop by a crippling 17% to 20%. That may not include Spelthorne, where I grew up, but it will devastate this country’s manufacturing base.
The highly integrated supply chains in the motor and aviation industries require convergence and regulatory alignment with product manufacture, both in the EU and in the UK. What guarantees can the Minister give that, in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal, we will have a role in shaping the future regulatory framework?
After the talks with the Labour party leader yesterday, the Chancellor said this morning that a second referendum is more likely. Are we seeing the start of yet another U-turn from a Government who have abandoned all their promises on going forward with no deal, having no border down the Irish sea and ensuring that we leave the EU on 29 March?
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T6. The digital single market copyright directive is on its way to becoming law in the EU. This could have significant implications for the UK’s intellectual property-rich creative industries, particularly publishing, whose successes are underpinned by the gold standard copyright system. How consistent will the UK’s copyright regime be with the EU’s when—perhaps I should say if—we leave? 
T2. The Prime Minister has confirmed that the future declaration is not legally binding, so what assurances can the Government give us on trade tariffs, rights at work, food standards and environmental protections that will be binding on whoever ends up negotiating our permanent deal with the EU? 
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North-east manufacturers have achieved great success as part of integrated, just-in-time pan-European supply chains, which mean that, as one manufacturer puts it, their stock room is somebody else’s delivery van. These manufacturers are now having to stockpile as a consequence of this Brexit chaos, and that has implications for their cash flow and finances. What help is the Minister looking to provide for them and what hope of future economic integration can he offer them in the case of there being a deal without a customs union?
This morning, I left my home, not far from the town of St Andrews in my constituency, to set off on my regular commute. Like other Members of this House from different parts of the United Kingdom, I travelled quite literally by plane, train and automobile. Like most weeks, I had no idea when I would be going home to my family and my constituents, but unlike most weeks, my family, my constituents and I had no idea whether, by the time I got home, I would still be afforded the rights and privileges that EU citizens take as their own. What a state to be in, all these years on. That is why I thank the right hon. Members for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) and for Derby South (Margaret Beckett), and their colleagues, for the work that they have put into their amendments, which the SNP will obviously back this evening.
We are here for no other reason than an attempt to offset a Tory civil war. This disaster is years in the making, and we are only in this situation because once upon a time David Cameron decided to call an EU referendum so that he could avoid a full-blown Tory civil war. There are many people in the House who will disagree with me.
But I am not sure that there are many who will disagree with me when I say that it is not working very well, is it? How is that attempt to avoid a Tory civil war going? Does the Minister want to intervene now? No, I did not think so, because there is a full-blown civil war in his party. And this is a Tory party determined to take the rest of us down as well, but today’s amendments give us the chance—for the moment—to stave off that opportunity that the Tories are trying to give us.
The Prime Minister continues to appeal to the hardliners in her own party, rather than to face up to the reality of minority government, but this is a lost cause. The Brexiteers who campaigned without any sort of plan are the ones who got us into this mess. And, frankly, the message to the Prime Minister must be that they are unlikely to get us out of it. Now, it is not for me to judge Conservative party management—the voters will have their opportunity to do that in due course—but what strikes me is just how in thrall this Conservative Prime Minister is to the extremists in her own party. With that, I want to praise some Conservative Members, because there are Members who I disagree with and who disagree with me, but who have stuck their necks out, and look at the way they have been treated.
The hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), who is in his place, and I disagree over plenty, including Brexit; he wants us to leave the European Union and I do not. Some Members have tried to make positive proposals, although we do not always agree on them. But even when one of those proposals is accepted by the Government—as was the case with the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa)—we are now in a situation whereby the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford finds himself deselected and the hon. Member for South Leicestershire finds himself sacked, yet all along—I disagree with them over this—they have backed the Prime Minister’s deal. What does that tell us about trying to find some kind of consensus or trying to reach across? This is a Government who are in thrall to the very extremes, and this House cannot put up with that any longer. Just look at the invitation list of those who were treated to lunch at Chequers: the very people voting against the Prime Minister. This tells us everything about a Prime Minister who has lost control of her own party and who has dragged us into this folly.
