With permission, Mr Speaker, I will now make a statement on the next steps in leaving the European Union.
The mandate for Britain to leave the European Union is clear, overwhelming, and unarguable.
As the Prime Minister has said more than once, we will make a success of Brexit – and no one should seek to find ways to thwart the settled will of the people, expressed in the referendum of June 23.
It is now incumbent on the Government to deliver an exit in the most orderly and smooth way possible, delivering maximum certainty for businesses and workers.
I want today to update the House on how the Government plans to reflect UK withdrawal from the EU on the statute book, while delivering that certainty and stability.
We will start by bringing forward a Great Repeal Bill that will mean the European Communities Act ceasing to apply on the day we leave the EU.
It was this Act which put EU law above UK law. So it is right, given the clear instruction for exit given to us by the people in the referendum, that we end the authority of EU law.
We will return sovereignty to the sovereign institutions of this United Kingdom. That is what people voted for on June 23: for Britain to take control of its own destiny, and for all decisions about taxpayers’ money, borders and laws to be taken here, in Britain.
The referendum was backed by six to one in this House, and on all sides of the argument, Leave and Remain, we have a duty to respect and carry out the people’s instruction.
As I have said, the mandate is clear, and we will reject any attempt to undo the referendum result, any attempt to hold up the process unduly, or any attempt to keep Britain in the EU by the back door by those who didn’t like the answer they were given on June 23.
We are consulting widely with business and Parliament, and we want to hear and take account of all views and opinions.
The Prime Minister has been clear; we won’t be giving a running commentary, because that’s not the right way to get the best deal for Britain. But we are committed to providing clarity where we can as part of this consultative approach.
Naturally, I want this House to be properly engaged throughout, and we will observe the constitutional and legal precedents that apply to any new treaty on a new relationship with the European Union.
Indeed, my whole approach is about empowering this place. The Great Repeal Act will convert existing EU law into domestic law, wherever practical.
That will provide for a calm and orderly exit and give as much certainty as possible to employers, investors, consumers and workers. And we have been clear, UK employment law already goes further than EU law in many areas – and this Government will do nothing to undermine those rights in the workplace.
There is over 40 years of European Union law in UK law to consider in all, and some of it simply won’t work on exit. We must act to ensure there is no black hole in our statute book.
Then, it will be for this House to consider the changes to our domestic legislation to reflect the outcome of our negotiation and our exit, subject to international treaties and agreements with other countries and the EU on matters such as trade.
Mr Speaker, the European Communities Act has meant that, if there is a clash between an Act of the UK Parliament and EU law, it is the EU law that prevails.
As a result, we have had to abide by judgements delivered by the ECJ in their interpretation of European Union law. The Great Repeal Bill will change that with affect the day we leave the European Union.
And Mr Speaker, legislation resulting from the UK’s exit must work for the whole of the United Kingdom.
To that end, while no one part of the United Kingdom can have a veto over our exit, the Government will consult with the devolved administrations.
I have already held initial conversations with the leaders of the devolved governments about our plans. And I will make sure that the devolved administrations have every opportunity to work closely with us.
Mr Speaker, let me be absolutely clear: this Bill is a separate issue to when Article 50 is triggered. The Great Repeal Bill is not what will take us out of the EU but what will ensure the UK statute book is fit for purpose after we have left – and put the elected politicians in this country fully in control of determining the laws that affect its people’s lives. Something that does not apply today.
In order to leave the EU, we will follow the process set out in Article 50 of the EU Treaty.
The Prime Minister will invoke Article 50 no later than the end of March next year.
That gives us the space required to do the necessary work to shape our negotiating strategy. The House will understand this is a very extensive and detailed programme of work, which will take some time.
The clarity on the timing of our proposed exit also gives the European Union the time needed to prepare its position for the negotiation. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said the Prime Minister had brought welcome certainty to the timing of Brexit talks.
And we will, as Britain always should, abide by our treaty obligations – not tearing up EU law unilaterally, as some have suggested, but ensuring stability and certainty as Britain takes control on the day of exit and not before.
People have asked what our plan is for exit: this is the first stage. To be prepared for an orderly exit, there is a need to move forward on domestic legislation in parallel with our European negotiation so that we are ready for the day of our withdrawal, when the process set out in Article 50 concludes.
Therefore I can tell the House that we intend to introduce the Great Repeal Bill in the next Parliamentary session.
It demonstrates the Government’s determination to deliver the will of the British people, expressed in the EU referendum result – that Britain should once again make its own laws for its own people.
Mr Speaker, it is nations that are outward-looking, enterprising, and agile that will prosper in an age of globalisation.
I believe that when we have left the European Union, when we are once again in true control of our own affairs, we will be in an even stronger position to confront the challenges of the future.
This Government will build a global Britain that will trade around the world, build new alliances with other countries, and deliver prosperity for its people.