All 7 Lord Bates contributions to the Trade Bill 2017-19

Read Bill Ministerial Extracts

Wed 23rd Jan 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 23rd Jan 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Wed 30th Jan 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 30th Jan 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Mon 4th Feb 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 6th Mar 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Wed 13th Mar 2019
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Trade Bill

Lord Bates Excerpts
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 23rd January 2019

(5 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2017-19 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 127-II(Rev)(a) Amendment for Committee, supplementary to the revised second marshalled list (PDF) - (23 Jan 2019)
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I seek some clarifications when the Minister responds, broadly in response to the constructive contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. With the withdrawal Bill, there was much debate in Committee and this House regarding how existing EU law will be migrated into UK law. There were 12 competences the UK Government believed were reserved and would therefore be fully within the competence of the UK Government, but that the devolved Administrations believed were either devolved or had a direct impact on devolved powers.

State aid was one of those areas where there was no agreement. That means that if there continues to be no agreement, then the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, is absolutely critical. It means that for regulations brought for the continuity agreements, there needs to be far more enhanced consultation with Administrations that believe this is touching on their direct competences. If there has been agreement, then perhaps the amendment is less necessary for the continuity agreements; but as we come to further amendments, this sets the tone for what will be necessary for future agreements. When the Minister responds to this group, I hope he will be able to provide clarification on where the discussions are, regarding whether there is agreement on where state aid lies within this area of competences.

Lord Bates Portrait The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Lord Bates) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for moving this amendment. In response to my noble friends Lord Trenchard and Lord Lansley, I think that the noble Lord intended this as a probing amendment, as he said, to give the Government the opportunity to put some issues on the record. It has been very timely, not least because under the EU withdrawal Act, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, on Monday we laid the regulations on state aid before the House. That 77-page document will now make its way through the rigorous scrutiny of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and then the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. Then, of course, it will be subject—because it is by the affirmative procedure—to scrutiny later in this House. For that reason some of the specific issues referred to by my noble friend Lord Lansley and the noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Lea, might be usefully dealt with in that area.

Clause 2 is not about making changes to existing agreements, and the regulations cannot be used for future free trade agreements, as my noble friend Lord Lansley rightly identified. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, we also need to recall that the Competition and Markets Authority has been given this responsibility domestically, across the UK jurisdiction. When it comes to free trade agreements and the EU, the Trade Remedies Authority would undertake that responsibility.

To provide further reassurance that we do not expect to need to use these powers to set up a domestic state aid regime, I can inform the Committee that we have laid the instrument I referred to. This instrument, the State Aid (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, will be made under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and establish a domestic state aid regime that will work for the whole of the UK at the point that this is required. No doubt Noble Lords will be offered an opportunity to scrutinise this in detail.

Subsection (2) of the proposed new clause requires the Government to consult relevant stakeholders prior to laying implementing regulations under Clause 2 which make provision on state aid. We have been clear that proportional consultation is of the utmost importance to us. We have engaged with a large number of stakeholders through our programme of trade continuity. The Government will always consult stakeholders as appropriate, so to set out specific provisions concerning consultation on state aid is not needed at this stage. The Bill already requires the Government to lay reports before Parliament in which we will provide detail of any real-world changes to free trade agreements. These will be laid before the agreement is ratified or regulations are laid under the Clause 2 power in relation to that agreement, whichever comes first.

Any significant differences in agreements that are relevant to state aid would be identified in these reports and Parliament would then be in a position to take an informed decision in relation to the making of the regulations or the conduct of the ratification process. I say again that we do not expect to need to make regulations under this power in order to implement state aid commitments in existing free trade agreements.

I turn to some of the specific points that were raised. My noble friend Lady McIntosh raised the horserace betting levy and the tripartite agreement. This is something we will come to in Amendment 48 in a later group, so perhaps I can leave it to the lead Minister, my noble friend Lady Fairhead, to respond, but the relevant provisions of the horserace betting levy were notified to the Commission and approved by the Commission under state aid rules. I confirm that the TRA—the Trade Remedies Authority—will not be responsible for state aid prioritisations in FTAs. It will be a matter for individual free trade agreements to establish a dispute mechanism.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was going to ask the Minister about the TRA—I am glad that he tried to clarify what he had said, because he did raise a doubt about what was arranged. Have I got it right? I would be grateful if he could confirm that we are proceeding on a continuity basis and using the withdrawal Act to ensure that, under the statutory instrument he mentioned, the existing set of rules that currently apply, because of EU directives and regulation, will be applied under UK law after exit day. Therefore, that process does not require any further discussion or debate, because of the reasons he has given, and he is not saying that in future trade agreements there will be a specific role for state aid rulings by the TRA—that will remain with the CMA—but there will be an opportunity to discuss that broadly when we get to the point at which we are, post continuity, talking about the real world and what is actually going to happen in trade. Is that right?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

That is correct. I am grateful to the noble Lord for setting that out. My noble friend Lord Trenchard mentioned the Government’s commitment to the state aid system. That point is contained in Command Paper 9593, The Future Relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union, which says in section 1.6.1:

“The UK has long been a proponent of a rigorous state aid system—this is good for taxpayers and consumers, and ensures an efficient allocation of resources”.


Moreover, the political declaration which accompanies the withdrawal agreement points out in section XIV, paragraph 79:

“The future relationship must ensure open and fair competition. Provisions to ensure this should cover state aid, competition, social and employment standards”.


That will all be fleshed out as the future economic agreement is worked on. Again, I thank the noble Lord for the opportunity to clarify some points on the record.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister clarify that since the Sewel convention continues to apply, the UK would not legislate ordinarily on devolved matters if the Government have brought forward this regulation? Last year, during the withdrawal Bill process, the devolved Administrations believed that this touched on their competences with state aid. Has there been agreement with the devolved Administrations that this is a fully reserved issue?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

Perhaps I could write to the noble Lord on that to make sure that I get that absolutely correct. I will write to him. Does the noble Lord want to come back on that?

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I wonder if the Minister is able to write before we get to the next grouping because this is going to be relevant. Whenever the Minister can provide clarification, it will be welcome to the Committee.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I have a sneaking feeling that some clarification may be coming via my noble friend Lord Younger by the time we reach the next grouping. I am sure the noble Lord will have an opportunity to respond to that. Failing that, I will be very happy to write before Report. I thank the noble Lord and ask him to consider withdrawing his amendment at this stage.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Liddle Portrait Lord Liddle (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will briefly express my support for the amendment. It is very important in the present political situation that we in the House of Lords demonstrate that, on a cross-party basis, there is some way forward out of the impasse we are in. For that reason alone, I support it.

The amendment obviously is not a complete solution to the Irish border problem. We would also have to have some arrangement of regulatory alignment. That, of course, is why the withdrawal agreement contains about 60 pages’ worth of EU rules that will apply in Northern Ireland but not in Great Britain, and why there would have to be some regulatory checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to make sure that rules on technical standards, health and safety, sanitation and that kind of thing would be adhered to. For there to be no border on the island of Ireland, that issue would have to be addressed, as well as the customs union. But the customs union is a large part, once you have made that step—and I do not think it is too far a step—of going on to deal with the regulatory questions.

On Labour’s position, it depends who you listen to. I am a great supporter of Keir Starmer, who talks about it in a very practical and common-sense way. But the truth is that sometimes people talk about a customs union as though it would be a relationship of equality between the United Kingdom and the EU 27 —which would, in effect, be trying to give the United Kingdom a veto over the Union’s autonomous trade policy. That will not work. It is not a runner. We could, as a big economy, negotiate very strong consultative arrangements, but I do not think that we would be granted a veto under any circumstances. Since we are in a position where we have to clarify these things in the next week—that is why have spoken frankly about this—it is important to acknowledge that that aspect is a non-starter.

So let us agree this amendment, refine it if we can on Report, and show that there is a spirit of co-operation in this House, which unfortunately there is not elsewhere.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, was very brief and succinct in introducing it. I will try to be pretty much the same in winding up. With the right reverend Prelate’s presence here and his questioning of a customs union, this is one of those debates where, after the past two years, I am not expecting to create many converts. Positions have been stated with great eloquence by my noble friends Lord Patten and Lord Lansley, and the noble Lords, Lord Kerr and Lord Hannay, but they are not ones that have differed, because of the veracity of the arguments and beliefs that they hold.

The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, came up with a great line which I scribbled down. I hope I have got it correct, because of course I do not have Hansard. He said that “on Labour’s position”—which of course my noble friend Lord Ridley asked about—“I suppose it depends who you are talking to”. I think I am right; I do not want to quote him incorrectly. It was an interesting point, because it would be fair to say that the Opposition’s position has differed between a customs union, a permanent customs union and a comprehensive customs union. It has oscillated between the crucial words “a” and “the”.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, applied a great deal of forensic scrutiny to this. His conclusion, and that of his party, is that they would be in favour of staying in the customs union, which makes it interesting that he has put his name to this amendment, which talks about “a” customs union. I cannot believe that there is now confusion even in the Liberal Democrats about what might be meant by this.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government’s position, already stated, is that they intend the future customs arrangement to be based on those aspects of the Northern Ireland protocol which require agricultural and goods regulatory alignment with the European Union.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

We have been very clear about this; we want a deep and special facilitated trading arrangement with the European Union which allows all the benefits of free trade while allowing us to take advantage of the new opportunities which are emerging. According to the EU’s figures, 90% of growth over the next 10 to 15 years will be outside the EU—in India, China and the United States. That is what we need to tap into. That is what we need to be focusing on. We need to have the freedom to negotiate those independent trade agreements. If you go for a customs union, you are going to surrender that opportunity, and we are not prepared to do that. You would also surrender the right to shape the rules that you are going to have to implement.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A brilliant description of the disadvantages of being stuck in a backstop.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

That is the reason why we want to avoid the backstop.

Lord Liddle Portrait Lord Liddle
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Surely the best alternative way of benefiting from the growth outside the mature economies of western Europe—remember, this is catch-up growth; it is not a criticism of the European Union—is to be participants in the EU and its extensive trade deals with the emerging economies of the world. Why would we have a stronger negotiating position as 60 or 70 million than as an economy of 350 million or 400 million?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

Because 17.4 million people decided that they wanted to leave, and that is what the Government are committed to doing. I want to be careful not to be flippant about the subject we are dealing with; it is very serious, and the positions have been well argued. Nor do I want to be disrespectful to people for whom I have huge admiration, such as my noble friends Lord Patten and Lord Lansley, and the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Kerr, whose expertise I respect. But the position of Her Majesty’s Government is very clear. We have a deal. We should take advantage of that deal. A customs union would have all the disadvantages with few of the benefits. That is the reason we do not accept the amendment.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before the Minister sits down, I wonder whether he could advance this clarity. The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, states that we have now agreed with Israel to roll over our existing trading relationship with Israel. Israel does not have a free trade agreement with the European Union, or with us now. It has an association agreement, which has been in force since 2000. That is part of the pan-Euro-Mediterranean cumulation on rules of origin. This means that if we are replicating our existing relationship with Israel, we are replicating the rules of origin relationship that Israel has with the European Union. It also has common rules of origin procedures with Turkey, so if the Government’s position is that we are simply rolling over all of our current trading relationships through an association agreement with Israel, it means that we are now going to be bound by common rules of origin procedures with the western Balkans, the Faroe Islands and Turkey in the pan-Euro arrangement.

I am not sure why the Faroe Islands is part of that, but the reality is—and this is the point I was trying to make in my contribution—that we have to be open. If you want complete independence of trading relationships in the way the world trades now, that is impossible, so the Government have to have some limitations on it. If it is replicating the Israeli agreement, it is replicating exactly the same rules of origin alignment that we currently have with Turkey, and Turkey is part of a customs union with the European Union. That is quite simple, too.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

The Committee will come to rules of origin shortly, but on that point, that is the reason why, in the agreement that we are proposing—the deal that is on the table—we propose that to ensure that trading goods between the UK and the EU remains frictionless in the UK, there will be no routing requirements for rules of origin on trading goods between the UK and the EU. What we are talking about with Israel is consistent with that.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is impossible to summarise what has been a very wide-ranging discussion. It certainly ended up in a rather more heated and fetid atmosphere than I expected when we set off. I have to say to the Minister, for whom I have the greatest respect, that it is fine to listen to what he is saying about what we ought to be doing and how we should do it, but he should point behind him when he is talking, because we do not get the arguments in the same way.

We started off with a description of hell, and what it might be to be listening to the same debates and discussions. I think we have justified the argument that we have moved on. The interesting thing that I took from this debate was how positions are being nuanced and changed as we move forward. There is an attempt from all sides to try to find common ground, and I wish that had reached all of our speakers. We are in a place that might be redolent of hell, with the colours that surround us and the flames leaping around, but I actually quite enjoyed being here. I am bound to go to hell anyway because of my previous life, so if this is what it is like, I quite like the prospect. But not yet—not yet. I call on the aid of the right reverent Prelate at this moment.

So what have we got out of this? We have got a sense around the Committee that there is something here that needs to be pushed to the next stage, and the Government should take away from this that this is a matter that will not go away, irrespective of what happens next week. By the time we get to Report, I am sure this will still be bumping around. I hope that by that stage we will have picked up on some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. We are getting hung up on what we mean by “customs union”, when we should be thinking behind the name—thinking about the process. It may be that we are likely to be close to, if not necessarily aligned with, EU current practice—and we ought to be, because, as my noble friend Lord Liddle said, size matters in these negotiations. Size matters, and always will, in any trading arrangement.

We are not really talking about tariffs. Tariffs are probably the 20th-century problem. The 21st-century problem is the regulatory barriers, and working on services to try to ensure that there is proper and fair trading, and that the issues at the heart of negotiations are rights and responsibilities, and the opportunities for providing benefits all round—a sort of development agenda meets trade, and coming together for the benefit of both.

