David Davis, the Secretary for Exiting the European Union, made a statement yesterday in the House of Commons on Exiting the EU. During the debate Bill Cash made the following intervention:
The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Mr David Davis): I thought it would be useful for the House to be brought up to date on the working of my Department after the referendum of 23 June. Our instructions from the British people are clear. Britain is leaving the European Union. The mandate for that course is overwhelming. The referendum of 23 June delivered a bigger vote for Brexit than that won by any UK Government in history. It is a national mandate, and this Government are determined to deliver it in the national interest.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that there will be no attempt to stay in the EU by the back door; no attempt to delay, frustrate or thwart the will of the British people; and no attempt to engineer a second referendum because some people did not like the first answer. The people have spoken in a referendum offered to them by this Government and confirmed by Parliament —by all of us, on both sides of the argument—and we must all respect it. That is a simple matter of democratic politics.
Naturally, people want to know what Brexit will mean. Simply, it means leaving the European Union, so we will decide on our borders, our laws and the taxpayer’s money. It means getting the best deal for Britain: one that is unique to Britain and not an off-the-shelf solution. This must mean controls on the numbers of people who come to Britain from Europe, but also a positive outcome for those who wish to trade in goods and services. This is an historic and positive moment for our nation. Brexit is not about making the best of a bad job; it is about seizing a huge and exciting opportunity that will flow from a new place for Britain in the world. There will be new freedoms, new opportunities and new horizons for our country. We can get the right trade policy for the UK. We can create a more dynamic economy, a beacon for free trade across the world. We want to make sure our regulatory environment helps, rather than hinders, businesses and workers. We can create an immigration system that allows us to control numbers and encourage the brightest and best to come to this country.
I want to be clear to our European friends and allies that we do not see Brexit as ending our relationship with Europe; it is about starting a new one. We want to maintain or even strengthen our co-operation on security and defence. It is in the interests of both the UK and the European Union that we have the freest possible trading relationship. We want a strong European Union, succeeding economically and politically, working with Britain in many areas of common interest, so we should all approach the negotiations to come about our exit with a sense of mutual respect and co-operation.
I know the House will want to be updated about the work of the Department. It is a privilege to have been asked to lead it by the Prime Minister. The challenge we face is exciting and considerable. It will require significant expertise and a consistent approach. Negotiating with the EU has to be got right, and we are going to take the time to get it right. We will strive to build national consensus around our approach.
We start from a position of economic strength. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, there will be challenges ahead, but our economy is robust, thanks in no small part to the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr Osborne). The latest data suggest our manufacturing and service industries and consumer confidence are all strong, contrary to some of the earlier predictions. Businesses are putting their faith and their money into this country. Over the summer, SoftBank, GlaxoSmithKline and Siemens all confirmed that they will make major investments in the UK. Countries, including Australia, have already made clear their desire to proceed quickly with a new trade deal for the UK. As other nations see advantages to them, I am confident that they will want to prioritise deals with the UK, too. But we are not complacent. Our task is to build on this success and strength and to negotiate a deal for exiting the European Union that is in the interests of the entire nation.
As I have already indicated, securing a deal that is in our national interest does not and must not mean turning our back on Europe. To do so would not be in our interests, nor Europe’s, so we will work hard to help to establish a future relationship between the EU and the UK that is dynamic, constructive and healthy. We want a steadfast and successful European Union after we depart.
As we proceed, we will be guided by some clear principles. First, as I have said, we wish to build national consensus around our position. Secondly, we will always put the national interest first. We will always act in good faith towards our European partners. Thirdly, wherever possible, we will try to minimise any uncertainty that change will inevitably bring. Fourthly, and crucially, by the end of this process we will have left the European Union and put the sovereignty and supremacy of this Parliament beyond doubt.
The first formal step in the process of leaving the European Union is to invoke article 50, which will start two years of negotiations. Let me briefly update the House on how the machinery of government will support our efforts and on the next steps we will take. First, on responsibilities, the Prime Minister will lead the UK’s exit negotiations and be supported on a day-to-day basis by my Department. We will work closely with all Government Departments to develop our objectives and to negotiate new relationships with the EU and the rest of the world. Supporting me is a first-class ministerial team and some of the brightest and best in Whitehall, who want to engage in this national endeavour. The Department now has over 180 staff in London, plus the expertise of over 120 officials in Brussels. We are still growing rapidly, with first-class support from other Departments.
As to the next steps, the Department’s task is clear. We are undertaking two broad areas of work. First, given that we are determined to build national consensus, we will listen and talk to as many organisations, companies and institutions as possible—from large plcs to small businesses, and from the devolved Administrations to councils, local government associations and major metropolitan bodies.
We are already fully engaged with the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure a UK-wide approach to our negotiations. The Prime Minister met the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland in July. Last week, I visited Northern Ireland for meetings with its political leaders, where I reiterated our determination that there will be no return to the hard borders of the past. I will visit Scotland and Wales soon.
My ministerial colleagues and I have also discussed the next steps with a range of organisations. My first meeting was with the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, followed by key business groups, representatives of the universities and the charitable sector, and farming and fisheries organisations. But that is just the start. In the weeks ahead, we will speak to as many other firms, organisations and bodies as possible—research institutes, regional and national groups, and businesses up and down the country—to establish their priorities and the opportunities for the whole of the UK. As part of that exercise I can announce that we will be holding roundtables with stakeholders in a series of sectors, to ensure that all views are reflected in our analysis of the options for the UK. [Interruption.]
Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): Congratulations to my right hon. Friend on his appointment. Will he confirm that the vote to leave requires the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972, and will the Government bring in a Bill to achieve that as soon as is reasonably possible?
Mr Davis: The aspects of the European Communities Act 1972 that are required to be repealed and the aspects of the acquis communautaire that need to be carried into British law are an important joint set of issues that have to be decided. Once we have got to the point of deciding what we need to do in that regard, we will come back to the House at the first possible opportunity.