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to make a statement on the extension to the article 50 process agreed at the European Council summit on 21 March.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question? However, given the significance of what was agreed in Brussels yesterday evening, the Government should have made a statement to the House this morning, instead of requiring us, once again, to drag Ministers to the Chamber. On Wednesday evening, the Prime Minister made a divisive speech from Downing Street, in which she chastised right hon. and hon. Members for not making a decision on Brexit. But we have made a decision, voting down her deal twice by historic margins. It is just that it is a decision the Prime Minister is clearly incapable of accepting. It is her intransigence, her pandering to the hardliners in her own party and her refusal to compromise that has brought us to this point. Now that the article 50 process has been extended, I trust that responsible Ministers are urging their colleagues to change course.
Let me turn to the substance of the EU Council’s communiqué. It makes it clear that, provided the withdrawal agreement is approved by this House next week, an extension will be granted to 22 May. Can the Minister therefore confirm that the Government will give us a third meaningful vote next week and, if so, on what day? Can he explain how the Government intend to comply with the terms of the statement that you, Mr Speaker, made on Monday to the effect that to have a chance of being put the motion would have to be “substantially” different? Can he commit now publicly to publishing the necessary secondary legislation and giving the House the opportunity to approve it at the earliest possible opportunity?
The Minister will know that it is highly likely that if the deal is brought back next week, it will once again be voted down. The Council’s communiqué makes it clear that if it is, the article 50 process will be extended to 12 April, in the expectation that the UK will “indicate a way forward” before that date. As such, can the Minister state categorically that in the event of such a scenario it would not be the Government’s policy to take us out of the EU without a deal, on or after 12 April? If that is the case—this is the crucial question—could the Minister set out the process by which the Government will provide this House with an opportunity to properly debate the range of alternative options available to us and to facilitate attempts to secure a majority for one of them?
Ministers have constantly told us that a responsible Government prepare for all eventualities. With that in mind, can the Minister tell us what contingency plans are being made for the distinct possibility that an extension beyond 12 April will be required? Over recent months, we have repeatedly argued that an extension to the article 50 process was inevitable and we have made it clear that its length must be determined by its purpose. After next week, it must be for Parliament to finally determine what that purpose is, so that we in this House can do what is right for businesses, communities and people in every region and nation of the UK. In short, it is time that we took back control.
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I do not think it was unparliamentary language. Whether it was altogether tactful is a matter for speculation and conjecture, and people will have their own view on that. I am inclined charitably to interpret what the Minister said from the Bench; when he said that the Opposition spokesman had made statements that were “not true”, I have to assume that he was asserting that the shadow Minister was incorrect—that he was erroneous. I cannot believe for one moment that the Minister was accusing the shadow Minister of lying, because that would be disorderly.
Indeed, the shake of the head from the Minister on the Treasury Bench, which will be recorded in the Official Report, testifies to the correctness of my interpretation. May I gently suggest to the Minister, who has had a difficult time at the Box this week, that a felicitous use of phrase would probably be to his advantage?
I am not sure the Minister has answered the crucial question put to him. In order to comply with the Speaker’s ruling and have a chance of getting meaningful vote 3 through the House, there has to be a substantial change in the offer. The EU will not carry on negotiating, so the only way to do that is to do so unilaterally by way of declaration. Will the Minister comment on that? Will he make it absolutely clear today, on behalf of the whole Government, not just the Prime Minister, that three years after the referendum it would be utterly intolerable were we still to be in the EU during the European elections? I want him to give an absolute commitment today that the Government would rather resign than be privy to such an appalling betrayal of the people’s trust.
We will not now be leaving the EU on 29 March, but this is crisis delayed, not crisis avoided. Will the Government now support the cross-party amendment for Monday tabled by the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) and supported by many others, which would enable the House to hold a series of indicative votes? If the House does agree on a way forward, will the Government support it? Because continuing to say “My deal or no deal” will simply see the country continue to hurtle towards the edge of a cliff.
My I remind the Minister of Denis Healey’s first rule of politics? When you are in a hole, stop digging.
Whenever the meaningful vote is tabled—if you allow it, Mr Speaker—I believe that the House will vote it down, not least because of the rather hubristic speech that the Prime Minister made when she, in effect, attacked Members of this House for having the temerity to vote with their consciences. I think it will not go through. Will the Minister confirm that if that is the case, as I very much hope and believe it will be, we cannot extend again beyond 12 April, even if the EU Council wants us to, unless the United Kingdom agrees?
