The EU Referendum, held on 23rd June 2016, was the biggest exercise in democracy our country has seen. Over 17 million people voted to leave the European Union, which is a mandate bigger than that given to any government.
Prior to the vote, the Government made clear to every household that it would uphold the decision of the British people. Therefore, we will be leaving the European Union, and we will forge a new relationship with our European friends and the rest of the world.
As your MP I will be following the negotiations closely and speaking up for Norwich throughout. I will be using this page to keep constituents updated on the work taking place in Parliament and at the negotiating table in Brussels as events unfold.
This blog will keep you informed on all the big issues surrounding our departure from the European Union and what the Government is doing to represent your interests in the negotiations. From the triggering of Article 50, to the progress of each negotiating round, this blog will cover and explain these big issues to you. I want to make sure my constituents are kept up to date and well informed and this blog aims to do just that.
If you would like to receive updates on Brexit and my work for Norwich North, please sign up for my e-newsletter here.
Brexit Updates Great Repeal Bill EU Citizens' Rights Parliamentary Scrutiny of Brexit Defence and Security Environmental Standards Cracking on with the third round of negotiations Update on negotiations from David Davis Norwich office lettings racing ahead of last year Government publishes Position Papers on Brexit Tim Farron’s second referendum is neither logical nor possible On workers’ rights, Britain has a record to be proud of High Court judgmnet was about constitution, not Brexit What next for the customs union? Prime Minister lays out exit plans to European Council Parliament debates referendum petitions UK confident tourism will continue to grow What the Great Repeal Bill means for Britain Global Britain - PM sets out ambitious deal for Brexit Secretary of State lays out free trade strategy PM meets European Council President, Government engages with retailers, and what next for the Irish border? What next for our relationship with Europe? Respected and valued: The rights of EU nationals living in the UK There will be challenges ahead but united we will overcome
We recently saw the introduction of the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ or to give it its formal name, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, to the Commons. This bill repeals the European Communities Act 1972, which took the UK into the European Union and enables us to exit the EU with maximum certainty, continuity, and control. It delivers on our promise to end the supremacy of EU law in this country. It also marks an historic step for the nation as we embark upon our departure from formal union with our European friends.
The Repeal Bill is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that will pass through Parliament and is a major milestone in the process of our withdrawal from the European Union. Its first purpose is to ensure, as far as possible, that the same laws and rules will apply on the day after exit as the day before. For businesses, workers and everyone in Norwich, this means they can have confidence that they won’t face unexpected change overnight. So it provides stability on ‘day one’ outside the EU by transferring all EU legislation to which the UK is currently subject into UK law. This is really important, as without this Bill, the UK’s statute book would contain significant gaps, and there’d be uncertainty about the meaning of many existing laws.
Have a look at this paper for more detail, including how we will handle important areas such as consumer protection, workers’ rights and the environment (page 16-17), which I know some constituents in Norwich are concerned about:
Parliament will have its say on this important task, through votes on this like on any normal Bill. I shall be voting firmly to support this Bill.
At the same time, the work continues in earnest to negotiate our future relationship with the EU. Separately, Parliament will also have its say on that deal.
The Great Repeal Bill will not aim to make major changes to policy or establish new legal frameworks in the UK beyond those which are necessary to ensure the law continues to function properly from day one. Therefore, the Government will also introduce a number of further bills during the course of the next two years to ensure we are prepared for our withdrawal – and that Parliament has the fullest possible opportunity to scrutinise this legislation.
After this, and following our exit from the EU, Parliament is in charge of what it wishes to legislate to keep, remove or improve.
I am dedicated to working hard to get this right for the country and my constituents. As always, I will be making the case for what Norwich needs during Brexit. It is what the British people voted for and it is exactly what we will do – ensure that the decisions that affect our lives are taken here in the UK. I have included a letter from David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, which I encourage you to read. In it he sets out the purpose of the bill and addresses any initial concerns people may have.
I’ll keep you informed with more on this site as negotiations progress, and as more information becomes available.
This week marks the beginning of the third round of Brexit negotiations. David Davis, the Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union, has returned to Brussels to begin another productive round of talks.
Since the conclusion of the second negotiating round, the Government has been very busy publishing a series of position papers on topics such as the border with Northern Ireland and establishing an effective dispute resolution system to arbitrate disagreements.
This round of discussions is focused on the more technical aspects of our departure. This is why having the UK position papers published was so important in developing a common understanding on some of the tricky issues that need addressing.
I have included a link below to the Secretary of State’s opening remarks, which paints a picture of a team who are determined to get on with the job of delivering us a good deal.
Following the conclusion of this week’s meetings, the Secretary of State held a press briefing with his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier. As Mr Davis said:
“The third round of talks have been productive and are an important stepping stone and key building block for discussions to come.
We are peeling away the layers, one by one, working through many issues at speed, and moving towards the core of these important matters.
We have locked in points of agreement and unpicked areas of divergence.”
The success of our negotiations depends as much on the EU as it does the UK. The Government has shown common sense by publishing this series of position papers. As Mr Davis says:
“We’ll require flexibility and imagination from both sides.”
As talks progress, it will be down to both sides to show just that.
An issue the Brexit debate has not touched on quite as much, but remains no less important, is that of defence and security. The UK and its European partners have a well-documented past when it comes to defence and security, most of which may not fall into the bracket of co-operation. However, thankfully, we live in different times now, where European militaries and intelligence organisations work closely with the UK for leadership and collaboration on security matters. Existing European security co-operation benefits us all and both sides of the negotiating table will be acutely aware of this.
Perhaps the best example of European military co-operation is that of the Lancaster House Treaties, signed by David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy of France. The treaties incorporate everything from support and training to enhanced collaboration on counter-terrorism matters. These agreements serve to protect the UK and France in a way that benefits both nations. As we leave the EU, it is the Government’s intention that this productive partnership endures, as a partnership between two of Europe’s biggest military powers provides security and reassurance to the rest of the continent.
