The Government will find it “difficult” to get any Brexit deal through Parliament unless it has achieved a “pretty substantive” agreement on future relations with the EU by the autumn, David Davis has said.
The Brexit Secretary played down suggestions that a framework expected in October will be little more than a broad political agreement, with the bulk of details left to be worked out during the 21-month transition period following Brexit Day in March 2019.
Instead, he said the Government aimed to have large amounts of detail – maybe even including legal wording – “nailed down” by the formal date of Brexit.
I would be surprised if parliamentarians are happy to vote for the expenditure of £35-39 billion without knowing what we are getting for itBrexit Secretary David Davis
Asked during a hearing of the House of Lords EU Committee what state the future relationship framework would be in by the time Parliament votes on the withdrawal agreement this autumn, Mr Davis replied: “We take the view that it has got to be pretty substantive.
“Parliament will vote more than once on the withdrawal agreement and I would be surprised if parliamentarians are happy to vote for the expenditure of £35-39 billion without knowing what we are getting for it.
“I think it would be quite difficult to get the withdrawal agreement through the House if we don’t have it substantively done.”
Mr Davis stressed that the Government regards the transition period ending in December 2020 as a time for implementation of the changes needed to prepare for the changed relationship with the EU.
He said: “Businesses need to know at the beginning of the implementation period what it is they are going to implement, so we have to have it nailed down – even legally – at the beginning of the implementation period.
“It won’t be ratified, because they can’t sign a deal with us until we are a ‘third country’, so that will be shortly after the formal departure from the Union.
“So, in order to have it all done, we have to be substantively there in October, in joint report-type terms, and in legal terms by the time we leave.”
Mr Davis warned the UK could be left “in a sort of limbo” if it is not able to complete a future relationship deal with the EU by the end of the transition period in December 2020.
He pointed out this would include ratification by a newly elected European Parliament – elected without UK MEPs in 2019 – and by national and regional assemblies across the 27 remaining member states.
Asked how far talks on the future relationship agreement will have got by Brexit Day in March 2019, Mr Davis told the Lords EU Committee: “I would be aiming to conclude the negotiations if I can get to that point by then, so they can sign and then start the ratification process.
“Ratification is going to require a brand new European Parliament, who will be being elected at that point, a brand new Commission and almost certainly – for some of it at least, if not all of it – it will be going round the parliaments of Europe, so there’s quite a lot to be done in ratification terms.
“We absolutely need to have ratification completed before the implementation period is over, otherwise we are in a sort of limbo.”