All 4 Steve Barclay contributions to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020

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Fri 20th Dec 2019
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading: House of Commons & Money resolution: House of Commons & Programme motion: House of Commons & Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons & 2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & Money resolution & Money resolution: House of Commons & Programme motion & Programme motion: House of Commons & Ways and Means resolution & Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons & 2nd reading & Programme motion & Money resolution & Ways and Means resolution
Tue 7th Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Commons Chamber

Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons & Committee: 1st sitting & Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons & Committee stage
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
Wed 22nd Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendments & Ping Pong: House of Commons & Ping Pong & Ping Pong: House of Commons

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Cabinet Office

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Steve Barclay Excerpts
2nd reading: House of Commons & Money resolution: House of Commons & Programme motion: House of Commons & Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons & 2nd reading & Money resolution & Programme motion & Ways and Means resolution
Friday 20th December 2019

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Stephen Barclay)
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I join the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) in welcoming new Members to the House, and in reflecting on the positive tone of the debate, which is in marked contrast with debates in the previous Parliament. I also join him in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Suella Braverman), a new mum returning to make her valued contribution to this House.

The general election delivered a clear instruction to this House that we should leave the European Union. Parliament must now reflect the will of the country and make good on that democratic decision by backing this Bill. The Bill is not a victory for one side over another. The time has come to discard the old labels, to move from the past divisions and to come together as one United Kingdom.

Our country produced a mandate to leave the EU in 2016, but the previous Parliament rejected it time and again. It has taken a second vote to ensure that the mandate to leave is finally honoured. It is clear that the people did know in 2016 what they were voting for after all. Despite the efforts of those determined not to accept the referendum result, the House now has the opportunity to end the delay and to forge a new relationship, both with our neighbours in Europe and, indeed, within this House. In reflecting that spirit, I very much welcomed the speech of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck), who said that she would support the Bill in the Lobby today.

Before I turn to the substance of the Bill, may I congratulate the hon. Member for Belfast South (Claire Hanna) on her very impressive maiden speech? She showed that she will contribute greatly to the work of the House, and her point about reconciliation was timely. The hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry) also made an excellent maiden speech, as indeed did the hon. Member for Stirling (Alyn Smith), who spoke powerfully of his opposition to Brexit, albeit after leaving an EU institution to come here. He has started his own Brexit as we vote on the Bill.

The Bill delivers certainty for our citizens living in Europe, and EU citizens living here in the UK, by guaranteeing their rights as set out in part 3, including through an independent monitoring authority, which will rightly hold the Government to account. There will be a grace period to ensure that nobody is left behind in registering for the EU settlement scheme. The Bill also protects frontier workers. It recognises professional qualifications and, indeed, provides for fair rights of appeal. That is because we value the contribution of EU citizens who have built their lives in our country, and the Bill will guarantee their right to continue to do so.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes
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My right hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the value that has been given to this country by those who have travelled here, but the point about that, as he said when he spoke of accountability, is that such decisions should be made by this Parliament, which is accountable to the British people. That is why I anticipate our policies on migration, which we will now have a chance to effect as a result of the passage of this Bill.

Steve Barclay Portrait Stephen Barclay
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My right hon. Friend has always been a champion of the sovereignty of the House, and I will come on to how the Bill indeed champions the very sovereignty that I know he cares so passionately about.

The Bill also unlocks confidence for our businesses by ending dither and delay, which in turn will unlock huge new investment in our economy, ensuring more and better jobs. As my right hon. Friend has just reflected, the Bill provides control for our Parliament. Clause 1 reinforces the repeal of the Act, which brought European law into the UK. The Bill ensures parliamentary scrutiny through the European Scrutiny Committee in clause 29 and asserts parliamentary sovereignty through clause 38. The whole House will recognise the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) on this and on so many other issues reflected in the Bill. The very essence of Brexit is that we will no longer outsource our decisions to others in Brussels.

Ben Bradley Portrait Ben Bradley
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We have heard much from the Opposition about their fear of bringing such decisions back to the United Kingdom, particularly those around workers’ rights. Will my right hon. Friend absolutely confirm that this Government have every intention of protecting and improving the rights of workers in this country, who overwhelmingly backed the Conservatives in this election?

Steve Barclay Portrait Stephen Barclay
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My hon. Friend is a champion for workers’ rights and his constituents, and he will know that not only did our manifesto make that clear commitment—on page 5—but did so in parallel with the Bill. The Bill is about implementing in domestic law the international agreement that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has reached with the EU. This House does not need other people to tell us how to protect the rights of workers and others. As my hon. Friend well knows, in many areas this Parliament goes further than the EU in safeguarding rights, not least in areas such as maternity and paternity rights. Following the manifesto commitment to high standards, I look forward to the House continuing that tradition and maintaining good standards.

Bob Seely Portrait Mr Seely
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One thing that concerns folks on the Isle of Wight and the south coast is seeing super trawlers hoovering up 250 tonnes of fish a day off Shanklin and Eastbourne. Is not one of the great benefits of the Bill, our leaving the EU and our getting a new fisheries Bill that we will be able to stop super trawlers coming into our seas, which we are not allowed to do at the moment because of our membership of the EU?

Steve Barclay Portrait Stephen Barclay
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My hon. Friend is right. One of the key features of taking back control of our waters is this Parliament making those decisions for itself. One of the mysteries about Opposition Members is that those representing Scotland do not seem to have the self-confidence to take back those decision-making powers, but rather want to give them back to Europe.

David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett
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I am listening with great interest to my right hon. Friend. Can he also confirm that when we leave the EU we will have control over our taxes again and the ability to make decisions on them, including VAT?

Steve Barclay Portrait Stephen Barclay
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My right hon. Friend is right. One has only to look at what our manifesto commits us to do once we have control of our taxes and at what the Government have already done to raise the amount people can earn before they pay tax. We believe in backing those who wish to work and provide for their families, and our tax system will do exactly that.

Along with the terms of our withdrawal, the Bill reflects the political declaration, which sets out the framework for our future relationship. Now we need to get on with negotiating on this basis so we can agree our future relationship by the end of the implementation period on 31 December 2020. The shadow Brexit Secretary referenced clause 33. That clause reinforces the Government’s commitment in their manifesto not to extend this period. Part 5 of the political declaration is clear: we are committed to developing in good faith agreements that give effect to our future relationship, the cornerstone of which is a comprehensive free trade agreement by the end of 2020.