The Government wants to make sure that Europe remains strong, prosperous and capable of defending itself. So, a key negotiating objective is to continuing working with the EU to fight terrorism, uphold justice and preserve European security. This will be achieved through a deep and special partnership with the EU. However, the UK has been very clear that whilst it has been willing to partner with nations such as France, to mutually enhance military capabilities, it will not be entering into any sort of arrangement that sees the formation of an EU army. Now that we have voted to leave the EU, we will not be forced into such an arrangement and would not want to, as it runs counter to Europe’s commitments to NATO, which already functions perfectly well as a means of pooling military resources to ensure our collective security.
UK participation in the sharing of information between police forces and judicial systems stems from the EU treaties and is grounded in EU law. So, under Article 50, on the day that we depart the EU, the treaties will cease to apply to the UK. That is why the Government wants our new partnership with our EU counterparts to reflect security matters just as energetically is it will do with others such as that of trade and immigration.
The UK has some of the strictest and most robust environmental protections in the developed world. We have often led the way in developing and implementing policy to protect the natural environment around us. I wanted to write a post to you today to bring you up to speed on the Government’s plans for the environment as we leave the EU.
I think we can all agree the British countryside is some of the most beautiful in the world, so I am pleased that ministers are committed to safeguarding our vibrant natural environment. So, until we leave the European Union, the existing arrangements remain in place. I am particularly happy the Treasury has confirmed that any structural fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, which are schemes designed to help farmers to farm in a way that supports the bio-diversity around them, signed before our departure from the EU will be honoured for their lifetime even if they run beyond this point.
It is important to remember that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the Great Repeal Bill, which you may have heard a lot about, is designed simply to transfer existing EU legislation to UK law in preparation for the day we formally leave the EU. This means existing environmental legislation originating from the EU will be transferred to UK law and will therefore still be applicable. It is then for Parliament to make future decisions about environmental priorities once we have left the jurisdiction of formal union with Europe.
Following the vote to leave, ministers will work with environmental organisations and the public to develop new policies. Leaving the EU means we can tailor them to the needs of our precious habitats and wildlife, instead of following a one size fits all approach for 28 different countries. Ministers are committed to seizing this opportunity as they work on an ambitious 25 Year Plan for the environment. You may be interested to read the speech delivered by the Environment secretary on 21 July 2017, in which he outlines the Government's plan for a Green Brexit. One that supports farmers and fishermen, as well as the environment around us. I have included a link to the speech below.
The Government has a good record in creating and improving habitats, this is supported by its commitment to plant 11 million more trees by 2020.
Tackling air quality is another priority for the Government, which will receive the careful attention it deserves. Alongside national action and continued investment in cleaner technologies, in those cities with the most persistent air quality challenges, ministers will legislate to implement Clean Air Zones.
You can read more about Clean Air Zones in the link I have included below.
The UK will also continue to play a leading role in combating climate change, as we did at the Paris Conference. Britain's share of electricity generated from renewables has doubled since 2009 and ministers are determined to ensure we become a world leader in the new green economy.
As you can see, much is being done not only to use the existing tools we have to protect the environment, but to seize the opportunities that Brexit will being to see us play an even greater role in protecting our natural spaces. I wholeheartedly support and share the Government's overriding goal to ensure that we are the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.
I have previously written about the status of EU workers and citizens in an earlier post. However, I wanted to come back and update you on what the Government is doing to ensure we strike the right balance between having an immigration system that is fair, as well as remaining a nation that continues to attract the top talent from all over the world.
A number of our public services in Norwich have high numbers of EU citizens working to support them, such as our hospitals and wider care system. I want to take this opportunity to reassure both our EU citizens and those across Norwich North who want to see stricter controls over our immigration system that the Government will be working hard to ensure that our exit deal delivers the UK the control it needs to operate a fair system.
The Department for Exiting the European Union has published a white paper and accompanying factsheet on this matter, which is very useful in providing a clear picture of the Government’s intentions. We must, of course, be conscious that not only is the Government aiming to deliver a fairer immigration system after we leave the EU, but it is also fighting for the rights of UK expats who have chosen to live in other EU countries.
The white paper addressed one issue of concern for many expats, which is pensions. The document states:
“UK law already provides that UK state pensions are payable to anyone eligible, wherever they reside in the world. But annual increases to the UK state pension (known as ‘uprating’) to anyone living in the EU are payable because of EU law. The UK intends to continue to export and uprate the UK State Pension within the EU, subject to reciprocity.”
Much of the negotiation process will be heavily dependent on our EU counterparts recognising the offers we are making in good faith and reciprocating – I am confident this will be the case and we have seen great progress following the conclusion of the second negotiating round.
Should you wish to know more about the Government’s plans for EU nations and UK citizens living in the EU, I have included the link to the white paper and factsheet below for your ease reference.
I wanted to take the opportunity to write today about parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit and to reassure you about Parliament’s role in our departure from the European Union. During debates on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the Article 50 Bill, MPs asked for a say on the country’s withdrawal from the EU. The Government agreed and promised that there would be frequent reports to Parliament during the negotiations.
This means that the final deal will be put to a vote in the House of Commons and the House of Lords before it is concluded. Parliament will be able to accept the deal or not. I expect this vote to take place before the European Parliament votes on the agreement. The Government has also made clear there will be a significant amount of legislation passing through Parliament during the process of exiting the EU. Parliament will be able to debate, scrutinise and vote on these important decisions. This means that MPs will have their say at every stage. I will also be regularly reporting back to you, as promised, to keep you up to date in Norwich of the work the Government and Parliament is doing to facilitate our departure.
It is important that our Parliament has a say on our withdrawal from the EU. However, this does not mean in any way that it will be preventing our departure. The British people voted to leave the EU on 23 June 2016 and that result will resolutely be upheld. Responsible parliamentarians know this and will be working hard with the Government to ensure that our departure works for everyone across the country and right here in Norwich.
Parliament has already had extensive involvement in the passage of crucial laws to facilitate our departure. The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill and the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the Great Repeal Bill, either have or will undergo the most rigorous scrutiny to ensure that each bill’s contents address our departure accordingly.
