Thank you Mr Speaker, and can I thank the Secretary of State for an advance copy of his statement.
He is right to say that the last three years have been difficult and divisive for our country.
He’s also right to say that leaving the EU “does not mark an ending”. We have left the European Union – but Brexit is far from done. The next stage, as he knows, is more difficult in agreeing our future relationship in all the areas that he set out, and in more besides. And we will continue to be dogged by the central dilemma that was at the heart of the wrangling over the last three years: is that new relationship going to be determined by the economic interests of our country, or by the ideological commitment to break with the European social model that drove so many of the Brexit enthusiasts.
Now I’m sorry to see that today’s statement suggests, and the Prime Minister’s comments over the weekend, that ideology has trumped common sense.
There are difficult decisions that lie ahead for our country, and if the Government is serious about bringing the people together, we need reassurance that they will conduct the next stage of negotiations in an open and accountable way.
And not by banning journalists from their political briefings – as apparently they did earlier this afternoon.
The Government has already stripped Parliament’s role in providing accountability from the Withdrawal Agreement Act
So will the Foreign Secretary at least commit to publishing all negotiating texts and proposals and reporting to Parliament on each round of negotiations?
And will he, as indeed – putting this Parliament in no less a place than the European Parliament as their negotiators will.
And will the Foreign Secretary also set out exactly how the three devolved nations will be consulted at every stage of the process?
Now, the country has two options facing it – with two opposite destinations. We can either form a new and close relationship with our biggest trading partners, or we can open the door to lower our standards with the damaging trade deal with Donald Trump that he welcomed in his comments.
A trade deal – well, I see the faces of some hon. Members opposite – they may change when the farmers that many of them represent respond to Trump’s ambitions for that trade deal – not only damaging farming, but manufacturing, and lowering standards, also opening our public services to real risks.
Members opposite might have noticed this weekend that the the UK’s former ambassador to the US, Sir Kim Darroch, was clear that Trump will aim to force the NHS to pay higher prices for pharmaceuticals. And the NHS themselves have expressed concerns about that.
Mr Speaker, the reckless pursuit of a Trump trade deal is limiting the Government’s aims in its negotiations the EU.
We started with a commitment to the “exact same benefits” that we currently enjoy with the EU. That was scaled back to “frictionless trade”, now it’s either a damaging Canada style deal or to leaving without a deal, now rebranded as an ‘Australian-style’ deal.
So can I ask the Foreign Secretary if the government still recognises its own analysis – and he will note that the former Prime Minister is sitting behind him – its own analysis from 2018 which shows that a Canada-style deal would lead to a 6.7% reduction in our national GDP, and a “WTO Brexit” to a 9.3% hit, hurting every region and nation of our country?
I have to say Mr Speaker, business will be alarmed by the casual way that the Foreign Secretary talks about leaving without an agreement. And other sectors will be concerned that they’re not mentioned at all in his statement – or in the written statement from the Prime Minister. Universities, for example, critical to our future. So could he also that the Government will press for association with Horizon Europe and continued participation in Eramus.
Mr Speaker, Labour will continue to press for a relationship with our European Partners based on common regulation and a level playing field, for a new place in the world based on international values, and a future with equality and social justice at its heart.