The short, sharp intervention by the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, was the most difficult to answer. I hope that, if he has the time, he will come back for the next group, when we will talk about some of these issues in more detail, and I will be able to give him a response. However, the truth is that I am quite happy with where the EU has got to with some of these trade deals. They are very good, and they would not be achieved by any smaller country on its own. We must not lose them, whatever arrangement we finally come to.

Trade Bill

Lord Bates Excerpts
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Wednesday 23rd January 2019

(5 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2017-19 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 127-II(Rev)(a) Amendment for Committee, supplementary to the revised second marshalled list (PDF) - (23 Jan 2019)
Lord Bates Portrait The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Lord Bates) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it is welcome to move from the group of amendments that caused maximum divergence to the group of amendments after dinner where there is maximum convergence. I think we all side with the way that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, led this debate by pointing to the immense benefits in achieving sustainable development goal 1, the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030. We are not going to do that by aid—aid is around £1.5 billion a year. It requires significant trade flows and therefore this is crucial.

I will make some very brief general remarks. Around £20 billion of goods a year are shipped to the UK from developing countries, accounting for around one-third of our clothing, one quarter of our coffee and other everyday goods such as cocoa, bananas and roses. This trade also creates jobs, helping people to work their way out of poverty. Consequently, I am pleased to confirm to the Committee that this has already been legislated for in the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act. My noble friend Lord Lansley might still have been on vacation when on 4 September I took that Bill through this House. Although the debate on it was brief, it was very good. I shall come back to that point later.

The trade White Paper confirmed the Government’s intention to provide, as a minimum, the same level of import duty reductions to all current beneficiaries of the EU’s GSP scheme as we leave the EU. I am also pleased to assure the Committee that Section 10 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act enshrines in UK law the obligation to provide duty-free and quota-free trade access for least developed countries. The Government will lay secondary legislation to set out these details of the scheme before we leave the EU if needed by March 2019, or at the end of the implementation period. In the future, we will look to improve the UK’s trade preference scheme by making it even more generous, simpler to attain and capable of working better for the poorest people around the world. Alongside this, our aid spending will continue to provide support and expert advice to help break down barriers to trade and to promote investment so that developing countries can take better advantage of these arrangements.

As the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, mentioned, I also have the privilege of being the Minister with responsibility for economic development in the Department for International Development. It may be of interest to my noble friends Lord Lansley and Lady Neville-Rolfe and the noble Lord, Lord Fox, that in that context I am undertaking a review of how we might approach the opportunities to look at more beneficial trade and tariff-reduction packages and economic partnership agreements in future as we leave the EU. I would be delighted to take this conversation into the Department for International Development, for those who are interested, to meet officials so that we can delve more into some of the great expertise and ideas that we have heard today.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister’s commitment is very welcome. We know that we can take him at his word on that because he is very open and a very responsive Minister who is respected across the House. I will follow up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. With regard to the 49 countries under the EU Everything But Arms policy and, according to the OBR, the 27 other low-income countries that the EU has defined, if on exit we are going to replicate the EU system we would also have to replicate the rules of origin system that comes with GSP+. GSP+ has distinct EU rules of origin requirements for those countries that are part of it. Is the Government’s intention to replicate the rules of origin criteria that the EU currently operates for them?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for the noble Lord’s question. His precise point is that we are aiming to replicate what currently exists, so we would take across the current applicable rules of origin into what we would be laying in secondary legislation before we leave the European Union. Once we have left—without a deal or, we hope, after an implementation period—we could devise our own scheme during that implementation period and be aware of the EU’s thinking. I know from serving on the Foreign Affairs Council that it has done some tremendous development work, particular with the post-Cotonou negotiations, as to how we fit. The current plan is that what is presently the case will initially also be the case for these countries.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before my noble friend sits down, could he give me some reassurance about the wealthier countries on the list? Have they actually come off the list or is it our plan to make sure that the benefit of tariff-free trade is given to those who are worse off?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

Yes, and my noble friend Lord Lansley touched on this point. He talked about the treatment of different countries. We work from a World Bank list and an OECD DAC list of the least developed countries. As countries graduate—which is a normal procedure—they need to move to other agreements as well.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his full response. We would welcome the opportunity to meet up with him.

We are converging on this point, though the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, is coming from a slightly different direction. She is hoping to see some quite quick change towards—I cannot think of the right word—a family relationship, involving Commonwealth and other markers which are not a feature of the other lists we have been talking about. It might make sense to try to work out where this is going.

We are among friends, so I can confess that I tried to do exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, did, which was to go back to the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 and try to work out where we were. I gave up, but he did not. I could not make out the list markers. The confusion comes because we are working from two different directions, as the Minister said. One is from a World Bank list of economic measures and the other is from a trading and development list which gives a different feel. Clearly, you get a different group of countries if you look at different indicators—not just poverty but the potential to export, the development status of their industrial arrangements and their other markets. We would have to think hard about all these. This does not vitiate the main point that it may not be necessary to put an amendment into this Bill, but it would be quite useful to have something where we, on all sides of the House, roughly understand the basis on which the Government are progressing. The Minister did say rather remarkably—but I hope it is true—that, whatever the timing, even if it were 29 March, they would be ready to make sure and clarify full details of what would be available to all the countries in scope on the GSP and on the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act approach. If that is true, he is obviously ready for the meeting and we are too. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Trade Bill

Lord Bates Excerpts
Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 30th January 2019

(5 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2017-19 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 127-III Third marshalled list for Committee (PDF) - (28 Jan 2019)
That is what Amendment 46 is designed to secure, in line with both the UK’s responsibility as a guarantor of the Good Friday agreement, and as a nation—so far, at least—respected for upholding its international and bilateral obligations. I hope the Government will accept Amendment 46; otherwise, we will need to vote on it on Report, especially after the dangerous torpedo the House of Commons launched last night at the Irish border backstop, the Irish Government and the Good Friday agreement.
Lord Bates Portrait The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Lord Bates) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I need to manage noble Lords’ expectations as to what I am going to be able to say. The noble Lord, Lord Hain, has given a polemic based on his deeply held views on the situation in Northern Ireland, born of great experience and service. I do not think I will be able to persuade him on this issue and Amendment 46, so he will doubtless come back to it on Report. I will, however, put some important points on the record regarding where, as of today, Her Majesty’s Government stand on these crucial issues.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, talked about the internal energy market. Again, I have to be careful: I am not able to give him an answer at this stage, beyond that set out in the political declaration. I know he has read that carefully, along with the explanatory note; section XI deals with energy co-operation.

Let me first put some comments on the record about the nature of the internal energy market, and then I will turn to the single energy market and north-south co-operation, addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis. The Government continue to support the development of energy interconnectors—which bring benefits to countries at both ends of the cables, including improved security of supply and the lowering of prices for businesses and consumers—and support efforts to decarbonise. That is why we set out in the political declaration that both the UK and the EU should co-operate to support the delivery of cost-efficient, clean and secure supplies of energy and gas, and to ensure as far as possible that efficient trading over our interconnectors continues. Our aim is to secure the best possible future arrangements for trade in energy, and which achieve the objectives set out in the declaration, to which I referred.

On the effect of the shared wholesale market, the all-Ireland single electricity market provides significant benefits to consumers and the economy in both Northern Ireland and Ireland, as the noble Lords, Lord Purvis and Lord Hain, alluded to. It is also an example of north-south co-operation on the island of Ireland. The Government are firmly committed to facilitating the continuation of a single electricity market in any EU exit scenario. The agreement reached on the single electricity market annexe, as part of the Northern Ireland and Ireland Protocol to the withdrawal agreement, should ensure that the SEM is maintained. We also expect to reach an agreement with the EU on a future economic partnership that will maintain the SEM without engaging the backstop. As set out in a technical note on electricity trading, published in October 2018, which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, referred to, we will take all possible measures to maintain the SEM in the event that we are unable to reach an agreement. Even in this scenario, which I stress—

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Perhaps I might add some clarification. The Minister has just said that not all of the Northern Ireland protocol is now up for renegotiation—as the Commons have voted for—only part of it. He said that the energy component of it is going to carry on. So which parts of the backstop are being renegotiated and which parts are not?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I have been on the Front Bench long enough to see a curveball lumbering down the crease. If the noble Lord will forgive me for not taking a swing at it, at such a delicate time, I do that in all seriousness because I want to get the wording precisely right in relation to this. The noble Lord has heard the remarks that I made in relation to the annexe to the Northern Ireland protocol, and that is the position. If we have more to say, I will certainly say that ahead of Report, but even in the worst scenario—

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I did not intend to bowl a curveball or even a googly—or anything. It was a genuine point. The Government’s position now is that they are seeking to renegotiate the whole protocol, commonly known as the backstop. If that is not the case, Parliament needs to know, because we understand that the Government are now seeking a renegotiation of part of the agreement. We know that the European Commission has said that this is not up for renegotiation. If the Government are telling the Committee that only part of it is being renegotiated, that is really significant, because at the moment we understand that the whole element is being renegotiated.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I am happy to put some additional comments on the record for the noble Lord, in that spirit. Last night, the majority of MPs said that they would support a deal with changes to the backstop, combined with measures to address concerns over Parliament’s role in the negotiation of the future partnership relationship, and commitments on workers’ rights. We will now take this mandate forward and seek to obtain legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement that deal with concerns on the backstop while guaranteeing no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. We are keen to work with the Government of Ireland to ensure that the SEM will continue in any scenario, and welcomed their statement in December that they were engaging intensively with the EU to ensure that the single electricity market would continue. I hope that this provides some reassurance.

On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, we have been consistent in our commitment to avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, upholding the Good Friday agreement and maintaining the conditions for north-south co-operation. We are delivering on those commitments. We negotiated a withdrawal agreement that delivered on those commitments in good faith; we have worked hard to build support for it in Parliament over many months. It was clear to the Prime Minister, having met parliamentarians from all parties, that a change to the backstop would be necessary to get the agreement through. The Prime Minister was clear that there are a number of ways to do that and that she will work with colleagues from all parties, and with the EU, to secure changes that command the support of Parliament. Although the Government will seek to secure legal changes to the backstop, their commitment to avoiding a hard border and maintaining the necessary conditions for north-south co-operation remains undiminished.

In a paper published earlier this month, the Government set out their commitments to Northern Ireland, including: a legal guarantee that the backstop could not be used to alter the scope of north/south co-operation; a role for a restored Northern Ireland Executive in UK-EU discussions, through the Joint Ministerial Committee, on matters concerning Northern Ireland; a commitment to seek the agreement of a restored Northern Ireland Assembly before new areas of EU law could be added to the protocol; and a legal guarantee that Northern Ireland businesses will continue to enjoy unfettered access to the entire UK market.

Let me be clear: the Government are committed to ensuring that any arrangements to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland respect the devolution settlement in Northern Ireland. The UK recognises our unique relationship with Ireland. The UK-Ireland relationship should continue to operate through the well-established three-stranded approach set out in the Good Friday agreement. At this stage, I am unable to add to the remarks I have already put on the record, but I thank noble Lords for the opportunity to make them. I know that we will come back to this issue on Report, but in the meantime I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. As the Minister said, this issue relates not only to the energy market but to crucial aspects of the UK border on the island of Ireland, as spoken to by my noble friend Lord Hain, whom I thank for his remarks.

Returning to the amendments on energy, I am sure that co-operation between industries from member states will continue on a practical basis, but against the challenges of modernisation with low-carbon energy, a clear commitment from the Government could settle the issue. Interconnectors are not the only relevant things here, as the internal energy market provides challenges to the Government on other aspects, such as continued participation in the EU emissions trading system. I note that the Minister was most careful with his words, which the Committee will study with interest. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Trade Bill

Lord Bates Excerpts
Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Wednesday 30th January 2019

(5 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2017-19 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 127-III Third marshalled list for Committee (PDF) - (28 Jan 2019)
Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, Amendment 37 in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord McNicol of West Kilbride, would make it the objective of an appropriate authority to secure a bilateral system of civil judicial co-operation between the UK and the European Union, to include arrangements for the choice of jurisdiction, the choice of law and the bilateral enforcement and recognition of judgments.

The amendment is relevant to the Bill in at least three ways: first, to new free trade agreements with third countries that currently enjoy FTAs with the EU, and therefore with us through the EU; secondly, to bilateral FTAs with third countries that might enter such agreements with us in the expectation of further trade through the UK with the EU member states; and, thirdly, in the event of no deal, when, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, pointed out earlier, the Bill—which will then be an Act—after exit day will be the only legislation bearing upon the arrangement of future FTAs.

In moving the amendment, we have every reason to believe that we are pushing at an open door. In debate after debate since the 2016 referendum, mine has been just one of many voices arguing that if we leave the EU we must maintain the whole gamut of the arrangements for cross-border judicial co-operation that we presently enjoy as a member of the EU. Every time, the Government have responded that they recognise and will maintain the benefits of these arrangements for the United Kingdom. Only yesterday we considered SIs laid by the Government on this topic. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, was very clear that the SIs were laid only against the undesirable possibility of a no-deal Brexit, and accepted that should that occur we would be losing a significant benefit; I refer to columns GC 231 and GC 233 in yesterday’s Hansard. We would be forced to fall back on less effective, more costly, extremely inconvenient and altogether inferior alternative arrangements.

Whatever outcome emerges from the current impasse, we should do all we can to replicate all the arrangements for civil and commercial cases that we currently enjoy. These stem largely from the Brussels regime and its provision for the determination of jurisdiction and for the mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments. The Brussels regime principally comprises the Brussels Ia EU regulation and is supplemented by the 2007 Lugano Convention, which provides similar arrangements for Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Denmark. Choice of law in contract cases, which make up the vast bulk of commercial litigation, is governed largely by the Rome I regulation, and Rome I applies throughout the EU except in Denmark, which has an opt-out for judicial co-operation.

If we failed to replicate the arrangements of the Brussels regime, what we would lose is well summed up in two bullet points in the Explanatory Memorandum to yesterday’s SI on civil jurisdiction and judgments. The first refers to,

“a system of uniform jurisdictional rules to identify the appropriate court in which to bring a civil or commercial claim”.