The shadow Brexit Secretary said that clause 33 was ridiculous. It is not ridiculous to act on manifesto commitments that we have given to the electorate. It is not ridiculous when the EU itself, in the political declaration, has agreed to the timetable of the end of December 2020. If that is the central concern of Opposition Members, it would have been better reflected in talks on previous deals, when the Labour party raised many other objections that underlined the fact that it simply did not want Brexit delivered at all.

We now have a deal that reflects both the referendum—the single largest democratic exercise in British history—and the defining issue of the general election. It is time to end the delay, to come together and heal our divisions and, above all, to listen to the people we serve. The British public have given their instruction. This Bill delivers Brexit. I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the Aye Lobby.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Steve Barclay Excerpts
Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons & Committee: 1st sitting & Committee stage
Tuesday 7th January 2020

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Steve Barclay)
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I begin by wishing you, Sir Roger, and all Members of the House a happy new year.

The Bill implements the withdrawal agreement negotiated by the Prime Minister. It fulfils the will of the British people and will set the stage for our bright future outside the European Union. It lets us take back control of our laws, our money, our borders and our trade policy, and it delivers on the overwhelming mandate given to us by the British people to get Brexit done by the end of January.

Sir Roger, as you have just informed the Committee, I am, under your guidance, speaking to this group. I will speak to clauses 1 to 6, clause 33 and new clauses 4 and 36, noting that new clause 19 and amendment 25 have not been selected.

Clause 1 gives legal effect to the implementation period in domestic law. The implementation period ensures that common rules will remain in place until the end of this year, meaning that businesses will be able to trade on the same terms as now until a future relationship has been agreed. This provides certainty and stability for the duration of this time. During the implementation period, the effect of the European Communities Act 1972 will be saved and modified on a temporary basis to provide the necessary continuity. It will have a new purpose: to give effect to EU law as set out in the withdrawal agreement, to provide for the implementation period. As a result, businesses and citizens need prepare for only one set of changes as we move into our future relationship with the EU.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con)
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Can my right hon. Friend give us an estimate of how much the implementation period will cost us, and will he reassure us that once we are out properly at the end of this year, there will be no future payments thereafter?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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This will secure our membership for the period. One of the costs for businesses—one of the greater costs—would result from two sets of changes, without the comfort of an implementation period. The business community itself—of which I know my right hon. Friend is a great champion—said that it wanted an implementation period while the negotiation on the trade deal was being conducted to avoid the higher cost of two sets of changes.

The saving of the ECA will be repealed at the end of the implementation period, at which point the repurposed ECA will cease to have effect. Clause 1 is essential to achieving the terms agreed in the withdrawal agreement and ensuring the proper functioning of European Union law during the implementation period, and for that reason it must stand part of the Bill.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)
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I still do not think that the Secretary of State has made a clear enough case for why he would wish to tie the Government’s hands in such an unnecessary way and risk the disaster of no deal. Also, there could be perfectly constructive negotiations going ahead, which he would be prepared to throw away if they could not fit into the arbitrarily short time of 11 months. Will he tell us why he thinks it is worth running that risk, which is such a big risk for our businesses and for our economy?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I know that we have two days for the Committee stage, but it is very odd for someone who wants us to remain a member of the European Union to complain about the fact that we have an implementation period so that the business community does not face two sets of changes and so that we give businesses confidence for the rest of the year.

Clause 2 saves EU-derived domestic legislation for the implementation period. The last one and a half decades have seen a substantial amount of EU legislation that has required domestic legislation, both primary and secondary. That domestic legislation constitutes a large body of law, and to ensure that the law continues to work properly during the implementation period, we need to take several important steps. First, we must preserve the legislation to avoid its being impliedly repealed following the repeal of the ECA. If we do not save it, there will be a risk that it will either fall away or be emptied of meaning, which could mean that citizens and businesses were no longer protected by, or indeed able to rely on, existing rules.

The second essential purpose of the clause is to maintain the proper functions of the statute book for the duration of the implementation period. During that period, we will continue to apply this law, but we will not be part of the European Union. To ensure that that is reflected in the statute book, the Bill provides for time-limited glosses, or modifications, to new and existing EU-derived legislation. Those glosses make clear the way in which EU law terms and UK legislation should be read so that our laws continue to work during the implementation period. Let me give one example. All references to European Union citizens in the UK statute book will, as a general rule, be read as including UK nationals during the implementation period. These provisions will automatically be repealed at the end of the year when they are no longer needed.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to clarify whether that also applies to the European arrest warrant. Obviously, we will remain subject to it and able to take advantage of it during the implementation period, but at the end of that period, as a third party, we will simply not be able to enter into it. During the implementation period, will British subjects still be subject to the arrest warrant overseas?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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Under clause 1, the implementation period ensures the continuity of the law. That is why it is saved, but modified. Clause 2, and the others in the group, deal with the technical terminology. Where there is a change in meaning, it means continuity. I see that the hon. Gentleman is frowning. The substance of my reply is yes, in that the Bill ensures continuity. The purpose of terms such as “European Union citizen” will have ceased because we will have left, but, on the other hand, the implementation in EU law will continue, allowing those terms to continue to be applied and any tidying up—any technical changes—to be applied. So this is a technical glossing and that is its purpose.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
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While the Secretary of State is on his feet discussing this, could he set out the exact position for EU nationals, because those of us who have up to 42,000 living locally are extremely concerned? There have been lots of discussions and tweets about this, so could he please just lay out exactly what the position will be not only during the next 12 months of the implementation plan but going forward?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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The hon. Lady raises an important point. I do not want to stray too far into the second grouping in Committee, which is indeed on citizens’ rights and which the Security Minister will address, but what this Bill is doing is securing the rights of EU citizens within the UK and indeed the rights of UK citizens in the European Union, because we value the contribution that those EU citizens make to the UK. They have chosen to make their homes here and to bring up their families here, and their rights are protected. That is one of the reasons that I urge Members on both sides of the House to support this Bill.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con)
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During the transitional period, laws will be made in the European Union that we will be expected to obey. Does my right hon. Friend agree, however, that clauses 29 and 38—one of which deals with the review of legislation through the auspices of the European Scrutiny Committee, where we will be affected by our vital national interests being undermined—provide good protection for the United Kingdom’s national interests? Secondly, does he agree that the question of parliamentary sovereignty in clause 38 will complement that by ensuring that the whole process of legislation under the withdrawal agreement will not affect the continuing sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament, and that this therefore effectively provides a double lock on the rights of this House as we leave the European Union?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right to signpost those two safeguards being put in place, in which he played a significant part, but I would say that there are three. I will come on to the third, if I may slightly push him by making that correction. He is right to say that the European Scrutiny Committee, under his chairmanship, will have the right to trigger debates and scrutiny. Secondly, he has championed the clause dealing with the sovereignty of Parliament, which is set out clearly in the Bill. The third element that I would draw to his attention, which is within this grouping, is our legislating for the Government’s manifesto commitment not to extend the implementation period. That will ensure that there is no extension of the implementation period and will therefore ensure that there is no risk of a further one-year or two-year period during which the issue about which he was concerned in relation to those two other clauses could arise. So there are three protections, and not just the two that he mentioned.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash
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Very, very good!

