David Davis’ Teesport Speech: Implementation Period – A bridge to the future partnership between the UK & EU


January 26
15:55 2018

Thank you for that kind introduction.

Welcome everybody to tropical Teesport.

When the Cabinet meets next week and various of my colleagues moan about how cold it was in Davos Ill suggest they try the North Sea in January.

Teesport this is the export capital of England really.

Teesport handles more than 40 million tonnes of cargo a year, importing and exporting goods that are used in sectors right across the economy. It acts as a gateway to the world for businesses not just in the North East, but also across the UK and Europe.

And as we get on with the job of leaving the European Union a move backed overwhelmingly by the people of Teesside there will be new opportunities for ports like this, as you actually outlined in your speech, and for businesses like the ones in this room to cast their sights beyond Europe, to new markets around the whole world.

Today I want to talk specifically about the bridge that we plan to build, to smooth the path to our new relationship with the European Union after Brexit.

A strictly time limited implementation period, which forms a sound basis for the UKs future prosperity.

That allows us to grasp the benefits of Brexit by setting in place the fundamental building blocks for the country as we leave and a bridge that will give more certainty and clarity for ports like this, and businesses right across the United Kingdom and Europe.

Setting the scene

Firstly let me set the scene.

At the end of last year, we made an important breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations.

It was a landmark of which we can proud.

Giving confidence to more than 4 million citizens across our continent that their rights would be protected and reassurance to the wide range of businesses and institutions that have a vested interest in our discussions.

It also meant that millions of British people, whichever way they voted in the referendum could be reassured that we are one step closer to securing Britains open, free trading exit from the EU.

Securing our parliamentary independence as we leave and a sensible deal that ensures a smooth exit from the European Union when we leave on the 29th March 2019.

In the coming days and weeks, my officials and I will travel to Brussels to meet with our counterparts, and talk about the next phase.

We will launch exploratory talks about the future relationship.

But our immediate goal, our immediate goal, will be to reach an agreement on the implementation period.

And because our objectives are largely the same, I am confident that political agreement can be reached at the March European Council.

The rationale

Now I know that there are many people who question why we need an implementation period some of them very strongly and sincerely.

So I want to explain why we need this period, on the terms the Prime Minister set out in Florence.

Fundamentally it is in no ones interest in the United Kingdom or the European Union to see businesses delay decisions about their future, or rush through contingency plans based on guesses about the future deal rather than planning on the basis of knowledge.

Without a bridge to the future that is exactly what they would have to do.

We would see delayed investment, slowing job creation and a stifling of hard-won economic growth upon which our continent depends.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that similar arguments for this bridge, this implementation period, have been deployed by both sides.

Firstly it will allow the United Kingdom time to build new infrastructure, and set up new systems, to support our future partnership and allow for as free and frictionless trade as possible.

It will ensure our businesses are ready, and only have to adjust to one set of changes.

Secondly it will allow European governments to do the same.

Ports like Teesport, like Rotterdam, like Antwerp, will need time to prepare for our new customs arrangements.

As I told business leaders last year, while were already planning for all scenarios, many European Union Governments may not put their plans in place until the deal is struck.

Thirdly and perhaps most importantly we need to ensure that the move to our future relationship is in keeping with both sides legal commitments.

As the Prime Minister set out in Florence, the European Union is not legally able to conclude an agreement with the United Kingdom as an external partner while we are still a Member State.

It is only possible for us to sign this agreement when we are outside the European Union.

And such an agreement on the future partnership will require the appropriate legal ratification, which would itself take time.

This will need to happen during the implementation period.

Extending Article 50, staying a member of the European Union for a further few years, would not solve that problem. And it would not solve the problem either of navigating the legal structures of the European Union.

In fact, it would create a new uncertainty about whether and when we would actually leave the Union.

So, its only by being outside the EU but continuing with the existing structures of rules and regulation that we can meet the requirements for a smooth, orderly and successful exit.

And Britains argument is reflected in the European Unions stance.

So theres much we agree on.

We agree the implementation period should be delivered as a part of the Withdrawal Agreement, to be adopted under Article 50. That means it can be adopted quickly and efficiently.

That it should see the UK outside of the European Union, no longer a Member State.

We also agree on the need for this period to have a strict time limit, guided by how long it will take us all to prepare and implement the new processes.

And we agree on the need to base this period on the existing structure of rules and regulations.

Including, crucially, on continued access to each others markets on current terms.

I want to stress this is not a zero-sum game.

We both stand to benefit.

Which is why Britain and the European Union are on the same page on the need for this period.

The details

For such a period to work, both sides must continue to follow the same, stable set of laws and rules.

Without compromising the integrity of the single market, and the customs union to which we will maintain access on current terms.

Maintaining the same regulations across all sectors of the economy from agriculture to aviation, transport to financial services, as part of a new international treaty.

In keeping with the existing structure of EU rules that will allow a strictly time-limited role for the European Court of Justice during that period.

During this implementation period, people will of course be able to travel between the UK and EU to live and work.

And as agreed in December, we will fulfil the financial commitments we have made during the period of our membership.

With Britain upholding its responsibilities during this period, it follows the European Union will need to respect our rights and our interests too.

And this means we must discuss how regulators and agencies can best provide continuity and clarity for businesses during this period in a way that benefits everyone.

Continued cooperation

Of course, we will leave the institutions of the Union next March.

But we will still make our voice heard.

This will be a relationship where respect flows both ways as we move from being a member of the European Union to its closest partner.

A relationship which will not just be for the short term, but one which will endure to our mutual benefit for decades and indeed generations to come.

And its in that spirit we should approach the implementation period as the bridge to this new relationship.

That means each side committing to not taking any action that undermines the other.

Because it usually takes around two full years for major legislation to make its way through the European Union system into law virtually all of the laws that will come into effect during this time will have been drafted while the United Kingdom was a Member State.

However, we will have to agree a way of resolving concerns if laws are deemed to run contrary to our interests and we have not had our say and we will agree an appropriate process for this temporary period.

So that we have the means to remedy any issues, through dialogue, as soon as possible. Its very, very important. If there are new laws that affect us, we have the means to resolve any issues during that period.

International agreements

Now, the implementation period has implications beyond the relationship between the UK and the European Union.

Its also relevant to our relationships with the rest of the world both our existing international agreements struck during our membership of the European Union and the new trading relationships the United Kingdom will build on the outside.

The existing international agreements we are party to should continue to apply during this period.

They are an important part of the existing EU structure of rules and regulations, to which we will remain a part during the implementation period.

And they cover a wide range areas from aviation through to security.

They also include the trade agreements the EU has struck while we were a member. So this matters particularly wit

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