Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con) (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union if he will make a statement on the Government’s proposals for the implementation of their policy on leaving the European Union.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Mr Robin Walker): Just this afternoon, the European Union finalised its directives setting out its negotiating position on the implementation period. On Friday, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union made a speech setting out the UK Government’s position. Formal negotiations on this very issue are therefore due to start this week.
As the Secretary of State said on Friday, we will be seeking a strictly time-limited implementation period to allow a smooth and orderly exit from the European Union. This builds on the Prime Minister’s announcement, in her Lancaster House speech in January last year, that there would be a “process of implementation” once the article 50 period ended. It has been supported by businesses both here and in the European Union, which will have to make only one set of changes as we exit the EU. During this period, the UK will be outside the EU. We will have left on 29 March 2019.
This is an absolute necessity. The EU can only legally conclude our future partnership once we are outside it. Such an agreement on the future partnership will require the appropriate legal ratification, which will itself take time. That will need to happen during an implementation period. However, if such a period is to work, both sides must continue to follow the same stable set of laws and rules without compromising the integrity of the single market and the customs union, to which we will maintain access on current terms. Both sides should approach this period in the spirit of our future partnership. That means each side committing itself to taking no action that would undermine the other.
During the implementation period, we will still make our voice heard. We will have to agree on a way of resolving concerns if laws are deemed to run contrary to our interests, and if we have not had our say. We will agree on an appropriate process for this temporary period so that we have the means to remedy any issues through dialogue as soon as possible. All that will be provided for in the withdrawal agreement that we reach with the EU, which will have the status of a new international treaty between the UK and the EU. We will no longer be formally part of the EU treaties during this period.
As the Secretary of State said on Friday, we have made it clear that during this period we will be able to negotiate and sign our own free trade agreements. Here at home, we have already announced that we will present a withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill, which will provide for domestic implementation of the withdrawal agreement and the implementation period. We have made it clear that as we leave the EU in March 2019, we will repeal the European Communities Act 1972. That will be done through the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which recently received its Third Reading in the House of Commons and will shortly be discussed in the other place.
Sir William Cash: Given the document to which the Minister has just referred, which was issued by the European Union to the United Kingdom about two hours ago, can the Government reconcile their policy of leaving the European Union with their own implementation proposals during the transitional period? Furthermore, will this apply when EU laws are imposed on us when we will have no say in either the European Council or the European Parliament, and when our courts will be obliged to apply European Court case law without having a judge in that Court?
Do the Government intend to make a new EU treaty? How long is the so-called strict time limit? Given that we are leaving the EU, and therefore the customs union and the single market, and ending the provisions relating to freedom of movement, will the Government reject this new EU ultimatum, including the statement that the European Court of Justice will continue to apply to the UK? Will the Minister reject the idea of the enforcement mechanism set out in the document? Will he reject the suggestion that the European acquis will apply in relation to the United Kingdom, as well as the notion in the document that European Union law will continue to apply to the UK during the transitional period with direct effect and primacy?
Under these arrangements, we will be required to remain in the customs union and the single market, with all four freedoms, and to continue to comply with EU trade policy. Will the Government reject the assertion about the European Union acquis so that we will not be made subject to supervision and control proceedings under European Union law?
In short, do the Government reject this Council decision as inconsistent with our leaving the EU, which we are entitled to do under EU law itself and article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, and which was achieved through the enactment of the arrangements for withdrawal that was supported by 499 Members of this House?
Mr Walker: My hon. Friend is right to draw the House’s attention to the fact that Members on both sides of the House have voted to respect the referendum and that the UK should be exiting the EU in accordance with the vote in that referendum. My hon. Friend is a long-standing champion of this issue, and I make it clear that the UK will be leaving the EU on 29 March 2019. We will then have a strictly time-limited implementation period, which will be as short as is practicable—we currently expect it to be in the region of two years.
The answer to my hon. Friend’s first question is yes, but we must make sure that we reconcile these issues through the negotiations to come. He would not, I know, expect me to speak on behalf of the EU and its directives today; I am speaking as a Minister of the Crown, and we enter these negotiations seeking the interests of the UK and making sure that we exit the EU in a smooth and orderly way.