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I am pleased that my hon. Friend signals from a sedentary position that he is content with that.

Ultimately, clause 1 will ensure that there is continuity in our laws during the implementation period and that our law continues to operate properly. It is therefore essential and must stand part of the Bill.

Karin Smyth Portrait Karin Smyth (Bristol South) (Lab)
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The Secretary of State has commented about the sovereignty of this United Kingdom Parliament across the whole United Kingdom. At all stages in the future, as marked out by the Northern Ireland protocol and the exceptions to this Bill, the people of Northern Ireland will be subject to European Union law for a long time into the future, as far as we can see, so it is not correct, is it, to say that the sovereignty of the entire United Kingdom will be placed in this place?

--- Later in debate ---
Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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We will debate at length tomorrow the provisions relating specifically to Northern Ireland, but there is a further sovereignty within the Bill in respect of Northern Ireland. I do not want to stray too far into that debate now, but there is a consent mechanism that pertains specifically to the Northern Ireland protocol, so there is a further sovereignty lock in that regard. However, that is a matter for the groupings that we will address tomorrow.

Turning to clause 3, we are confident that the list of so-called glosses set out in clause 2 works in all the cases that we have examined, and I pay tribute to the officials who have trawled the statute book in that regard. However, it is right that we, as a responsible Government, reserve the ability to nuance the impact of those technical changes should unforeseen issues arise during the implementation period. The power set out in clause 3 provides for that. The Bill gives five different applications for that power. Three relate to the glosses. The power can add to the glosses; it can make exceptions; and it can be used to make different provisions from the list, if for any reason we need to change a gloss in a specific case or set of cases. The power has two further applications: it can be used to tidy up the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and to cover any specific technical inoperabilities that may occur that have not been foreseen. It is appropriate, prudent and sensible that the Government are prepared in this regard, which is why those five elements are in the Bill.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
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Analysis by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre, which is the equivalent of the House of Commons Library and is therefore independent, notes that clause 3 empowers UK Ministers acting alone to make provision in devolved policy areas. The Government’s delegated powers memorandum states that they will not normally do so without the agreement of the relevant devolved Administration, but as the Secretary of State will be aware, the Sewel convention does not apply to delegated legislation. Does he therefore agree that this power shows that the Bill is indeed the power grab that the Scottish National party has always said it is? If it is not, why is it there at all?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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The hon. and learned Lady is incorrect in saying that. First, this is an international agreement, which is a reserved matter—a matter for the United Kingdom. Secondly, these are glosses—technical issues—in terms of the tidying up that I set out, and they are tightly defined. Thirdly, the devolved elements are addressed by giving the devolved Assemblies the power, through clause 4, to do further glosses themselves.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
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I am sorry, but the Secretary of State is simply wrong about that. On any legal analysis, it is quite clear that clause 3 gives UK Ministers acting alone the power to make regulations in relation to areas of devolved competence. I reiterate my question: why is that power there at all if the Government are not intending to use it to take powers away from the Scottish Parliament and other devolved Administrations?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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Again, with great respect to the hon. and learned Lady, she is over-reaching in the interpretation that she is applying to clause 3. It is a technical provision that allows for technical changes—glosses to terminology —such as the example that I gave the Committee a moment ago of how EU citizens may be defined. The clause is for technical changes in unforeseen areas, rather than fundamental changes of powers. Indeed, we have given an equivalent power through clause 4, in respect of the ability of the devolved authorities to do exactly the same thing or very similar.

Clause 3 must stand part of the Bill to ensure that the statute book is maintained and that any unforeseen technical issues that arise in future are addressed. That is why clause 3 is required. It is not as the hon. and learned Lady characterises it; it is a technical provision for glosses for any issues that were unforeseen at the time of the Bill’s passage.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
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Could I probe that a bit further? In clause 4, proposed new paragraph 11B specifically provides that Scottish Government—and indeed Welsh Government —Ministers cannot make any provision outwith devolved competence. However, there is no equivalent provision in clause 3 saying that the British Government cannot not use the powers to make regulations about devolved matters. If this is just technical, as the Secretary of State says, why will he not agree to include a similar qualification in relation to the British Government’s powers? If he will do so, could that perhaps be addressed in the House of Lords?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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That is not something that I would urge the other place to address, because this is a provision to address unforeseen areas in which technical changes may be required in the tightly constrained areas set out in clause 3. The hon. and learned Lady turns to clause 4, which confers on the devolved authorities a broadly equivalent power to that set out in clause 3. Where legislating for the implementation period falls within devolved competences, it is right that legislative changes can be made by the devolved authorities, with which I am sure she would agree. Therefore, the change in clause 4 provides the devolved authorities with corresponding powers to those set out under proposed new section 8A(1) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, as outlined in clause 3, so far as they are exercised within the devolved authorities’ competences.

--- Later in debate ---
Catherine West Portrait Catherine West
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Will the Secretary of State explain in clear language how he believes that will be played out at airports? Will there be several queues? Will there be one queue for everybody from European countries? I ask because many people ask me these questions in my surgery.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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We will go into more detail on citizens’ rights when we discuss the second group of amendments, but clause 5 secures the legal effect to the protections that apply to citizens within the EEA EFTA states. One of the big questions on the Brexit discussions that we have heard repeatedly in this place has been, “To what extent will people’s rights be protected?” This Bill is doing that for EU nationals through clause 5, and clause 6 mirrors those protections in law for citizens of the EEA EFTA states. The hon. Lady touches on the arrangements for citizens’ rights, which are a separate issue, but this is about how legal protection will apply to those nationals.

