Now that the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill has received Royal Assent, the Prime Minister will trigger Article 50 by writing to the European Council before the end of this month. The two year countdown to leaving the EU will then begin, allowing negotiations to start.
Parliament’s role will then be to pass the Great Repeal Bill and this will be announced in the Queen’s Speech in May. This Bill is expected to go through Parliament during the summer and will seek to remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book, meaning that the legislation which gives direct effect to all EU law in Britain, will no longer apply from the date upon which the UK formally leaves the EU. This Act gave legal effect to European law and many industries and everyday activities depend on European regulation in order to function. Because of this, as an interim measure, we will turn the entire accumulated body of EU law and obligations into UK law to maintain certainty and continuity. In subsequent years Parliament will then be free to amend, repeal and improve any law that it chooses.
The Prime Minster has consistently said that it is a priority to guarantee the rights for EU citizens currently resident in the UK to remain here and for UK citizens living in EU countries to remain in those countries. David Davis confirmed this to me on the floor of the House of Commons.
We then look forward to negotiating reciprocal free trade with our European neighbours whilst pressing ahead with trade agreements with the rest of the world, once we formally leave the EU. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and most other EU countries sell considerably more to us than we sell to them. It is in their selfish and strategic interest to continue free trade with us. If, after the negotiations, EU refuses a trade deal, we can still leave and begin to trade under World Trade Organisation rules. This arrangement implies relatively low tariffs on UK exports to the EU and vice-versa. We already trade with many countries on WTO terms.
The Office for Budget Responsibility now forecasts GDP growth of 2 per cent this year and 2 per cent in 2021. Unemployment nationwide remains at a record breaking 4.7 per cent, compared to 9.6 per cent in the EU as a whole; North Shropshire unemployment is down to 1.4 per cent. With all this good macroeconomic good news, we begin to negotiate our exit from the EU from a position of strength.
I look forward to the Prime Minister triggering Article 50 and the Government negotiating a good deal for an independent UK, eager and ready to trade with the rest of the world.