The Queen’s Speech this year announced several additional bills which will pass through Parliament to make a success of Brexit, such as: the Immigration Bill, International Sanctions Bill, Nuclear Safeguards Bill, Agriculture Bill and Fisheries Bill. There will also be a Trade Bill and a Customs Bill introduced to make sure we are best placed to continue an open and productive trading relationship with our European partners, also with the wider world in places like China, India and Australia.
So far be it from Parliament not having a say throughout the negotiation process, it will in fact be placed front and centre over the next two years, with the substantial responsibility of holding ministers to account and seeing the passage of laws which will ensure we make a success of our decision to leave the European Union.
This week I received a letter from David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. In it, he has provided me and my colleagues with an update on the July round of negotiations with the European Union. I have promised to keep you up to date on the work the Government is doing and so I wanted to update you on the contents of the letter and provide a copy of it for you to examine yourself.
In the letter the Secretary of State makes it clear that the focus of this second round of negotiations was on citizen’s rights. There were also discussions on a financial settlement and there were also initial discussions about the new arrangement the UK and EU would strike on the border between Northern Ireland and its southern neighbour, the Republic of Ireland.
The negotiating team made significant progress in constructive discussions with their European counterparts concerning citizens’ rights. I know this will be reassuring news for many, regardless of your political views. It is evidence that the Government is taking these talks seriously and making progress on delivering a good deal for Britain. In the letter the Secretary of State says
“There is a much clearer understanding on the detail of the positions on both sides and significant convergence on the key issues that really matter to citizens.”
Reaching an agreement on key issues as complex as this will indeed take time. However, both sides are keen to move quickly towards achieving agreement and making progress, as it serves the interests of UK and European citizens to have that kind of clarity.
The Secretary of State’s letter also contains honest and frank notes about areas in which we will need to revisit to eventually reach agreement, such as issues of business compliance and enforcement or rules and regulations. However, in a clear demonstration of intent, the UK Government has already stated that it plans to enter into an international agreement with the EU27 which will create binding obligations on the UK and which will implemented in UK law. This is a good case in point of the UK negotiating team taking the initiative and pushing talks along constructively.
I do hope you find the letter to be useful as an update on the UK’s progress in these negotiations. Talks resume later this month and many of the issues which require further discussion will be revisited. I will be posting on the Brexit Blog frequently to keep you updated on progress and discuss the key issues we face as we exit the European Union. As always, should you wish to contact me to share your own views on the progress of Britain’s negotiations, please do contact me either by emailing email@example.com or by clicking the ‘contact me’ button on my homepage.
This week we saw the publication of various position papers by the Government. These position papers are specifically designed to make the UK’s negotiating stance clear to our EU counterparts and to keep you updated in Norwich on the Government’s plans for our departure.
When we leave the European Union, the UK will be free to negotiate the best trade deals around the world as an independent, open, trading nation. It is therefore important we achieve what we set out to do at the very beginning of these negotiations – a good deal for Britain. These papers present our case clearly and set out our plan for our future relationship with the EU.
These papers will set out our plans in a number of key areas that will address the questions and ensure a smooth and predictable pathway for businesses and citizens alike. I know it is precisely this kind of reassurance and forward thinking that businesses and individuals across Norwich, Norfolk and the wider country are seeking and I welcome constituents’ views on the substance of the papers already published.
The first paper in the series to be published sets out the Government’s plans for a customs arrangement with the rest of the EU. The Government has provided two different choices about the nature of our relationship with both the EU and countries around the world. Both are designed to give us the flexibility to continue trading with Europe in a way that benefits us both, as well as giving us the freedom to pursue our own trade talks with other nations such as China, Australia and India. This is crucial, as The EU itself estimates that 90 per cent of future global economic growth is expected to be generated outside Europe - a third of it in China alone – we need to make sure we are well placed to take full advantage of the benefits global growth offers. This will, in turn, be felt in Norwich itself as our financial services, tech and science industries extend their business dealings across the globe.
On Wednesday, the Government set out a series of principles to govern our approach to the Northern Ireland border. It is clear that the Government will be pushing to avoid any physical border infrastructure and border posts between Northern Ireland and Ireland for any purpose following Brexit. The paper cements our commitment to maintaining and respecting the Belfast ‘Good Friday’ Agreement is put at the heart of the negotiations with the EU on Northern Ireland and Ireland. The paper suggests a time-limited interim period to implement any new customs arrangements, including considerations relating the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and Ireland. This is of course an issue I care deeply about as the minister for Northern Ireland.
This series of papers serves a very important purpose. The Government has been clear it wants to work in partnership with its EU counterparts to reach agreement and I know these papers are being well received. An Irish government spokesperson welcomed the Northern Ireland position paper as "timely and helpful" as it offers more clarity on the UK's strategy. This is precisely the position we want interested parties to adopt and I hope you will find it encouraging to see such positivity coming out of these negotiations.
There will be more papers published in this series and I will, of course, keep you full updated on their publication and what information they contain. If you would like to read the papers that have already been published, please do follow these links below.
Much of my Brexit Blog has been about events in Brussels or Westminster. It's important to be able to bring the big issues right home to Norwich, though, and this one is about some recent economic news.
You may have seen in the Norwich Evening News an article in which Guy Gowing of estate agent Arnolds Keys suggested that Norwich is doing very well. According to Guy, the demand for good quality office accommodation in the city and surrounding areas such as St Andrew's Business Park is outstripping expectations. You can read the article here:
The article states “in 2017, over 200,000 sq ft of office space has been let in Norwich alone. That is more than in the whole of 2016. And if anything, the pace of activity is accelerating through the year; something like 40,000 sq ft worth of deals were agreed in July.”
This is of course excellent news for the city and its residents. Office space means jobs, and opportunities for young people who can look to the future with more confidence.
It suggests to me that on the whole the local economy isn't fazed by Brexit. It's understandable for there to be some uncertainty as a big change takes place, and of course the process has only just begun, but this news shows Norwich is actually thriving.
