Following the Prime Minister's statement on the recent meeting of the European Council, Iain Duncan Smith asks the PM if the EU understands the importance of settling the details of a free trade arrangement before next summer if it is to implemented in time for Brexit.
May I say to my right hon. Friend that she may wish to answer some of those who want certainty by reminding them that you cannot have agreement on an implementation period until you have something to implement? That is first and foremost. Secondly, during the course of her discussions, the private ones she had—the ones that the acting President of the European Union, Martin Selmayr, has not put into the papers—did she remind her colleagues in the European Union that to reach a proper free trade arrangement they will need to have concluded those discussions before the summer of next year, otherwise it will be difficult to get things through in time, both in the European Union and here? Did she get an answer, therefore, about when they might like to start?
I thank my right hon. Friend, because he is absolutely right; as we have said on a number of occasions, the point of the implementation period is to put in place the practical changes necessary to move to the future partnership, and in order to have that you need to know what that future partnership is going to be. Obviously, in my discussions with other leaders I have raised the issue of the timetable we have, and of course the ultimate timetable that was set by the Lisbon treaty. He talks about knowing the details of the trade deal by next summer. Of course Michel Barnier himself has suggested that October 2018 might be the point at which it would be necessary to know that, but my right hon. Friend is absolutely right that of course there will need to be a period of time for ratification of any future arrangements by the various national Parliaments—and, as we know, this can be more than one in some of the countries concerned.