Steve Barclay debates involving the Department for Exiting the European Union during the 2019 Parliament

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
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
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

International Agreements

Steve Barclay Excerpts
Thursday 30th January 2020

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Written Statements
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Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Steve Barclay)
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The UK has strong partnerships with virtually every country around the world and aims to strengthen them as we leave the European Union.

During the UK’s membership of the EU, important aspects of these relationships have been governed through EU arrangements: through formal and informal co-operation and collaboration; dialogues; memoranda of understanding; regulatory arrangements; and in some cases through international agreements or treaties.

The Government have been committed to preserving the relationships governed by these agreements and arrangements. Accordingly, article 129 of the withdrawal agreement specifies that, for the duration of the transition period, the UK will remain bound by the obligations under existing EU-third country international agreements. In addition, the asterisk to article 129(1) provides for the EU to issue a notification to its treaty partners stating that the UK is to be treated as an EU member state for the purposes of those agreements.

Following signature of the withdrawal agreement on 24 January, the EU has now issued the notification described above to its treaty partners, as well as to the depositaries of multilateral agreements to which it is a party.

This notification provides an important platform for continuity. Some EU treaty partners may choose to respond publicly to the EU’s notification, but this is not a precondition for continuity provided a treaty partner intends the UK to be covered and continues to act accordingly.

If businesses or other stakeholders find that these arrangements, for whatever reason, are not being implemented smoothly, they should make their concerns known to the relevant UK authorities.

As of 1 February, the UK will also become bound by any obligations stemming from EU international agreements which are concluded or provisionally applied during the transition period. The Government expect that the arrangements above will also apply to such agreements.

To prepare for the end of the transition period, the Government will continue to work to transition those international agreements which are relevant and necessary, where there is mutual interest to do so. In some cases, this will be through a formal successor treaty between the UK and a third country or group of countries. In other cases, this will be through another type of arrangement, for example a memorandum of understanding.

I will be depositing a copy of the EU’s notification (in the form of a note verbale and covering letter) in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS82]

Exiting the European Union

Steve Barclay Excerpts
Monday 27th January 2020

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Written Statements
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Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Steve Barclay)
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Signing of the withdrawal agreement

On Friday 24 January, the Prime Minister signed the agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union and European Atomic Energy Community. The Presidents of the European Commission and European Council signed the agreement on behalf of the European Union on the same date. The withdrawal agreement must now be ratified by both parties by 31 January to bring the agreement into force from the point when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Ratification by the EU will take place after the European Parliament has given its consent to the conclusion of the agreement, which is expected to happen on 29 January.

Following ratification by both parties, the agreement will enter into force at 23:00 GMT on 31 January in the UK (00:00 on 1 February in Brussels).

UK-EEA EFTA separation agreement

On Tuesday 28 January the UK, alongside representatives from the EEA EFTA States (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) will also sign the UK-EEA EFTA separation agreement. First published in December 2018, this agreement protects the rights of our citizens who have chosen to call each other’s countries home, as well as resolving a small number of other issues arising from the UK’s exit from the EU. The UK-EEA EFTA separation agreement broadly mirrors the terms of the UK-EU withdrawal agreement.

The UK-EEA EFTA separation agreement will be provisionally applied by the UK from exit day. The UK-EEA EFTA separation agreement will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny processes under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, and will enter into force in respect of the UK following ratification by the UK and at least one other party.

UKRep

Following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, the United Kingdom’s representation to the European Union (UKRep) in Brussels will become a third country mission to the European Union. Formally, the mission will be titled the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s mission to the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community. In practice, the mission will be referred to as the United Kingdom’s mission to the European Union, shortened to UKMis Brussels.

This change will take effect from 1 February 2020.

[HCWS61]

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

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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With this we may take Lords amendments 2 to 5, and Government motions to disagree.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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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)
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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
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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)
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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
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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)
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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
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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
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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)
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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
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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)
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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
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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)
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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—
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Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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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)
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I am pleased that the policy has not changed, but why is the Secretary of State changing the legislation?

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

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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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)
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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
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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)
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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
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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)
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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
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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)
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Will the Secretary of State give way?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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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
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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.

Oral Answers to Questions

Steve Barclay Excerpts
Thursday 9th January 2020

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con)
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18. What plans the Government have to mark the UK leaving the EU on 31 January 2020.

Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Steve Barclay)
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I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend on his election to the seat of Warrington South. I look forward to his advocacy on issues relating to our exit from the European Union. We stand ready to work with businesses up and down the country as we mark an important moment in our national history: leaving the European Union on 31 January.