On top of this fantastic news comes more analysis which has placed Norwich in the top 20 cities in the UK for tech innovation. You can read the story here:
I have spoken up in Parliament for Norwich's interests as the Government goes into the Brexit negotiations. To me that means backing the sectors which employ lots of people in Norwich, and that includes the tech industry as well as financial services, manufacturing, science, and more. It is good to be able to start from the position that the city’s service sector is performing strongly.
There is a lot to do. I want to see a good deal which allows Brexit to bring even more opportunity to Norwich.
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There has been plenty of coverage in recent weeks over Tim Farron’s call for a second referendum, to be held at the tail end of negotiations, so that the British people can ratify the final deal. At face value it sounds perfectly sensible, and constituents have asked why the Government won’t support it. The fatal flaw though is that this plan fundamentally fails to grasp the process by which leaving the European Union works.
As has been previously mentioned in this blog, triggering Article 50 is an irreversible action. The British people have asked us to take this step, and when we do there is no going back.
Once Article 50 is triggered, we enter a two year period of negotiations. It can only be extended if all member states agree. The negotiations will cover all key policy areas, including regulation, areas of co-operation, the rights of British citizens in Europe and European citizens here, as well as border control and the single market. The final agreement would need to be ratified by the Council of the EU, with the consent of the European Parliament.
Herein lies the problem with Mr Farron’s second referendum. If, two years from triggering Article 50, the Government were to take the withdrawal agreement which it had negotiated, and which had been ratified by the Council of the EU, and were then to hold a referendum on it, what would happen if the result was to reject the deal?
Mr Farron appears to be suggesting that we could then renegotiate a new deal, and presumably he would want to put that to a referendum as well. This is not possible. The period of negotiations can only be extended if all member states consent to it. The likelihood of this happening is close to zero. There is no provision to unilaterally hang on in the hope of achieving a perfect deal. Once Article 50 is triggered, we are leaving in two years, with or without an agreement.
This then would be the choice facing voters in Mr Farron’s second referendum. It would not be a choice between this deal or a new deal, but between this deal or no deal. To be clear, no deal does not mean staying in the EU. It means leaving with no certainty at all of our future relationship with the continent.
“This Government places a great deal of importance on the fundamental protections that workers in the UK have. Whether protection from discrimination or unfair dismissal, equal treatment—working full time or part time— or the right to a minimum wage or to paid holiday, the Government are committed to safeguarding those rights.”
This was the guarantee given by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, as he opened a debate in the House of Commons last week on exiting the EU and workers’ rights. What’s more, the Minister pledged to go further, telling MPs that:
“No one listening to this debate should think that we have any intention of eroding the rights that we enjoy in this country through our process of leaving the European Union. In fact, the opposite is true. We will be using the legislation before this House to entrench all existing workers’ rights in British law, whatever future relationship the UK has with the EU.”
A key point made during the debate was that in many areas UK law already goes further than EU law. Parliament has a strong history of leading progress in this country, not waiting for Europe to do it for us. The Minister argued:
“As the House knows, from last year, subject to certain conditions, parental leave can be shared by the father of a child, giving families choice as to how they balance their home and work responsibilities. That is not part of EU legislation—the House introduced it. In addition, the UK offers 18 weeks’ parental leave, and that provision goes beyond the EU directive because it is available until the child’s 18th birthday. All UK employees enjoy more than five weeks’ statutory annual leave—5.6 weeks—not just the four weeks set out in EU law. It is therefore clear that in this case, as in others, British law is stronger and goes further than EU law. The Government have shown our commitment to extending workers’ rights when that is the right choice for the UK. We will continue to do so when we leave the European Union.”
Referring to the history and importance of workers’ rights, the Minister said:
“The Conservative party has been the party of workers’ rights over the centuries, from Shaftesbury’s Factory Acts to William Hague’s Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The Conservatives have always understood that the decent treatment of people at work is not at the expense of industrial success, but a foundation of it.
“Since 2010, the Conservatives have strengthened the rights of workers. This April, the Government introduced the mandatory national living wage for workers aged 25 and above, meaning that a full-time low-paid worker earns £900 more a year than they did before its introduction. We have also cracked down on employers who break national minimum wage and national living wage law. We have increased the enforcement budget by more than £9 million and strengthened enforcement so that people who break the law face an increased financial penalty—it has increased from 100% to 200% of arrears.
“Our measures to protect workers’ rights and support our labour market have meant more people in work, more people earning a living and more people contributing to the prosperity of the UK than ever before. Our high employment rate is complemented by strong protections for UK workers, so our country is not only a great place to start a business, but a great place to work. However, to maintain that position, especially as we leave the European Union, we cannot stand still. We need to make further changes that support workers’ rights in the tradition of Conservative Governments over the years.”
Going forward, the Government has announced an independent review of employment practices in the modern economy to investigate how we can ensure rights are protected and enhanced in a rapidly changing global employment market. The review will address six themes: security, pay and rights; progression and training; defining rights and responsibilities in new business models; representation of employees; opportunities for under-represented groups; and how new business models can be supported.
In last week’s headlines and across social media, the ruling by the High Court on how Article 50 can be triggered was an affront to democracy that ran completely contrary to the will of the British people. This is simply not true. The referendum result still stands, and the Prime Minister has been clear that the timetable will not be thrown off course.
The judgment made by the High Court relates solely to a constitutional debate around whether Parliament must vote to trigger Article 50, or whether the Government already has the authority to invoke it. This is a specific legal question. The case did not concern itself with the wider debate on the merits or demerits of leaving the European Union – a debate which has already been settled by the British people through the referendum.
A summary of the ruling can be found here: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/summary-r-miller-v-secretary-of-state-for-exiting-the-eu-20161103.pdf
The full text of the judgement can be found here: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/judgment-r-miller-v-secretary-of-state-for-exiting-the-eu-20161103.pdf
The question is based on the notion that responsibility for international treaties lies with the Government, whilst domestic law is the preserve of Parliament. Given that Article 50 forms part of a treaty, the Government has therefore argued that it alone has the power to invoke it. In essence, triggering Article 50 involves exercising a clause of an international agreement, and does not in itself constitute a change in the law.