Clause 6 gives effect in domestic law to the EEA EFTA and Swiss separation agreements in a similar way to the withdrawal agreement. This ensures that a Norwegian citizen living in the UK can rely on their rights in a UK court in broadly the same way as a Swedish citizen. It does so in the same way as clause 5.

We do not want a Norwegian, Liechtenstein, Icelandic or Swiss national to have any less certainty on their rights than an EU national here or, indeed, a UK citizen in Europe. Clause 6 also enshrines the legal certainty for businesses and individuals covered by the EEA EFTA agreement that article 4 of the withdrawal agreement provides. This clause, as presented, is vital to the UK’s implementation of the EEA EFTA and Swiss agreements, and it must stand part of the Bill.

Clause 33 prohibits the UK from agreeing to an extension of the implementation period. Page 5 of the Conservative manifesto says:

“we will not extend the implementation period beyond December 2020”,

and clause 33 says:

“A Minister of the Crown may not agree in the Joint Committee to an extension of the implementation period.”

It could not be clearer. This Government are determined to honour our promise to the British people and to get Brexit done.

Both the EU and the UK committed to a deal by the end of 2020 in the political declaration. Now, with absolute clarity on the timetable to which we are working, the UK and the EU will be able to get on with it. In sum, clause 33 will ensure that we meet the timetable set out in the political declaration and deliver on our manifesto promise. For that reason, the clause must stand part of the Bill.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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I understand why clause 33 is in the Bill. As much as I am a remainer—I remain a remainer, and I will remain a remainer until my dying day—I none the less accept that the second referendum has now happened. That is the end of it.

My anxiety, however, was first expressed, in a sense, by the previous Prime Minister when she wrote the first letter of intent with regard to article 50, which stated that we would have trouble on security issues if we did not have a full deal by the end of the implementation period. I ask the Government to think very carefully about how we ensure that, by the end of this year, we have a security deal covering the whole range of security issues that face this country. I would argue that that is as important as the trade-related issues.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I welcome the constructive way in which the hon. Gentleman raises his concerns about security while recognising the general election mandate and how it plays into this clause and its reflection of the manifesto.

I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to two things. First, the withdrawal agreement commits both sides, including the European Union, to using their best endeavours to reach agreement. Secondly, the political declaration commits to a timescale of the end of 2020. That is why we are confident that this can be done to the timescale, and it is a reflection of the commitments given by both the UK and the EU in the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con)
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Does the Secretary of State agree that all things are possible when both parties to a negotiation are willing to proceed in good spirit? Indeed, in a briefing to EU politicians in November 2019, Michel Barnier said the timescale would normally be far too short but that Brussels would strive to have a deal in place by the end of 2020. It is clearly possible to do this deal for the end of 2020. Does my right hon. Friend agree that is the right approach to take?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I very much agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, the Commission President will be meeting the Prime Minister tomorrow, and I will be meeting Michel Barnier, to act on that constructive spirit. Both sides have committed to the timescale.

I am conscious that the House is now in a different place, but many Members will recall that it was often said it was impossible to reach an agreement before, indeed, the agreement was reached.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP)
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I welcome the fact that the Government are determined to bring this process to an end by December 2020, and I hope that that does concentrate minds in the EU. If the EU and the Government cannot come to an agreement by then, what are the implications for, first, the future arrangements and, secondly, the current withdrawal agreement, especially the provisions in Northern Ireland?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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First, I believe we can and will do this, and, as I have indicated to the House, so does the EU, because it has committed, in the political declaration, to doing it. Secondly, a number of issues are addressed through this Bill: citizens’ rights, which the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) asked about in relation to her constituents, are protected through this Bill. People used to talk about a no-deal outcome, and one thing this Bill does is secure the protection of the 3 million EU citizens within our country, who are valued, and of the more than 1 million UK citizens there. The right hon. Gentleman has concerns about the Northern Ireland protocol, and I stand ready, as do my ministerial colleagues, to continue to discuss issues with him. We will debate that in more detail in Committee tomorrow, but, again, the Northern Ireland protocol is secured through the passage of this Bill. That puts us in a very different place from where many of the debates were in the previous Parliament in respect of concerns about no deal.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
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I remind the Secretary of State that just last month the Commission President said that she has serious concerns about this timetable. All experts in trade are concerned that an 11-month period simply does not necessarily give the time to get a good deal done, so why is he signing up now to something he could postpone until at least June, when he will have a better sense of how negotiations are going? Why is he cutting off his nose to spite his face by saying now that he will not extend the implementation period?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I will move on, because new clauses 4 and 36 speak to the same point, but, in short, this is being done partly for the reasons I have already given the House in respect of what is set out in the political declaration, where there is a shared commitment, and partly because Members on my side of the House gave a manifesto commitment to stick to this timetable. I am sure the hon. Lady would be the first to criticise the Government if they made a manifesto commitment and then decided not to stand by it. So we are committed to the commitment we gave on the timescale, which is why we want to move forward with clause 33.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I will make a little progress and then, of course, I will come back to the hon. Gentleman.

New clauses 4 and 36 stand in the names of the Leader of the Opposition and the acting leader of the Liberal Democrats respectively. New clause 4 has been tabled by the Leader of the Opposition in an attempt to force the Government to extend the implementation period if a deal has not been agreed with the EU by 15 June. The new clause would also give Parliament a vote on any such extension. New clause 36 is similar in effect to new clause 4, but it would do this without having any parliamentary vote. It states that a deal is required on both economic and security matters by 1 June or an extension is mandated as a consequence of this legislation. The Opposition parties therefore want to amend the Bill to force further delay.

Gary Sambrook Portrait Gary Sambrook (Birmingham, Northfield) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is astounding that so many Opposition Members did not listen to the call in the recent general election from the people, who are fed up with continuous delays and extensions? The message they gave us on the doorstep was to get Brexit done so that we can all move on and start talking about other things, such as our NHS, schools and policing.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is right to say that a very clear message was reflected in our mandate. To be fair to Opposition Members, I should say that I watched the shadow Brexit Secretary on “The Andrew Marr Show” and he did accept the need to move on. [Interruption.] I am giving credit to him, although I appreciate that he is engaged on other matters in his own party at the moment. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that there was a clear desire from the British public to get on to the other priorities to which he refers.