Andy Carter Portrait Andy Carter
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How will my right hon. Friend ensure that small businesses, which have been, and are, the engine of growth in my constituency, are able to share in the benefits of leaving the EU and in celebrating our departure on 31 January?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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Before coming to the House, my hon. Friend was a champion of small businesses in Warrington, and I know he will continue to be so during his time in this place. The best way that we will support businesses in his constituency is by having control of our money, borders and laws. That is what our exit from the European Union does, and that is what he should rightly celebrate on 31 January.

None Portrait Hon. Members
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Hear, hear!

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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From the reaction of the House, it seems my hon. Friend has struck an extremely positive note in one of her first contributions. I again welcome her to the House. I know her constituency is famed for its beer, and I am sure that many Members would welcome those breweries celebrating this occasion in such a way, just as I would welcome the fantastic Elgood’s Brewery doing so, which sits in my constituency.

Mark Logan Portrait Mark Logan
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Will my right hon. Friend consider the idea, as a lot of my constituents have, of commemorating this day of real constitutional importance by having an anniversary on the date every year?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I very much welcome my hon. Friend to his place, not least as a fellow Lancastrian; I am sure Mr Speaker knows of our Lancastrian pride. He brings an important suggestion. Again, it is all part of marking this significant moment in our national history.

Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge that 31 January is a significant day not only for us here in the United Kingdom but for hundreds of millions of Eurosceptics across the continent of Europe who share concerns about the direction of travel of the European Union, including many citizens in my country of birth, Poland? Does he agree that it is important for us to celebrate this day very publicly, as a nation, to give a guiding principle to others in Europe that there is life outside the European Union?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the fact that this is an important day not just for our own citizens but for many elsewhere who recognise the importance of this event in terms of democracy and respecting the democratic decisions that people take, rather than overturning them, as has sometimes been the intention in the past. He has always been a champion of close ties between the UK and Poland, and I think that whatever celebrations there are will continue in that vein.

Hilary Benn Portrait Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab)
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Do the Government’s plans for the end of this month still include the abolition of the right hon. Gentleman’s Department? If so, which Department and which Minister will take responsibility for the very important negotiations that are about to begin?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I pay tribute to the work of the right hon. Gentleman during his tenure as Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee. He knows from his time in Government that machinery of government changes are announced in the usual way by the Prime Minister, and No. 10 has signalled that it intends to do so. He should also be aware, because we publicly stated it, that the Department will draw to a close to mark our exit. It is the Department for Exiting the European Union, and we will have exited and done the job of the Department when we leave on 31 January.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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I welcome the Secretary of State back to this House. We have always got on very well, and he is much cleverer than me, but I do have a couple of degrees in economics. When the President of the European Commission comes here and says that in any deal, if we do not have free movement of labour we will not get free movement of goods and services, is that not something that we should all be very sad about as we leave the European Union?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I am always grateful to the hon. Gentleman for how he champions his constituents and raises thoughtful points. He is quite right to pick up on what I thought was a constructive speech from the European Commission President at the London School of Economics yesterday and to draw the House’s attention to it. What I took away from her speech was her language about wanting a very ambitious partnership—she referred to

“old friends and new beginnings”

and drew on her own time in London and how much she enjoyed it and valued the United Kingdom. She wanted to see a close partnership, whether on climate change, security or many other issues on which we have values in common with our neighbours.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
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Will the Government confirm whether they are going to request the chiming of Big Ben to mark 11 pm on 31 January? This is not going to be a moment of celebration for many people across the UK; it will be a moment of considerable concern, not least for my constituents who are European Union nationals. Perhaps we should be asking the Government: if they do want to hear the bell chime, for whom will the bell toll?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I welcome this late conversion on the part of the Scottish National party to celebrating our exit and having Big Ben chime. As the hon. Gentleman will know, a decision as to whether Big Ben should bong or not is one for the House authorities and I would not dare to step into such terrain. The wider point, as I think the mood of the House has demonstrated, is that this is an historic moment and many Members of the House wish to celebrate it.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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I urge the Government to be careful about the tone that is adopted at the end of January. They will appreciate that there are many who do not see this as a moment for celebration. In particular, may I ask the Secretary of State what measures are being put in place for the large numbers of non-UK EU nationals, of whom there are many in Cambridgeshire, who will feel particularly vulnerable at that point?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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The hon. Member is absolutely right, and I hope that colleagues across the House will see that I always try to take a tone that reflects that. I have often talked about the fact that in my own family, notwithstanding my personal role, my eldest brother is an official working for a European institution. I know that many families were split on this issue.

