This week saw the last round of UK-EU negotiations before a crucial summit near the end of June, where both sides will take stock of progress towards securing a deal on our future relationship with the European Union, and yesterday I responded to Michael Gove for Labour – setting out our concerns over the deal and pressing for proper accountability over their handling of the talks.
Labour has been consistently pressing for greater transparency from the Government in these negotiations, but so far they have avoided accountability. Since talks started, Michael Gove, who is the Minister responsible to Parliament for their conduct, has not reported to MPs. He has only updated Parliament once, when he was forced to do so by Labour using a parliamentary procedure called an ‘urgent question’.
This silence has spanned three months, four negotiating rounds, Joint Committee meetings and all the disruption resulting from Covid-19. In yesterday’s a debate in the Commons on the EU’s negotiating mandate I challenged him on this failure and pressed him to commit to engaging properly with Parliament. I also raised the other concerns Labour has about the deal the Government is seeking on our future relationship with the EU.
At the general election, the public was promised an “oven-ready” deal, which would be an “ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership”, underpinned by safeguards for “workers’ rights, consumer and environmental protection”. The deal isn’t just about goods and services, but covers the critical issue of security, where the Government promised a “broad, comprehensive and balanced security partnership”.
Since the December election, the Government has tried to roll back on these commitments, seeking a looser relationship with the EU which will allow them to break with the European model, of social and environmental regulation, in favour of trade deals with the US and others. As Shadow Minister for Brexit and EU Negotiations, I’ll hold the Government accountable to their promises. Read the full debate here, and watch an extract of my speech below.