Jonathan Edwards Portrait Jonathan Edwards
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is not the danger in setting this fixed date that the British Government will quickly have to make a decision about what they want to achieve in the second phase of Brexit? Are they going to go for close alignment? If so, they could possibly get the deal done in the year. But if they decide they are going to disalign, that will create difficulties, and the best we can hope for will be, if not a no-deal cliff edge, a bare-bones free trade agreement. That could be very bad news for the economy.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, we see it as a win-win. The EU wishes to trade with the UK; we wish to trade with the EU. They are our neighbours and we want to have a constructive relationship, but at the same time people voted for change and they want to see change. The Government are committed to delivering, through the Bill, the change that the British public voted for.

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

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is not only the British people who are fed up with seeing Parliament going round and round in circles on Brexit, which is why they voted for the Conservative party in the general election? People in many European countries just want to get on and get past Brexit. They want a trade deal with us; we should agree one quickly and move on.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend, who always speaks with authority as a former Member of the European Parliament, is absolutely right to understand that this is a desire not just of the British public but of many of our friends and neighbours in Europe, who want to see the debate move forward and therefore want to see this legislation delivered. That is why it is right that we have clause 1 and why the new clauses are inappropriate.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the negotiations with the European Union on the free trade agreement will be relatively easy on goods, but the negotiations on services will be much more complicated? That is mainly because on goods we have a balance of trade deficit with the European Union, but on services we have a balance of trade improvement.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

I refer back to the remarks I made a moment ago about this being a win-win for both sides. Let me take a portfolio that I used to deal with as a Minister: financial services. It is in the interests of EU businesses to be able to access capital at the cheapest possible price. I see in his place my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), who has expertise in this regard; he knows that the expertise in respect of the global markets and the liquidity that London offers is of benefit not just to the rest of the world but to colleagues in European businesses. They want access to the talent of the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) and many others, which is why it is in both sides’ interests to reach agreement. That is the discussion that the Prime Minister will have with the President of the Commission tomorrow.

Stephen Hammond Portrait Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

For those of us who have been clear about our opposition to no deal, the problem with new clause 4 is that in effect it takes away some of the certainty and benefits to business, because it opens up the possibility of an unended extension, and the problem with new clause 36 is that it is anti-democratic. Any colleagues who think that such provisions may need to be in place should recognise that they would undermine the whole purpose of the withdrawal agreement. The best way to stop no deal is to secure a deal.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I know that he engages extensively with the business community, and what the business community wants is the clarity and certainty that the Bill delivers, and it also wants an implementation period that has a clear demarcation in terms of time. That is what the Bill will deliver.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

I shall give way one further time to the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), who was the Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee.

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

The Secretary of State has expressed enormous confidence that a deal will be done by December; may I test that confidence a little further? Will he give the House an assurance today that there is no prospect whatsoever of the UK leaving without an agreement in December this year?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

I have set this out very clearly. The right hon. Gentleman will have studied the Bill—he always does—and will know exactly what is in clause 33, which is a commitment to stick to the timetable set out for the implementation period, which we committed to in our manifesto. I would hope that he, as a democrat, would want a Government to adhere to their manifesto.

The reality is that, on 12 December, the British public voted in overwhelming numbers to get Brexit done by 31 January and to conclude the implementation period by December 2020, so that we can look forward to a bright future as an independent nation. Page 5 of our manifesto explicitly states that we will negotiate a trade agreement by next year—one that will strengthen our union—and that we will not extend the implementation period beyond December 2020. We are delivering on these promises that the British people have entrusted us to deliver, and the Opposition are interested only in further delay and disruption. I urge Labour and the Liberal Democrats not to press new clauses 4 and 36.

I look forward to hearing from Members across the House as we take the Bill through Committee. This Government are committed to delivering Brexit, and this Bill will enable us to do so.

Roger Gale Portrait The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Roger Gale)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. I should probably have indicated for the benefit of new Members, and will indicate now, that clause 33 will not be decided today. Although it is grouped with these amendments, it will be taken as a Committee of the Whole House decision tomorrow and may or may not be divided on. To make that clear, it will not be that we have forgotten it.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Steve Barclay Excerpts
3rd reading: House of Commons & 3rd reading
Thursday 9th January 2020

(2 years, 7 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)
Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Steve Barclay)
- Hansard - -

During the Committee stage this week and today on Third Reading we have had good debates on the withdrawal agreement Bill. This Bill will implement in UK law the withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, ensuring that the UK departs the EU with a deal, getting Brexit done on 31 January, as we promised the British public we would. It will once and for all deliver on the mandate given to us not once but twice: in June 2016 and again in December 2019.

I would like to thank Members across the House who have contributed to the Committee stage over the last two years—two days. [Interruption.] Sometimes days can feel like years, but the new tone of this House obviously makes time seem to pass much quicker. I also add my thanks to the Clerks and officials in the Public Bill Office, who consistently provide invaluable support to Members in the House.

We have had three excellent maiden speeches in this debate, which also saw the very welcome return of my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans) to the Chair, continuing the Lancashire theme that we had at departmental questions. There was also the welcome election of the first female Chair of Ways and Means.

My hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Craig Williams) gave an excellent maiden speech—although he does have the benefit of having done it before. He spoke with warmth and passion about his home seat. He rightly paid tribute to his much-loved predecessor, who has given 50 years so far of public service. Having worked closely with him as my special adviser in the Department, I know that he will champion Wales throughout his time in the House, and I look forward to resuming my conversations with him on agriculture, and I am sure on rugby as well.

The hon. Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson) gave a very good maiden speech, showing her passion for her constituency, and for the community groups and the community spaces with which she has worked. She referenced Clement Attlee and gave a speech that I am sure he would have been very proud to hear. She is right to highlight the value of the European Union citizens in her constituency. That is one of the safeguards that this Bill delivers, because we value their contribution not just in Putney but across the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds) gave a first-class maiden speech, which displayed his clear and detailed knowledge and experience of immigration issues, and indeed it was clear that he held the attention of the House. It signalled the valuable contribution that I know he will make to forthcoming debates.

We also had a number of very powerful speeches from some of the most experienced Members of the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) spoke of the importance of place and the people who have spoken within that place, and with his 30,000-plus majority they certainly have spoken very clearly on behalf of my right hon. Friend.

