The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, made a statement yesterday on the Government’s plans for exiting the European Union. Sir William Cash made the following intervantion:

The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Mr David Davis): With permission, Mr Speaker, I shall make a statement on the Government’s plans for exiting the European Union.

Today we are publishing a Government White Paper on the UK’s exit from, and new partnership with, the European Union. The Government have made clear that they will honour the choice made by the people of the United Kingdom. On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union—no, that is wrong. On 23 June 2016, the people voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. It is just as well that I corrected that; I should have read this first, shouldn’t I? [Laughter.] Don’t worry, we have two more years to go—two years of this!

The House is currently considering a straightforward Bill that will give the Prime Minister the authority to trigger article 50 of the treaty on European Union and begin the negotiation over our exit. The Bill is not about whether or not we leave the EU, or even about how we do so; it is about implementing a decision already taken by the people of the UK in last year’s referendum. However, we have always said that we will detail our strategic aims for the negotiation and seek to build a national consensus wherever possible. The White Paper sets out those aims and the thinking behind them. It confirms the Prime Minister’s vision of an independent, truly global UK, and an ambitious future relationship with the EU.

That vision is based on the 12 principles that will guide the Government as they fulfil the democratic will of the people of the UK: providing certainty and clarity where we can as we approach the negotiations; taking control of our own laws and statute book; strengthening the Union by securing a deal that works for the whole of the UK; maintaining the common travel area and protecting our strong historic ties with Ireland; controlling immigration from the European Union; securing the rights for EU citizens already living in the UK and the rights of UK nationals living in the EU; protecting and enhancing existing workers’ rights; ensuring free trade with European markets, while forging a new strategic partnership with the European Union, including a bold and ambitious free trade agreement and a mutually beneficial new customs agreement; forging free trade agreements with other countries across the world; ensuring that the United Kingdom remains the best place for science and innovation; co-operating in the fight against crime and terrorism; and, finally, delivering a smooth and orderly exit from the EU. Those 12 objectives amount to one goal: a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union that works in our mutual interest. All of them are key, but let me highlight some of the specific issues in the White Paper.

The White Paper reiterates our firm view that it is in the UK’s interest for the EU to succeed politically and economically. That cannot be said too firmly: we want the EU to succeed politically and economically. We therefore approach the negotiation to come in the spirit of good will and working towards an outcome in our mutual benefit.​

We recognise the EU’s principle of the four freedoms, so the UK will leave the single market. Instead, we seek a new strategic partnership, including a bold and ambitious free trade agreement and a mutually beneficial new customs agreement that should ensure the most free and frictionless trade in goods and services that is possible. That will be to our mutual benefit. As the White Paper notes, we export £230 billion of goods and services to the EU, while importing £290 billion of goods and services from the EU every year.

The White Paper also sets out how, after we leave the EU, the UK will look to significantly increase its trade with the fastest growing export markets in the world. Although we cannot sign new trade deals while we are still members, we can prepare—we are preparing—the ground for them. This means updating the terms of our membership of the World Trade Organisation, of which the UK was a founding member—it was GATT, the general agreement on tariffs and trade, in the first instance. Modern free trade agreements require mechanisms to resolve disputes and to provide certainty for businesses on both sides, so the White Paper examines the precedents in this area and makes it clear that we will negotiate an arrangement that respects UK sovereignty.

We recognise the need to provide clarity and certainty wherever we can during a period in which some uncertainty is inevitable. We will therefore bring forward another White Paper on the great repeal Bill, which will lay out our approach in detail. This legislation will mean the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972, while converting existing EU law into domestic law at the point of exit. That means that the position we start from—a common regulatory framework with the EU single market—is unprecedented. This negotiation will not be about bringing together two divergent systems, but about finding the best way for the benefits of the common systems and frameworks that currently enable UK and EU businesses to trade with and operate in each other’s markets to continue when we leave the EU.

The White Paper also sets out that we will take control of our own laws, so that they are made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, and ensure that we can control the number of people coming to the UK from the EU. The jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK will come to an end. It will be for Parliament and the devolved legislatures to determine significant changes to reflect our new position.

I have said at this Dispatch Box that there will be any number of votes on substantive policy choices. To that end, the White Paper makes it clear that we expect to bring forward separate legislation in areas such as customs and immigration.

Delivering a smooth, mutually beneficial exit, while avoiding a disruptive cliff-edge, will be the key. A never-ending transitional status is emphatically not what we seek, but a phased process of implementation for new arrangements—whether immigration controls, customs systems, the way we operate and co-operate on criminal and civil justice matters, or future regulatory and legal frameworks for business—will be necessary for both sides.

As the White Paper says, the time needed to phase in new arrangements in different areas may vary. As one of the most important actors in global affairs, we will continue to work with the EU to preserve UK and ​European security, fight crime and terrorism, and uphold justice. We must work more closely, not less, in those areas.

We will continue to seek to build a national consensus around our negotiating position, so we are talking all the time to business, civil society, the public sector and representatives of the regions. We have engaged the devolved Administrations in this process. While no part of the UK can have a veto, we are determined to deliver an outcome that works for the whole of our country. We continue to analyse the impact of our exit across the breadth of the UK economy, covering more than 50 sectors —I think it was 58 at the last count—to shape our negotiating position.

To conclude, the referendum result was not a vote to turn our back on Europe. It was a vote of confidence in the UK’s ability to succeed in the world and an expression of optimism that our best days are still to come. Whatever the outcome of our negotiations, we seek a more open, outward-looking, confident and fairer UK that works for everyone. The White Paper is available on the Government website. I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): I deeply welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and the White Paper, which is most emphatically in our national interest. Tomorrow, the Heads of Government of the 27 other member states will convene in Malta, where they propose to make a declaration about their vision for the future of Europe. President Tusk’s letter of 31 January does not bode well. Will my right hon. Friend encourage the 27 to recognise that by promoting ever closer, more centralised and unreformed political union, they are creating the very circumstances that they claim to want to avoid and depriving themselves of the trust of the citizens they claim to represent? They are effectively going in the wrong direction.

Mr Davis: My hon. Friend has led on this issue for about 30 years and has always had an honourable, straightforward and insightful view of the European Union. We have said that we are going to be a full ​member until the moment we leave, and that means being a responsible member. We will exercise our influence over what we think is the best interest of the European Union until the moment we leave, because we want the European Union to be strong, stable and effective. In these times of difficult international relations, we need the EU as an anchor, and that is the policy that we will pursue.