On 8th May 2018, the House of Lords considered the Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill at report stage. The Bishop of Leeds spoke to propose an amendment about the future relationship of the UK with EU agencies and law after exit day. The amendment was passed, with 298 peers content, and 227 not content.
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I move this amendment for two principal reasons: first, in order to assist the Government in their shaping of their case for the UK’s future relationship with the European Union post Brexit; secondly, because it is consistent with Amendment 49, which was passed earlier on Report.
Speakers in these debates have repeatedly suggested that anyone who moves an amendment is a hypocritical remoaner intent on sabotaging the Bill and trying to prevent Brexit from ever happening. I regret the referendum result, but I accept that the UK is to leave—even on this 73rd anniversary of VE Day. My concern, along with that of many in your Lordships’ House, is to ask the Government seriously to consider improvements to the Bill in order that the people should be clear about the how as well as the what of Brexit, and that the transition to a final arrangement is as good as we can get it. It is my understanding that this is both the role and the responsibility of this House.
I remain concerned that a deeply divided country is being offered two stark alternatives which, if you will bear with me, I will put in biblical terms—someone has to. Like the people of Israel in the desert, we too easily romanticise the past and yearn to return to Egypt; or, on the other hand, we promise on the other side of the mountain a land flowing with milk and honey, ignoring the challenges that go with it not actually being our land to do with as we will.
I mean it seriously when I suggest that we should be honest in our discourse on Brexit and acknowledge that we shall be spending some years in the wilderness as we begin to work out the consequences of the decisions we have taken and the implications of the relationships we must now begin to establish. Wilderness time is not necessarily negative time—simply a time of waiting, wishing and hoping or recriminating—but a time for stripping away the clutter, identifying and owning our values and priorities as a nation and actively bringing together a people divided by their varying apprehensions of events that have befallen them. That serious need for a concrete unifying strategy has yet to be addressed seriously in either House of this Parliament: slogans and wishful thinking are not enough.
With this in mind, then, I come to the substance of the amendment standing in my name, and to which, I am sure, the Prime Minister would give her consent as it rests on commitments already articulated by her. In her Mansion House speech of 2 March 2018, the Prime Minister confirmed for the first time that the UK will seek to maintain a formal relationship with certain EU agencies after Brexit. She further acknowledged that the terms of the future UK-EU relationship may see the UK Parliament take the step of replicating certain provisions of EU law. I hope noble Lords will forgive me for quoting in order to obtain clarity. She said:
“Our default is that UK law may not necessarily be identical to EU law, but it should achieve the same outcomes. In some cases Parliament might choose to pass an identical law—businesses who export to the EU tell us that it is strongly in their interest to have a single set of regulatory standards that mean they can sell into the UK and EU markets. If the Parliament of the day decided not to achieve the same outcomes as EU law, it would be in the knowledge that there may be consequences for our market access”.
She went on: “And there will need to be an independent mechanism to oversee these arrangements”.
She also said: “We will also want to explore with the EU, the terms on which the UK could remain part of EU agencies such as those that are critical for the chemicals, medicines and aerospace industries”.
She added: “We would, of course, accept that this would mean abiding by the rules of those agencies and making an appropriate financial contribution”.
The Prime Minister then went on to set out what the mutual benefits of such an approach might be. These include: first, that such membership, however described, is the only way to ensure that products need to undergo only one series of approvals in one country; secondly, that such membership would enable the UK to contribute its technical expertise in setting and enforcing appropriate rules; and thirdly, that this might then allow UK firms to resolve certain challenges related to the agencies through UK courts rather than the ECJ.
That is enough for now to demonstrate the Prime Minister’s case. She concluded with a further statement about the sovereignty of Parliament and the acknowledged costs of rejecting agency rules for membership of the relevant agency and linked market access rights. It is important to remember that these decentralised agencies were originally established following a proposal from the European Commission and agreement by both the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, which, if I am correct, means that the establishment of over 40 bodies was achieved with the support of the UK. Surely it makes sense, then, to be consistent and retain access to them.