To answer the hon. Member’s question directly, one thing that we have done is establish a £9 million fund to support outreach groups and charities. We have worked with embassies in particular. Within that £9 million, £1 million is specifically for the settlement scheme, as I am sure the Minister for Security detailed in Committee on Tuesday, and there have been 2.6 million or 2.8 million or so applications, so the scheme is working very effectively free of charge. But the hon. Member is right that some people will have concerns, and one thing that the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill does is guarantee the rights of citizens and address many of the concerns that some of his constituents have shared.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con)
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In celebration of this important occasion in our nation’s history, will the Secretary of State arrange for Union flags to be flown from all public buildings across our kingdom? That would be a fitting tribute to the decision the British people made to leave the European Union. We will remain unafraid of our patriotism, unabashed about our departure and unwavering in our determination to make our future even greater.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I know that, like me, my parliamentary neighbour always takes pride in seeing our Union Jack flown, and any opportunity to do so is one that he and I would always celebrate. Given my right hon. Friend’s penchant for poetry, I cannot be alone in thinking that such an occasion might inspire him in due course to write something fitting.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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Even the most ardent supporter of Brexit will, I am sure, share a concern that the UK’s departure from the European Union might be depicted as representing insularity and nationalism. It is therefore important that we dispel that sense, and one way in which we could do so is to sign up long term to the vulnerable refugees resettlement scheme and, indeed, to accept in full the Dubs amendment and do our best by the most vulnerable people on this planet, child refugees.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I absolutely agree with the first part of the hon. Gentleman’s question. A big part of why I and many colleagues supported Brexit is that we want to be more outward-looking, global and international; we want to go after trade deals around the world and have autonomy.

On unaccompanied children and the Dubs amendment, we should not talk down the United Kingdom, which is currently in the top three EU countries in terms of the number of unaccompanied children it takes. It takes 15% of the entire total of unaccompanied children. We have a proud record, we have made commitments, and the Home Secretary wrote to the Commission in October on this issue. It is not necessary for it to be in the withdrawal agreement Bill itself. We have a proud record, and we should not talk it down.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin (Bedford) (Lab)
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2. What plans the Government have to negotiate for dynamic alignment with the EU on employment rights after the UK has left the EU.

Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Steve Barclay)
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The Government have been clear that the future relationship will protect the UK’s sovereign right to regulate, and have no plans to align dynamically with EU employment legislation.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin
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Since October, the withdrawal agreement Bill has undergone major changes, including the stripping out of previous commitments to workers’ rights. Will the Secretary of State publish a revised impact assessment so that he can be honest with the public about what his Government have in store for them with their hard Brexit plan?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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The reality is that we actually go beyond Europe in many areas of workers’ rights, including maternity and paternity leave, and we should be proud of that. The hon. Gentleman asks specifically about the change to the withdrawal agreement Bill, but it does not affect the rights of workers. It should be for this Parliament to set the standards. In our manifesto, we committed to having high standards. The real question that should be asked is why a number of member states do not meet the standards set here in the United Kingdom.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist
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So far, the Prime Minister has taken workplace rights out of the withdrawal agreement in October and the withdrawal agreement Bill in December. What confidence can we have that workplace rights will be protected under this Government?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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The hon. Lady says that as if she supported the Bill in October, but she did not. She did not support it when those things were in the clause, and now she is lamenting that they are out of the clause that she did not support. The reality is that the purpose of the withdrawal agreement Bill is to implement the international agreement that the Prime Minister has reached with the European Commission. Of course it is for the House, in the course of its business, to determine what standards it wants on workers’ rights, the environment and other areas. The Prime Minister was clear in the manifesto that we are committed to high standards in those areas. I think that is something that the hon. Lady and I can agree on.

Richard Bacon Portrait Mr Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con)
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Does the Secretary of State agree that, contrary to what the hon. Member for Bedford (Mohammad Yasin) said, we need dynamic alignment like a hole in the head? The purpose of Brexit is to enable us to make our own laws and rules, set our own taxes and chart our own course.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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My hon. Friend has championed Parliament’s taking control of these issues for many years, and he is absolutely right: it is for this House to determine the standards, and we should have confidence in its ability to do so.

Craig Williams Portrait Craig Williams (Montgomeryshire) (Con)
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I thank the Secretary of State for his answer on dynamic alignment. As his Department winds up, I thank him personally for leading it with such professionalism, and I thank his team at DExEU.