The second refers to,

“a simplified mechanism to recognise and enforce the judgments of EU Member State/EFTA state courts in civil and commercial cases, with a view to reducing costs for litigants and increasing efficiency. The possibility for such simplified and almost automatic treatment of the judgment of one such state in another is based on the ‘mutual trust’ that each state will have applied the uniform rules of jurisdiction”.

These arrangements have been built up over decades and British lawyers, jurists and judges have played a major part in their development. The European Judicial Network in civil and commercial matters, established in 2001 by the European Council, is an important forum for cross-border co-operation between courts across the EU. It seems to me that there is no significant reason why we should not be able to negotiate some continued access to the European Judicial Network after we leave the EU.

Throughout the European Union, citizens and businesses now know where cross-border disputes are to be determined. They know what law is to be applied. Crucially, they can be confident that court orders obtained in one member state will be recognised and enforced without fuss, delay or extra proceedings throughout the Union. This system has been of incalculable benefit not just to those who use our legal system but to our economy as a whole, because it is widely understood that all member states respect the arrangements and decisions of courts in other member states.

It often seems to me—I hope I can say this as a lawyer without special pleading—to be largely overlooked that our legal system has contributed significantly to Britain’s commercial success during the decades of our EU membership. One reason the United Kingdom has been so successful in attracting both inward investment from outside the EU and trade from elsewhere within the EU has been the fact we have not just excellent financial services and a sophisticated financial architecture—another plus is sometimes said to be political stability but I somehow doubt that at the moment—to add to the benefits of the English language and a convenient time zone, but a well-respected commercial legal system, one that functions without undue delays and at cost levels that are reasonably competitive in the international market, and which produces outcomes that are relatively predictable and generally accepted.

A very important component of that success is that our legal system functions internationally in supporting cross-border trade and international commerce. If we lose that, however frictionless we may make our trading arrangements, we will have compromised our future both as a destination for international investment, attracted to the United Kingdom as a gateway to the European Union, and as a trading partner for member states of the EU and the EEA. Put shortly, at a time of major upheaval, we will have needlessly thrown away a significant competitive advantage. That is something we cannot afford to do and it would be folly indeed. I beg to move.

Lord Bates Portrait The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Lord Bates) (Con)
- Hansard - -

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Marks, for moving this amendment and raising this very important issue. He is right to highlight the contribution which UK law has made to the commercial contract area and the success of trade and financial services.

We have long made clear our intention to negotiate a new relationship with the EU which covers civil judicial co-operation. The political declaration provides a positive means for discussion on this. It makes it clear that the UK and EU have agreed to explore a bilateral arrangement on matrimonial and parental responsibility and other related matters. This goes further than the arrangements that the EU currently has with any other third country to date.

The UK also remains committed to future co-operation on civil and commercial matters with the EU—recognising that this is in both our interests, for the reasons the noble Lord, Lord Marks, set out—and to similar co-operation with other international partners. In this area, the UK will, as a minimum, continue to prioritise joining Hague 2005 in our own right and seek also to accede to the Lugano Convention. The UK will engage with EU partners to ensure that these important issues, which provide vital protections for citizens, are the focus of detailed negotiations with the EU.

On the specific issues which the noble Lord referred to, co-operation in this area makes clear that the UK and EU have agreed to explore a bilateral arrangement on aspects of law. This goes further than any arrangements that the EU currently has with a third country. The UK also remains committed to international co-operation in future.

The noble Lord asked what would happen in the event of no deal. As a responsible Government, we are preparing for all outcomes, hence the statutory instruments debated in Grand Committee yesterday. We have published a dedicated technical notice for civil judicial co-operation, detailing how the rules would change in the event that we cannot reach a deal. This is not our preferred outcome—we remain focused on getting a deal that works for the UK and the EU. The rules on civil judicial co-operation rely on reciprocity. After exit, even if the UK were to apply these rules unilaterally, there would be no requirement on EU member states to apply the same rules in the UK. Without the guarantee of reciprocity, our broad approach is to repeal existing EU instruments and revert to applying the rules which the UK currently applies in relation to non-EU matters.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising this important matter, and I hope that I have provided as much reassurance as I am able to at this stage.

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames Portrait Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response, and I will be withdrawing the amendment, with your Lordships’ leave. The plain fact is that the arrangements the Government have in mind in the event of no deal are what I described yesterday as “thin gruel indeed” compared with what we have. They are inferior, bitty and involve a great deal of scope for satellite litigation where parties are having to litigate on issues such as enforcement and jurisdiction in different jurisdictions. This is so important because it highlights an area which has had far too little attention in the event of no deal. It is a significant danger for us—no deal will deprive us of the competitive advantage we enjoy as a member of the EU.

I share the Minister’s confidence that, in the event that we secure an agreement, we will also secure an agreement on judicial co-operation during a transitional period, because it is in the EU’s interests as well as ours. The danger is that people float into no deal by accident, and cost us everything involved in losing judicial co-operation. It is a significant feature that ought to weigh heavily in the minds of all the policymakers involved. With that warning, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have to say a few words because my noble friend Lord Grantchester, who would have spoken to a couple of amendments which have not been touched on, unfortunately is unable to be with us this evening as he has a family illness which he had to attend to. I am sure your Lordships will want to send best wishes to him.

The two amendments which have not been referred to are Amendments 47 and 49. One is on time-sensitive goods and the worries here concern the arrangements, particularly around the Channel Tunnel, for goods that are required for immediate delivery. The question underlying the amendment, which the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, also put her name to, was whether the Government had any further information about developments, since if the current arrangement is not going to work, other arrangements will need to be brought into place, as time-sensitive goods are what they say on the tin.

Other noble Lords have spoken about medical isotopes. On behalf of my noble friend Lord Grantchester, I wanted to mention the time-sensitivity of these, not only in the general sense but particularly with air travel, which is often used to transport them. We have experience of problems which have occurred, particularly in Northern Ireland, because the route for radioisotopes required in Northern Ireland is through Coventry Airport, and even under existing arrangements, we have had delays which caused problems for patients, including the cancellation of treatments. Again, any comments from the Minister would be helpful.

On Amendment 49, the pet travel scheme has raised interest among those who travel to Europe with pets, particularly dogs and ferrets, which are the two main groups carried. The existing scheme is thought not to be very effective, and there is a chance to revisit it when it collapses after Brexit. Are Ministers aware that the BVA has set out 16 recommendations on changes to pet travel rules after Brexit? Many of these are sensible and needed, and this would be an opportunity to give the Committee an update on where they are on this matter.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, referred to the pet travel scheme. The noble Lord, Lord McNicol, started the debate by talking about transport. The noble Lord, Lord Fox, referred to arrangements for UK-EU chemicals through REACH in particular. My noble friends Lady McIntosh and Lady Hooper talked about legal services. My noble friend Lord Risby talked about horseracing and the tripartite agreement. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, talked about transport. My noble friend Lord Lansley talked about authorised economic operators. My noble friend Lord Trenchard talked about horseracing and financial services. The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, focused very much on financial services. The noble Lord, Lord Foster, talked about telecoms and broadcasting.

That is a flavour of the catch-all that we have here, with 17 amendments. I am looking at the representatives of the usual channels: I am not sure how the grouping of these amendments happened, but they cover a very wide range of agreements. We have heard 12 excellent speakers. They have ranged extensively and generated some 24 questions, to which it falls to me to respond. I am conscious of the time. I will bring my best endeavours to this, but I have the feeling that rather a lengthy letter will be winding its way to noble Lords.

Lord McAvoy Portrait Lord McAvoy (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I expect a full reply.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

Yes, of course. I will probably miraculously sit down sometime around 10.39 pm. I think that is the convention. Let me go through as much as I can. I apologise to Members of the Committee and to the reporters of our proceedings for the pace at which I am going.

The noble Lord, Lord McNicol, and my noble friend Lord Lansley referred to the common transit area. As my noble friend hinted, this is an area where we have some good news, because the UK has agreed the common transit convention with the secretariat. Letters were received on 19 December 2018. That is taking shape.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, talked about financial services. The Government are seeking a close future relationship on financial services with the EU that reflects our uniquely integrated markets and respects UK and EU autonomy. The political declaration includes commitments to close and structured co-operation on regulatory and supervisory matters, grounded in the future economic partnership. There will be a certain Groundhog Day feeling to the answers to a lot of these questions, because I will simply say that they are a matter for the future economic relationship, which we hope will be deep and extensive across all these headings. Of course, that is for another piece, or other pieces, of legislation.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, spoke to her amendments. On haulage, the Government have been clear that we want to maintain the existing levels of access for UK and EU hauliers. A mutually beneficial road freight agreement with the EU will support the objective of frictionless trade. I very much take the point that the noble Baroness made about us often talking about Dover in the context of roll-on, roll-off, but there is strategic importance, particularly on the island of Ireland, for Holyhead and movements through there. However, we understand that we need the reassurance that we will have in place the arrangements needed to maintain continued access. On that basis, we welcome the contingency proposals being made by the European Commission on the basis that the Government are seeking a very close partnership based on reciprocal and binding agreements that protect the rights of road hauliers to access EU markets and vice versa.

The noble Lord, Lord McNicol, also talked about rail services, which are mentioned in Amendment 40. The Government are carefully considering the potential implications of leaving the EU, including implications for the continuation of cross-border rail. The noble Lord, Lord Fox, also referred to this through the Channel Tunnel and on the island of Ireland. I assure noble Lords that we understand the importance of maintaining the continuity of these important cross-border rail services, and we will continue to negotiate with our European partners to secure the best possible outcome.

In addressing Amendment 43, the noble Lord, Lord Fox, talked about open and fair competition. The Government recognise that commitments to open and fair competition are fundamental to all trading relationships; continuing the control of anti-competitive subsidies and creating a UK-wide subsidy control framework are crucially important. To support the desire for a future relationship, we propose rule alignment on state aid to be enforced by the Competition and Markets Authority, which already has a strong reputation in the UK. We also have strong proposals in other areas, including non-regression provisions for the environment, social issues and employment to ensure that we maintain the highest of standards, as my noble friend Lord Lansley requested.

Turning to Amendment 62, my noble friend Lord Lansley and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said that it raised important issues for the future relationship with the EU, by providing that the patients should not be disadvantaged. We have given commitments that patients should not be disadvantaged; industry should be able to get its products into the UK market as quickly as possible, and we continue to play a leading role in promoting public health. The Government have already set out their aim to secure participation in the European Medicines Agency. The political declaration sets out the mutual commitment of the UK and the EU to explore working together in future medicines regulation and negotiating the UK’s ongoing co-operation.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister clarify what he said about seeking to participate in the European Medicines Agency? The noble Baroness, Lady Fairhead, in an earlier grouping, said it was the intention to remove Clause 6 from the Bill, or at least bring forward different language about what that participation means. It is pertinent to the point my noble friend Lord Fox made. If it is the Government’s intention to participate in many of these institutions, what do they envisage that participation mechanism to be? If the Government are seeking to change Clause 6, they have to be clear about how they intend that participation to operate.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

My noble friend Lady Fairhead made very clear our hesitation in the other place when this amendment was proposed, but it is now in the Bill. We see the commitment to all necessary steps in relation to the European Medicines Agency. We have been very clear that we do not wish to see that extended to other agencies, but it is there in the Bill at present.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Just so that we know what might be coming on Report, is it the Government’s intention to bring forward amendments, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fairhead, said, to remove this?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

Our position is simply that we are committed to as close a relationship as possible with the European Medicines Agency. We see its value, we are committed to it, and it is in the Bill. We have made our positions clear on that, in terms of how we would view it if similar amendments were proposed for other agencies.

Amendment 39, on mutual recognition of professional qualifications, was spoken to by my noble friends Lady Hooper and Lady McIntosh and by the noble Lords, Lord McNicol and Lord Fox. The Government have clearly set out their objectives for mutual recognition of professional qualifications in the future relationship with the EU. We recognise the importance of mutual recognition for many sectors of our economy and the public sector. It offers all individuals working in regulated professions a means of having their qualifications recognised so that they can continue to provide valuable services. However, Her Majesty’s Government must be in a position to negotiate the best possible outcome. I note the risk that this amendment could undermine that objective and compel Her Majesty’s Government to reject highly beneficial agreements on mutual recognition simply because an agreement delivered its possible outcome in a way that differed from the detailed requirement set out in this amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I reassure my noble friend the Chief Whip that I have no problem in keeping it going for as long as he indicates is necessary—such has been the quality of the debate.

I have had a note passed to me which might be important. On Amendment 39, on mutual recognition of professional qualifications, I may have said “Ireland” but I meant to say “Iceland”. I thank the officials for being so attentive.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Ireland/Iceland point is actually very important. The noble Lord, Lord Hain, made a point earlier about cross-border activity—of midwives who live in the north of Ireland and practise in the Republic, for example—which is now in jeopardy. I am less excited about Iceland, with all due respect, given that the island of Ireland’s economy is driven on the ability to have the mutual recognition of all these skills. I enjoin the Government to work quickly on that one.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

The Government are very happy to give that undertaking.

On legal services, raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady McIntosh and Lady Hooper, the outcome of the negotiations of course lies ahead of us, but I assure noble Lords that the Government will push very much for a strong relationship in this area. As EU and EFTA lawyers will be subject to domestic rules in the UK, UK lawyers in the EU and EFTA will be subject to the national rules and regulations of individual EU and EFTA member states, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. This will vary between member states and within member states, where there will be multiple regulators.

The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, asked specifically about close participation in the European Medicines Agency. I think I have already dealt with that one and I do not want to tempt further interventions at this point. However, I am pleased that the Government have been clear that we want to remain part of the EMA, which will include remaining part of the falsified medicines directive.