As the Prime Minister made clear in her speech, there will be consequences of not doing so. For example, and to take just one, there is the European Maritime Safety Agency. Our international reporting and monitoring obligations on maritime safety are currently handled via EMSA and there are shared EU rules on seafarer working conditions. That enables the UK to maintain its status as a “quality flag state” under international law. The complexities involved in replicating this would appear to be immense. Furthermore, establishing a domestic equivalent to the EMSA will inevitably put a huge strain on the Civil Service, taking many years to negotiate, and will be enormously expensive. Could that be yet another uncosted consequence of Brexit? I could equally cite the European Aviation Safety Agency, the European Chemicals Agency, Europol, the European Medicines Agency, and many others.
Is it not probable that any future UK-EU trading relationship might demand replication of certain EU measures—product safety regulations, for example? As other regulations continue to evolve in Brussels in the years to come, is it not probable, if not inevitable, that the UK might have to keep pace if reciprocal arrangements with the EU 27 are to continue—for example, those covering matrimonial and parental judgments?
This amendment does not in any way place an additional burden on the Government, nor does it ask the Government to change their stated policy stance. It formalises and reinforces those commitments made by the Prime Minister in her Mansion House speech. Furthermore, with phase 2 of the negotiations now well under way, the addition of this clause would demonstrate Parliament’s wish for the UK to maintain a close relationship with the EU and, in this sense, it is consistent with the role envisaged for Parliament in Amendment 49.
It is fair to say that, although amendments relating to EU agencies were rejected in the House of Commons, that was possibly because the Government had not at that point announced their policy position. Now that their policy position is clear, sending this amendment back to the Commons would simply give an opportunity for further debate on future UK-EU co-operation.
I hope that I have given a clear rationale for this amendment and its inclusion in the Bill. I hope that the Minister in responding will recognise its constructive nature and its attempt to give some idea as to what sort of milk and honey might lie over the mountain once we have negotiated the wilderness journey. It does no one any favours to pretend we are where we are not; it does everybody a favour to attend to a detail that at least has the virtue of acknowledging the uncertainties ahead and the size and potential costs of the journey on which we have now embarked and gives one element of shape to what to many looks, to quote another biblical line, somewhat “formless and void”. I commend the amendment for debate and beg to move.
I declare my interest in that I advise on environmental matters, as declared on the register, and am also delighted to sit on the Rural Affairs Group of the Church of England General Synod. I particularly believe that the European Environment Agency would benefit from Amendment 93. Many noble Lords will be aware of my particular interest in Denmark, since I am half-Danish. I have had the opportunity to visit some British members of the European Environment Agency while in Copenhagen last year. To follow through on the thoughts and arguments developed by the right reverend Prelate, I argue that the European Environment Agency provides essential research on which the European Commission and other institutions depend and on which environmental protections for British citizens currently flow.
I want to put some questions to the Minister who is responding to this debate. First, I presume that the British Government wish to continue to benefit from the research undertaken by the European Environment Agency, as was indicated by the Prime Minister in the words quoted by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leeds. Will the Minister confirm that that is the case and what financial arrangements will be made to cover the work of the agency? Many environmental protections have been debated in this House during the passage of the Bill.
Secondly, and more importantly, there is a matter which was impressed on me in the meeting I had in Copenhagen in August with British officials working for the European Environment Agency. This is not the first time I have raised this; I had a number of conversations about it with the Minister’s predecessor, my noble friend Lord Bridges. However, over a year has passed and I have had no reassurance whatever in this regard. Many of these officials are British; many are married to Danes, Swedes or people of other nationalities. Many of them are experts and not on permanent contracts. I met one who was a very clever scientist who has a big question mark hanging over her future. Her young family wish to attend school and, subsequently, university. The House will recall an amendment that deprived EU citizens living in this country of the right to vote in our original referendum.
There is an urgent need for clarity because President Juncker has committed that British officials working for European institutions—I presume this is both permanent officials and those on expert contracts—will be able to apply for Belgian nationality from 30 March next year. If that is the case, British officials working for European Union institutions in Brussels will have preferential status, compared to those working for other agencies such as the ones mentioned by the right reverend Prelate and to the ones I met who were working in the European Environment Agency. It is now a matter of urgency that we reassure those excellent British officials working for such agencies that they will have at least the same status as those working for EU institutions in Brussels.
To sum up, what will be the Government’s future relationship with agencies such as the European Environment Agency? What will be the extent of our financial commitment, and when will we know what that is? What will be the status of those working for the European Environment Agency, the European Medicines Agency, and all such agencies? When will they know what their future will be?