On dynamic alignment, I ask my right hon. Friend to reflect on the fact that the Brexit vote was about this House being sovereign. For me, as a Welsh Member, that is the Union of the United Kingdom, and this House being sovereign over our alignment.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I extend a particularly warm welcome to my hon. Friend on his return to the House, and I thank him for his contribution to the Department during his tenure. He is right both in having confidence in this House setting high standards on workers’ rights and the environment, and in emphasising the importance of that from a Union perspective. Of course, Wales supported leaving, just as England did.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab)
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Will the Secretary of State give an absolute guarantee that post Brexit, under a Conservative Government, there will never be a point at which workers in the EU27 enjoy stronger employment rights than they do here?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I am absolutely clear that we will deliver on our manifesto—[Interruption.] Members seem surprised that the Government want to deliver on our manifesto. The manifesto says that we are committed to having high standards. As I said earlier, the real issue is that, in a number of areas, EU standards are lower. The UK has three times the maternity entitlement: it has 52 weeks of maternity leave, 39 of which are paid, whereas the EU requires only 14 weeks of paid leave. That is the area that I urge the hon. Gentleman to focus on.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds
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A Government genuinely committed to workers’ rights would have given a straight yes to that question, but the Secretary of State did not. If he committed to dynamic alignment on workers’ rights, there would be nothing stopping the Government going beyond it in the years ahead. Should we be surprised by their lack of commitment? The Prime Minister said that the weight of employment law was “back-breaking”. Is not the truth that the Government will not end up with stronger rights for UK workers at the end of this Parliament?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I really do not think Opposition Members should be talking about a lack of commitment when it comes to the withdrawal agreement, given that their party leader was neutral on the issue during the general election. The reality is that the hon. Gentleman, like so many Members on the Opposition Benches, having said that he would respect the result of the referendum, went back on the manifesto commitment and did not do it. It is now time to listen to the electorate and deliver that. We are absolutely clear that in doing so, as we set out in our manifesto, we will maintain high standards on workers’ rights.

Robert Largan Portrait Robert Largan (High Peak) (Con)
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3. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on maintaining environmental standards after the UK leaves the EU.

Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Steve Barclay)
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I continue to have regular conversations with ministerial colleagues across Government on all aspects of exiting the European Union. The Government have been clear that we will not weaken our current environmental protections as we leave the European Union, and that we will maintain, and even enhance, our already high environmental standards.

Robert Largan Portrait Robert Largan
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It is vital that we not only maintain but enhance our environmental protections, and that we enhance our natural environment. Can the Secretary of State assure the House that leaving the EU will not negatively impact on the Nature4Climate fund and the essential restoration of our peat moorlands, including in my constituency of High Peak?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I welcome my hon. Friend to his place. He is quite right to highlight the importance of those protections from a constituency perspective. I draw his attention to the £10 million that the Government have allocated for peatland restoration until March 2021, which I hope will give him comfort, alongside the environmental commitments set out in the Queen’s Speech, such as the independent monitoring of the targets that have been set, and the allocation of funding for that specific issue, which I know he has a close constituency interest in.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
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The United Kingdom has some of the highest food standards, so will my right hon. Friend confirm that Her Majesty’s Government will not allow substandard agricultural or food imports after the UK leaves the EU, which it would otherwise be illegal to produce here in the UK?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I welcome my hon. Friend to his place —it is nice to have so many hon. Friends to welcome today. I am sure that, like me, he listened to “Farming Today” this morning and heard, in relation to the Oxford conference, a debate on how important it is to maintain high animal welfare standards on imports in any future trade deals. One of the odd points about this debate is that the Government are constantly asked whether we will maintain high animal welfare standards, notwithstanding our manifesto commitments to do so, but there is very little scrutiny of those areas in Europe that have lower standards. I am sure that we will explore the issue during the negotiations.

Paul Blomfield Portrait Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab)
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The Secretary of State will know that the EU’s groundbreaking European green deal includes many policies with which UK alignment will be straightforward. Others will be more challenging. For example, the circular economy action plan will seek to change business models and set minimum standards for producers to prevent environmentally harmful products being placed on the market. He has talked about wanting to lead on environmental issues, so will the Government commit to adopting and keeping pace with the proposed minimum standards on sustainable production?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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We are very happy to commit to world-leading environmental standards. One of the areas where we are doing so is through our hosting of COP26 in Glasgow, which will be key, and through standards—[Interruption.] I will come on to climate change, but that is integrated in our aspiration—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is chuntering away, but I will move on to that. On the specific point about the green deal, he is right that the Commission President specifically referred to the green deal in her speech at the London School of Economics yesterday, and it is something that the Prime Minister and I discussed with her in our meeting. Again, it is an area where the UK has world-leading expertise. Look at our green finance, our green investment bank and the areas where the UK is in the lead. We look forward to working with the European Union on that as we move forward.

Lia Nici Portrait Lia Nici (Great Grimsby) (Con)
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4. Whether the UK will be required to comply with (a) EU law and (b) rulings of the European Court of Justice after the UK leaves the EU.