My right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) spoke about the importance of democratic accountability and of restoring control over our fishing, an issue that he has championed throughout his time in this place. We will restore to this country the advantages of our spectacular marine wealth through this Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) spoke of this as a great moment in our democracy and it being a tribute to the British people. I gently say to my hon Friend that it is also a tribute to him, who, despite criticism over the years, has stuck fast to his principles, and that is reflected in this Bill.

Mark Francois Portrait Mr Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I entirely endorse that tribute. Under the Bill, and specifically under article 50, we will leave the European Union at 11 pm GMT on 31 January. As we leave at a precise specified time, those who wish to celebrate will need to look to a clock to mark the moment. It seems inconceivable to me and many colleagues that that clock should not be the most iconic timepiece in the world, Big Ben. Will my right hon. Friend make representations to the House of Commons Commission, whose decision it is, that Big Ben should bong for Brexit?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

My right hon. Friend will know that my opposite number often talked of a clock ticking. He will also know that that decision is for the House authorities, but I am sure they will have heard the representations he makes. This is an important moment in our national story, and I am sure they will want to reflect that in the appropriate way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan) gave a very insightful speech, reflecting her detailed commercial expertise. She is particularly right to draw the attention of the House to emerging technologies as one of the key opportunities unlocked by taking back control of our trade policy. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) spoke with the experience of a former Chair of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee. As a farming constituency MP myself, I know that when he talks about what the National Farmers Union calls the “utter madness” of the three-crop rule, dictating to our farmers what they can and cannot grow, he speaks powerfully of the opportunities that the Bill will unlock.

This evening, the Bill will pass to the other place with a very clear mandate from this House that now is the time to move forwards. I anticipate constructive scrutiny, as we would expect of the other place, but I have no doubt that their lordships will have heard the resounding message from the British people on 12 December and that they will have seen the clear will of this House as expressed by the sizeable majorities in the Committee votes. The other place has, on more than one occasion, shown itself capable of acting at remarkable speed when it considers that it is in the interests of democracy and votes in this House. Given that, it is my sincere hope that their lordships will now give due regard to the clear majorities in Committee and establish their endorsement of the Bill in a similar timely fashion.

The Bill will secure our departure from the European Union with a deal that gives certainty to businesses, protects the rights of our citizens and ensures that we regain control of our money, our borders, our laws and our trade policy. Once the Bill has been passed and the withdrawal agreement ratified, we will proceed swiftly to the completion of a free trade deal with the EU by the end of December 2020, as laid out in our manifesto, bringing the supremacy of EU law to an end and restoring permanently the sovereignty of this place.

The European Commission President yesterday gave what I thought was a very thoughtful speech at the London School of Economics, speaking of old friends and new beginnings. She expressed her desire to establish a future relationship that is “unprecedented in scope”. In our later meeting with the Commission President, the Prime Minister made it clear that we share her desire for a relationship based on our shared history, interests and values. That is what we intend to build as a consequence of the Bill.

Three years ago, Parliament entrusted the decision of our relationship with the EU to the British people. By passing the Bill, we will send a clear message that we have listened and we have acted. In doing so, we will restore trust in this House and in our democracy. Once Brexit is delivered on 31 January, we can turn our eyes towards our other national priorities: education and skills; making our country safer; investing in the future of our much-loved NHS; and levelling up all parts of the United Kingdom. This is what people care about. It is what this people’s Government cares about. Passing the Brexit Bill will unlock the time and energy to make those priorities a reality.

It is time to get Brexit done. The Bill does so. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Steve Barclay Excerpts
Consideration of Lords amendments & Ping Pong: House of Commons & Ping Pong
Wednesday 22nd January 2020

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 54-I Marshalled list for Consideration of Commons reasons - (22 Jan 2020)
Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Steve Barclay)
- Hansard - -

I beg to move, That this House disagrees with Lords amendment 1.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With this we may take Lords amendments 2 to 5, and Government motions to disagree.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

Less than a fortnight has passed since we last debated the Bill in this House. Since then the House of Lords has sat for nearly 40 hours to debate more than 100 amendments. The noble Lords in the other place have asked this House to think again on five matters and I will address each in turn.

Turning first to Lords amendment 1 on citizens’ rights tabled by the noble Lord Oates, I know that noble Lords share the Government’s commitment to putting the rights and welfare of citizens at the heart of our withdrawal negotiations. The first part of the amendment establishes a declaratory system and the second part requires Ministers to bring forward regulations making provisions for those with declaratory rights to apply for a document evidencing their rights. This amendment would mean the successful EU settlement scheme in its current form would need to be abandoned, because there would be no need to register if people could later rely on a declaration that they were already in the UK. This would make null and void the 2.8 million applications and the 2.5 million grants of status that have already been completed. The Government would, under this amendment, also be unable to issue digital status to EU citizens without also issuing physical documents, including to those already holding a digital status under the current scheme. That would increase the risk of fraud and raises costs to Government and citizens.

Anneliese Dodds Portrait Anneliese Dodds (Oxford East) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Surely the Secretary of State is aware that his own Ministers have also been stating that it might be possible for people to print off emails, for example, to provide that confirmation. There seems to be a huge number of mixed messages here. He will also be aware that many of those citizens are already being asked for that proof by employers. Surely the Government should deal with the system as it is actually being used, rather than his imagined reality of it, which is rather different.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

The hon. Lady anticipates my next point, which is on the interplay between a physical document and the digital status, because, as she knows, digital status is more secure than any physical document could ever be, and furthermore all successful applicants receive a confirmation letter and can download secure share codes which can be printed or sent to anybody an EU citizen might need to show their status to in the future. The key is the number that is there, and digital status is the most secure, but of course people can print off the email that they receive.

The vote to leave included a desire for greater control of our borders. We need to be able to differentiate between EU citizens who arrived pre-exit and have rights set out in this Bill and EU citizens who arrive after we leave, who will be treated the same as the rest of the world under the forthcoming immigration Bill. Despite the good intentions, a declaratory status does not allow for that differentiation, so I urge Members to reject this amendment.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State will understand that there are, of course, some people for whom the challenge of applying for status is considerable, and the Government have said they will give reasonable consideration to those who have reason not to have applied by the deadline. One group that I and other colleagues are particularly concerned about is children looked after in the care system by local authorities, which do not in many cases have either the resources or the expertise to pursue applications for those children to obtain settled status. Will the Secretary of State assure the House that they will be protected, as they would be under a declaratory system?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

The hon. Lady makes a fair point, and I know that she has taken a close interest in the issue over many years. As she will be aware, we have committed £9 million to work with vulnerable groups and to help sectors, including the one to which she refers, with using the settlement scheme, and we have introduced a grace period to allow additional time if there are reasons why people need to apply late.