Lord Haskel (Lab): My Lords, I will speak briefly in favour of Amendment 93, because it strengthens the argument of some of the amendments which I moved in Committee about maintaining our standards through membership of many of these EU institutions. These institutions set the standards which give us a quality of life that we have come to accept as normal as members of the European Union—indeed, as Europeans. They not only set the standards but have mechanisms to enforce them and are independent of government. In Committee, the Minister assured us that the Bill will seek to retain in UK law all these rights and protections,
“so far as is practical”.—[Official Report, 19/3/18; col. 19.]
The law may well be transposed, but it is toothless unless we have these institutions which monitor, measure and enforce compliance, and which have the right to exact penalties for non-compliance.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds said that to set up our own institutions would require a lot of time, expense and expertise, which we are short of. To accept these institutions would demonstrate that, by opening up our market, we are not entering a race to the bottom and we are not going to abandon the precautionary principle. There is a lot of uncertainty over withdrawal, but this amendment goes some way to ensuring that our quality of life as citizens will not suffer because of this uncertainty. That is why I support it.
Lord Dykes (CB): My Lords, I will briefly support what the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, and also thank the right reverend Prelate for his able speech, which was strongly reinforcing as regards our gradually becoming ever closer to the European Union itself. That is the reality of these matters, because although the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, wishes to say on behalf of others on his Benches as well that we are leaving, there is now in this country a firm feeling of second thoughts on that matter, and therefore we may not be leaving.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister herself has got closer and closer to the EU in terms of various different parts of our linkages, in particular in respect to the agencies, and in terms of some of the procedures and laws. The strongest one, apart from Europol, which is a good example, is the European arrest warrant part of that security procedure, which is increasingly regarded as an incredibly indispensable instrument of suitable control between the justice systems of the member states, and so on—we had the recent example in Spain of something that was widely welcomed in this country.
With a number of agencies, if we were to relinquish membership of them—or even “almost membership”, however close that might be to them—that would be damaging not only to individuals who are involved in them but to the recipients of those services and the security of the high standards maintained. As we go on with this torturous process—we will see it again with the revival of the discussions about the EEA, the customs union, and so on in later amendments—we realise now that our closeness to the EU is a reality and not just an aspiration.
Lord Teverson (LD): My Lords, I was very pleased to add my name to this amendment, and I congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his introduction to it. As he says, what is not to like about it? It reflects the Prime Minister’s policy and intent, and it provides an opportunity for the Government to negotiate with Brussels with the good will and strength of Parliament behind them. So why not accept it? It seems to me an excellent amendment.
Whether we are talking about the Brexit debate or about the people dealing with Europe, I am struck that the European institutions that citizens generally know about most are the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. However, it is an absolute fact that these agencies, which are relatively new in the evolution of the European Union, are among the key instruments under which Europe works. They are among the most efficient, benefiting from huge economies of scale in expertise and costs to industry and other organisations within the Union; they are very successful; and they are highly regarded not just within the European Union but internationally. That is why it is so important that we as a country, whether we leave or not—although we are on a trajectory to leave—should stay in strong contract with these agencies. Many of them are major determinants in British industry being able to access and work with the European single market in the future.
I am the chair of your Lordships’ European Union Energy and Environment Sub-Committee. When we looked at Brexit and the environment, 100% of the witnesses from UK industry who appeared before us or sent us written evidence were very clear that we should stay as close as possible to EU chemicals policy regulation and the REACH regime. They did not want to have to manufacture a third set of rules and regulations—not just for North America and the EU but our own as well. That was a fundamental aim of the industry.
One of our more recent reports concerned the internal energy market. The Prime Minister also mentioned this in her speech as something we need to stay near to, and it is an enterprise that Britain has led. I doubt that even Members of your Lordships’ House have heard of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators, but it will be an important element of, and part of the jigsaw of, our energy security and energy prices in the future.
We have already mentioned Europol and the European Medicines Agency. Just like REACH for the chemicals industry, it is very important for the pharmaceutical industry that we stay part of the EMA and avoid huge duplication in development and approval costs.