The Minister says the House is in a state of indecision; it is not. The House has repeatedly decided: it decided on 15 January, on 12 March and on 13 March. In fact, it has decided repeatedly, every single week for the past few weeks, to say no to the Prime Minister. The House also wants to get on and make decisions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) talked about the cross-party amendment; if the House votes for that amendment and gets the opportunity to move things on, will the Government honour the will of the House—yes or no?
It was interesting to see the outcome of the Council last night. Will the Minister reassure me that we remain committed to delivering the result of the 2016 referendum, and that next week the House faces the only three choices that we can take unilaterally: no deal, revocation of article 50, or support the deal on the table? There is nothing else.
I detect from the smile on the Minister’s face when he answers some of these questions that he knows perfectly well that he has been sent out on to some very thin ice and a very sticky wicket—if the House does not mind me mixing my metaphors. There are so many things to which he does not know the answer that there is no point in even asking, because the Prime Minister does not even know, but let me ask a simple question to which he might know the answer. Will we be sitting next Friday and will we be sitting in the week commencing 8 April, which will lead up to 12 April?
My diary is definitely clear, should we need to have more discussions.
Many Members of this House want to deliver on the referendum result in an orderly manner, and I will support the withdrawal agreement, when it comes back to the House, as the best way to do that, but if it does not go through and there are indicative votes, will they be free votes, so that everybody outside the Chamber can see that we truly are acting to try to find the best way forward, although the circumstances are difficult?
Reports state that yesterday evening the Prime Minister left European leaders deeply unimpressed with her performance. That described a familiar situation for those of us in the House who are used to questioning the Government. Did the Minister really say a moment ago, from the Dispatch Box, that he anticipates that the Government will have a free vote on the withdrawal agreement when it comes back?
The extension agreed by the EU last night was clearly a significant alteration in the circumstances, which I hope will mean you feel able to allow the meaningful vote to be put to the House again next week, Mr Speaker. I am saddened that the Opposition Front Bencher, the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook), found it necessary to criticise the Downing Street speech. It was not a statement of opinion; it was a statement of fact. The fact is that hon. Members on both sides of the House have been very good at finding things they cannot agree with and not very good at finding things or a particular solution they can agree with. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Prime Minister is offering not a grievance but a solution, and one that we should now support?
I am heartily sick of being told by Ministers and other Members that the House has not said what it wants. We keep having that option ruled out. If the Minister is cross with us for not saying what we want, will he now commit the Government to supporting the amendment that would provide for indicative votes on what we do want? Some of us would really like the opportunity to say what we want.
The Minister has urged the House to move beyond “indecision” and to adopt a “course of action” or “plan”. Does he not accept that the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) would achieve precisely that, and why does he have such difficulty saying that the Government would support it and honour it if it was passed?
I say to the House gently that I am less and less interested in hypothetical solutions to this problem. I voted for the deal and will do so again. The issue of no deal is not about trading on WTO terms; it is about ending the enormous uncertainty that will continue for companies if we go out in a no-deal scenario.
I am tempted to ask the Minister what he had for breakfast this morning, as that might be a question he can answer. His performance is emblematic of the shambolic lack of preparedness over this whole issue. I will try a few very simple questions. Is the meaningful vote coming forward next week? If so, on which day? And if, as seems almost inevitable, it is voted down again, what happens then?
Does the Minister not accept the irony—some would say hypocrisy—of the Government saying the public can have a vote neither on whether to agree the Prime Minister’s deal or remain nor in the European elections but that the House can vote three times on her deal?
With due respect to the Minister, I am still not clear about the process from here. The world outside this Chamber would like to know on what day we will have a meaningful vote, whether the motion will be different from the one taken twice before and when the Government will lay the statutory instrument to extend article 50 beyond 29 March. People with businesses want to know the answers to those questions, and the Minister, on behalf of the Government, has a responsibility to answer them in this Chamber.
So the statutory instrument will be issued on Monday or Tuesday? It has taken a long time to get even that information out of my hon. Friend. Can he expand upon whether the SI will be issued in draft before or after the Government’s next—and likely failed—attempt to get this ludicrous deal through?
