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11 December 2017

PM statement on EU negotiations

Prime Minister Theresa May updated the House of Commons on negotiations for the UK's departure from the European Union.

On Friday morning the government and the European Commission published a Joint Report on progress during the first phase.

On the basis of this report – and following the discussions I held throughout last week – President Juncker is recommending to the European Council that sufficient progress has now been made to move to the next stage and begin talks on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

And President Tusk has responded positively by proposing guidelines for the next phase of the negotiations. [...]

Citizen’s rights

[...] The European Union started by wanting all EU citizens’ rights to be preserved in the UK by a prolongation of EU law.

They said these rights should not require any UK process to implement them.

And that they should be supervised by the Commission and enforced by the European Court of Justice.

Those proposals were not acceptable.

Mr Speaker, when we leave the European Union our laws will be made and enforced here in Britain not in Luxembourg.

So the EU has accepted that we will incorporate the Withdrawal Agreement into UK law.

And citizens’ rights will then be enforced by our courts - where appropriate, paying due regard to relevant ECJ case law, just as they already decide other matters with reference to international law when it’s relevant.

In the interests of consistent interpretation of citizens’ rights, we have agreed that where existing law is not clear, our courts – and only our courts – will be able to choose to ask the ECJ for an interpretation prior to reaching their own decision.

But this will be a very narrow remit and a very small number of cases.

And unlike now, they will not be obliged to do so. This will be voluntary.

The case itself will always be determined by the UK courts, not the ECJ. And there will also be a sunset clause so, after eight years, even this voluntary mechanism will end.

Mr Speaker, the end point of this process is very clear.

EU Citizens living in the UK will have their rights enshrined in UK law and enforced by British courts.

And UK citizens living in the EU will also have their rights protected.

The jurisdiction of the ECJ in the UK is coming to an end.

We are taking control our own laws once again. And that is exactly how it should be.

Financial settlement

[...] We will continue to pay our net contributions under the current EU Budget plan. During this time our proposed implementation period will see us continuing to trade on current terms.

And we will pay our fair share of the outstanding commitments and liabilities to which we committed during our membership.

However, this is conditional upon a number of principles we have negotiated over how we will ultimately arrive at a fair valuation of these commitments, which will bring the actual financial settlement down by a substantial amount.

This part of the report we agreed on Friday, like the rest of it, is also subject to the general reservation that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. This means we want to see the whole deal now coming together, including the terms of our future deep and special partnership, as I said in Florence. [...]

It means we will be able to use that money to invest in our priorities at home – such as housing, schools and the NHS.

And it means the days of paying vast sums to the European Union every year are coming to an end.

Northern Ireland

[...] Mr Speaker, the Joint Report reaffirms our guarantee that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. So much of daily life in Northern Ireland depends on being able to cross the border freely, so it is right that we ensure no new barriers are put in place.

We have also been absolutely clear that nothing in this process will alter our determination to uphold the constitutional and economic integrity of the whole United Kingdom. And it was right that we took time last week to strengthen and clarify the Joint Report in this regard, listening to unionists across the country, including the DUP.

On Friday I reinforced this further by making six principled commitments to Northern Ireland.

First, we will always uphold and support Northern Ireland’s status as an integral part of the United Kingdom, consistent with the principle of consent. [...]

Second, we will fully protect and maintain Northern Ireland’s position within the single market of the United Kingdom. This is by far the most important market for Northern Ireland’s goods and services and Northern Ireland will continue to have full and unfettered access to it.

Third, there will be no new borders within the United Kingdom. In addition to no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, we will maintain the Common Travel Area throughout these islands.

Fourth, the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, will leave the EU customs union and the EU single market. Nothing in the agreement I have reached alters that fundamental fact.

Fifth, we will uphold the commitments and safeguards set out in the Belfast Agreement regarding North-South Co-operation. This will continue to require cross-community support.

And sixth, the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, will no longer be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. [...]

Should this not prove possible, we have also been clear that we will seek specific solutions to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland.

And because we recognise the concerns felt by either side of the border and we want to guarantee that we will honour the commitments we have made, we have also agreed one further fall back option of last resort.

So if we cannot find specific solutions then the UK will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South co-operation, economic co-operation across the island of Ireland and the protection of the Belfast Agreement.

The Joint Report clearly sets out that cross community safeguards and consent are required from the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly for distinct arrangements in this scenario. And that in all circumstances Northern Irish businesses must continue to have full and unfettered access to the markets in the rest of the United Kingdom on which they rely. [...]

Of course, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. [...]

This is good news for people who voted Leave, who were worried we were so bogged down in tortuous negotiations it was never going to happen.

And it is good news for people who voted Remain, who were worried we were going to crash out without a deal. [...]

Full statement

© Department for Exiting the European Union

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