For all those reasons, we need, if we can, to stay part of and be a participant in those agencies. Many of them currently have observers from the EEA states. The European Space Agency is not a European agency as such but Canada and other members are associates of it. Maybe that is a model we could persuade the EU 27 to follow. We also need to take into account the “soft” area. This is not just about being an associate member; the knowledge and work inside the European Union institutions determine markets and how industry needs to work in the future. By retaining involvement in those institutions, we will have that information, contact and networking, which otherwise we will forsake. For that reason, I believe it is very important to support the amendment.
Similarly, as an ex-Home Secretary, I see the value of Interpol. I am quite sure that we will continue to work very closely with Interpol and continue the exchange of information that is so vital to arrests and to the reduction of crime, not only in our own country but in Europe.
One item not mentioned today is the Erasmus programme. I was the Education Secretary who started Erasmus and I think it has brought inevitable great benefits, both for students of our own country and students of other countries. Indeed, I discovered that one American university has decided that, during one year, all its students have to go and study in another city for three months. Erasmus allows that to happen and I am quite sure that it will continue in the future.
Having said all that, I do not think it requires a parliamentary fiat, if I may say so to the right reverend Prelate. It is clearly the Government’s policy to do that because it is a policy based upon common sense. It is essentially part of our negotiations, as has been made clear by the Prime Minister, and I hope that the negotiations are successful.
Lord Whitty (Lab): My Lords, briefly, I want to support this amendment. I think I was probably responsible for the previous three occasions that the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, referred to, in that very early in this debate I asked the Government to set out for each of the European agencies their intention for future co-operation. I did that because, like the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, as chair of one of the sub-committees I know that every industrial and professional sector wants to know what its future relationship would be, as that is the normal way of doing business: they operate with their European counterparts through those European agencies. I then asked further questions about the environment, food safety and, vitally, transport, which would otherwise close down.
I am very grateful that the Prime Minister has picked out aviation as an area on which we must continue to co-operate, and chemicals—the European Chemicals Agency regulates 20,000-plus day-to-day chemicals. Unless we have very close relationships with all those industrial sectors, and on issues such as security and Europol, Brexit will be a serious blow to the way large parts of our industry, public sector and professions operate day to day. We need to give them certainty. I still think it would have been helpful had the Minister produced a detailed list, because we are gradually working our way round to saying that, on all these issues, co-operation will need to continue.
Lord Adonis (Lab): My noble friend has given a great deal of thought and study to this issue. Is he aware of any legal impediments that prevent us continuing to participate in agencies in any event? Is this change in the law in any way required?
Lord Whitty (Lab): In terms of the Government’s intention in the negotiations, it is required. But to counter, to a degree, the otherwise helpful contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Baker, the EU have to agree it. If we do not have this as a positive point in our negotiations, and if we do not co-ordinate the role of British industry, sectors and professions with those of their European counterparts, there will be an end to that co-operation. I have had cause to remind the Minister that the EU’s current guidelines in negotiations say that we will no longer participate in these agencies from March next year. If so, that is seriously disruptive. It is therefore important that this House gives an indication to the other place and to the Government that we must continue to participate. I hope the Minister does not repeat his and his colleagues’ previous disdain in dismissing the need to make this clear. I hope the Prime Minister’s intention is wider than the few specific agencies to which she referred in her Mansion House speech.
Perhaps I may give a little of their history. I was on the staff of Chatham House in the early 1980s when the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, first proposed the single market and made it clear that what was in Britain’s interests—as well as, she argued, in enlightened European interest—was to replace a tangle of different national regulations with single regulations in a single market. She did not assume that we would get rid of all these regulations but that we would agree on common regulations. Many of the agencies then grew up to make sure that these regulations were observed and enforced, and altered and developed as technology, pharmaceutical research and other things changed. That was why they were clearly in Britain’s interests. There were always some in the Conservative Party who did not believe in that—they believed in deregulation—and thus were dubious about the single market because it was replacing national regulations with common European regulations.
One of the most interesting pieces of research carried out for Chatham House in that period was by an American trade lawyer who wrote about the extraterritorial jurisdiction of US regulations over the United Kingdom until the single market was formed. Very often business, engineering, the chemical industry and the pharmaceutical industry in Britain simply followed American regulation. The idea that we had sovereign regulation on our own did not exist. As the single market developed, so European regulations, over which we had considerable influence, replaced the British adoption of regulations designed for American purposes, which we felt we had no choice but to accept.