This is not so much a crisis of the constitution as a crisis of leadership on the part of the Government. Parliament is not the problem; Parliament has not had the opportunity to find a way forward and establish a majority for anything because the Government have prevented it from doing so. That is the reality. I do not think that the Minister will be able to table the motion next week unless he substantially changes it, because you have ruled it would be out of order, Mr Speaker. Will he confirm that he does not intend to substantially change the withdrawal agreement and political declaration prior to subjecting them to another meaningful vote, and if the motion is ruled out of order, will he accept the need to establish a majority to amend it for it to proceed?
I absolutely despair at what this whole charade is doing to public trust in this place. That was not helped by the Prime Minister pitting the people against Parliament in an absolutely shocking speech. My constituents, who have been contacting me in their hundreds, say that they do not want a no-deal exit and that they do not want the Prime Minister’s deal, and that is what Parliament has also ruled. The Minister is talking about hypotheticals, but, given that it is almost Friday afternoon, next week’s business is not hypothetical. What will he say to reassure people outside of this place that this is not just an absolute farce?
There are millions of people outside this House who are absolutely seething. They are largely seething with people who stood on a promise to deliver the result of the referendum and who, once elected, try to frustrate, or in some cases even overturn, the result that they promised to honour when they stood at the general election. If those people do not think that there will be a backlash, they are in cloud cuckoo land. The Government could, and should, leave on 29 March, as they promised all the way along. Why are they not doing that, and will the Minister give an absolute assurance that the two dates mentioned—the one in May and the one in April—will not, in any circumstances, be superseded by pushing it to a later date, because to do so would be the most appalling betrayal of trust to the British people?
The country is facing a national emergency, and this Government are taking us to the brink. We have seen a petition to revoke reaching nearly 3 million signatures in less than 48 hours. That is unprecedented. Will the Government seek another way forward by asking Parliament and then put that back to the people, or by revoking article 50?
Can the Minister suggest to the Prime Minister that her deal is dead and that MV3 is dead? May I also suggest that she watches the “Monty Python” sketch on the dead parrot to see that her deal is dead? If she is not willing to listen, perhaps she is willing to watch and then bring back a statement that will unite us rather than divide us.
I found the statement by the Prime Minister sickening and revolting because she pitted our constituents—the British public—directly against us. It has made our job a lot, lot harder simply because she is trying to place her complacency and her ineptitude and inabilities to strike a deal on to us. Will the Minister respond by saying that, along with bringing back a meaningful vote next week, the Prime Minister will also come to the Dispatch Box to offer a full and unreserved apology to us all as parliamentarians?
I am sure the Minister and the whole House will agree that, when a motion is defeated by a majority of almost 250 Members of this place and when Members such as me vote against that motion knowing that it will mean that that motion may not come back, we do not expect it to be hawked around for a second, third or fourth time. I voted against the people’s vote motion last week, and I presumed that the same would apply, given that the majority was almost the same. May I suggest to the Minister that one way through this would be to bring forward parts of the withdrawal amendment Bill and place in it, on statute, the roll that this House will play in the next phase of negotiations? We are in this mess, frankly, because the Prime Minister went to Europe and cut a deal that she supported without checking with us first. If she repeats that mistake, this process will go on for far longer than the European elections.
The Minister keeps saying that he will not engage in hypotheticals, but on 14 March the Deputy Prime Minister said that the Government would, if a meaningful vote is not approved,
“facilitate a process in the two weeks after the March European Council to allow the House to seek a majority on the way forward.”—[Official Report, 14 March 2019; Vol. 656, c. 563.]
Does he agree with the Deputy Prime Minister? If he does, can he tell us exactly when, and by what process, he would take forward the means of this Parliament reaching an agreement?
I voted leave in 1975 and I voted leave again in 2016. It is crucial that we respect the vote of the referendum. Does my hon. Friend the Minister agree that the best way to achieve that, and indeed to retain good, solid working relationships with our current European partners, is by supporting the withdrawal agreement and voting for it in the meaningful vote?
In an age of polemics, I like to think of myself as a meek politician, but, in the biblical sense, meekness is a continuum from outright rage to outright apathy. As I listened to the Prime Minister’s statement on Wednesday night, I was filled with nothing but wrath for it. This is a person who holds an office that technically has an immense power and who has promised to leave the European Union on 108 occasions in this House yet has failed to deliver. Does the Minister think that the Prime Minister helped her cause in any way whatever with that statement on Wednesday night?
