Recently there has been some concern over the possible outcome of negotiations between the EU and HM Government. Whilst the very nature of such negotiations mean that things can move quickly, I thought it would be useful to let you know the current situation and my position.
The UK will be leaving the European Union on 29th March 2019. The 2016 referendum was the biggest democratic exercise in British history with 17.4 million people voting to leave the EU. In the subsequent General Election of June 2017, both major parties pledged to respect the referendum result and me and my Conservative colleagues were elected on a manifesto commitment to leave the EU, Customs Union and Single Market. HM Government is currently delivering on that commitment.
The exit negotiations are well under way; indeed, the Prime Minister has confirmed that over 95pc of the withdrawal agreement is completed. I am confident that an agreement will be reached to the mutual benefit of the both the UK and the EU. MPs will vote on that deal when it comes to Parliament.
It has been suggested that the option of extending the transition period be considered. This is not a new suggestion- indeed, it was first floated as an option in the summer. This is a welcome signal that the EU is willing to be flexible and work with us.
However, there is a serious issue that needs to be addressed and that is the potential for the UK to be locked into the CFP for another cycle post December 2020.
Due to the nature of CFP negotiations, with quotas set on an annual basis, for the UK to have control over our own waters for the 2021 cycle, we must be sitting as an independent coastal state at the negotiating table by December 2020. If an extension to the transition period includes an extension to our membership of the CFP, even by a couple of months, this will be impossible. The Prime Minister fully understands and acknowledges this position and is working hard to make sure we leave the CFP at the soonest possible opportunity and that any extension will not include CFP membership. It is worth remembering the SNP and Liberal Democrat position on this as they would have the UK back in the EU and as full members of the CFP. Only the Conservatives are delivering on the pledge to take back control of our waters.
We have also been clear that we cannot accept a situation whereby, in order to secure a deal, a customs border was created down the Irish Sea- in effect creating two customs regimes within our United Kingdom. The UK voted to leave the EU as one country, we are one country and the Government have made it clear to the EU that this is non-negotiable.
This is a very uncertain and worrying time for many. But we are reaching the end point of the negotiations and this was always going to be the toughest period. We are determined to get a deal that works for the UK and the EU and the Government and Prime Minister has my complete support in this endeavour.