That is these agencies’ historical origins and they clearly still serve British national interests. It is therefore important that if and when we leave the European Union we remain associated with them. Technology and research have continued to develop and these agencies therefore serve an increasingly important role. I therefore hope that the Minister in replying will reinforce what the Prime Minister said in her Mansion House speech and make it clear that a major objective of the Government is to remain as closely associated with these agencies as possible, even if Boris Johnson may then denounce it in the Daily Mail.
The Bill is not for that purpose but to keep our statute book intact. I urge your Lordships, rather than indulge all our hopes and wishes in this area, to think about whether we ought to put these explicit requirements into this legislation.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): My Lords, I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord is reading the same amendment as me. The one I am reading, which was so well introduced the right reverend Prelate, states:
“Nothing in this Act shall prevent the United Kingdom from … replicating”,
or “continuing to participate”. It does not say that we have to do it. It just says that nothing shall prevent our doing it. Perhaps I am reading a different amendment from the noble and learned Lord.
Lord Adonis (Lab): The House may be aware by now that I am in favour of our staying in the European Union. I have great respect for the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds; it is great for bishops to spend a long time in the wilderness, but not for people doing trade and leading the economic life of the country. While the right reverend Prelate is in the wilderness, perhaps he can conduct our negotiations with whoever we are conducting them with in the wilderness on our behalf.
My reading of the amendment is that it has zero impact. I cannot see anything in the Bill that prevents our having any relationship with European agencies. Our issue with the Government is that they do not want relationships with many of them. I do not intervene, however, just to make the point that the amendment is useless. I am concerned by what is becoming a pattern in our debates on the Bill: thinking that changes with no substance whatever amount to great advances in our campaign to reverse Brexit. We should concentrate on things of real substance: the customs union, the single market and the referendum. Those are real changes.
As far as I can see, the Minister will not accept gestures of this kind because he does not accept anything from this House on principle, even from Bishops. Perhaps the Almighty can sway his mind in a way that we mere mortals cannot. He could accept the amendment but he will not. Even if we go to a vote, it is not worth wasting the time of the House on trivial matters of this kind; they may give us the impression of having some impact, but we are in fact having zero impact.
Baroness Ludford (LD): My Lords, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. One of the most important matters is security. In Barcelona the other day, one of Britain’s most wanted fugitives—Jamie Acourt—was arrested in a joint operation between the Metropolitan Police and the Spanish police, possibly assisted by Europol. The NCA head of international operations said:
“Our ability to share information and work at speed with our international partners ensures there is no safe haven for fugitives. We will never stop pursuing these individuals”.
That is no doubt true, but Acourt will be returned under the European arrest warrant. If we do not stay part of the warrant and have to fall back on the long-winded extradition arrangements that predate it—without any participation in Europol to facilitate cross-border police operations—our security will be endangered. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, accepts that security is one of our most important interests. I hear what noble Lords said about the effect of the amendment but, politically, it is important that this House presses on the Government the importance of staying in agencies and institutions.
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab): My Lords, I am delighted to speak in support of the key Amendment 93, to which my noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith added his name and which was moved so biblically and effectively by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds. Of course, at that time, I had not only a brilliant legal adviser on my right, but a theological one—my noble friend Lord Griffiths—who has now left the Chamber. I said, “I have to have a biblical quote”, but I am afraid he has a sense of humour and said, “The people who were wandering aimlessly in the pre-Brexit wilderness were soon squabbling among themselves, ignoring the advice of their leader”, and so on. But I will leave my noble friend’s helpful comments for another time.
I say this particularly in answer to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, and my noble friend Lord Adonis. This is an important and meaningful amendment because it would restrict the pretty wide powers given to Ministers in the Bill. That is why we need to pass it. We have on a number of occasions, on this Bill and the Nuclear Safeguards Bill, expressed our surprise that nowhere in the referendum process—in the immediate aftermath, nor in this legislation or any other—did the Government ever spell out that the Article 50 process automatically triggered our exit from Euratom. I will not repeat the costs and dangers of that eventuality given earlier debates on it, particularly the input at that point of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson.