The fact is that the scheme has no charge and almost 3 million people have applied. It is working well, but we have an outreach programme, which includes 57 organisations and money to address the hon. Lady’s point.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government have previously disputed estimates from respected think-tanks that tens—probably hundreds—of thousands of European economic area nationals will fail to apply by the deadline and therefore lose their rights. Do the Government have their own estimate of the numbers? If they do not, how on earth can the Secretary of State dispute those figures?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

That is in part why the Government have put a grace period in place; that reflects many previous debates in this House that included concerns raised by the hon. Gentleman and others about whether people might miss the deadline. Almost 3 million people have applied, which is a reflection of the fact that the scheme is working very effectively.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

I shall make a little progress before taking further interventions.

I turn to their lordships’ amendments 2 and 3, on the interpretation of retained European Union law. Amendment 2, tabled by Lord Beith, would remove the power to set which courts may diverge from retained Court of Justice of the European Union case law, and how. Amendment 3, tabled by Lord Mackay, would insert a mechanism whereby any court thinking that CJEU case law should be departed from may ask the Supreme Court to decide.

The other place has one of the greatest concentrations of legal talent in the world, and it is only right that the Government’s intentions on such a sensitive matter should be examined by their lordships, and that challenging alternatives should be proposed. The Bill ensures that time is built in to allow consultation of the senior judiciary in all jurisdictions. It is worth repeating what my noble Friends Lords Callanan and Keen said: we will, of course, also consult the devolved Administrations.

In proposing amendment 3, the noble and learned Lord Mackay has made an interesting proposal, but the Government cannot accept this recreation of the CJEU’s preliminary reference procedure.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As a fellow lawyer, my right hon. Friend will know the importance of the doctrine of binding precedence—stare decisis—to our common law system. That was what the amendments sought to deal with.

Anyone looking at the Lords Hansard will see that we were clearly close to a compromise with Lord Mackay, in which the necessary scheme to disapply EU law would be dealt with not necessarily by the Supreme Court but by courts of appellate jurisdiction. If we do not accept this amendment as it currently stands, will the Government try again to find a compromise when the matter goes back to the Lords? This is a fundamental principle on which we ought to be able to find agreement.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend speaks with authority and constructively about how the issue could be addressed. Let me reassure him that the Government do intend to consider and consult rigorously to ensure that CJEU case law is properly domesticated after the end of the implementation period.

Let me set out to the House, especially hon. and learned Members, that the power in clause 26 is sunset until the end of the year—the point at which courts will start interpreting retained EU law. Any change to the rules of interpretation will come in time for litigants and the courts. We will ensure that there is legal clarity at all times on the rules of interpretation.

David Davis Portrait Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I rise to support the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill), to go back to the Lords for a compromise on the matter. Of all the changes incorporated in the withdrawal Act in the past month or two, this is the weakest; it opens a swathe of problems for both Government and judiciary. Lord Mackay got very close to getting it right, and we should talk to him again.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

I always listen intently to the constructive points put by my right hon. Friend, my predecessor but one. I draw his attention to the fact that we are committed to consulting the senior judiciary on our approach to this matter, which is my right hon. Friend’s underlying point.

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

The Secretary of State says that he is going to consult the devolved Administrations. However, the problem is that at present the Government speak to them without taking any cognisance of their answers. Will he give me an assurance that when he consults with the devolved Administrations on this matter, he will not only listen but actually take their advice on board?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

There was a meeting between Ministers and devolved Government representatives yesterday about taking on board the input of the devolved Administrations during our discussions on the next phase of negotiations. There have been instances in which my counterpart in the Scottish Government has paid tribute to one of the Ministers in the Department, for example, in the early consultation on the withdrawal agreement Bill. I appreciate that the hon. and learned Lady’s position will always be to desire more consultation and for the UK Government to take further note, but we are consulting and will continue to do so.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way again. It is not that I desire more consultation, but that I want the British Government to take on board what the Scottish Government say—

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Effective consultation, as the hon. Gentleman says.

As the Secretary of State will know well, the difficulty is that the Cabinet Secretary Michael Russell, the most senior Scottish Government official with whom the British Government deal, is clear: he is listened to if he is lucky, but they never take his advice on board.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

To say “never” contradicts comments that Mr Russell has himself made, but the hon. and learned Lady has made her point about consultation.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

I shall make a little more progress before taking further interventions. I urge Members to reject both amendments.

I turn to Lords amendment 4, tabled by the noble Lord Dubs. Although the Government humbly disagree with the amendment, we recognise his sincerity about and dedication to this issue and the constructive scrutiny that he has provided on behalf of vulnerable children. The amendment would remove the provision that amends the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to require the Government to report on their policy on unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

I can only say again, as I did in our previous debates, that the Government’s policy is unchanged. Delivering on it will not require legislation. The Government have a proud record on supporting the most vulnerable children. The UK has granted protection to more than 41,000 children since the start of 2010. In 2018, the UK received more than 3,000 asylum applications from unaccompanied children, and the UK deals with 15% of all claims in the EU, making us the country with the third highest intake in Europe. Indeed, in the year ending September 2019 the intake rose to more than 3,500.

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

I am pleased that the policy has not changed, but why is the Secretary of State changing the legislation?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

The right hon. Gentleman pre-empts the passage that I am just coming to.