The Prime Minister said at her press conference last night that she would honour the commitments made by the Minister for the Cabinet Office to hold indicative votes if the withdrawal agreement was defeated again. I think that the Minister just confirmed that he agrees with her on that point. So when he confirms again in answer to this question that that is what he has just said, will he also confirm that the Government will be bound by the results of those indicative votes as a way out of the crisis that this country is currently in?
The Minister has said an awful lot about what he thinks, but not so much about what he knows. Does he think the Prime Minister even wants to get her deal through? She has to convince Members of this House to vote for it, but her irresponsible speech in Downing Street on Wednesday evening has seen increased hostility and threats, including death threats, towards Members of this House from members of the public, who she pitted against us.
Before I ask my question, let me say that the Minister should join his Chief Whip in saying that he is appalled by the Prime Minister’s language. I have been standing up to bullies all my adult life and I will not be bullied by the Prime Minister, and neither will any Opposition Member. Will the Minister tell us what the new exit date will be after the SI has been tabled—12 April or 22 May?
I just want to confirm what we have heard from the Minister today: we do not know when the meaningful vote will be; we do not know what will be in it; we do not know whether the Government will whip it; we do not know when the SI will be tabled; and now we do not even know what will be in the SI. How can we have any faith that this Government can deliver anything, never mind Brexit?
The last few years have been extremely difficult for parliamentarians. The referendum divided the country, but we have desperately tried to respect the result and find a way through, after being put in a really uncompromising position by the Prime Minister. In that time, we have faced harassment and targeted threats. When we come down here, our families are fearful for our safety; when we are here, we fear for our families’ safety. And the Prime Minister—the Head of our Government—playing on that to try to bully and harass us even further will not work.
Good faith in this House is at a bare minimum now, and the Prime Minister has lost any good faith that I had in trying to work with her, but we still have to find time and find a deal, and that can be achieved only if the Government accept that we have to depart from the current withdrawal agreement to find a compromise that can win support across the House. The Minister must surely now accept that there has to be a change of direction.
My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) was being rather generous and polite when he described the Prime Minister’s speech as divisive; it would have been better described as shamelessly arrogant and dangerous. The Prime Minister is continuing to display that arrogance in every forum, and it really cannot go on. With respect, other Ministers are displaying the same arrogance in failing to face up to the situation that we are in. The Minister says that there will be a meaningful vote early next week, followed by an SI that will be published early next week and which clearly has to be voted on before next Friday. Presumably, that can be voted on only after the meaningful vote, so I imagine that that will happen on Thursday or Friday. Can the Minister give us some clarity about what we are doing next week, because Members of this House need to know?
The Prime Minister has succeeded in alienating this House and inflaming the divisions in our country. She is bringing the House into disrepute with her inability to recognise that the House and the country might hold an opinion different from her own. She is like a child who will not share her Brexit toy. But this is about all our futures, so will the Minister set out how the Government will give the House or the people of this country the opportunity to find a different way, because the Prime Minister is not going to get her own way on Brexit?
The Minister has come here and given a series of confused and contradictory replies to colleagues this morning. Once again, this shows the state of complete and utter disarray in which Ministers find themselves. When will the Government finally—at this late hour—look again at the whole issue of Brexit, and find an alternative way forward?
Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith), while the Minister has been on his feet The Times journalist Francis Elliott has tweeted his information that the SI will be tabled and debated on either Monday or Tuesday, which rather throws us into further confusion, as my hon. Friend said, because that suggests that the meaningful vote would have to be taken before Monday or Tuesday. Can we have some clarity, or is it simply the case that the Minister is having to take one for the team?
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister said that whether we sit next Friday, or when we sit, is entirely up to the House. Well, the House can make those decisions only if the Government have tabled something to that effect. It seems perfectly likely that we will be sitting next Friday for the reasons that several hon. Members have already mentioned. However, the Easter recess dates have already been announced—I do not think that we have voted on them as there has not yet been a motion before the House, but I may be wrong on that—and people are making plans. As it stands, the Easter recess means that we would not be sitting on 12 April, which is one of the next dates that is meant to be important. Would it not be really helpful if the Leader of the House were to make a statement before the end of today as to the future plans for when we are going to be sitting?