--- Later in debate ---
Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Steve Barclay)
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I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues on citizens’ rights. The withdrawal agreement will protect the rights of EU citizens who arrive in the UK by the end of the implementation period. As of the end of November, we were already moving towards receiving 3 million applications to the EU settlement scheme.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse
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Will EU nationals who fail to get settled status by the end of this year become our next Windrush generation, losing their driving licences and jobs, and ultimately facing deportation?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I am glad that the hon. Lady asks that question, because it lets me say: first, we have a grace period until June 2021 to address that issue; and, secondly, the declaratory scheme that she advocates would increase the risk of exactly the issue to which she refers.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con)
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Does the Secretary of State agree that the fact that 3.5 million EU citizens see the best future for themselves and their families as to remain living and working in post-Brexit Britain is a huge endorsement of our post-Brexit prospects? I wish that that confidence was shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I urge Members on both sides of the House to support Third Reading of the withdrawal agreement Bill because it safeguards the rights of the 3 million EU citizens here, as it does those of the 1 million or so UK citizens in Europe. The Bill guarantees the rights of those EU citizens because we value the contribution they make to our homes, communities and businesses.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Refusing to provide paper proof of status, rejecting Labour’s proposal to grant automatic status, granting only uncertainty inducing pre-settled status to people who have been here legally for years and the high cost of applying for citizenship—what part of all that does the Secretary of State believe makes our EU friends and neighbours living in the UK feel truly valued and welcome?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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The hon. Lady appears to have missed the debate about these issues in Committee.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
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No, I was here.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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In which case the hon. Lady should well know that the specific issue of documentation versus digital was raised with the Minister for Security, who was clear that although there will be a letter to provide a document, it would have reference to the digital number. That issue was explored at length. She will also know that citizens do not lose any rights when they get pre-settled status, and that they then move on to settled status. Those issues were debated—that is what a Committee stage is for—and addressed by a Home Office Minister at that time.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con)
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12. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on potential opportunities for (a) farmers and (b) the agricultural sector after the UK leaves the EU.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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23. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on potential opportunities for (a) farmers and (b) the agricultural sector after the UK leaves the EU.

Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Steve Barclay)
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I continue to have regular conversations with ministerial colleagues on all aspects of exiting the European Union, including agricultural policy.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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Our farmers and food producers are required by domestic legislation to observe high standards for the environment, the workplace and animal welfare. Will the Secretary of State confirm that under future free trade agreements, tariff-free imports will be allowed only from producers that also observe those standards?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue, about which there has been a live discussion at the Oxford farming conference, as he will know. The UK has always been a leading advocate of open and fair competition. I assure him that we are absolutely committed to maintaining high standards through a robust domestic enforcement regime.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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As this is my right hon. Friend’s last question session as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, may I congratulate him on having served with such distinction?

I very much welcome the Government’s commitment to maintaining common agricultural policy levels of funding for our farmers, but during his remaining days in office, may I urge my right hon. Friend to liaise closely with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to make sure that we come up with an excellent deal for our hill farmers, many of whom operate at a level of subsistence yet look after some of the most beautiful uplands in our land?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s kind remarks. He is absolutely right to focus on hill farmers. As he will know, one of the aspects of the Agriculture Bill is the ability to target measures—for example, on the environment—at specific areas of agriculture. Key among those are hill farmers, whom I know he has always championed.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
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Farmers made it clear in Oxford this week that they simply do not trust the Government’s assurances. Will the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs give assurances that they will accept the equivalent of my former new clause 1 to the Agriculture Bill, when it comes back? That would ensure no lowering of standards. Will they also agree to the National Farmers Union’s request for a trading standards commission to scrutinise any future trade deals and make sure that farmers are protected?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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If farmers did not trust the assurances, I am not sure whether another assurance would suddenly become trustworthy.

On the substance of the hon. Lady’s question, I refer her, for example, to the commitment to set up the office for environmental protection, which will be the single enforcement body. Above all, however, I refer her to this House: part of taking back control will be the House’s ability to scrutinise issues, such as the legitimate one that she raises, and to ensure that the Government meet the assurances that they have given.

Gregory Campbell Portrait Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP)
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The Secretary of State will be aware of the importance of the agrifood sector in Northern Ireland. Will he assure the House, and the agrifood sector and associated businesses in Northern Ireland, that his departmental and Cabinet colleagues are very well aware of that importance and can minimise any threats and maximise opportunities as we leave the EU?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the importance of that issue. The former Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee referred to the Department’s disbanding, but what is not disbanding is the expertise within it, which will be shared across Whitehall, including with the Northern Ireland Office. As the hon. Gentleman will know, when it comes to the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol, that sector and how it plays into discussions within the Joint Committee will be extremely important. I am sure that he will contribute fully to that debate.

