08 Apr Bill Cash Withdrawal Agreement
We currently like elections on this side of the House, but I will not get caught up in a reform of the House of Lords that goes a little further from the framework of the withdrawal agreement. The debate and amendments have largely focused on the interface between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, not least because it is much more under the control of the British government. However, britain`s process to Northern Ireland – and even beyond the European Union – is just as important, if not more important. I think that these plans have not been so much tested by amendments, because that work depends on the revision of the future free trade agreement. In this regard, it should be stressed that a free trade agreement – even if it is very broad and inclusive – is not identical to the agreements we currently have as parts of the European Union; It is not the same as a customs union and an internal market. A free trade agreement is a concept of different quality. We currently have a free trade agreement that gives us access to trade agreements with the rest of the world, and we are abandoning it for an unfavourable future. The minister is humble enough to acknowledge that he cannot make commitments on behalf of the Ministry of Finance, but he should go further by saying that he cannot make commitments on behalf of the European Union either. This is our fundamental problem with the withdrawal agreement and its impact on Northern Ireland. There is no point in invoking sovereignty and pointing out that Northern Ireland is fully compliant with the CUSTOMS territory of the United Kingdom only to transfer it to a joint committee with the European Union.
There is another subject on which we cannot discuss in depth yesterday and which I hope can be very resolved in the negotiations. This is the essential advantage of a comprehensive free trade agreement, in which Northern Ireland will be on par with the rest of the UK in all policy areas, which means we can abandon the current protocol. As Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my friend Hon, the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), replied to me yesterday, the current minutes are a case position. With a comprehensive free trade agreement, all the complexities, such as the concerns of Northern Ireland`s business community – which were raised yesterday by the Hon. Member of Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) – disappear, and we will also have an excellent opportunity to grow around the world. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are now beginning to consider the withdrawal agreement by a committee of the whole of this House. Again, I would like to point out softly that Mr Speaker has found that this is not an appropriate way for the inaugural speeches. All colleagues who wish to make a first speech should speak to the table office, which is most useful to them. The last point I would like to make is that, in our lazy electoral system, the government has clearly won the elections by a majority of 80 seats. However, this does not reflect the public`s views on the agreement and, indeed, on the confirmation referendum.