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union if he will outline what checks the House of Commons has over the powers of the “Joint Committee” contained in the proposed EU withdrawal agreement.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. The Prime Minister is due to attend the critical European Council tomorrow and Friday. However, despite the imminence of those crucial negotiations, very few Members of Parliament in this House are even aware of the extensive powers of the EU-UK Joint Committee contained within the withdrawal agreement. It is very important that those powers are brought to the attention of the House before the Prime Minister attends the Council tomorrow, hence my request this morning.
The Joint Committee is designed to oversee all aspects of the operation of the agreement and, crucially, managing and supervising the implementation and operation of the future relationship. Its potentially wide-ranging powers are contained in articles 164 to 166 of the withdrawal agreement and its rules of procedure, which are an integral part of the treaty found at annex VIII, almost literally at the back of the 585-page document; there is, in fairness, an annex IX.
The decisions of the Committee have full force in international law, equivalent to the treaty itself, as guaranteed in article 166. The Committee can meet in private. It does not have to publish its agenda, any minutes or even a summary of its minutes and can be chaired by two unelected civil servants, nominated by either side, rather than by Ministers. Under its rules of procedure, the two co-chairmen, acting outside normal meetings, can even make legally binding decisions in its name by an exchange of notes, without any recourse to or consent from Parliament. Rule 9 of the rules and procedures, on decisions and recommendations, clearly states on page 565 of the treaty:
“1. In the period between meetings, the Joint Committee may adopt decisions or recommendations by written procedure, if the co-chairs decide to use this procedure. The written procedure shall consist of an exchange of notes between the co-chairs.
2. Where the Joint Committee adopts decisions or recommendations, the words ‘Decision’ or ‘Recommendation’, respectively, shall be inserted in the title of such acts. The Secretariat shall record any decision or recommendation under a serial number and with a reference to the date of its adoption.”
That is almost exactly the same procedure that is used for notifying and recording EU regulations and directives. Despite all of that, this Committee has hardly ever been mentioned in Parliament, and few Ministers have ever referred to it directly throughout the extensive debates we have had during this Session on the whole issue of Brexit. Crucially, the Joint Committee is contained in the treaty, and therefore has the force of international law behind it, but it is outside the backstop, which is perhaps why it has received less attention than other aspects of the withdrawal agreement to date.
I believe that this has been extremely cleverly drafted to hand control of future elements of this country’s destiny deliberately to unelected civil servants, rather than to Ministers—civil servants who are unanswerable to this House of Commons in the way that Minister are. Those involved have thought of everything, as rule 12 of annex VIII is entitled “Expenses”, and it even lays out how they can reclaim their expenses. At present, Parliament seems blissfully unaware of the ability of the Joint Committee to take legally binding decisions relating to any future aspect of the treaty or the future relationship, in effect, above Parliament’s head.
There are clear issues of accountability to Parliament that, as far as I am aware, have never really been debated in the House at all. I ask the Minister to confirm that everything I have said is true, and if any of it is not true, will he point out what and why? If it is true, which it is, will he explain what checks and balances this House has over the operation of the Joint Committee?
Break in Debate
Thank you, Bishop.
In summary, the Joint Committee contained in the draft withdrawal agreement has hardly ever been discussed in the House of Commons or the media, despite the fact that it potentially gives two unelected civil servants the power to make decisions that are binding in international law by an exchange of notes, without the knowledge, let alone the consent, of this House. If we are to approve the withdrawal agreement, we will approve this procedure too, which is why it is so important we should know about it. I believe that these facts must be exposed for debate in this House before the Prime Minister departs for the European Council tomorrow. I thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting the urgent question, and I look forward to hearing—I will be intrigued to hear—the Minister’s reply.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) on securing it.
The Joint Committee has attracted a significant degree of attention over recent weeks in relation to its role in the operation of the Northern Ireland backstop, but as the right hon. Gentleman made clear, it is important to remember that the Joint Committee and its specialised sub-committees are also responsible for the application and implementation of the entire withdrawal agreement. Under Article 166, paragraph 2, any decisions made by the Joint Committee would have “the same legal effect” as the entire withdrawal agreement. The right hon. Gentleman has done this House a service in providing us with an opportunity to scrutinise more carefully this important part of the agreement and to seek reassurances about the role of Parliament in overseeing its operation.