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (Con)
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As in Northern Ireland, the agricultural sector is vital to the economy of Scotland, where food and drink account for 18% of international exports. What work is my right hon. Friend’s Department and the Department for International Trade doing to ensure that, in our future relationship with the European Union, the trade in agri-goods is as free and frictionless as possible?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of the food and drink sector—not least, for example, when we consider the Scottish whisky industry, which is key. From memory, the UK has 88 geographical indications, whereas Europe has over 3,000: from a negotiating point of view, the European Union obviously has more interest in that issue. From a Scottish point of view, however, the importance of the intellectual protection of Scottish whisky and salmon is huge. We are very alive to those issues.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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22. Scottish farmers and Scotland’s food and drink industry are completely reliant on existing EU arrangements. A no-deal crash-out would be disastrous for both sectors, so our relationship with the EU is critical. Also, trade deals with the US could undermine environmental standards: if there is a no-deal crash-out under World Trade Organisation rules, we will not be able to avoid cheap food involving poorer environmental standards coming from the States. That future relationship is important, as are the trade deals that the UK negotiates. Surely the Scottish Government need a statutory role in both those areas.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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One of the most welcome things about the debate since the general election has been its more positive tone, and one aspect of that has been moving on from the language of no-deal crash-outs. The withdrawal agreement safeguards things such as citizens’ rights. It includes the Northern Ireland protocol and settles settlement. We therefore move into a different phase, in which the risks of no deal that the hon. Gentleman and many others spoke about no longer apply. That is the benefit of the Prime Minister’s deal and it is why the hon. Gentleman should support the withdrawal agreement Bill on Third Reading.

Theo Clarke Portrait Theo Clarke (Stafford) (Con)
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Can my right hon. Friend confirm whether the Government will introduce any changes to the seasonal agricultural workers scheme after the UK leaves the EU? Farmers in my constituency need certainty that they can hire the workers they require.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I know from representing a farming area myself the importance of seasonal workers. Obviously, that debate interplays with the expansion of investment in agritech, which brings benefits not only for productivity but in reducing demand. My hon. Friend will be aware that the Home Office has increased the numbers under the seasonal agricultural workers scheme to 10,000, but as part of designing our own approach to immigration and having control of our borders, we will be able both to address the concerns of the public at large and to mitigate any specific sectoral issues that apply, for example, to agriculture.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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Fifty per cent of Welsh lamb is consumed elsewhere in the UK and 45% of it goes to the European Union, so Welsh hill farmers will probably be the most exposed of all if there is a no-deal Brexit at the end of this year. Will the Secretary of State do everything in his power to ensure that the Government do not sign off on a deal unless it ensures tariff-free access for lamb into the European Union?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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The whole point of the deal—I hope the hon. Gentleman supports it on Third Reading—is that it ensures that we will leave in a smooth and orderly way. The specific issues of hill farmers are matters for both the negotiation and the Agriculture Bill. I am sure he, among others, will contribute to that debate.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Question 14. Karl MᶜCartney.

Karl McCartney Portrait Karl MᶜCartney (Lincoln) (Con)
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14. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on (a) fishing and (b) marine policy after the UK leaves the EU.

Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Steve Barclay)
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I welcome my hon. Friend back to his place as a great champion of the constituency of Lincoln. We continue to have regular conversations with ministerial colleagues on all aspects of exiting the European Union, including fisheries and marine policy.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Topical questions. Nigel Mills. [Interruption.] Sorry—supplementary question, Karl MᶜCartney.

Karl McCartney Portrait Karl MᶜCartney
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And there was me saying I liked your socks.

The good city of Lincoln is not that close to the sea, but further to the Minister’s answer to Question 4, in percentage terms and considering everything we now know, how confident is my right hon. Friend not only that will we leave the common fisheries policy completely, but that we will then be in full control of our fishing areas and quotas, and therefore able to influence international total allowable catches?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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I am 100% confident on those issues, because page 46 of the Conservative manifesto, which I know my hon. Friend knows in detail, makes it clear that we will leave the common fisheries policy and become an independent coastal state. For the first time in more than 40 years, we will have access to UK waters on our own terms, under our own control, and we will be responsible for setting fishing opportunities in our own waters.

Nigel Mills Portrait Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con)
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T2. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Steve Barclay)
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Since our last departmental questions, we have contested the general election, where Brexit was the defining issue, and been given a renewed mandate by the British people to leave the European Union. As a result, we have been able to bring the withdrawal agreement back before the House. As was shown during its Committee stage this week, it is the will of this House that we now implement that decision.

That has been reflected, as referred to by the Chair of the Brexit Select Committee, the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), in the decision to disband the Department for Exiting the European Union, as its purpose will have been achieved. I would like to take this opportunity to place on the record my thanks to all the officials in the Department and across Whitehall who have worked so tirelessly over the last three years to achieve this result, and to thank all my colleagues who have served in ministerial roles in the Department.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister and I met the new European Commission President and the European Union chief negotiator to discuss our shared desire for what the President described as a unique partnership reflecting our shared values as friends and neighbours.

