It is important that Boris Johnson, as Prime Minister, addresses the Brexit issue. My own view is that we need to move forward and deliver Brexit properly, in line with promises made in our manifesto in 2017. This means leaving the customs union, leaving the single market, leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and stopping sending billions of pounds each year to the European Union.
I do also want to see the UK starting actual trade negotiations with the EU to take us into the future, instead of just talking about how we leave. Putting trading arrangements in place is what really matters, to the UK and the remaining countries of the EU, and that is what we ought to focus on. The Irish backstop is being made out to be a major stumbling block, but it needn't be. The EU says it wants to protect the integrity of the single market, yet the EU only physically checks 1.3% of all goods entering it, so how can a relatively few goods - only 1.5% of all Ireland's imports come from Northern Ireland - going from Northern Ireland into Ireland be a problem? Far more important to Ireland is their trade with Great Britain, and that's what they should be focusing on. The Trusted Trader Scheme and checking goods away from the border are just two examples of ways forward.
Boris wants to leave the EU on 31st October with a deal in place. This might mean we end up with one large deal in place, or perhaps a series of smaller ones which cover a number of areas such as aviation and lorry transportation. And leaving without a deal doesn't mean that there will never be a deal - again, we need to get down to discussing trade policies and not just how we leave. The Prime Minister will therefore step up preparations for a no deal Brexit, so that the UK is ready for any eventuality, but that is not his preferred option. Nevertheless, he is determined to deliver on the result of the referendum.
I don't believe we need to hold another referendum on the matter because that would not make negotiations any easier. Also, holding a further referendum would make people feel that their votes don't matter because we have already held one referendum and not implemented the results of that one yet. The country has already voted to leave in 2016 and a large majority of people voted for Brexit-supporting parties at the General Election in 2017. We now need to get on and do it.
For my part, I voted for Brexit and at the last General Election I told the electorate that that is what I would fight to deliver. I don't intend going back on my word.
EU Citizens rights in the UK
On 6 December 2018 the Government confirmed that the EU Settlement Scheme will continue to operate whether the UK leaves the European Union with or without a negotiated deal. This ensures that the rights of EEA and Swiss citizens resident in the UK before it leaves the EU will be protected in every outcome. Those granted settled status under the scheme will retain that status for life, unless they allow their leave to lapse by being absent from the UK and the Islands (the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Isle of Man) for a period of more than five years, or that status is revoked or cancelled, for example as a result of serious criminality.
The government are working extensively with a range of stakeholders to ensure that all those who are eligible to apply do so by the deadline of 30 June 2021 for those resident in the UK by the end of the implementation period on 31 December 2020 (or, in a no deal scenario, by 31 December 2020 for those resident in the UK by exit). The latest internal figures show that more than one million EEA and Swiss citizens and their families have been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme, just a few months after the Scheme opened. This significant milestone sends a clear message to EU citizens; they are our friends, family and neighbours and we want them to stay.The government have made clear that departments will take a proportionate approach to anyone who misses the deadline and will make provision for those who have reasonable grounds for doing so to apply after the deadline. Those who apply before the deadline but whose application is not decided until after the deadline will have all their rights protected until their application is concluded.
British Nationals Abroad: EU Countries
Following extensive engagement by the Government, all Member States have now made commitments to protect the residence rights of UK nationals in a no deal scenario, albeit to varying degrees of detail. The EU Commission has published details at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/brexit/brexit-preparedness/citizens-rights_en.
Member States have also made some unilateral commitments to protect the right to work, study, and access to benefits and services in a no deal scenario. For example Poland has committed to offering permanent residency covering the right to work and Malta will create a new ‘ad hoc’ status allowing UK nationals to work without a permit. To understand the extent to which each Member State has put in place protections, UK nationals should visit the FCO “living in guides” on gov.uk and the relevant web pages of their host countries.
The government will continue to engage with our EU counterparts to encourage full reciprocity of our offer to EU citizens in the UK, in which they will continue to be able to work, study, and access benefits and services in a no deal exit as they can today.