To that end, may I ask the Minister the following questions relating to the role of this House in scrutinising the work of the Joint Committee, should the deal ever be approved? First, will the Government commit now to making a statement to this House before and after each and every meeting of the Joint Committee, and to make all of its documents available to Members? Secondly, what plans, if any, do the Government have to create a dedicated Committee of the House to oversee the withdrawal agreement, including the Joint Committee? Thirdly, the withdrawal agreement makes it clear that the Joint Committee will be made up of representatives of the United Kingdom and the European Union, so what role do the Government foresee Parliament having in the appointment of the UK representatives? Fourthly, is it the Government’s intention that the UK representatives include individuals from the main political parties, as well as those from the devolved Governments and Assemblies? Finally, specifically in relation to the Northern Ireland protocol, will the Minister confirm that it is the Government’s view that an indefinite application of the backstop would not constitute an unforeseen situation under article 164, paragraph 5(d) in such a way as might provide for amendment of the treaty itself?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) on securing this urgent question, and you, Mr Speaker, on granting it. May I simply ask my hon. Friend on the Front Bench about a particular point that was made by my right hon. Friend and the Opposition spokesman? With regard to “situations unforeseen” when this agreement was signed, who decides what is unforeseen?
I commend the right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) for submitting this question. I share some of his concerns, although after listening to his horror story about all the evils in the way this Joint Committee will operate, I have to say that 90% of it applies to the workings of the British Cabinet and 99% of it applies to the way international trade deals will be negotiated on our behalf without our knowledge or consent in the great new world that he seeks to achieve after Brexit.
On accountability and openness, I appreciate that parts of the agreement would insist on confidentiality in some circumstances, but will the Minister give an assurance that the UK Government will publish and lay before Parliament as much about the workings of the Committee as is permitted under the agreement as soon as possible?
Everyone now knows that it was a mistake to exclude the devolved Administrations and other people with potential skills from the Brexit negotiations. Everyone knows that it was a mistake not to ask for views and support from across the House much earlier in the process. Will the Minister therefore answer the question that he did not answer when the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) asked it, and give an undertaking that the UK delegation to this vital and exceptionally powerful Committee will properly reflect the political and social diversity of these nations? Will he also undertake that, particularly when it is looking at items within the devolved competences of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Governments of those nations will be properly represented as part of the negotiating team and not simply left in a side meeting to be told what has been decided on our behalf afterwards?
Why do the Government think it acceptable that any legal dispute about European law will be resolved by a decision of the European Court of Justice—a court for one of the two parties to the agreement—given that practically every legal dispute would be about a matter of European law, because both parties would still be under comprehensive European law?
I do not know about you, Mr Speaker, but it feels to me that this sorry saga proves that the Conservative party is now entirely run by the European Research Group. It puts me in mind of a limerick, which was much repeated in the 1930s:
“There was a young lady of Riga,
Who went for a ride on a tiger.
They came back from the ride
With the lady inside
And a smile on the face of the tiger.”
The Prime Minister has tried to ride the ERG tiger for all this time and frankly, she is now inside it, isn’t she?
I take the Minister’s points about this structure being used in several contexts in international treaties. Many of my constituents would say that it was still unacceptable, and that they would like more transparency. However, even assuming that the structure is acceptable in the context of some international treaties, what is my hon. Friend’s response to the comment that the treaty would be uniquely powerful, were it to be adopted, because it would involve this country and this House being subject to laws made for us by other people, over which we had no say?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) on applying for this urgent question and I thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting it.
Ever since the very first Parliaments in Shropshire, the primary function of this House has been to control the manner in which money is levied from taxpayers and the way in which it is spent. I was astounded when I turned up on day one in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, where I had the honour of being Secretary of State, to discover the level of disallowance—that is an EU expression for “fine”. For example, Amyas Morse, the Comptroller and Auditor General, said of the 2016 accounts that
“the total value of cumulative disallowance penalties incurred under CAP 2007-13 is £661 million”,
which amounts to more than £90 million a year. I therefore view with some horror article 171, which states:
“The Joint Committee shall, no later than by the end of the transition period, establish…an arbitration panel.”
Article 178 states that the arbitration panel
“may impose a lump sum or penalty payment to be paid to the complainant.”
What are the limits on the size of those payments? If the House of Commons objects, what can it do?