As hon. Members will be aware, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary wrote to the European Commission on 22 October on this very issue. The amendment in no way affects our commitment to seek an agreement with the EU. Primary legislation cannot deliver the best outcomes for these children, as it cannot guarantee that we will reach an agreement. That is why this is ultimately a matter that must be negotiated with the EU. The Government are committed to seeking the best possible outcome in those negotiations.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Over the past three and a half years, there have been many arguments and debates about European citizens’ rights and their protection. Refugee children are among the most vulnerable in the world—surely none of us, regardless of the side of the argument we were on, wants their safety or the possibility of their being reunited with their families to be undermined in any way. Why, then, are the Government so determined to take such provision out of the Bill rather than going with the amendment, which would offer a guarantee and reassure everyone in the House?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

For the reasons that I have alluded to; this is an issue that the Home Secretary is addressing.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
- Hansard -

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

I give way to the previous Chair of the Home Affairs Committee—I am conscious that that election is still to come.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State has still given no reason. Why take the provision out of the 2018 Act? It is in previous legislation. There are loads of things in legislation through the decades that the Government say they disagree with, but amendments are not needed because they have said they disagree, and they do not remove those things from the statute book. That is what makes us suspect that he wants to remove it, because for some reason he thinks that it will restrict what he wants to do, and in the end, therefore, he will betray the commitments that have been made to the most vulnerable children. If not, he should keep the provision in the Act.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

Let me address that head-on: the reason is that the purpose of the legislation is to implement in domestic law the international agreement that we have reached. That is what the withdrawal agreement Bill is doing and that is why we do not support the amendment. What drives the right hon. Lady’s concern is whether the protections will be in place for unaccompanied children. I draw her attention again to the Government’s record as one of the three best countries in the EU. The figures show that this country has the third highest intake and deals with 15% of all claims in the EU. That is the policy that the Government and the Prime Minister are committed to, and it is reflected in the Home Secretary’s approach.

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

At this late stage in the Secretary of State’s comments, will he reflect again on Lords amendments 4 and 1? If what he says to the House is true, there is no principle at stake. If the policy and the determined will of the Government remain the same when it comes to unaccompanied child refugees, there is nothing to be lost. There was no strong defence of the Government position in the House of Lords. I urge him to consider this matter wholly and listen to voices across the House who believe that it would be better to see legislative provision than not.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the comments that I have made: the policy has not changed and the Government’s commitment is reflected in the record, and that is why the amendment should be resisted.

Lords amendment 5 seeks to recognise the Sewel convention. The convention is already found in statute, in the Scotland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 2006. However, the convention in no way limits parliamentary sovereignty. As hon. Members will recall from the Miller case, the Sewel convention is fundamentally political. It was found then not to be justiciable and to reflect it in this statute should not change that.

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

The Prime Minister has made it clear that he thinks that the Union is important, as I do, but it is unprecedented that the Senedd, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly have refused consent for the Bill. The Welsh Government have made it very clear in refusing consent that it is because the UK Government can potentially force them to accept international obligations in the future relationship, which could impact on devolved competences. When we think about such things as the NHS, that will be absolutely crucial. Will the Secretary of State be clear whether he is going to work with—as well as just meeting and ticking the box—the devolved Administrations on the future negotiations, or is he going to impose this, generating further conflict and damage to the Union?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman and I both treasure the Union and want to work to ensure that it is preserved. To address his point, we had a meeting yesterday with devolved representatives, including the Welsh Government, to hear their input in the next phase. We are committed to working with the Welsh Government, among others, as we shape that negotiation.

As was noted in the other place, the issue that I was describing is not quite what the amendment turns on. As the noble Lord Callanan said when responding to this amendment yesterday:

“What matters is that the Government continue to uphold the Sewel convention”.—[Official Report, House of Lords, 21 January 2020; Vol. 801, c. 1074.]

We have done so in the passage of this Bill, including by ensuring that devolved Ministers will have a clear role in the functioning of the independent monitoring authority, particularly in their role in nominating to its board members with specialist devolved expertise.

On 17 January I wrote to Mike Russell and Jeremy Miles, my counterparts in the Scottish and Welsh Governments, to make clear the Government’s commitment to the legislative consent process and the enduring power and value of our historic partnerships. We are of course disappointed that the devolved legislatures have nevertheless not consented to the Bill.

Wayne David Portrait Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Secretary of State give way?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

I will take one more intervention, but the direction from the Chair is that I should allow other Members to speak in the debate and not take undue time.

Wayne David Portrait Wayne David
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Given the Secretary of State’s reference to the letter to the Welsh Government and the Welsh Minister, how does he square the circle of wanting, on the one hand, to reinforce the principles of Sewel and so on, but on the other, wanting to amend the legislation to withdraw the commitment?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I am bit bothered about time. We have quite a few Members who want to make speeches. I remind Members that they cannot just walk in and put a question to the Minister—let us all work together for one another.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I was trying to be generous in taking interventions, but I will take your direction, Mr Speaker.

We very much respect the devolved Governments’ opposition to Brexit as a whole, but the legislative consent process should not be the place to show such disagreements; rather, it is for voicing concerns with parts of legislation that relate to devolved competences. The refusal of legislative consent in no way affects the Sewel convention or the Government’s dedication to it. However, as recognised by both Mike Russell and Lord Sewel, these are not normal times. Given those circumstances, I urge Members to reject this amendment.

We have covered significant ground in debating this Bill. Once passed, it will stand as an historic piece of legislation. I therefore hope that the House will respectfully disagree with their lordships’ amendments.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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I rise on behalf of the Opposition to explain why we oppose the Government on all five of their motions to disagree with their lordships.

On EU citizens’ rights, their lordships passed an amendment providing for, first, a declaratory system for gaining settled status and, secondly, for a physical document. The declaratory system would honour the previous Government’s pledges to EU citizens living here before we leave the EU that they would enjoy the exact same rights as before—we are just asking this Government to honour that. It would avoid the cliff edge of time limits—the grace period still means that there is a time limit—and pressures on people who have the legal right to be here but who, for various reasons, are being asked for yet more evidence or have only been given pre-settled and not yet settled status.

The Government talk of the 2.5 million people who have been granted status, but many of those who have applied for settled status and are entitled to it have been granted only pre-settled status, which does not give that promised certainty. Many people are not aware that they need to apply, particularly those who have been here since childhood. Others may not apply in time, for many good reasons. The Secretary of State says that late applications for good reasons will be considered, but we do not really know what good reasons will count. That does not give certainty.

The Minister in the other place argued that declaratory registration is not necessary because the current scheme addresses all problems, but it does not. The arbitrary time limit and the problems and delays in securing status all risk making some people who should be lawfully resident unlawfully resident past the time limit.

The physical document—the other part of the amendment—is vital. Surely we in this Chamber all know that internet signals are not reliable. People do not all have smartphones. Other categories of non-UK citizens have a physical document, so it is not surprising that the Residential Landlords Association say that it is deeply concerned about the lack of physical proof and that landlords are not, and should not be treated as, border police. In a perverse justification of the policy, Ministers have said that providing a physical document, as this amendment proposes, would make a future Windrush-style scandal more likely. On our understanding, it is the exact opposite.