Let me turn to horses—galloping into the final straight with Amendment 48. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, who spoke particularly about polo, and the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Risby, who talked about his connections with Newmarket, and the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, who asked about this as well. Amendment 48 dealt with the tripartite agreement on the movement of horses. As part of our ongoing preparations for EU exit, the Government aim to ensure that the movement of horses will continue with minimal delay and bureaucracy, while safeguarding biosecurity and animal welfare. Let me reassure noble Lords that we are already working closely with the equine industry to retain the benefits of the tripartite agreement after the UK leaves the EU. The Government actively support a long-term industry-led proposal to allow horses of high health status from third countries to travel to the EU under the TPA arrangements.

I had a note on the pet travel service. As part of the ongoing preparations for EU exit, the Government aim to ensure that the movement of pets will continue with minimal inconvenience to pet owners while safeguarding the UK’s biosecurity and the welfare of travelling animals. We are already working closely with stakeholders in the veterinary and pet travel industries to ensure that the benefits of the EU pet travel scheme are retained after the UK leaves the EU. The Government will submit their application for listed status within the EU pet travel scheme imminently. The UK is seeking technical discussions with the European Commission on its application. Should the UK become a part 1 listed country, there would be little change to current pet travel arrangements. Only minor changes to documentation would be needed.

I hope that noble Lords will feel that in the time available I have dealt with as many issues as possible, and that the noble Lord will therefore consider withdrawing his amendment at this stage.

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait Lord McNicol of West Kilbride
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have a good 20-minute speech here—no, I am joking. I thank the Minister for his response and all noble Lords and Baronesses for their input to this rather large group of amendments. As I said in my introduction, there is widespread support not just across the House but outside, from organisations, businesses, trade unions and relevant bodies. My takeaway from nearly all the contributions is the mutual benefit that organisations and businesses inside the UK would get from the adoption and inclusion of the amendments. The other word which came from the Government Bench was that their adoption would lead to continuity—a word that has been used many times in the previous two days. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Trade Bill

Lord Bates Excerpts
Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 4th February 2019

(5 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2017-19 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 127-IV Fourth marshalled list for Committee (PDF) - (31 Jan 2019)
Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, 80% of the UK economy—in fact, I think the figure is 85%—comprises services. I support the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Purvis, in bringing forward this probing amendment although, for the reasons given by my noble friend Lord Lansley, I am not convinced that we should change the Bill and make ourselves rule-takers on services. If noble Lords will allow, I would like to keep the issue of the free movement of people separate. The question is: do we lose as much from losing the single market on services? It is not very well developed at all. I know this because I tried to cut down barriers on services within the EU when I led the presidency work in BEIS in 2016.

Last week the Chancellor spoke at the UK Finance dinner, which I attended. I was sorry as a result of that—the timing was unhelpful—to miss the last group of amendments, of which mine formed part. The Chancellor talked about liberalising trade in services—a sort of WTO services round—going forward. Of course, this would also extend to the European Union if it were to happen.

I have two questions about services for my noble friend the Minister, the answers to which will help me when we consider the Bill on Report. First, can he elaborate on the Chancellor’s idea, or emerging Treasury ideas, of doing something on services beyond the European Union, which would help us in the European Union as well? Secondly, can he confirm that the Government’s proposed deal—the withdrawal agreement or the political declaration—would not get in the way of bilateral deals with third countries on services, given that the multilateralism that I love is very hard going? In other words, would we be able to conclude a deal with the US—again, very tough—or, perhaps more realistically, with the emerging and already emerged countries of Asia, where we are now selling a lot of services and where it seems that aligning some of the rules on services could be extremely valuable?

Lord Bates Portrait The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Lord Bates) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, on behalf of all those who have spoken, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Purvis, for bringing forward Amendment 45, the purpose of which is to provide an opportunity for the Government to put some remarks on the record about our approach to services which, as we all agree, is of crucial importance. So, before coming to some of the specific questions that have been raised during this short debate, I will take advantage of that opportunity to set out the Government’s position as it now stands.

As my noble friends Lady McIntosh and Lady Neville-Rolfe, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said, the UK’s services economy is a global success story. Our internationally competitive industries play host to world-leading firms as well as thriving small and medium-sized enterprises, and we have undertaken significant engagement with the sector on issues related to EU exit.

I would like to reassure the House that the Government are seeking arrangements for services and investment that cover all modes of service supply—my noble friend Lord Lansley correctly referred to the variations; that provide substantial sectoral coverage, including measures on professional business services, which my noble friend Lady McIntosh referred to; that go well beyond both sides’ WTO commitments as set out in the General Agreement on Trade in Services, which my noble friend Lord Lansley also mentioned; and that build on the provisions in existing EU agreements.

Moreover, through the political declaration we have secured a commitment from the EU 27 that our future trading relationship will be ambitious, comprehensive and balanced, and will include market access commitments to ensure that service suppliers and investors do not face quantitative restrictions such as monopolies, economic needs tests or joint venture requirements, which my noble friend Lord Hamilton expressed concern about; national treatment commitments, to ensure that UK service suppliers and investors are not discriminated against by the EU 27 and vice versa, as my noble friend Lady McIntosh referred to; new arrangements on financial services, grounded in economic partnership, providing greater co-operation and consultation than is possible under existing third country frameworks; appropriate measures on the recognition of qualifications, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, to support UK professionals practising in the EU 27 and vice versa; arrangements that allow for temporary entry and stay in each other’s territories for business purposes, including visa-free travel for short-term visits, as the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, rightly identified from his extensive work examining the internal market as a member of the Select Committee; and mechanisms to promote voluntary regulatory co-operation to guard against the introduction of unnecessary barriers to services, trade and investment, to which my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe referred. I pay tribute to the work that she did at BEIS in seeking to remove those barriers.

We have also been clear that after we leave the EU, the UK will have an independent trade policy covering all aspects of goods and services. To deliver that objective, it will be important to retain regulatory freedom where it matters most for the UK’s services-based economy.

I turn to some of the points that have been raised.

Lord Davies of Stamford Portrait Lord Davies of Stamford
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before the Minister moves on to detailed points, perhaps this might be a good moment for him to tell the Committee, out of all the countries with which we would like to have our own free trade agreements after we leave the EU—if we leave it—how many have indicated that they wish in principle to negotiate and sign such an agreement with this country; how many have said that they would do so on terms identical to their existing free trade agreement with the EU; and how many have indicated that they would not want to pursue such a negotiation at all?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

The noble Lord will remember from day three of Committee last week that one of the questions asked was whether we could provide the Committee with some running status on where we are with all those free trade agreements. That is a perfectly reasonable approach and it is something that my noble friend Lady Fairhead agreed to take back to look at and come back on ahead of Report. Rather than using this opportunity to rehearse that, I will say that it is something that we are looking at. Specifically on the EU and Japan, I was going to come to that topic and say that there is a working group with Japan to seek to replicate its effect as part of the continuity arrangements.

Lord Liddle Portrait Lord Liddle
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, on the point about freedom of movement, I have two specific questions for the Minister. I accept what he has said, but I would like to quote a personal example and declare an interest. For a period, my wife was chief executive of the English National Ballet. It was a requirement for the success of the English National Ballet that ballet dancers from all over the world were able to join, but the ENB had great difficulty with ballet dancers from outside the EU because they do not earn anything like the money that is put down in the Immigration Rules to justify easy entry. Are the Government prepared to be flexible on the earnings requirement to enable cultural organisations, which are very important to the British economy, to easily access talent from the EU, where people’s salaries will not initially be that high?

Secondly, if you are a small business in services and trying to expand by getting jobs, projects and contracts on the continent, one of the obvious business strategies you would pursue is recruiting young people from the countries in which you hope to do business. You take them into your consultancy, or whatever, and that gives you language and personal links into the markets you are trying to target. Again, there is no guarantee that, under the immigration policy outlined by the Home Secretary, young people coming from European countries would be able to get jobs in that kind of situation. We asked for a clear statement of the Government’s trade policy. The Government have to be clear on these issues before we can proceed on the Bill.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I am happy to do that, and perhaps get some notes—I know we have a group coming up on the mobility framework, to which those points will perhaps be pertinent. I will, if I can, address them there. I also draw the noble Lord’s attention to section 9 of the political declaration, paragraphs 50 to 59 inclusive, which sets out the Government’s position on that.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and my noble friend Lord Hamilton pointed to or asked a very important question on bilateral services-only trade agreements. There is no precedent for a bilateral services-only trade agreement. Where service agreements exist, they are notified to the WTO alongside a wider agreement that also covers goods. We are leaving the customs union so that we can set our own tariffs and have an independent trade policy tailored to the strengths and requirements of our economy, which therefore includes—by implication and explicitly—the importance of services to our economy. The political declaration sets out a plan for a UK-EU free trade area for goods, including no tariffs, with ambitious customs agreements. This will be the first such agreement between an advanced economy and the EU.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, referred to the situation in relation to Northern Ireland. Without wanting to revisit that whole area in this group, the situation is that in Northern Ireland, under the common travel area, the rights to work, study and access social security and public services will be preserved on a reciprocal basis for UK and Irish nationals in the other state.

I turn to the questions raised by my noble friend Lady McIntosh and, in particular, the two questions raised by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe. My noble friend referred to the Chancellor’s speech on liberalising services and looking for a more ambitious way forward. I am sure that is at the core of government policy, otherwise the Chancellor would not have said it. I do not have the text in front of me, so I cannot comment on its full meaning, but I will write to my noble friend on that point. My noble friend Lady McIntosh also asked a three-pronged question. For a company setting up in the UK, what would its situation be in the event of no deal on day one; in the event of the implementation period; and at the conclusion of a future economic framework? Some of those outcomes will depend on the extent of the negotiation, which we have set out in the heads of agreement in the political declaration. Between Committee and Report, I will write on my noble friend’s specific point relating to that. Again, I thank the noble Lord for giving us an opportunity to raise this very important issue.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can my noble friend clarify the point about services and goods? I asked whether we would be able to continue to do deals on services if we had a tight agreement—a customs union or whatever —with the EU. He was saying that goods and services tend to be linked in trade agreements and are never separate. Would that mean that we could not have services agreements, assuming we got something quite tight on goods? That would obviously be a problem. I know that they are linked—often, the service for your car and the computer in it are as important as the car itself—but I had seen them as distinct in the WTO. If my noble friend could write to me on that, I would be very interested.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I will be glad to do so. In a lot of such agreements, especially for the major manufacturers, the bulk of the value of the trade or the deal is the service package and the support provided thereafter. I will be very happy to write to my noble friend ahead of Report.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the early part of his speech, the Minister read out an impressive list of points that had been achieved or secured before he moved on to his brilliant ex tempore dealing with the questions raised in debate. I confess that I did not recognise those points. I cannot remember seeing them in the withdrawal agreement. Was he perhaps referring to the relevant part of the political declaration, in which case surely those points have not been secured or achieved and what has been agreed is that all these things may be discussed over the next three, four or five years as the long-term relationship is considered?

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

Yes, except that the political declaration was of course part of the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU 27, so one hopes that it will form the basis of our future economic partnership.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and I have referred to the WTO. My understanding is that there have been objections to the UK’s submission of services schedules to the WTO and therefore they are unlikely to be certified if we leave at the end of March. We can still trade on them, but they are likely to be uncertified. Can the Minister give a little context about what concessions we might make or what discussions we would have with those countries that have lodged their objections? Clearly, they feel that we will not provide the same kind of market access to UK services as under the existing agreements. We could be starting from a situation that is much worse than simply carrying on with where we are at the moment at the WTO. If the Minister cannot respond at the moment, perhaps he could write.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I am very happy to give further detail on that in the general update between Committee and Report, but, as the noble Lord knows, the schedules were tabled in December followed by a 90-day consultation period. There can be a variety of perspectives on them before they are finally adopted. I will get an update as to where we are on that before Report.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To clarify, my concern is about British companies establishing their services in what will be a third country, another EU country. I would be happy for my noble friend to write to me.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I am grateful for that clarification. I shall make sure that that is what is addressed.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it sounds as if we are starting off a new train of activity or various letters. I suspect that it might also be helpful if we had a short meeting on some of the issues just to draw them together. Like the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, I was entranced by the detailed nature of the early part of the Minister’s response and I got a bit lost—I think it was on the fourth point the second time round. We will need to read him and understand not only what he was saying but where these points are to be found in more detail. The chance to be able to do that in the context of the very rich debate we have had would be helpful.

That is not to say that I think there is that much between us: with friends like the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, how can I complain? We are on the same side here, most unusually and extraordinarily, agreeing on points of some substance. There is some progress, it has not always been easy going and I think the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, was right to point out that this is partly because we are centring on an agreement which is brokered by the WTO through the GATS system. He is correct—his background in the chambers of commerce means that he reads these documents carefully and understands their provenance—that the wording of the amendment is indeed taken from the four pillars, but I was unable to get the fourth pillar in; the clerks would not accept that. The noble Lord, Lord Fox, managed to get it into the next amendment but one, so we will have that debate shortly. That complication sets us off in slightly the wrong direction: we are not trying to change that structure in essence, because that is the overarching world system and we have to be careful we do not try to take on too many battles at the same time.

The political declaration is not the same as the agreement and of course all that gets wrapped up into some form of yet-to-be-understood free trade agreement which may or may not include both customs elements and services agreements. I think the noble Baroness is right to pick up the question of how all that melds together: will we be able to trade off some aspects of our services in order to achieve a better tariff arrangement, or is it better to keep them separate and deal with the different arrangements? I do not think we have a clear answer to that, but I do not think we are very far apart on it. We want this to be the best for Britain. We have done pretty well, against all the odds. Why change it if it is not certain that the changes are going to be beneficial to us?

Having said that, the question from my noble friend Lord Davies is right: what is the point of this amendment if it does not improve where we are? That is where the test has to be. We must look carefully at the responses and make sure we have the right view. There may be some argument for having something, either in this Bill or in the non-continuity Bill yet to come, if that is the Government’s intention. However, at this stage we are unable to say that, so with that in mind, but with thanks to all who have contributed to a very rich debate, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Lansley for moving this amendment. He has managed to get on to prime time in this territory. I once represented a seat on Teesside, which is very close to my heart. The idea has been advocated by the excellent mayor there, Ben Houchen, and by some of the local MPs, such as Simon Clarke and Rishi Sunak.