As has already been drawn to the Minister’s attention, under article 174, if the arbitration panel above the Joint Committee cannot agree on a matter of law, it has to be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union. Does not that confirm that the Prime Minister has been prepared to relax at least one of her red lines to enable binding rulings from the CJEU to be accepted after we have left the EU? Does not that show that it is possible for her to relax other red lines to try to get us out of the mess that we are currently in?
Further to the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), and since we are treating of matters that are both controversial and complex, may I invite my hon. Friend to commit today—since he must, if he is going to do it—to lay letters and other papers in the House of Commons Library by the rise of the House tomorrow, setting out what the Government know the Committee shall be able to do and shall not be able to do, and the authority for that statement, so that we can all be perfectly clear on the scope and authority of the Committee, and the Government’s view?
I thank the right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) for securing the question and for the concern that he shows for unelected bureaucrats because, of course, we sit in a Parliament where more than half of parliamentarians are unelected bureaucrats. Will the Minister possibly tell us what role the fully elected European Parliament will play in this Committee?
May I return to the question raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) to contest my hon. Friend the Minister’s rather doubtful assertion that this is normal for an international treaty? I do not know of any other international treaty where one of the signing parties is submitting to a law-making power by the other, the laws will be made in a Joint Committee that can sit in secret, and any matters of dispute will be referred to the court of the other party. Can he give any examples of an international treaty of this nature where those arrangements exist, and where the laws being made are directly applicable and have direct effect in the domestic law of only one of the states?
The Minister speaks about mutual consent, but where there is mutual consent there are never any problems. The problems come when that consent breaks down. With the Joint Committee, is it not correct that, surely, where mutuality of consent breaks down the final arbiter will be the European Court of Justice, irrespective of why the arguments arise?
There is nothing disorderly, but I must say that I am saddened to see the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) holding, until he just put it away in his pocket, his mobile telephone. I have long been conscious that the hon. Member possesses, and indeed uses, such a mobile phone. However, it does conflict very, very, very heavily with my image of the hon. Gentleman as the embodiment of tradition and as someone who thinks that the 17th century is indecently recent.
Regrettably, I was explaining why I was delayed for a 2 o’clock appointment—so that I would have the pleasure of being in the Chamber to listen to this important urgent question. My apologies for being unduly modern. I hope, Mr Speaker, you will follow in my footsteps of antiquity as a general rule.
To come to the gist of the question, I wonder whether it is correct that the Joint Committee will be subject to article 4 of the treaty, which means that any rulings it provides are senior law in the United Kingdom and therefore could overwrite statute law—making Henry VIII powers, which have been a matter of some controversy in this House, seem relatively minor?
Scrutiny is always welcome, but I have to say that I believe this urgent question is driven less by urgency and more by a desire on behalf of the right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) to continue his deeply unattractive and frankly tin pot tyrant-like attacks on civil servants. Will the Minister deprecate those attacks on civil servants? Will he clarify, in terms of the oversight of the Committee, what the enhanced role for the devolved nations, which the Prime Minister promised at the Dispatch Box just a few weeks ago, looks like?
Annex VIII of the withdrawal agreement provides that the Joint Committee will be co-chaired by a member of the European Commission and a Minister of the British Government or, alternately, a “high level official”. Given the hugely important role that this Committee will play in the governance of this country, does not my hon. Friend agree that, as far as the British side is concerned, the chairman or chairwomen should always be a Minister rather than an official, so that he or she is answerable to this House? Is he prepared to give an undertaking to this House today that that will always be the case—if, of course, the withdrawal agreement is ever concluded?
May I press my hon. Friend the Minister further on his earlier answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith)? The Joint Committee will make legal decisions in unforeseen circumstances. [Interruption.] Can he confirm that the Joint Committee will itself decide what circumstances are unforeseen? [Interruption.]
I am sure that the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) will regard it as the encomium of all encomiums to have tribute paid to him by the junior Minister; he may well feel so uplifted by the tribute that he wishes to have it framed. However, I say gently to the Minister that his tribute suffers from one notable disadvantage: despite its generosity, it offered no answer to the question.
The Minister has referred several times to the devolved Administrations, but he will be aware that the Northern Ireland Assembly has not sat for over two years, so how does he think the Joint Committee will take note of the thoughts coming from the Province on what is, of course, one of the big issues of the whole agreement?