However, equally unremarked on and unmentioned by the Government, or by the Brexiteers during the campaign, was the similar removal of the UK from a swathe of agencies, many of which, as we have heard, we helped to construct and all of which have served this country well. Colleagues will already know, from medical researchers who have been in touch, patient groups, health professionals and the pharmaceutical industry, of the risks of being outside the European Medicines Agency, quite apart from the loss of jobs and specialisms that are now moving to Holland. But the same could be said about the European Food Safety Agency, often referred to, but not today, by my noble friend Lord Rooker; the environment agency, emphasised by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and my noble friend Lord Whitty; the railways and aviation agencies, often referred to by my noble friend Lord Berkeley; the European Chemicals Agency, which has been mentioned; and, of course, Eurojust, suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, and Europol, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack.
The commonality is that any mention of those agencies in this House and beyond has included a plea for us to remain members, associates or partners with whichever such agency is in the frame. Sometimes this means following the same rules—as the Government have now accepted for clinical trials—to assist in monitoring; for safety; for easy and rapid transport, as for medical isotopes; to facilitate trade and exchange; to enable skilled persons to undertake checks or repairs; or, as my noble friend Lord Haskel said, to guarantee safe products for users and consumers.
For some of the agencies it might mean paying money in, as the Prime Minister acknowledged. For some it might mean harmonising assurance, governance or penalties for rule-breaking. But for all it will mean a willingness to adapt and respond to requirements, usually simply to maintain our existing rules and practice. What is clear is that, given the wide powers in the Bill for Ministers, we must ensure that none of those powers is used to frustrate our continued involvement with such agencies, whether because, for example, we set different sanctions for breaches, raise fees or charges in a different way that makes it difficult to move along in their way of working, or apply variant rules or any other similar change. That is why it is critical to circumscribe the powers in the Bill so that they cannot be used to prevent us having necessary EU rules or ways of working that would frustrate our participation in any of these agencies. We do not want the powers to be used for that reason, hence the very simple amendment.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, had it right: the Bill should not be used to frustrate the intention, should that be the Government’s wish, to stay in these agencies for the good of the whole country. It is, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds said in his introduction, entirely in line with what the Prime Minister said in Mansion House and it would allow this country to continue such relationships where that continuation is in the national interest.
The Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union (Lord Callanan) (Con): My Lords, I understand the sentiment behind Amendment 93 tabled by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds— I assure him that I am not one of those who regard him as a hypocritical remoaner. However, I must make it clear that the Government consider its inclusion in the Bill to be both completely unnecessary and totally inappropriate.
Once we leave the EU, this Parliament—and the devolved Administrations, where appropriate—will be free to change the law where they decide it is right to do so. As such, nothing done by this Bill, or any other Act of Parliament, can bind the actions of future Parliaments. A provision which essentially provides that future Parliaments can mirror EU law, which this Bill neither requires nor prevents, is therefore completely unnecessary. Nor does the Bill prevent Parliament approving any future relationship between the UK and the EU, including its agencies and institutions.
If the intended effect of the amendment is to preserve the sovereignty of Parliament, it is also completely unnecessary. The amendment may have been tabled with one eye on the withdrawal agreement, but my ministerial colleagues and I have been clear throughout the Bill’s passage, both within this House and in the other place, that its aim is just to create a functioning statute book as we depart from the EU—a point well made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood. For the avoidance of any doubt, the Bill does not seek pre-emptively to legislate for or against any final withdrawal agreement or future relationship with the EU. On this point, I am surprised to find myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, probably for the first time in the Bill’s passage. On this narrow point, he is right. Incidentally, we have accepted many amendments put forward in this House and by its committees. We have tabled more than 100 amendments responding to concerns raised by various Members of your Lordships’ House, so it is not quite true that we always reject everything that is said.
Lord Adonis (Lab): My Lords, there will be further opportunities for the noble Lord to accept amendments in due course, particularly on membership of the single market.
Let me make it clear: if there is a role for any EU agency as part of the withdrawal agreement, it will be legislated for under the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill which we are planning to introduce later in the year. The same principle applies to the future relationship which will, as necessary, be legislated for in due course.
The inclusion of this amendment would make this position less clear than it is at the moment. It may also create an odd presumption that, since the Bill does not prevent the amendment’s intended effect being achieved, the specific inclusion of the new clause would mean that the UK will seek to mirror the laws of the EU after our departure or to continue its current participation in EU agencies. That may not be the right reverend Prelate’s intention, but the amendment could be read as going even further and attempting to save, or partially save, the European Communities Act for the purposes of mirroring changes in EU law after exit. If that is the case, it could be seen as allowing a wide discretionary power to keep pace with EU law. This would also be a wholly inappropriate approach when we do not yet know the outcome of the negotiations.