To reassure my noble friend, the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979—CEMA—allows for the designation of free zones, as he mentioned. The Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act, which the Government passed through your Lordships’ House last September, allows HMRC to make regulations regarding goods kept in a free zone. Under CEMA, operators are free to apply to become a free zone. The Government are open to any ideas that might deliver economic advantages for the UK and will continue to examine the role that free zones may play as part of this. Assuming that we will have an independent trade policy, we will be able to have these types of examinations and innovations.

Existing customs facilitations in the UK offer the same benefits as free zones, but are not geographically limited and can be accessed anywhere across the country, thereby potentially having more widespread benefits for the UK as a whole. For example, a manufacturer could import materials for its products and store them in a customs warehouse anywhere else in the country, without duties being paid on them. The manufacturer or its supply chain could then use those materials in its manufacturing process under inward processing relief and could export the finished goods without any UK customs duty ever having to be paid. Those existing facilitations, therefore, avoid the distortions to which the noble Lord, Lord Davies, referred, which can arise from free zones where a manufacturer or its supply chain would be required to locate on the same site to benefit.

The UK’s ability to formulate a free zone that diverges from the Union customs code will depend on the future relationship with the European Union. The Government have also been clear that it is a commercial decision for operators to make on whether they want to apply for designation of an area as a free zone, and we will review any applications made. I am not able to be more helpful than that to my noble friend at this point, much as I may wish to be.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Since there is no recent substantial experience of free zones, does my noble friend not think it would be helpful—if we arrive at the point where we exit the Union customs code—for the Government at least to initiate a consultation to look at the criteria that would be applied in examining the designation of free-zone status?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

My noble friend will be aware that “consultation” has a specific meaning now in legal terms, which is quite an onerous responsibility of the process. We could seek ways to discuss—perhaps with BEIS as part of the industrial strategy—or to engage with others who are interested. He mentioned Humberside, Teesside and others, and I think we could look at ways in which that could be done. I am very happy to take that thought back to the Treasury and write to him further on that.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Once again, I am grateful to my noble friend and that is a very welcome comment. I look forward to further discussion about that but, on that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, a powerful case has been made by the party to my left. My sadness is that the framing of the amendment before us deals largely with how any future trade agreement with the EU should have a relaxed approach to the mobility framework and, picking up the point of our earlier debate, tries to insert in some measure the fourth pillar of the GATS process, which allows for individuals to travel in support of goods and services.

The case we heard, and the emotion it raises, are about the much broader ideas of freedom of movement and the ability to transfer skills, particularly in the creative industries. Although it was not specifically mentioned, presumably it seeks to try to loosen the way in which the Government currently treat overseas students. There is a wider, richer, deeper and more important argument about the need for mobility, its importance for any modern nation state and the contribution it can make to our economy and our culture. That needs to be answered, but it is not picked up particularly by this amendment.

We too discovered this problem when tabling amendments. The title of the Bill means that we can not have as broad a discussion as we would wish. However, there is an immigration Bill coming, and others in your Lordships’ House will want to pick up many of the points made here and raise them in the context of a much wider and more appropriate set of immigration conditions and arrangements, which will satisfy much of the discussions we have heard this afternoon.

On the narrow question of where we move, it would be wrong to try to seek a broader solution to the problems identified through a generic approach. There is no doubt that what appeared to be—and it was appearance rather than reality—unbridled immigration was a factor in the referendum that led to the formation of the Brexit arrangements. We would be stupid to ignore that. There are probably answers and solutions that would be satisfactory to all concerned, but not in this amendment. Nevertheless, I will listen carefully to what the Minister says in response to this point. This issue will not go away and we look forward to returning to it at a future stage.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for introducing this amendment, which deals with an important area already touched on this afternoon. It will of course be pored over in some detail as the immigration Bill makes its way to your Lordships’ House.

There is no dodging the key line in the political declaration. At paragraph 56, I think, it makes it clear that free movement will end as the UK leaves the EU. The noble Lord is passionate in his advocacy of free movement, and he has expressed his view that it is a stupid idea—I think I quote him correctly—to get rid of it. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, identified, this issue is more complex. To use his term, unbridled immigration was an issue, and we would be stupid to ignore that. Therefore, there is a difference of views here but, as the noble Lord invites me to set out the Government’s position, I will put it on the record if I can.

I appreciate the desire to ensure that businesses and individuals who trade in services and goods between the UK and the EU will have the ability to move across borders to do so. The Government are committed to securing the best deal for UK businesses. We have set out a clear proposal for an ambitious future relationship with the European Union, including a reciprocal framework for mobility. This was reflected in the political declaration on our future relationship. The detail will be discussed in the next phase of our negotiations.

--- Later in debate ---
Earl of Clancarty Portrait The Earl of Clancarty (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, earlier the Minister mentioned crossing borders. Would that include onward movement, which is a particular concern of not only individuals and self-employed people in this country but British people living in Europe? Time and again, I have heard that that is a particular concern.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I may not be able to get a categorical answer on that, but I am happy to undertake to write to the noble Earl ahead of Report to clarify that point.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister said that perhaps this amendment would be better placed elsewhere, but I wondered why, in the sequence of events, the UK did not agree a temporary arrangement with Switzerland on continuity, for example, in the case that I raised earlier in Committee. Instead, the Government have agreed a permanent relationship arrangement with the Swiss for free movement of people for three months a year if they are providing services. Clearly, the Government thought it was not sufficient to wait until we debated the Immigration Bill, when we could have considered that aspect of our relationship with Switzerland and others. But the Government have made a decision. So as my noble friend Lord Fox indicated, it is right that we press the Government much more. Why did the Government make a case for giving Swiss nationals a permanent right of visa-free travel and work for three months a year, but are taking a distinct approach to other countries, including our EU partners?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

Obviously, those are discussions that will have to be concluded in the future framework. On the specific point about Switzerland, however, the noble Lord suggested that the services elements were additional to the Government’s policy on immigration as set out in the Immigration Bill. That is not correct; it is not inconsistent with the provisions in that Bill.

On the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, on onward movement for EU nationals, the UK pushed strongly for the inclusion of onward movement rights during the first phase of negotiations on citizens’ rights in the withdrawal agreement but the EU was not ready to include them at that time. I made that point about reciprocity earlier. We recognise that onward movement opportunities are an important issue for UK nationals in the EU and we remain committed to raising this during detailed discussions on our future relationship. That is the latest position we have at the present.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon Portrait Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There has been a lot of concern in the past that the position of the Commonwealth, relative to that of the EU, has been bad—that EU citizens and EU goods can come to this country without let or hindrance, whereas people and goods from the Commonwealth are unable to do so and have to take their place with the rest of the world. As I understand it, following our departure from the EU, our Commonwealth will be in the same position as people from the EU, and indeed the rest of the world. Can we be assured that the Government’s future policy in relation to the Commonwealth will ensure that it will have equal access?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I listened very carefully to the final words that the noble Lord used when he talked about “equal access”, and I draw back from that a little. But on the broad principle, when we talk about the scheme of preferences and economic partnership agreements that we have with Commonwealth countries, if we have an independent trade policy, of course we will be able to take that into account. We would be free to do that. Similarly, if we are not part of free movement within the EU and have our independent immigration policy, we are in a position to set out the terms on which we want to admit people to work in this country. I hope that is helpful to the noble Lord.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for the minimal debate that we have had around this. I will look closely at Hansard, but I did not hear the Minister refer to the £30,000 threshold issue and the false dichotomy between skilled and unskilled. Between now and Report, I would like the Minister to come back to that, and I apologise if he did indeed raise it.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

Before the noble Lord sits down—I have always wanted to say that—I did have some notes on that. Perhaps I could intrude on the noble Lord’s wind-up to say that the Government are committed to ensuring that the future immigration system works in the international interests of all the UK. The Migration Advisory Committee advised that the £30,000 salary threshold should still apply. The Home Office is undertaking an extensive programme of engagement on its White Paper proposals and will discuss with business and a variety of other sectors, including the creative industries, what a suitable threshold should be. If a skilled job is considered to be in shortage in the UK, a lower threshold is likely apply. I hope that helps the Committee and the noble Lord.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It helps somewhat, and I urge the Government to consult extensively with the care and food service sectors. Hygiene skills, for example, benefit the food sector a lot. I am sure most employees there earn less than the scheduled threshold. There is also the issue of freelancers and self-employed people. I will not get the Minister up again but I will be looking for a response on that. I also did not hear from Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition anything other than what I would call a very weak response. It was, frankly, disappointing. With that proviso, I beg leave to withdraw.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hesitate to become too involved in this debate, which seems rather above the level at which I am accustomed to operating, but one or two things came to mind. As the noble Lord, Lord Lea, explained to me and as came through in his address, the purpose of the amendment is to make sure that we explore all possible options before coming to a conclusion on the many difficult issues before us today. He has done that clearly and it will be interesting to hear what the Minister has to say in response.

It would probably defeat any prospect for active negotiation to play the card that has been played in this amendment at this point, but it is worth bearing in mind the issues that it raises and the much broader point that the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, was keen to explore: so many strands to our positioning are being coalesced into a single deal/no deal debate, squeezing out our opportunities for further, richer and more flexible solutions to the long-term problems that we have all recognised and debated today. At this point, it would be best to hear from the Minister what the official line is and then see whether there are issues that we need to come back to on Report.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lea, for setting out the rationale for his amendment. He was sincere in his attempt to persuade us and very thorough, as I would expect of a distinguished economist, in setting out in some detail his thoughts on where this option might go. Whether it is plan B, C, D or E, the reality is that it is a proposal that the Government take seriously and I want to respond to it in that manner.

As my noble friends Lord Finkelstein and Lord Trenchard have mentioned, the very topic of EEA membership was debated in another place in relation to the EU withdrawal Act on 13 June last year and again in relation to this Bill on 17 July. The outcome was clear: the EEA is not the right model for the UK.

Membership of EFTA and the EEA would mean accepting the continued free movement of people, which both Conservative and Labour manifestos pledged to end at the last election—which I suspect is why the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, suggested that this might be a debate that the Labour Front Bench wished to sidestep; of course, on the Government Bench we do not have that luxury.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I support Amendment 77 for the reason that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has just given, and I strongly support Amendment 80, for the reason that my noble friend Lord Hannay gave.

Amendment 78, however, is very strange. I support it, but we are in Alice in Wonderland territory here. It is an entirely academic interest, because it seems to me implausible that Mr Barclay and Mr Paterson, and their high-powered alternative arrangements group, would come back to this alternative arrangement—the Chequers proposal—given that they ambushed the Government to take it out by their amendment to the taxation Bill.

It was always rather a fanciful idea anyway. In its brief life, it had several forms. First, it was proposed as a reciprocal arrangement. The foreigners would have to clog up Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg and Bremen collecting our tariffs and operating our quotas, segregating our goods from goods going to the EU, which would be charged EU tariffs and subject to EU quotas. Once segregated, in some magic way, our goods would then proceed to the United Kingdom, having paid UK tariffs at their first European port of entry. That was never going to happen.

The second form, once noises from Brussels had been heard, was that we would do it for EU goods but the EU would not be required to do it for our imports at its ports. It was that, I think, which provoked the ire of the ERG: why should we collect foreign tax? But there was no possibility of the EU at any stage agreeing that we should collect its tariffs at our ports.

There are several degrees of lunacy here, and we have this very strange prohibition on the statute book. I think that the statute book should not contain nonsenses, and so I support the amendment. However, it does not matter. The EU would never agree this proposal in any of its incarnations. Mr Paterson, Mr Barclay and these other trade experts are not going to come up with it as an idea in the alternative arrangements committee, because they were dead against it. Therefore, although I support the amendment, I do not think one need spend a lot of time on it.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I rise more in hope than expectation of being able to persuade your Lordships. I pick up the sense from the Committee that this is probably something that your Lordships will want to return to in more depth on Report. Perhaps the best service I can offer at this stage is to put on record the Government’s position, respond to some of the precise points and then await further developments as they may unfold between now and Report.

Amendments 77, 78, 79 and 80 relate to changes passed in the other place during the passage of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018. This Act is important legislation as the UK leaves the EU. It enables the Government to create a stand-alone customs regime by ensuring that the UK can charge customs duty on goods, set and vary the rates of custom duty, and suspend or relieve duty in certain circumstances.

I turn now to the substance of the original amendments to the Act, which these amendments seek to remove. Amendment 77 relates to Section 31(5), which requires further parliamentary scrutiny in the event that the power under Section 31(4) is used to implement a customs union with the EU. The Government support the principle of further parliamentary scrutiny in this case. My noble friend Lord Lansley suggested that this was perhaps reflective of the politics of the movement. As a distinguished former Leader of the House in another place, he will be very familiar with how that side of things works. However, as this House is aware, the Government have made it clear that they are not seeking to be in a customs union with the EU as part of our future economic partnership—I say that without wishing to reopen the many debates we have had on “a” and “the”.

It is important to reflect why the Government have taken this view and to consider what leaving the EU means. It means the ability to strike out on our own to forge new trade deals. In order to do this, one important element is to have the ability to set our own tariffs. Being in a customs union would deny the UK this ability and fundamentally undermine our capacity to negotiate new trade deals with old friends and new partners.

The noble Lord kindly outlined, as he saw it, the way in which Amendment 78 arrived, referencing first the Bill and then the amendment. The Government have been clear in their White Paper that the arrangement they are seeking will ensure that both the UK and the EU get their fair share of the revenues from the rest of world trade. Section 54 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act is in line with the proposals that the Government set out with a view to achieving just that.

Turning to Amendment 79, Section 55 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 requires a single UK customs territory. This is a statement of government policy and ensures that the Government will not act incompatibly with the commitments made in the joint report of December 2017, where they committed to protect the constitutional integrity of the UK.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I apologise for interrupting the Minister. I want to add perhaps another degree of lunacy to the several mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr. New Section 31 of the taxation Act, which Amendment 77 seeks to rectify, contains the following phrase:

“In the case of a customs union between the United Kingdom and the European Union”.