More information on Article 50 can be found here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2016/577971/EPRS_BRI(2016)577971_EN.pdf
The court ruled that leaving the European Union will have an impact on domestic laws, and therefore Parliament must vote on it. However, the Government has already been clear that the legal questions surrounding exit will be met first of all with the Great Repeal Bill, which will come before Parliament soon. Furthermore, Parliament already voted to hold the referendum in the first place, during which time the Government made clear that it would implement the decision of the people.
Our country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by an Act of Parliament, and we know the Government is determined to respect the result. The danger is that by requiring legislation before Article 50 can be triggered we will see some parties, such as the Scottish Nationalists and unelected Liberal Democrat Lords, attempting to use it as an opportunity to subvert the wishes of the people. We understand that Ministers are disappointed by the Court’s judgment and will appeal.
A hard-headed analysis of the customs union is needed. This was the cross-party view set out during an adjournment debate in Parliament this week. The aim is for a smooth transition that will minimise disruption to our trading relationships and seize the opportunities presented. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Robin Walker, assured Parliament that the Treasury and the Department for Exiting the European Union would be working hand in hand on the issue.
Addressing Parliament, the Minister said:
“As with the broader UK-EU negotiations, we recognise the need for a smooth transition that minimises disruption to our trading relationships and seizes the opportunities that are presented. The issue of a customs union has also been part of the Government’s programme of stakeholder engagement. We have been discussing this matter with numerous companies, organisations and trade bodies, including the chemicals sector, car manufacturers, and the agriculture and food and drink sector. We want to ensure that their views are reflected in our approach. The Prime Minister has been very clear that the intention of the Government is to ensure a competitive market so that people are able to prosper here in the United Kingdom and add to our economic growth.”
No decision has yet been made on the future of Britain’s place in the customs union, and the Minister made clear that the Government listen carefully to all arguments, both for and against. Laying out the issues at stake, the Minister said in the debate:
“First, it is important to understand exactly what a customs union is and is not. It is an arrangement that relates to trade in goods; it does not cover trade in services or free movement of capital or people. To facilitate trade, a customs union removes tariffs and customs controls on goods moving between its members. While services are not directly included— they are not subject to either tariffs or customs controls—they have become increasingly embedded in goods production, so a customs union could indirectly affect trade in services industries. For example, in parallel to exporting an aircraft engine, an engineering firm might also provide maintenance services; or in parallel to exporting cars, an automotive firm might provide financial services.
“To function properly, a customs union must have a common external tariff, applied equally by all members of the union. That supports the free circulation of goods within the customs union, preventing trade diversion by ensuring that no one trading with the members of the union can be given preferential access to any individual members relative to the others. In the case of the European Union, in practice, we have chosen to make a reality of the common external tariff through the common commercial policy under which the European Commission negotiates on trade on the United Kingdom’s behalf, and in that way sets the common external tariff. In the case of members of the EU and the EU’s customs union, 80% of the tariffs that are collected by member states on imports from non-EU countries are paid into the EU budget, with member states retaining just the remaining 20% to cover collection costs. The UK collected £3.1 billion in tariffs on non-EU imports in the financial year 2015-16.
“However, a customs union is only one of the many ways in which countries have sought to minimise the impact of customs procedures and support the free flow of goods. There are numerous examples around the world in which co-operation between customs authorities has helped to reduce the costs of customs processes at the border, short of a customs union. Even in the case of the European Union, the customs union is only part of an approach that also focuses on strengthening systems and processes on the ground. For example, the vast majority of customs declarations in the UK are submitted electronically and cleared rapidly, with only a small proportion experiencing delays—for example, when risk assessment indicates that compliance or enforcement checks are required at the border.”
“My aim is to cement Britain as a close partner of the EU once we have left. I want the deal we negotiate to reflect the kind of mature, co-operative relationship that close friends and allies enjoy; a deal that will give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with, and operate within, the European market, and allow European businesses to do the same here; a deal that will deliver the deepest possible co-operation to ensure our national security and the security of our allies; a deal that is in Britain’s interests and the interests of all our European partners. But it will also be a deal that means we are a fully independent, sovereign nation, able to do what sovereign nations do, which means we will, for example, be free to decide for ourselves how we control immigration. It will mean our laws are made not in Brussels but here in this Parliament, and that the judges interpreting those laws will sit not in Luxembourg but in courts right here in Britain.”
These were the words given by the Prime Minister following her recent meeting with European leaders. A full report of her statement to Parliament and subsequent debate is available here:
Speaking to MPs, the Prime Minister stressed the need for patience and flexibility in the negotiations to follow, as they will undoubtedly take time, and there may be difficult moments ahead.
The Prime Minister recently returned from meeting with EU leaders at the European Council in Brussels. Topics discussed included trade, migration, and ongoing tensions with Russia, as well as laying out Britain’s plans for Brexit.
By necessity, the Government must not show its hand in detail as Britain enters negotiations. However, the overarching principles will be the subject of much discussion in Parliament. The Prime Minister confirmed that Parliament will be holding a number of debates on Britain’s future relationship with the EU as we move forward, and that the Government will actively engage with each constituent nation, in addition to each individual sector of the economy.
The Prime Minister also noted that the remaining 27 Member States will have to think carefully about how they want to take the EU forward in future.
Parliament has debated a six-pack of petitions relating to the decision by the British people to leave the European Union. The petitions covered everything from whether Parliament should formally vote on exiting the EU and the timing of Article 50, to drawing a red line on free movement and declaring 23rd June a national holiday.
Responding to the recent debate, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Robin Walker, recognised the vast range of opinions on the subject and stressed the importance of respecting the democratic will of the British people.
On the timing of Article 50, the Government has said this will happen by the end of March 2017 at the latest. Petitioners had called for the measure to be implemented immediately, as did Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn the morning after the vote. The Minister though argued for a more measured approach, explaining that as we have just one chance to get this right it is important we do it properly.