As I have highlighted during our previous debates on the Bill, the UK has a long-standing tradition of ensuring that our rights and traditional liberties are protected domestically. The UK leads the world in many areas in setting and upholding high standards across our statute book; for example, in areas such as consumer protection, environmental standards and workers’ rights—a point well made by my noble friend Lord Baker. I believe that all Members of Parliament, in this House and in the other place, are invested in the continuation of this legacy. It is in Parliament that we are better able to address and legislate for the specific needs and ideas of the UK.
In our negotiations, we are seeking a deep and special partnership with the EU, and our relationship with its agencies and bodies is being evaluated on this basis. I assure the House that where there is a demonstrable national interest in pursuing a continued relationship with an agency or other EU body, the Government will carefully examine whether we should pursue this. In response to the questions raised by my noble friend Lady McIntosh, participation in the European Environment Agency is of course a matter for the negotiations, but if we do negotiate participation we will, of course, make the appropriate financial contribution.
Viscount Hailsham (Con): Will my noble friend help the House in one respect? I am trying to understand whether the amendment in any way obliges the Government to do anything or in any way prevents them doing anything. It seems to me entirely neutral in its effect. Can he help us?
Lord Callanan (Con): I think I covered that in what I said earlier: we believe it to be unnecessary and pointless.
Going back to my noble friend Lady McIntosh’s questions, the second question she asked me was about contracts of employment of staff employed in those agencies. Of course, these are a matter for those agencies, but the rights of those UK citizens, as UK citizens in other EU countries, are guaranteed in the agreement we reached with the EU in December. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, asked me about the membership of agencies ending in March 2019. As set out in the agreement reached in March, during the implementation period common rules will remain in place and the UK may continue to participate in EU agencies where the presence of the UK is necessary and in the interests of the Union or where the discussion concerns acts addressed to the UK and its citizens.
In conclusion therefore, while I fully understand the intentions behind the amendment, I do not believe that anything would be gained from its acceptance in the Bill, apart from confusion.
Lord Woolf (CB): Before the Minister sits down, can he help me on one matter? I am sure there is an easy answer to it. The Bill is exceptional in its regulatory power. Whereas I see the strong force of what is being submitted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, I wonder if it has the effect of curtailing these very wide Henry VIII clauses.
Lord Callanan (Con): I do not believe that it does curtail our powers under the SI provisions of the Bill, on which we have had separate, long discussions.
In conclusion, I do not believe that anything would be gained from its acceptance in the Bill apart from confusion and uncertainty. I therefore hope that the right reverend Prelate will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response and all those who have spoken in the debate. I often find myself changing my mind when I hear good argument but I cannot assure the House that I have done that in this case. The Minister referred to the sentiment behind the amendment, but it is not sentiment: what I offered was a rationale, not a sentiment. The intention behind it is as I stated in my speech. I take the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, about “common sense”, but every time I hear the phrase I begin to worry. Usually, common sense is so common and so thinly spread that it does not always apply in the specific, and as they say, the devil lies in the detail. So I am not sure that it is enough just to be sure that things will continue, or that we can continue to hope.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said that it is not good for businesses and so on to be in the wilderness. I totally agree, but my point in using that metaphor is that we are, whether we like it or not, going to find ourselves in some sort of wilderness, because it will take a long time to work this through. It will not be that suddenly on day one, whether we stay or leave, everything in the garden is rosy. I am just being realistic about that. Finally, I find the repeated charge that this House is trying to impose on the Government, or tell the Government what to do, tiresome. It seems to me—I may be simple—that the remit and responsibility of this House is to send back to the Government and to the other House arguments that may make them think again. Otherwise, we have no purpose. So, while I take the comments seriously, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Amendment 93: Before Clause 14, insert the following new Clause—
“Future interaction with the law and agencies of the EU
Nothing in this Act shall prevent the United Kingdom from—(a) replicating in domestic law any EU law made on or after exit day, or(b) continuing to participate in, or have a formal relationship with, the agencies of the European Union after exit day.”