With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the Government’s work to deliver Brexit by putting forward a new deal that members of this House can stand behind. We need to see Brexit through, to honour the result of the referendum, and to deliver the change the British people so clearly demanded. I sincerely believe that most members of this House feel the same. That, for all our division and disagreement, we believe in democracy. That we want to make good on the promise we made to the British people when we asked them to decide on the future of our EU membership.
As to how we make that happen, recent votes have shown that there is no majority in this House for leaving with no deal. And this House has voted against revoking Article 50. It is clear that the only way forward is leaving with a deal – but it is equally clear that this will not happen without compromise on all sides of the debate.
That starts with the Government, which is why we have just held six weeks of detailed talks with the Opposition – talks that the Leader of the Opposition chose to end before a formal agreement was reached, but which nonetheless revealed areas of common ground. And having listened to the Opposition, to other party leaders, to the devolved administrations, to business leaders, trade unionists and others, we are now making a 10-point offer to Members across the House.
Ten changes that address the concerns raised by Hon and Rt Hon Members. Ten binding commitments that will be enshrined in legislation so they cannot simply be ignored. And 10 steps that will bring us closer to the bright future that awaits our country once we end the political impasse and get Brexit done.
First, we will protect British jobs by seeking as close to frictionless trade in goods with the EU as possible while outside the single market and ending free movement. The government will be placed under a legal duty to negotiate our future relationship on this basis.
Second, we will provide much-needed certainty for our vital manufacturing and agricultural sectors by keeping up to date with EU rules for goods and agri-food products that are relevant to checks at the border. Such a commitment – which will also be enshrined in legislation – will help protect thousands of skilled jobs that depend on just-in-time supply chains.
Third, we will empower Parliament to break the deadlock over future customs arrangements. Both the Government and Opposition agree that we must have as close as possible to frictionless trade at the UK-EU border – protecting the jobs and livelihoods that are sustained by our existing trade with the EU.
But while we agree on the ends, we disagree on the means. The Government has already put forward a proposal which delivers the benefits of a customs union but with the ability for the UK to determine its own trade and development policy. The Opposition are both sceptical of our ability to negotiate that and don’t believe an independent trade policy is in the national interest. They would prefer a comprehensive customs union – with a UK say in EU trade policy but with the EU negotiating on our behalf.
As part of the cross-party discussions the government offered a compromise option of a temporary customs union on goods only, including a UK say in relevant EU trade policy, so that the next government can decide its preferred direction. But we were not able to reach agreement – so instead we will commit in law to let Parliament decide this issue, and to reflect the outcome of this process in legislation.