Detailing the progress which has been made, the Minister said:
“The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and the rest of the ministerial team have already heard from a wide variety of sectors and stakeholders. We will also be holding a series of roundtables in the coming weeks on a variety of topics, including aviation, life sciences, financial services, agriculture and fisheries and many more. Engagement will continue through a range of bilateral meetings, visits across the United Kingdom, and the Joint Ministerial Council, which engages senior figures from the devolved Administrations. That process is about building an informed and strong negotiating position for the whole UK.”
On immigration, the Minister reiterated that the rights of EU nationals already living and working in the UK must be respected and valued, but noted that future control of our borders was a key voting factor for many, and the Government must act on this.
Turning to the role of MPs, the Minister gave assurances that Parliament will be intimately involved in the debate on how we should leave the European Union. As to the fundamental decision though on whether or not to leave, Parliament already voted to give the people a referendum, an Act which was voted for by both Conservative and Labour MPs, so now it must respect the result.
Finally, the Minister admitted that there were no plans for a new bank holiday, explaining that the cost to the economy has been estimated at a billion pounds. In a reference to Norfolk’s hero, the Minister did note that, if we were to have a new bank holiday, then any date would face stiff competition from Trafalgar Day.
A full report of the debate can be read here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-10-17/debates/0D10F53C-7241-46AC-88CD-BD91964FADE2/UKExitFromTheEuropeanUnion
Ministers have assured Parliament that visits to the UK are expected to continue to rise following exit from the European Union. Norwich has long been an attractive place to visit, notably for its strong literary heritage and historic architecture, as well as its proximity to the Broads.
In a Westminster Hall debate, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport noted that the most valuable contributions to UK tourism already include America and China, who evidently are not European.
36 million visits from overseas tourism contributes over £22 billion a year directly to the British economy, directly supporting 1.6 million jobs. The Minister stressed that the qualities which attract tourists to visit Britain, namely our extraordinary heritage, beautiful landscapes, great sporting events and museums, will not disappear in a post-Brexit world.
Responding to concerns on whether future EU visitors will need visas, the Minister highlighted the new visa scheme which has been developed for tourism between China and Britain, which could be used as a template for the future. It should also be noted that the UK already allows visitors from the USA to travel to the UK as tourists without needing a visa, so this too is something which could be extended. Similarly visitors from Norway, which is not an EU member, can also already enter visa free.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport have published an action plan for tourism going forward, which you can read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/555039/Tourism_Action_Plan.pdf
“We will return sovereignty to the institutions of this United Kingdom. That is what people voted for on the 23rd of June: for Britain to take control of its own destiny, and for all decisions about taxpayers’ money, borders and laws to be taken here in Britain.”
This was the commitment made by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union in a statement delivered to Parliament this week, in which he laid out how the upcoming Great Repeal Bill will work in practice.
A full copy of the statement and subsequent debate can be read here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-10-10/debates/6CE5F6BB-3AA4-4332-BF7A-577DB35BDB77/NextStepsInLeavingTheEuropeanUnion
The Great Repeal Bill will do two things. First, it will end the European Communities Act 1972 from the day we officially leave the EU. This was the Act which gave supremacy to EU law over UK law, so the Great Repeal Act will restore the authority of law in this country.
Second, the Great Repeal Bill will prevent legal gaps from emerging post-Brexit. The House of Commons library estimates that an average of 13.2% of UK legislation is related to the EU. Workers, consumers, investors and employers need certainty, so it is important that this does not all disappear overnight. Instead, the Great Repeal Bill will incorporate existing European laws into British law. In doing so, it will enable Parliament to examine each one, and to keep, ditch, or improve, where it is in the national interest to do so.
The Government has guaranteed that workers’ rights will be protected, indeed in many cases British law already goes further than European law on this anyway, such as our minimum wage which is higher than in many EU countries.
The Great Repeal Bill is expected to be announced as part of the next Queen’s Speech, and will be debated in Parliament soon after. It is a separate measure to Article 50, which will be triggered by the end of March at the latest, and will ensure that Britain takes control from day one of exit.
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, opened the Conservative Party Conference this week by outlining her plan for Brexit. Building on the speech given by the Secretary of State for International Trade last week, the Prime Minister spoke of the importance of being a passionate, consistent and convincing advocate for free trade, of promoting global peace and prosperity, and looking to win opportunities with old friends and new partners.
The full text of the speech can be read here: http://www.conservativehome.com/parliament/2016/10/britain-after-brexit-a-vision-of-a-global-britain-theresa-mays-conservative-conference-speech-full-text.html
Chief among the PM’s announcements was the introduction of a Great Repeal Bill, due to be debated in Parliament soon after the next Queen’s Speech. The Bill will remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and enshrine all existing EU law into British law. In practical terms, this means that the UK Parliament will be able to amend or cancel any unwanted European legalisation, whilst keeping the good bits such as workers’ rights. The Bill will also end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK, meaning that our laws will from then on be interpreted by British judges. Article 50, the formal process by which the official exit negotiations will begin, will be invoked no later than the end of March next year.
The Commitment to protecting workers’ rights, a central pillar of the PM’s plan which will be welcomed on all sides of the political spectrum, was backed up by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, who noted that in many cases the UK already goes above and beyond the EU baseline anyway. You can read a copy of this speech here: http://www.conservativehome.com/parliament/2016/10/this-conservative-government-will-not-roll-back-employment-rights-post-brexit-david-daviss-conservative-conference-speech-full-text.html
Leaving the EU does not mean leaving Europe, a commitment made by the Foreign Secretary in his speech. The UK will continue to trade and cooperate with the continent, but will play no part in a political union. The full text of the Foreign Secretary’s speech is available here: http://www.conservativehome.com/parliament/2016/10/britain-the-soft-power-superpower-of-global-liberalism-boris-johnsons-conservative-conference-speech-full-text.html
This week’s conference marks the next stage in the serious negotiations to come, which will ensure that Britain continues to succeed as a wealthy and independent sovereign nation.
The Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, has reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to free trade post-Brexit.