The Government said that that would not apply because the customs territory they are seeking to have will not be a customs union. So even if just to make the legislation neater, it should be taken out.

On defining the scope of the single customs territory, which we are seeking to do, the Government’s Legal Position on the Withdrawal Agreement, command paper 9747, says it is that,

“under which the UK aligns itself with the Union’s external tariff and there can be no tariffs or quantitative restrictions on imports and exports between the UK and the EU. The single customs territory therefore constitutes a customs union for the purposes of GATT19, but it is not the EU’s customs union as defined in Article 28 TFEU”.

It can either be one thing or the other, but the Government’s own document on the legal position says that the customs territory will be a customs union.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I will make some progress, but I will come back to that point—when inspiration arrives.

No UK Government, regardless of their political leanings, could ever accept such a carving up of the United Kingdom—I am referring here of course to the division between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Indeed, on 15 October, in another place, the Prime Minister said:

“We have been clear that we cannot agree to anything that threatens the integrity of our United Kingdom, and I am sure that the whole House shares the Government’s view on this. Indeed, the House of Commons set out its view when agreeing unanimously to section 55 in … the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 on a single United Kingdom customs territory, which states: ‘It shall be unlawful for Her Majesty’s Government to enter into arrangements under which Northern Ireland forms part of a separate customs territory to Great Britain.’ So the message is clear not just from this Government but from the whole House”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/10/18; col. 410.]


Turning to Amendment 80—before I come to some of the points raised during the debate—the Government’s position is that they will not seek to be in a customs union with the EU. We have debated this issue in this House and in the other place throughout the passage of this Bill—leaving aside the very clear response that is on its way to the noble Lord; he should be prepared for that. As has already been highlighted to the House, at Report stage in the Commons, MPs rejected an amendment seeking to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU.

On the specific points relating to import VAT, it is clear that the Government are highly cognisant of the concerns raised. I will deal with that point now because the noble Lord asked some very good questions on VAT treatment, and it is good to have an opportunity to put the position on the record. Goods from third countries are treated as imports, with VAT due accounted for on import or by the 15th of the following month as duty of customs. This means that, unlike acquisitions, there is a cash-flow impact because traders have to pay the import VAT and potentially recover it later when they submit their VAT returns. It also means that there needs to be an option to pay import VAT on the border, as not all businesses have the necessary guarantee to defer payment until the following month. Generally, import VAT is paid sooner on goods from non-EU countries than on goods from EU countries. This provides a cash-flow benefit to companies importing goods from the EU compared to businesses that import from non-EU countries. Without an UK-EU agreement to retain this treatment, goods entering the UK from the EU would be treated as imports and would be subject to the same rules as businesses moving goods from non-EU countries. This would mean businesses paying VAT on imports from the EU sooner, affecting their cash flow. The Government published a series of technical notices in August 2018 to help businesses prepare for the unlikely event of a no-deal scenario. The VAT technical notice, “VAT for businesses if there’s no Brexit deal”, announced that the Government will introduce postponed accounting for import VAT on goods brought into the UK.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked why we accepted Section 54—originally New Clause 36—of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018. The Government did so because it was consistent with our position. It requires the Government to negotiate a reciprocal arrangement for the collection and remittance of VAT, customs and excise duties. The Government have been clear that both the UK and EU should agree a mechanism for the remittance of relevant revenue. The Government set out in their July White Paper that they propose a revenue formula that takes into account goods destined for the UK entering via the EU and goods destined for the EU entering via the UK.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked whether the customs territory is a customs union under GATT, and he deserves a full answer to his detailed question, so I commit to writing to him. That should be very clear to the noble Lord and all Members of the House—well worth waiting for.

Lord Berkeley of Knighton Portrait Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I ask this question as someone who is not a politician and who therefore sometimes gets quite confused about the repetition of entrenched views, which have led us to the undoubted stalemate that we are in. This really concerns the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. I heard the Minister’s response, but it seems to me that everything I hear about Brexit suggests that the Northern Ireland backstop is a real sticking point. Is it not conceivable that, to get around that problem, the Government might have to consider some form of customs union?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

It is a challenge when someone with the noble Lord’s intellect begins a sentence by apologising for not being a politician and then asks for clarity at the present time. We are discussing this legislation, but we all know that we are in one of the most fast-moving, dynamic episodes of negotiation that this country has ever entered into. We are gradually working our way through. The White Paper was published at a moment when we were seeking to flesh out exactly what the Government’s position was in response to the Commission saying, “We don’t know what the UK’s position is; we don’t know what they want”. Therefore, the White Paper was introduced at that point. Then there was the clamour for clarity for business—what it would do in the event of no deal—so the technical notices were issued. Then, we got to the position where we reached an outline agreement with the European Commission in December, against many people’s expectations, along with heads of terms for what a future economic partnership might be. That was then presented to the other place and roundly rejected. Therefore, we have now begun another process, so I readily accept that if one wants to score points by stopping the clock at various stages along the process and pointing to certain inconsistencies in it, the Government are pretty easy fare for that.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Portrait Lord Kerr of Kinlochard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is making a very gallant effort and I applaud it. I enjoyed many of the things he said, particularly when he referred to a no-Brexit deal. I thought that was a very encouraging concept. I really cannot let him get away with where he is now, in this fast-moving situation he describes. Put yourself in the place of the EU 27: what are they supposed to think when the Prime Minister scuttles her own fleet? She orders her party to vote down the backstop in the treaty. The backstop is 21 articles, 10 annexes and 172 pages. The Prime Minister’s officials have negotiated that line by line, month by month and it is there because we asked for it. Then she decides that the best thing to do with it is to replace it with alternative arrangements, which are now being devised by Mr Owen Paterson and Mr Stephen Barclay. The Minister tells us that this is a fast-moving situation and it is quite hard to keep up with it, but there is nothing happening in Brussels but sheer astonishment at the failure of our system.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

That is the noble Lord’s position on this: the reality is that the Prime Minister is seeking an agreement that can command a majority in the other place and that requires compromise. That is what the agreement represents. The House made its view on the withdrawal agreement clear; she is now seeing whether that can be addressed with the Commission. Personally, I wish her well and every possible success, as opposed to my own mis-speaking. Lest it be on the record, I am sure that Sigmund Freud would have observed that perhaps I had momentarily let slip an inner feeling, which, of course, has nothing to do with the position of Her Majesty’s Government, which I consistently seek to put forward from this Dispatch Box and proudly support.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked about support for government amendments that preclude the facilitated customs arrangements. We would argue that there is nothing about the amendments made to the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act in the other place that is inconsistent with the draft political declaration that will inform the future relationship. On the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Stevenson, about insufficient focus on VAT implications, the Government have been clear that we are aware of the potential impact on businesses of any move away from the concept of acquisition VAT, but we have also set out that in any scenario we are seeking to avoid any adverse effects. Amendment 80 does not affect that in our view.

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On that last point, we keep talking about 29 March, but of course sales are already being made and shipping has already been arranged that may well arrive in this country or continental Europe after 29 March. The business decisions to invest, to make things and try to sell them have already been made, so minimising the impact is not possible. The impact has already started.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

Yes, there is a reason why we have brought back the agreement—to resolve the situation.

As for whether the amendments have been considered in the other place, the other place voted for two of the original amendments and had the opportunity to vote on another two but decided not to do so, so the other place made its view clear on that point.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On this point about VAT, I hope the Minister will forgive me for saying that he and I are probably slightly out of our depth on the detail of how this will work. From what he just said and from the guidance that he read out at some stage, it sounds as though the Government and HMRC understand that potential friction will come into our trade with the EU if we do not ensure that something like the present arrangements continue. Back in the 1980s, when I was involved in the matter, we avoided a perfectly appalling idea by Lord Cockfield of having a clearing house in Brussels into which everyone would pay all this VAT. We have a frictionless system and it sounds as though the Government understand that that should be preserved. But I rather doubt that that is consistent with the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act, because of the amendment on VAT that was put in by the ERG.

The best thing that we could ask of the Minister this evening is to go back and consider very carefully whether the Government should either accept Amendment 80 or give some fairly lengthy explanation of what they will do and how that is—if it is—consistent with the Act now on the statute book. That would be best. Then, when we return to this on Report, we will all have probably learned quite a lot.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I am very happy to give an undertaking to the noble Lord that I will reflect with colleagues, particularly my noble friend Lady Fairhead, on the comments made on these amendments, notwithstanding the points that I have put on the record about the Government’s position. We can return to these on Report and I will seek to give some further information in the gap in between Committee and Report. I hope, in the meantime, that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That was an interesting and enlivening evening. I have come up with a brilliant title for my forthcoming novel—Seven Degrees of Lunacy, or could it be eight? That might be easier, although I doubt it. I have speculated at length about whether we are in Alice in Wonderland, as was suggested, but my favourite suggestion is that we are in Gormenghast, because we seem to be trapped in structures not of our own making, with a design that is not of our wish and with an outcome that is very uncertain and probably leads to madness. But enough of that.

One unifying thought was summed up neatly by the Minister in his last remarks when he said that we needed to think a little harder about what the problem is. Everyone who has spoken, other than the Minister, took the view that these issues had a common theme—the reasons may be different but the theme is that they all have the potential to derail us later down the track. The Government should think about that issue rather than the particularities of these issues. If it is going to be problematic to get an agreement in both Houses on a Motion for an extension of a customs union, because of the argument made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, about the inherent asymmetry of one set of rules for the US and another for the EU, that may not be helpful. I do not think we are saying any more than that. There is an opportunity here to do something to ease the roadblocks that we can see down the track, whichever track we go down.

Amendment 78 was part of the Chequers arrangements but is now otiose and it is not beyond the wit of others to point out that it still exists in statute and might cause difficulty further down the line. Amendment 79, as my noble friend Lord Hain said, bears directly on the backstop. Is it really sensible to have this power hanging over us in another piece of legislation as we get to the later stages of that, if that is what is going to happen? On VAT, it is not really about the agreement that might be coming but a broader issue about VAT in general, because there might be a better way of collecting VAT that originates outside the UK. It is complicated and a short meeting might be a way to find the common ground that we want to take forward. I am grateful to the noble Lord for wading through that and having the doubtful honour of assigning his name to it in Hansard. It is useful to have it there and we will study it carefully.

I think there is time to have another look at this. Even if we disagree on some of the issues, it cannot be right for Parliament to pass legislation that it knows is not going to be of any use. I think that was the point the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, was making. If this is where we are, why do we just not do it? We could do it differently and see if we can use the time to clear it up properly. That is the way I would like to see it go forward but it is not in my hands. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Trade Bill

Lord Bates Excerpts
Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Wednesday 6th March 2019

(5 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2017-19 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 127-R-I(Rev) Revised marshalled list for Report (PDF) - (5 Mar 2019)
Lord Bilimoria Portrait Lord Bilimoria (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I emphasise how important this issue is. From my experience, the UK has arguably the finest legal services in the world. As the founding chair of the UK India Business Council, I am aware that foreign lawyers are not allowed to practise in India. That makes it very difficult for our lawyers to provide advice not just to British companies in India but to Indian companies, and that is a huge loss for India and our British legal services. The ability of our lawyers to practise abroad is crucial. The EU is another area where we have taken mutual recognition for granted. All sorts of situations could arise in a no-deal scenario—situations involving not just advice to companies but disputes. What about consumer rights, for example? British consumers will no longer be able to sue in relation to a European product here in the UK. It will have to be done in the country of origin in the EU and, if our lawyers cannot help out, that will be to the detriment of our consumers. Therefore, this is a very important point that cannot be taken for granted and should be included.

Lord Bates Portrait The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Lord Bates) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady McIntosh for presenting this amendment and for giving us the opportunity to put on the record further remarks on where we are with regard to legal services. As she reminded us, legal services contribute around £25 billion to the UK economy, with a trade surplus of around £4 billion. They directly employ well over 300,000 people in the UK, two-thirds of whom are outside London. The UK is a world leader in the provision of legal services, as the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, also pointed out, and English law has a reputation for excellence across the world. We are determined to continue to build on this success.

We acknowledge that leaving the single market might have implications for market access and that some UK and EU service suppliers will not enjoy the same rights as they do today. That point was made by my noble friend Lady McIntosh when referring to Implications for Business and Trade of a No Deal Exit on 29 March 2019, published by the Government on 26 February—specifically paragraph 40, which sets out a case study on legal services. In a sense, that underscores that the Government see this as a key priority in the future economic framework negotiations.

That is why, in the political declaration on the future relationship between the EU and the UK, there will be comprehensive arrangements on the trade in services, covering a wide range of sectors, including legal services. The political declaration includes a commitment to conclude arrangements for services and investment that go well beyond WTO commitments and build on recent EU free trade agreements, as well as a commitment to make appropriate arrangements for professional qualifications.

The Government want to secure positive outcomes for the professional business services sector, including legal services. However, as my noble friend will be aware, our future trade relationship with the EU is subject to negotiation with the EU. A trade deal must be negotiated before its terms can be set out in law. I am aware that this is perhaps a probing amendment that seeks to get some points on the record, but clearly the Government’s view is that what my noble friend proposes is not the correct vehicle.

I am aware that in previous debates on this Bill and on some no-deal secondary legislation my noble friend has raised concerns about the impact of a no-deal outcome for lawyers. We do not want a no-deal scenario but, as a responsible Government, we have to prepare for it.

The no-deal SI relating to the practising rights of European lawyers in England and Wales and Northern Ireland, which this House debated in January, and was made on 13 February, provides transitional arrangements for EU-EFTA lawyers. The purpose of this no-deal SI is to clarify the position of EU qualified lawyers who are practising in England, Wales and Northern Ireland immediately before exit day, so that they can be secure in the knowledge of what their position will be in the event that we exit without a withdrawal agreement.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I rise briefly to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, which I have signed up to. The meeting that he referred to was extremely helpful in drawing out some of the confusion that emerged during our first debate in Committee. The issues of how countries get on to the lists, how the lists get managed and shaped, and how the changes might come forward were all explored carefully; we now have a much better understanding. In these lists, there are bound to be curious decisions which do not seem to match up to one’s perspectives. I was in Tanzania on holiday recently and it certainly did not come across as one of the least-developed countries, although clearly there are issues around how it will progress and develop its own trading arrangements.