During the three years that the Department has been in place, it has had three Secretaries of State and three permanent secretaries but, since the first departmental questions, just one shadow Brexit Secretary. Throughout my interactions with the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), he has always been both professional and courteous while probing and challenging. Without wishing in any way to jinx his next steps, may I place on the record his contribution to the scrutiny of the Government, which I am sure will continue in whatever role he plays in the House moving forward?

Nigel Mills Portrait Nigel Mills
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Does the Secretary of State agree that close working between UK authorities and their equivalents on the continent is key to making our future relationship work? Now that we have nearly agreed an orderly exit, will he confirm that discussions between tax authorities in the UK and France on ensuring that customs processes are streamlined can start, and will not continue to be blocked by the European Commission?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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It is not so much a question of whether those discussions need to start; they have started. In our contingency planning for an exit without a withdrawal agreement, there was a lot of discussion on how we would manage frictions at our borders, and much of that can be taken forward, such as the Treasury’s commitment to driving productivity and improving connectivity and flow through our ports. There is work on this already; my hon. Friend is quite right to draw attention to it, and we intend to build on it.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab)
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I thank the Secretary of State for his kind words. I appreciate the relationship that we have had, and, in particular, his kindness when my father died at the tail end of 2018, which touched me personally. I welcome the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey) and all Members, but I strongly dissociate myself from the words of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State about the former right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield, who gave distinguished service in this House, including as Attorney General for the Government. I hope that there might be an opportunity to correct the record on that.

Yesterday, the Government voted down the Opposition’s amendment on unaccompanied child refugees. Our amendment would have preserved the victory that Lord Alf Dubs had campaigned for. I have always had a good personal relationship with the Secretary of State, but whatever he says about the wider issues, he must know that the Government have got this wrong. This could be his last Brexit oral questions; is he prepared to reconsider? I urge him to do so.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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To understand the context, it is important to look at the commitment the Government gave to commencing negotiations on this issue, as reflected in the letter of 22 October from the Home Secretary to the European Commission. As was touched on in earlier questions, the Government have a strong record on this. They take 15% of unaccompanied child refugees; we are one of the top three EU countries in that regard. That commitment on granting asylum and supporting refugees remains; it is actually embedded in our manifesto, on page 23. In the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, we return to the traditional approach, in which the Government undertake the negotiation and Parliament scrutinises that, rather than Parliament setting the terms, as happened in the last Parliament.

Keir Starmer Portrait Keir Starmer
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I am disappointed by the Secretary of State’s reply. Labour will continue to fight to protect the most vulnerable. We may not win many votes in Parliament just now, but we can win the moral argument. I urge everyone who cares about the issue to put pressure on the Government, and urge Ministers to rethink this disgraceful decision. A legal obligation on the Government has been converted into reliance on the Prime Minister’s word. Surely the Secretary of State can see why that gives rise to anxiety among Labour Members.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

The shadow Brexit Secretary is right: there clearly has been anxiety among Labour Members, but I hope that he takes assurance from the explanation I gave that the commitment is unchanged. That is reflected in the letter of 22 October to the Commission from the Home Secretary, and in the manifesto. The policy is unchanged. It is right that the Bill should, as is traditional, implement the international agreement; that is what it will do.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

I welcome the fact that the hon. Gentleman has drawn the House’s attention to a sector that is extremely important to the potential of the UK. I have discussed the issue with my ministerial colleagues. As for his characterisation, part of the reason for the withdrawal agreement Bill, which I hope he will support on Third Reading, is to secure the rights of the 3 million EU citizens, many of whom contribute to the creative arts. Future policy, however, is for the immigration Bill, where we will design something that is targeted at talents, including the talents of those in the creative industries.

Christian Wakeford Portrait Christian Wakeford (Bury South) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T4. May I say how warming it is to be greeted by a fellow Lancastrian? Does my right hon. Friend agree that his Department should be commended for ensuring that this Government will deliver on the verdict and the will of the British people, in that we will leave the European Union on 31 January? With the closure of DExEU at the end of this month, perhaps he is a victim of his own success.

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

It must be a happy day, and one to celebrate, when there are so many Lancastrians in the House. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the achievements of officials within the Department who have worked so hard to support the Government in getting this deal. It is an important moment, and in part, the closure of the Department will enable us to take the expertise built up by officials over the past three years into those Departments that will be front and centre in the trade negotiations.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T8. Will the Minister confirm whether EU citizens who work and pay taxes in the UK post Brexit will be liable for the immigration health surcharge? Does he envisage similar charges being introduced for UK citizens living and working in the EU?

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

I am happy to guarantee to all those EU citizens living in the UK ahead of our exit that the withdrawal agreement Bill guarantees their rights, among which are their rights to healthcare. That is why I urge the hon. Gentleman to support the Bill on Third Reading.