In a speech delivered at Manchester Town Hall, the Secretary of State reiterated the intellectual and philosophical case for free trade, warning against the dangers of protectionism and retrenchment. You can read a full copy of the speech here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/liam-foxs-free-trade-speech
The announcement is good news for Norwich, with thousands of jobs in financial services, digital, tech, science, culture, tourism and retail all relying on strong links with the outside world.
Chloe has supported efforts to ensure Brexit leads to greater engagement with international trading partners, saying before her maternity leave that:
“We need to send a message to the world that we are Great Britain, not Little England, and that our country is open for business.
“My job now as your MP is to push for a new relationship, which protects the areas where our city benefits from close links with the continent, whilst also promoting new opportunities across the wider globe.”
The speech by the Secretary of State comes after Corbyn and McDonnell were both criticised in the Guardian for lacking a narrative on Brexit at Labour’s recent conference in Liverpool.
As part of the ongoing preparatory work for leaving the European Union, the Prime Minister has this month met with European Council President Donald Tusk. The historic meeting was an opportunity for the Prime Minister to set out how the negotiations will work, and she reiterated her commitment to getting the foundations right before pre-emptively triggering Article 50. You can read Downing Street’s statement on the meeting here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-meeting-with-donald-tusk-8-september-2016
Meanwhile, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has chaired a roundtable of Britain’s leading retailers, to hear their views on the negotiations. The sector is especially important for Norwich, where research by the Norwich Business Improvement District found that the sector had gone from strength to strength in the city, with footfall continuing to rise despite pressure from online shopping. A report of the roundtable can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/david-davis-chairs-business-roundtable-with-the-uks-leading-retailers
Finally, a big question going forward will be the future relationship with Ireland, through which the UK will of course share a land border with the European Union. The Government is determined to strengthen the relationship between our two nations, and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union recently met with senior government and business leaders in Ireland to hear their views on the challenges and opportunities to come. A report of the visit is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/david-davis-visits-ireland-to-strengthen-commercial-ties-ahead-of-eu-exit-negotiations
In the days following the vote to leave the European Union, I said that I was keen to keep constituents updated on the work being done in Parliament to establish our new relationship with Europe. This blog brings you the latest from Parliament this week, with an update from the new Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, and the Prime Minister following the G20 summit.
The Prime Minister has been clear. Brexit means Brexit. The United Kingdom will be leaving the European Union, and there will be no attempt to stay in via the back door.
My job now as your MP is to push for a new relationship, which protects the areas where our city benefits from close links with the continent, whilst also promoting new opportunities across the wider globe.
We have thousands of jobs in Norwich which depend on financial services, as well as the exciting sectors of digital and tech, the ambitious science sector, a thriving cultural scene, and a strong tourism industry. To support these sectors we must be an outward-looking country. Jobs and livelihoods in Norwich depend upon it. I have already spoken in Parliament to make these points for Norwich.
Achieving such a deal will be difficult. However, our economy and nation are both fundamentally strong, so there is no reason why this leap cannot be successful.
Speaking from the Dispatch Box for the first time last week, the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union made clear that we would not settle for an “Off the shelf” model in our negotiations. We will seek a new deal, a British deal, which puts the national interest first. You can read a full transcript of the statement and subsequent debate here: http://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-09-05/debates/1609055000001/ExitingTheEuropeanUnion
Article 50, the formal process by which exit negotiations will begin, is expected to be triggered by the Prime Minister next year. It is important that the process is not unnecessarily rushed, so over the summer the Government set up a new department specifically tasked with overseeing the complicated work which lies ahead.
Over three hundred of the best and the brightest, based in Whitehall and in Brussels, are already working hard to build a national consensus on what we want, and to engage proactively with our European neighbours prior to the commencement of formal negotiations. The Government is also reaching out to America, the Commonwealth and emerging economies to establish new trade agreements following our formal exit from the EU.
A key argument made by the Secretary of State this week is that Brexit is not about ending our relationship with Europe, but about starting a new one. This is a fundamental point. We need to send a message to the world that we are Great Britain, not Little England, and that our country is open for business.
The Prime Minister has also made the case for a global outlook at the recent G20 Summit in China. You can read her statement to Parliament here: http://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-09-07/debates/16090720000001/G20Summit
The G20 was the first major international summit of world leaders since the referendum, and I am glad to hear that the Prime Minister made use of it to discuss new trade deals with partners around the world, how to resist the harmful trend towards protectionism and how to confront terrorism and global challenges in migration. I also welcome the commitment by the Prime Minister to ensure that these new trade deals work for everyone.
European protections for workers’ rights are likely to be written into British law. I know that this is something which many constituents were worried about, so I was glad to hear this indication from the Secretary of State. It is also important for our security that we continue to cooperate with our neighbours, such as through the European Arrest Warrant, so I welcome the Government’s desire to uphold this relationship.
Immigration will of course be central to the debate. There has been much discussion surrounding a so-called “points-based” system. The Prime Minister has expressed concern that such a system would not actually deliver the level of control which people voted for. As someone who worked on the Bill Committee for the Immigration Act, my priority is what works. I want a system whereby talented individuals are able to contribute to our society, and we must make it known that those who do so are respected and valued. However it is not acceptable for the system to be abused, and we have to be able to keep numbers at a manageable level.
The Government has laid out four fundamental principles which will underlie all the work which follows. First, we have to build a national consensus around our position. Second, we must act in good faith towards our European partners, whilst putting the national interest first. Third, we must minimise the uncertainty which change will inevitably bring. Finally, the supremacy and sovereignty of Parliament must be put beyond doubt.
The Government will hold roundtables with stakeholders, reaching out to as many groups as possible, so that all views are reflected. The Secretary of State has already met with the TUC, key business groups, universities, charities, and farming and fisheries organisations. As your MP I will be following the outcome of these discussions closely, and I am keen to hear the views of constituents on the issues as well. Regardless of whether we campaigned to remain or to leave, now is the time for all of us to come together and engage with the opportunities and challenges to come.
Following the recent vote to leave the European Union a number of constituents have been in touch with me, worried about what this result means for the future of EU nationals who already live and work in the UK.
I very much welcome the contribution made by immigrants in Norwich and across the UK to our economy, history and society. Norwich is a friendly and welcoming city.