The point behind the amendment is to get on record some further points that have emerged. The noble Lord was kind enough to suggest that we might have further questions, but his all-encompassing knowledge and brilliant, incisive questions are quite enough for me.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I thank the noble Lords, Lord Lansley and Lord Stevenson, for moving the amendment standing in their names and giving us another opportunity to discuss this important area. We are moving to a stage where we can consider how having an independent trade policy could provide opportunities, particularly to the least developed countries in the world.

I also thank the noble Lords, Lord Lansley and Lord Stevenson, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Fox, and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, for the debate we had in Committee and for then participating in what I was glad to hear reported as a helpful meeting. I join noble Lords in saying that I found it an incredibly helpful meeting, which improved my own understanding not only of the barriers and hurdles but of the opportunities that are there.

I should perhaps deal directly with my noble friend Lord Lansley’s questions, rather than outlining issues that have been previously discussed in Committee and on which the House is already aware of our position. The noble Lord asked whether it is the Government’s intention to identify a sub-category of vulnerable countries. The answer is yes: we will be replicating the GSP+ tier of economically vulnerable countries.

The noble Lord asked whether these trade preferences would undermine human and labour rights. The UK has a longstanding commitment to universal human rights, and this will be reflected in our trade preferences schemes. As part of transitioning the EU preferences scheme, we will be maintaining a similar approach to human rights commitments.

On the question of who will investigate accusations of subsidies, dumping, surges of imports et cetera, the Trade Remedies Authority will be able to investigate cases against any country, including preference-receiving countries. In doing so, it will consider allegations of dumping, subsidies and unforeseen surges in imports which cause injury to UK industry. Where the TRA determines that a trade remedy measure should be applied, it can make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who can accept or reject that recommendation. Such measures usually take the form of an additional amount of import duty above the most favoured nation rate.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have a private joke with the former Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, that there is a small and declining number of people in this House with an interest in intellectual property, and that we used to gather to discuss arcane issues using incomprehensible language to our hearts’ content. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, is clearly a member of that group, and there are one or two others. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, who is unfortunately not in her place, has joined the group recently. I say that because the discussion of the WTO tariff rate is coming down to that rather narrow group of people who have a deep knowledge of and fascination for the issues and are interested in exploring them, but are frustrated by the fact that the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, on which we should have had the chance to discuss the points so ably made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, was held back from us by procedural rules and went through without much debate. We are therefore having to invent a way of getting into that discussion.

The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has done a great service to the House by going through some of the very intricate and complicated issues around setting tariffs and rates and how you play the game against the very complicated rules of the WTO. He does it, however, from a position of knowledge and experience that, I am afraid, will be frustrated again tonight, because there is not the will in the House to go through it in detail. Indeed, I tabled an amendment a week or two ago—when I thought there would be more time to discuss these things—on the prospect of the GSP tariff rates, setting and mechanisms. He is right that there are broader issues around those that we should discuss. However, this is not the time—and we do not have the time—to go into the detail, so I will not press my Amendment 14, which comes later, because the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has raised the same points in a broader context. I hope that the Minister will respond briefly to the points raised, so that some of the issues that need to be on the record are on the record, but perhaps we should save some of the more detailed issues for another day.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I thank my noble friend for moving the amendment. The noble Lord is right: my noble friend has raised, effectively, three issues that need to be examined. One is the level of tariffs. In that regard I will probably disappoint my noble friend by referring back to my noble friend Lady Fairhead’s response from the Ministers’ Bench to the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, to set out a timetable for when those tariffs might become known. She made her points and they stand on the record; I probably do not need to repeat them. I also draw to the attention of the House The Implications for Business and Trade of a No Deal Exit on 29 March 2019, which was published on 26 February. On this occasion I draw my noble friend Lord Lansley’s attention to the section on tariffs, beginning at paragraph 31 and continuing into paragraph 32, which explores some aspects of the setting of tariffs.

Those are two aspects on the level of tariffs, but I now turn to some of the specifics to which my noble friend referred. He asked about the status of the common external tariff applied by the WTO. The noble Lord is correct that we have notified our bound tariff schedule to the WTO. Our bound schedule represents the upper limits of what tariffs the UK could apply on imports. If, for example, our bound schedule says 10% for product X, we could choose to apply 9%. The Government have yet to announce their applied tariffs for a no-deal scenario, but the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, is correct to say that on leaving the EU we will be free to set out tariffs within the parameters of the bound schedule that we lodged last year.

The EU’s common external tariff—as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley—is the EU’s version of its applied tariff schedule. These are the tariffs that will apply to UK exports to the EU in a no-deal scenario. My noble friend also referenced the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act, which states that the first time a tariff is set, and whenever an import duty rate increases, the made affirmative procedure will apply; otherwise the negative procedure will apply.

These amendments would make the made affirmative procedure apply in different circumstances. In the case of Amendment 10, that would be any time the rate of import duty diverged from the bound commitment made by the UK to the WTO; in the case of Amendment 14 the made affirmative procedure would apply in all circumstances. However, under both amendments it is currently stipulated that the setting of the tariff would remain a matter for the other place. The Act ensures that the scrutiny procedures applied to the exercise of each power are appropriate and proportionate, taking into account the extremely detailed nature of the tariff and the frequency with which it may be changed. The tariff is long and complex; it currently contains 17,000 types of goods and is more than 1,000 pages long. The EU tariff is subject to regular, almost daily, amendment, so the current balance of the chosen procedure reflects that understanding.

Once again, I express the Government’s appreciation to my noble friend Lord Lansley for moving this amendment, giving us the opportunity to expand on our positions and put those additional remarks on the record. I hope that is helpful and reassuring to him, and that he feels able to withdraw his amendment at this stage.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my noble friend, and to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara. This debate has been very helpful, and the takeaway from this—one I am grateful to my noble friend for confirming—is that the bound schedule has already been notified to the WTO. People need to be very clear about the fact that if we leave without a deal and the Government come forward and say, “These are the tariffs that we intend to apply”, they are not varying the WTO bound rate but saying that, on a most favoured nation basis, they will apply these rates. That provides a basis for negotiations on preferential schemes that could emerge over time. I read the document about the implications of no deal for tariffs, and it is correct: the Government must balance the desirability of supporting liberalised trade, with benefits for consumers through price and choice, with protection for producers in this country. That will be a delicate balance to strike. If people are aware that we can behave in this way with an applied rate that varies from the bound rate, it removes the argument that by applying a lower rate in the short run we have prejudiced our ability to conduct trade negotiations with other countries in the future—we have not done that. If we get rid of that argument, it helps to shift the balance in many cases in favour of lower rates in the short run, rather than higher rates. I am most grateful to my noble friend for his response. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am conscious of the time, but I also want to ensure that noble Lords have an opportunity to reflect on the serious issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lea. We may deal with them briefly this evening but we did not deal briefly with them when they came up in Committee. There was quite some debate on them on 4 February, and for those noble Lords who are interested, they can read it in glorious technicolour between columns 1360 and 1370 in the Official Report of those proceedings. Perhaps if the noble Lord, Lord Lea, will permit me to summarise what the key arguments were at that point, I will try to answer two of the points that he raised.

EFTA membership would not be acceptable because it would mean accepting the free movement of people between its four existing members. To gain access to the 29 existing free trade agreements negotiated by EFTA, the UK would have to negotiate its way into each and every one of them with the relevant third countries. There is no guarantee that that would be successful: EFTA’s trade agreements were not negotiated with the size and type of Britain’s economy in mind. Were the UK to join EFTA, it would constitute 71% of the enlarged area.

If we rejoined the European Economic Area to stay in the single market, we would not have control over our borders. It would mean having to accept all four freedoms of the single market, including free movement of people across the 30 EEA states. On laws, it would mean having to implement new EU legislation covering the majority of the sectors of our economy. In contrast, we are making an up-front sovereign choice to commit to ongoing harmonisation with EU rules on goods, covering only those necessary to provide frictionless trade in the context of our agreement.

The noble Lord, Lord Lea, said that if we crash out, we need to keep the right to rejoin EFTA. If we leave the European Union without a deal, we fall out of the EEA and EFTA. We would be able to apply to rejoin, but this is contrary to government policy for the reasons that I have explained. He asked what the impact on the EEA Agreement would be if we extended Article 50. If we were to extend Article 50, the UK would, of course, stay within the EEA under the EU pillar until we left the EU. With regard to citizens’ rights agreements made with the EEA and EFTA states, these would enter into force only when we leave the EU or at the end of an implementation period.

I hope that, with that brief summary, the noble Lord—whose contributions I always enjoy and listen to attentively—will not feel that I have not responded to him, but in the context of the wider consideration of this issue in the debate, the Government’s position remains as it was in Committee. I therefore ask him to consider withdrawing his amendment at this stage.

Lord Lea of Crondall Portrait Lord Lea of Crondall
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. In fact, he did not answer all the questions on 4 February. I could draw attention to some of them, but I will not. This could have been an opportunity today. Free movement of persons is, of course, an issue of which we have experience within the European Union. We would be cutting off our nose to spite our face on areas of the economy, such as the whole entertainment, theatre and ballet industry, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, referred to on one occasion. There are many, many others, so these sweeping statements about control of our borders are really over the top and not a sensible way to address this issue.

I am not going to say more at this stage. Suffice it to say that the initiative is now with the House of Commons. I have some confidence that in the next few days and weeks this will become, as my noble friend Lord Monks said, a strong policy in the Commons. I rest on the fact that it is still the policy of the House of Lords, as has been said by my noble friends. On that basis on this occasion, I will not seek to test the opinion of the House.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Falkner of Margravine Portrait Baroness Falkner of Margravine
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The noble Baroness has just told your Lordships that the House was trying to protect manufacturing through being in “the” customs union. So we have on one side “the” customs union, which is the EU customs union, and on the other side we have a bespoke customs union. That in itself illustrates the problem with those who want to reverse where we are today.

I urge the House to look at the common commercial policy carefully, not only in the light of Articles 206 and 207 of the TFU, and to look at the jurisprudence. The jurisprudence on the part of the CJEU expounds the EU’s common commercial policy into foreign direct investment rules way beyond common commercial policy and into the EU’s external action policy. Some of us may have no problem with that, but the jurisprudence will continue while we are outside the room and not at the table. The jurisprudence will reflect the EU’s priorities, not ours. It would leave us in a vulnerable position going forward whether we were in “a” customs union or the bespoke customs union, which would potentially give us bargaining rights and some say in jurisprudence. Certainly that customs union would give us no rights at all.

I am not used to evoking Mr Blair in support of any cause—I suppose it will have the same impact here as it does elsewhere in the country—but even he has gone public to say that the worst of all worlds would be for us to stay in the customs union. If noble Lords want to support trade in goods they need to move either towards the withdrawal agreement and the FTA that is likely to come with it, or to move to simply remain in the EU. This amendment is an ambush to try to achieve that latter aim. I am pro that latter aim—I am pro remaining in the EU—but I can see, with 20-something days to go, that either we have to agree with the withdrawal agreement, as I voted the last time, or we have to go the other way, as I said in my previous speech, and ask the Prime Minister reconsider our position. A customs union is not going to do that and, on that basis, I will be voting with the Government.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

My Lords, at this hour, and given the debate, there will probably not be many Members of your Lordships’ House who are carefully weighing the arguments on either side, wanting to know what the Minister is going to say from the Dispatch Box that could just persuade them another way. We have been around this course many times and the arguments have not changed. The House knows the Government’s position on this: they have set it out many times. The people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and to take back control of their laws, borders and money, and have an independent trade policy. If we had a customs union, we would not get that. That is the central point against the amendment. On the other hand, we have a withdrawal agreement that allows us to have many of the benefits of our membership of the European Union without being members of it, and honours the referendum result.

I shall come to two points. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, when moving the amendment—which is worthy of further examination as to what it is seeking the Government to do—said that he wanted to give the other House an opportunity to think again on this issue. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, in a brilliant, brief contribution—perhaps because we had heard his eloquence on this point in Committee—reminded the House that it voted in favour of his amendment. What they did not mention was that when it went to the other House, giving it an opportunity to think again, it rejected not only your Lordships’ amendment but the concept of a customs union put forward by Stephen Hammond when the Bill was at this stage in the other place. If the purpose is to give that House another opportunity to think again, perhaps it could shout down the Corridor, “We have already said it; did you not hear us the first time?”

Some noble Lords have pointed out that the uncertainty is damaging for business. I accept that. Uncertainty is always damaging for business. What business needs is certainty. However, right at the 11th hour, when we are within sight of and have an agreement, with an exit day that meets the criteria, the amendment proposes to require Her Majesty’s Government to reopen the whole negotiation process that has taken place over the past two years. Somehow that is supposed to help business. Not many businesses would sign up to that level of reopening negotiations and uncertainty. The presentation of the amendment presupposes that the outcome and benefits of a customs union are known. No—they would have to be negotiated. That would be the case unless, as the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, rightly said, it actually related not to “a” but “the” customs union. In that case, the noble Lords’ option would be there immediately. That is the position of those who want to stay in the European Union, and we understand it.

The amendment therefore plunges us further back into uncertainty and more years of negotiation. The House has already given its view, not once but twice, on this issue. The other place does not need the chance to think again and I therefore urge noble Lords to vote against the amendment if it is pushed to a Division. Most importantly, I urge all Members in the other place not to listen to the amendment but to look at the withdrawal agreement before them next week and make sure that they vote for it, so that we leave the European Union on 29 March, as the British people wanted, but with a deal.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Follow that wonderful peroration! The Minister has been practising, I am sure. I congratulate him on his brilliance in getting out of the Tugendhat trap. He obviously thought that he would be judged on whether he met the very high standards required of an answer in this place before going down to an ignominious defeat—as I hope will be the case. He did it by setting his own bar and then deciding whether he had passed it by inventing, as often happens in these debates, the things that I did not say and then arguing against them effectively. He ended up by appealing to the green Benches down the Corridor, where I think he will probably find a slightly better response than he will get today.