Damien Moore Portrait Damien Moore (Southport) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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

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

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

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman correctly draws the House’s attention to an important issue, and one for the future negotiations. As he knows, however, in the political declaration there is scope for such participation. What was constructive and positive about the remarks of the President of the European Commission yesterday, which were reflected in the meeting with the Prime Minister, was the desire to build on that close partnership. The sort of areas where there will be detailed discussion will be on aircraft and other such sectors.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T9. Through the EU single market, our supermarkets lever enormous power on food supply chain prices. Leaving the single market is a huge opportunity for small farmers in this country. What steps will Her Majesty’s Government be taking to redress that imbalance and to ensure a fair price for our farmers, not only in West Dorset but across the United Kingdom? [R]

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is right to seize the opportunities that Brexit offers, and that is particularly the case in agriculture. He well knows that the bureaucracy of the common agricultural policy was an area of deep frustration, with things such as the three-crop rule dictating to farmers who farm more than 30 hectares what they can and cannot grow. We should be setting farmers free and giving them those opportunities. Through the Agriculture Bill, we will have the chance to seize those opportunities, and I know that my hon. Friend will be at the forefront of that for his constituents in West Dorset.

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
Committee: 1st sitting: House of Commons & Committee: 1st sitting & Committee stage
Tuesday 7th 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 - -

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)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

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)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

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)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

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)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

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)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

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
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Very, very good!

Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
- Hansard - -

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)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

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)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

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
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

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
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

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
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

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
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

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)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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
- Hansard - -

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)
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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
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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
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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
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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)
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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
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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)
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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
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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)
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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
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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—
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Steve Barclay Portrait Steve Barclay
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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)
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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
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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)
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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.

General Affairs Council

Steve Barclay Excerpts
Friday 20th December 2019

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Written Statements
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Steve Barclay Portrait The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Stephen Barclay)
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I want to make the following statement:

General Affairs Council, November 2019

The UK did not attend the General Affairs Council (GAC) in Brussels on 19 November 2019.

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

General Affairs Council, December 2019

Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s permanent representative to the EU, attended the General Affairs Council in Brussels on 10 December 2019 to represent the UK. A provisional report of the meeting and the conclusions adopted can be found on the Council of the European Union’s website at:

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2019/12/10/#

Values of the Union in Hungary / Article 7 (1) TEU Reasoned Proposal

As part of the article 7(1) TEU procedure, the Council held a second hearing on Hungary, following the first hearing on 16 September. This hearing focused largely on the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and academic freedom in Hungary.

Rule of Law in Poland / Article 7(1) TEU Reasoned Proposal

The Council discussed the rule of law in Poland. The Commission provided an update to Ministers on the latest developments, including the recent judgments of the European Court of Justice concerning Polish rules on the retirement age of judges and public prosecutor, and the new Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court.

Preparation of the European Council on 12-13 December 2019 and European Council follow-up

Ministers continued preparations for the European Council on 12-13 December, and discussed draft conclusions. Sir Tim Barrow intervened to express the UK’s long-standing support for the EU’s ambition of climate neutrality by 2050. We welcomed the balanced conclusions that demonstrated the importance of EU climate leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting green growth, and in ensuring a just transition to a low-emission economy. Sir Tim Barrow also reiterated the UK’s continual support in finding an agreed solution to the current paralysis of the WTO’s mechanism for settling disputes, stressing the importance of language in respect to the WTO, and reinforcing that it was central to trade policy.

Multiannual Financial Framework

The Council held a policy debate on the next multiannual financial framework (MFF). Ministers discussed the Finnish presidency’s negotiating box, ahead of the 12-13 December European Council. The presidency agreed to a 25% target of the EU budget to support climate change initiatives.

European Semester 2020Roadmap

As part of the preparation for the next European semester, the Croatian presidency presented the 2020 European semester roadmap. The roadmap’s objective is to ensure that all relevant Councils work in a co-ordinated manner, with the General Affairs Council designated as the forum for overseeing the process.

Legislative programming Commissions Work Programme for 2020 and multiannual programming

Ministers exchanged views on priorities for upcoming legislative work under the new Commission. The aim of the discussion was to provide comments to the Commission for the preparation of its 2020 work programme.

Conclusions on complementary efforts to enhance resilience and counter hybrid threats

The Council adopted, without discussion, European Council conclusions which set priorities and guidelines for EU co-operation of countering hybrid threats and enhancing resilience. The conclusions outline the need for a comprehensive approach to these threats, working across all relevant policy sectors to ensure alignment.

AOB: Enlargement

Under any other business, the Commission confirmed to member states that it would present its proposals on enlargement in January, under the new presidency.

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