We have been presented with a golden opportunity as a country.
Our withdrawal from the European Union will mean for the first time in a generation the British people, not Brussels, will control our law making, borders and who we trade with.
This is what the Government is determined to deliver and it is what people voted for on June 23rd last year. I am working hard here in Westminster as part of the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) led by Secretary of State David Davis, to support the work of the Prime Minister and DExEU.
There is not a hard or soft Brexit. Leaving the EU means leaving the Single Market so we can control our own borders once more. It means leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice so we can take back control of our lawmaking. It means unshackling ourselves from the Customs Union so we can boldly forge our own trade agreements with not just our European friends, but our global partners as well . I have set out in more detail what each of these EU institutions currently do and why it is so important for Brexit that we free ourselves from them.
Progress of EU negotiations
The UK and the EU have reached agreement on the first phase of negotiations on citizens' rights, Northern Ireland and the financial settlement. This means that discussions will now move onto the second phase of negotiations on the UK and the EU's future relationship.
There are 12 clear objectives guiding the Government through the negotiations and which the Prime Minister has outlined. Among these are greater control on the numbers of people who come to Britain from Europe and the greatest possible access to the single market through an ambitious new free trade agreement. A time-limited implementation period will also make sure that the change in Britain's relationship with the EU happens as smoothly as possible.
The Single Market
The Single Market is the internal market/European Economic Area (EEA) of the EU. It was established through the Treaty of Rome in 1957, which aimed to abolish "obstacles to freedom of movement for [goods], persons, services and capital". These "four freedoms" form the bedrock of the Single Market - or the "common market" as it was then known.
Leaving the EU cannot mean membership of the EU's single market. This would involve accepting its four freedoms. We could not, for example, regain control of our borders and set our own immigration policy. It would also mean complying with the EU's rules and regulations with no say over them. By remaining a member of the single market, the UK would effectively not be leaving the EU at all. It would mean less control for the UK not more.
The European Court of Justice
Leaving ECJ jurisdiction is a basic requirement of Brexit if we are to take back control of our laws. The ECJ is a key part of the European Union. It is charged with upholding both the rules and spirit of the EU treaties, including the ambition of ever closer union. We cannot leave the EU and have any kind of meaningful Brexit if we do not also leave the ECJ. This is because the ECJ is formally supreme, as a member state it overrules British domestic law and British courts must defer to its judgements.
In order to provide maximum certainty for businesses and citizens the Government has proposed a time-limited and formally agreed implementation period of around two years. I believe that this is in the interests of both the UK and the EU, but this is a matter for negotiation.
So that we provide maximum certainty while we implement our new arrangements, this period may follow existing rules closely. As the Prime Minister, Theresa May, and the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis, have said that may mean that we start off with the ECJ still governing the rules we are part of for that period. However, this is fundamentally a matter for negotiation.
The EU's Customs Union is an agreement that allows goods to pass between countries within the EU's borders without customs checks, and imposes common tariffs on the EU's external frontier.
If we remain a member of the Customs Union we won't be able to decide our own trade policy. This will continue to be determined by EU politicians. Staying in comes at the cost of giving up important flexibility. The UK would be unable to realise the opportunities of Brexit, including by signing trade deals with the fastest-growing and largest economies, such as the USA, China, Japan and India, with which the EU has been unable to make an agreement.
In order to realise the Prime Minister’s vision of a nation exporting goods and services around the world, open for international business, supporting emerging markets and spreading the benefits of economic growth, Britain will need to liberate itself from the burdens of the customs union. Only in leaving will we truly be a beacon of international free trade.
No deal scenario
I believe that a future partnership between the UK and the EU is in the interests of both sides. As the Prime Minister has explained, a good deal for Britain and a good deal for Europe are not competing alternatives and they are not mutually exclusive. I do not want or expect an outcome with no deal, but a responsible government should, of course, prepare for all eventualities and this is exactly what my ministerial colleagues are doing. This includes the scenario where no agreement can be reached.
Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, I and the Government are determined to make the most of the opportunities that leaving the EU presents. We are a global nation and we will be making new trade deals with countries from around the world. I believe that the Government needs the flexibility to leave without a deal, if such a deal is not in our best interest.