However, the referendum result provides a clear instruction to the government that the majority wish is for a change in the way Britain handles immigration from Europe. To leave the EU means to leave the existing arrangements for free movement.
And whilst future immigration policy is being negotiated and settled, it is a different matter entirely for those already living here. Let us be clear that those who have made Great Britain their home are a respected and valued pillar of our community.
The Government has issued a statement, declaring that there has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals living in the UK, and confirming that when we do leave the EU the Government fully expects the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK to be protected.
You can read this statement here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/statement-the-status-of-eu-nationals-in-the-uk
Parliament debated this subject in response to an urgent question last week. As part of the debate, the Minister confirmed that in the negotiations to come:
“We will never treat EU citizens as pawns in some kind of cynical game of negotiation chess. That does not represent the values of this country or the values of the Government, which are to treat the people who come to this country with dignity and respect.”
In terms of the practical steps ahead, the Minister also confirmed on behalf of the Government:
“We will look to secure a fair deal for EU citizens, as we secure a fair deal for British citizens in the EU. That is the responsible approach, and that is what we will do.
“We want to be able to guarantee the legal status of EU nationals who are living in the UK and I am confident we will be able to do just that. We must also win the same rights for British nationals living in European countries and it will be an early objective for the Government to achieve those things together.
“As the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have made clear, there will in any event be no immediate changes in the circumstances of EU nationals in the UK. Currently, they can continue to enter and live in the UK as they have been doing.”
I welcome this positive approach to what is for many in Norwich North a deeply distressing issue. I will continue to monitor this aspect of withdrawal from the EU very carefully on behalf of all my constituents.
The result of the referendum
Brits have just taken part in a giant democratic exercise, about our relationship with the European Union. I thank people, whatever way they've voted, and whatever lies ahead. The result was clear and hard work will follow to put the country’s wishes into practice. We all want what's best for Britain now but should do this in a calm and thoughtful way.
The recent vote was undoubtedly among the biggest expressions of democracy in our nation’s history. As an MP who has always pushed for greater democratic engagement, I am pleased that over 33 million people took part.
Our membership of the European Union is a fundamental constitutional question and one which could not have been ducked forever. I am a democrat first and foremost and it was right to use a referendum to settle that big question.
A majority of people in Norwich voted to remain. Many constituents have expressed anxiety about what the future holds. However, many also voted to leave and the majority in the country as a whole was to leave. The result must be respected.
The most important thing is to come back together again as a country, and get the best for Britain.
So I returned to Parliament this week having heard from many constituents on both sides of the argument, with much hard work ahead of us to unite Britain and put the country’s majority wish into practice.
I will be using this blog space to keep people up to date as much as possible. I would particularly like to keep in touch proactively and to be part of that, please sign up to my e-newsletter: http://www.chloesmith.org.uk/newsletter
First of all, the Prime Minister provided a statement to Parliament, which you can read here:https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-06-27/debates/1606275000001/OutcomeOfTheEUReferendum. Full debate followed, which begins the process of Parliament’s response and action.
Secondly, the Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank of England have also made statements to support immediate economic stability, which you can read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/statement-by-the-chancellor-following-the-eu-referendum and here: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Pages/news/2016/056.aspx
This is indeed a leap into the dark. There is no precedent and we are very much in uncharted territory.
Having said that, we are a wealthy country, and we aim to survive and thrive. Indeed, the government was elected last year to continue our long term economic plan, which makes sure that our nation is adequately prepared for whatever might lie ahead. With many difficult decisions already taken in to put the country’s finances straight, our economy is fundamentally strong.
It might be helpful to constituents to be clear about what has happened and what has not, so far.
‘Article 50’ and Parliament
The British people have voted to leave the European Union, and accordingly Parliament will respect this instruction and prepare the necessary legislation to allow this to happen.
However, that does not mean that we have already left.
The process of leaving will begin officially when the Government formally notifies the European Union of our intention to leave. This is known as “triggering Article 50” – this being the name of the exit process set out in the terms of membership.
There is a whole host of legislation, treaties and conventions which must now be disentangled. Once Article 50 has been triggered, we will enter a series of formal negotiations to exit the EU and determine exactly what our future relationship with Europe will look like in the long term. It is important that we establish precisely what we do want to achieve considering the many points that were made in the referendum campaign.
The Article 50 process is expected to take up to two years. A taskforce will be set up within Whitehall, bringing together every Government Department and drawing on some of the best talent available. The taskforce will report to the Cabinet directly and will involve each of the devolved administrations and regional centres of power, crown dependencies and overseas territories in addition to Parliament in Westminster.
EU citizens in Norwich and British citizens in other countries
I want to take this opportunity to echo the Prime Minister’s assurance to European citizens resident in Norwich or anywhere in the UK that there will be no immediate change in your circumstances. Similarly, there will be no immediate changes to the rights of British citizens living in other European countries.
I was deeply concerned to hear worries reported of acts of racism following the vote. Such hateful behaviour in inexcusable and we should all condemn it.
The Prime Minister
David Cameron has said he will step down as Prime Minister in the autumn. The Conservative Party will select a new leader by September so that there is the clear leadership which the country needs.
I have been elected as MP for Norwich North alongside David Cameron, as fellow modern Conservatives, and have served him in the government. I pay tribute to the contribution he has made to our country and our city. Nationally he has led us through a remarkable economic recovery, whilst locally he has shown his support for the Norwich for Jobs project, apprenticeships for young people at the new Aviation Academy, and investment to improve transport infrastructure around our city.
My role now
As your Member of Parliament, there are things I can do and things which I cannot.
I cannot tell you exactly what is going to happen, nor am I prepared, as some have asked, to call for a second referendum to repeat the question. The British people have voted and we must respect that decision.
It goes without saying though that I will be following the negotiations in detail as your Member of Parliament to ensure the interests of Norwich North are protected.
I will also endeavour to use my position as your Member of Parliament to keep constituents updated as the process unfolds, so please sign up to my e-newsletter or check back here regularly.