I am sorry that the Minister has to defend the indefensible. As he said, all the arguments have been exhausted. In response to two of the charges, yes, the other place has considered this matter before, but somebody once said, “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?” On the question of uncertainty, surely it is better to have a certain target, even if it takes time, than the continuing uncertainty of whether there will be a target, and that is what this amendment tries to do.

Customs unions are not very widely found in the world. They are a very special thing, particularly when they involve equality of partners trading with each other. The majority of customs unions in the world involve single dominant economies forcing terms on others. This customs union is a particularly good example of the way in which mature democracies coming together can create good for all and we should be very chary of moving out of it.

The Minister challenged the wording of the amendment but it is incredibly inclusive and was drafted to make sure that it stood the test of time. It simply states:

“It shall be the objective of Her Majesty’s Government to take all necessary steps to implement an international trade agreement which enables the United Kingdom to participate after exit day in a customs union”.


It does not imply staying in the EU. I think that we have had the debate. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Trade Bill

Lord Bates Excerpts
Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 13th March 2019

(5 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2017-19 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 127-R-II Second marshalled list for Report (PDF) - (11 Mar 2019)
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, that is a well-made point. It is probably better if the mover of the amendment, my noble friend Lord Hain, responds to it in detail, but I think the wording is clear. Indeed, as my noble friend said, this takes us beyond the no-deal exit problem because it is for the future. It is meant to govern future arrangements across the border between the UK and Ireland. My noble friend might have more detail on it. I do not think the noble and learned Lord’s point destroys the arguments that have been made. I understand where he is coming from, but the issues we are talking about are for all time. They are important to build on our history and practice up to this point.

The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, spoke very powerfully, getting across the idea that if there is an opportunity for this House and, indeed, any other place to strengthen the spirit of the Belfast agreement, it should be supported. This is an opportunity to do so. He said that it was about not just the history, but the future of those who work and operate in Northern Ireland and Ireland, and about trade and opportunities. The combination of peace and prosperity, which, after all, is what we all seek at all times, surely is not something the Conservative and Unionist Government will really whip their members to vote against. I hope the Government will be able to accept the amendment and allow us to move forward.

Lord Bates Portrait The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Lord Bates) (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I add my thanks to all noble Lords who have contributed to this short but very profound debate. In particular I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hain, for moving the amendment. I think the whole House recognises the important role he played while Secretary of State to help that process gather ground into fruition. It has been a proud part of successive Governments that we cherish and nurture that hard-won peace. It is why we said right at the outset in the future relationship White Paper that the prime objective would be that,

“the UK and the EU meet their commitments to Northern Ireland and Ireland through the overall future relationship: preserving the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK; honouring the letter and the spirit of the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement; and ensuring that the operational legal text the UK will agree with the EU on the ‘backstop’ solution as part of the Withdrawal Agreement will not have to be used”.

That was very much at the heart of our objective. We are absolutely committed to the Good Friday agreement and that part of it.

I do not take the point the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, made about division out of context, but I am sure he would recognise that the whole thrust of the Government’s and the Prime Minister’s negotiations, and what the withdrawal agreement is about, is seeking to secure the type of border arrangements that my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay referred to and that the noble Lords, Lord Hain and Lord Alderdice, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, and others seek to work towards. Peace on the island of Ireland between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and the Good Friday agreement—the partnership between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland in this context—surely must be the red line above all red lines that we need to preserve.

That is why there is the amendment in the EU withdrawal Act making that explicit, which the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, was instrumental in securing. That has been a key part of what Her Majesty’s Government have done when engaging in negotiations on these matters, which was brought to fruition in the withdrawal agreement. Were the withdrawal agreement passed yesterday in another place, we would not need this amendment or this discussion. These are matters for the extremely unwelcome event of no deal.

Some specific points have been raised, which I will try to address. I hope that will help noble Lords in deciding what to do with this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, said that this has been emerging over 12 months—an increase of 480 in the current position with the EU. The Government have had to find a way of ensuring that there is no border, from the UK perspective, in the spirit of the Good Friday agreement. Any checks that must be carried out for non-revenue purposes will be done away from the border. HMRC is very familiar with carrying out such checks on that basis.

My noble friend Lady Altmann asked how the plan works to supply work with suppliers. These are unilateral measures—they are not for goods moving from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland, which would be subject to the EU’s common external tariff and single market rules. The only way to avoid a hard border is to commit to entering into discussions with the European Commission jointly to agree long-term measures to avoid one.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, asked whether there will be a border in the UK. The Government do not intend to construct infrastructure at the Northern Ireland land border. We will also not carry out any new checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. HMRC will assess the risks and take a risk-based approach to investigating allegations of breaches of those rules. The noble Lord also asked about the status in terms of the WTO—whether it breaches the MFN model. We are confident that the policy is in line with our WTO obligations, taking into account the unique set of social, political and economic circumstances of Northern Ireland. In developing our policy alongside WTO rules, we have also had to take into consideration a broader set of our international obligations, including those under the Good Friday agreement. Furthermore, as we have set out, these arrangements are strictly temporary. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, asked us the meaning of “temporary” in this respect; it is a period up to 12 months.

I will come to the point raised by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay, because it is material to what we have been discussing today. He made the important observation that the amendment as worded seeks an agreement between the UK and the Government of Ireland. Of course, because the Irish border is, as he rightly said, a border between the United Kingdom and the European Union, it would need an agreement with the EU. I think that is the point my noble and learned friend was making. In that context, the way in which the amendment is currently worded would be unlawful because it refers to the Government of Ireland as opposed to the EU.

The noble Lord, Lord Hain, said that this amendment does not put the Government in a straitjacket. It would seek to limit flexibility—no “facilitations”, for example, would rule out future technologies, which is something the EU has specifically agree to look at as a priority once the withdrawal agreement has been agreed. In terms of EU imports into Northern Ireland, not across the land border, the answer to the question of whether tariffs apply is yes. The waiver applies only to goods moving from Ireland to Northern Ireland. This is a temporary measure that would need to be implemented.

The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, asked about potential arbitraging in terms of pricing. Many things affect the price of cars, in terms of tax and currencies, and an individual car from Dublin, driven across to Belfast, would be exempt from the 10% tariff. It would not necessarily be cheaper, but these measures would be temporary. Surely this breaks most favoured nations status, which I have addressed.

I hope that noble Lords will feel that I have addressed a number of the points that were raised. I thank all noble Lords for raising these matters and assure them once again that this has been absolutely up front and central, at the heart of the Government’s strategy to preserve that hard-won peace and that special relationship. This is something that needs to be there only in the event of no deal, which we are all working tirelessly to avoid. I invite the noble Lord to address the point on the wording regarding the Government of Ireland and the European Union, which, on our reading, means that if the amendment were passed, it would be unlawful. If he could address that specifically, I am sure that it would be helpful to all noble Lords.

Lord Puttnam Portrait Lord Puttnam (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for giving way. I have been waiting for a voice to appear during this debate—and it has not. That is the voice of the people of the Republic of Ireland. I live there and would like to get across to your Lordships the incalculable level of anxiety that has been caused to the people of the Republic of Ireland by our apparent indifference about what happens, for example, in the event of no deal. I cannot stress that enough. When noble Lords decide how they wish to vote—I am sure that it will go to a vote—I beg them to consider my neighbours, in particular, as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, mentioned, small farmers on both sides of the border who are terrified about what will happen should we, by some ridiculous accident, crash out. I beg the Minister to try to add the voice of the people of the Republic of Ireland to this debate, because they do have a voice in this.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

I recognise that and know that the noble Lord is passionate about the Republic of Ireland—as he said, he resides there. There is a fundamental point here: that anxiety would not be necessary if the withdrawal agreement, which was agreed in December, had been passed in the other place last night. That must be the best solution to remove the anxiety to which the noble Lord refers. He also alludes to a very important piece of work, which needs to start immediately—namely, rebuilding those friendships and links, and that partnership, which have served us so well in recent decades, to ensure that the progress that has been made has not been lost. That needs to start immediately. As I say, I take on board very much the point that he has raised.

Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my noble friend Lord Puttnam for the point he made. I have lots of friends on the island of Ireland, on both sides. I know that there is a real feeling of hurt among citizens of the Republic, given our tangled history—our colonial history, going back centuries—which created enormous distrust and suspicion from Dublin towards us. It was overcome by building trust almost day by day, week by week, over the last 20 years, by Governments of all colours—in particular, those led by John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and subsequently. That sense of pain is very deep.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bates, for his generosity towards me. What I feel very strongly goes to the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, whose interventions are always interesting and intellectually testing; I often agree with them. The point is this: we have no idea what sort of future awaits us. We do not know whether we will have an agreement with the European Union at all. There are vociferous voices, some in this House but particularly in the House of Commons, that do not want a deal with the European Union. Therefore the terms of the amendment are absolutely right. The default position that we can fall back on is that we need at least to agree with the Irish Republic in the terms of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement how the border issue is to be managed. I do not see that that is the obstacle in the terms of the amendment that the noble and learned Lord and the Minister have suggested.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Perhaps I may conclude with something that might help the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay. It is what this amendment does not say that is important. This amendment does not tie the Government’s hands, except in terms of the exact requirements for the future, because that is not appropriate in a clause of this kind, which I hope will be accepted and put into the Act. It spells out for new trade the principles that the Government have already accepted in the withdrawal agreement. So it is already in statute, and I am therefore puzzled as to why the Government are not accepting this agreement by approbation.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

My Lords, it may be helpful to the House if I explain our hesitation on precisely that point. Section 10(2)(b) of the EU withdrawal Act prohibits regulations creating new border arrangements —that is, arrangements that did not exist before exit day—unless they are in accordance with agreements between the UK and the EU. This amendment would prevent any arrangements unless they were subject to an agreement between the UK and the Government of Ireland. Such an agreement, in our view, would be unlawful for Ireland to enter into, as customs and a common commercial policy fall within the exclusive competence of the EU. I want that point to be clear on the record.

Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I understand that point. However, under the Good Friday agreement—the Belfast agreement—we are bound and obligated, including with the approval by treaty of the European Union, as the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, said, to agree things with Dublin. That is the way it works. That is part of the Good Friday agreement that has the blessing of the European Union.

I repeat that we have no idea as yet of our future trading relationships with anybody, including across the Irish border—no idea at all. This amendment spells out the principles that have already been accepted in the withdrawal Act, and agreed in statute by the Government. I therefore wish to test the opinion of the House.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, at the heart of this amendment is a concern that the necessary steps are taken to support trade involving the use of services, which increasingly spreads across not just performance, art or culture but work in making cars, machinery and so on, of which it is an integral part. The expertise and knowledge that goes with that involves people and we need to accompany the work they are doing in a way which allows it to function properly. If they are prevented from moving, we as a society will suffer. In addition to the well-made points from the Cross Benches on the artistic and cultural level, at a purely practical level, we need arrangements for the new technologies which the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, referred to, which will be unable to work if we do not have the services to make them do so. I wish him well with his iPad when it collapses and he cannot get the people to service it because they are unable to travel.

More seriously, the fourth pillar of the GATT treaty, of which we are a member through the EU, and would be a member if we come out of the EU, requires countries such as the UK—it we were independent—to make sure that services are delivered in ways which include the ability to provide rights for working, living and studying. Although studying does not necessarily seem to apply to the right to work and live, it is a very important aspect for us in Britain because one of our biggest export earners is our educational services. If we prevent people travelling to provide the facilities which allow studying and the ability to pass on knowledge—as we would be, if we do not have a proper arrangement for that—we will suffer enormously as a result.

Last night, I was at a meeting involving universities, organised by the Industry and Parliament Trust. There was a palpable concern felt by all the academics present about: the inability to engage with Erasmus and Erasmus+; the possibility that the Horizon 2020 funds will not be available; the lack of technical support for research activity, because the salary level grades were too high; and the inability to attract good postgraduate students to provide the intermediate work in research teams, and to teach. They felt that this was going to mean considerable changes in our university systems. This is the implication if we do not have a mobility framework of the type described in this amendment, which I support.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for moving this amendment. Before I respond, I should declare an interest, in that my wife came to this country from outside the EU and has contributed over the last 30 years by building a business, and in other ways. Therefore, I have no problem with recognising, as I was invited to do, the tremendous contributions to this country made by people who come to make this place their home. In the same spirit, I recognise the contribution that our European friends have made to this country, in many of the areas referenced already.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, those with keen eyesight will have noticed that this is an amended version of an earlier amendment which was tabled in Committee. It reflects the fact that we have been in discussions with the Government on how best to frame an important issue, which is that a duty and obligation should be placed on the Secretary of State in this case and on the Government more generally to ensure that, if we are in a situation where we are negotiating international trade agreements with the EU—in other words, we are not in a no-deal, crash-out situation—the United Kingdom should try to co-operate as closely as possible with the bodies set out in the list.

In moving Amendment 24A, I draw the attention of noble Lords to Amendment 25A which I regard as consequential since it seeks to remove the clause that Amendment 24A is intended to replace.

We can trace the thinking about this back to an amendment moved in the other place at the time the Bill was being considered on Report in the Commons. That amendment inserted into the Bill a requirement that the Secretary of State or an appropriate authority to negotiate an international trade agreement with the EU that includes working closely with the European Medicines Agency, but it stopped at that point. That raises in my mind—and I am sure in others’—why other agencies and bodies of equal importance across a range of issues should not also be the subject of close negotiation. I therefore thought that it would be appropriate to bring forward an amendment at this stage which tries to list some of them.

I noticed that, in the Chequers statement and the White Paper that followed it, there was in fact a much longer list of bodies which were thought to be appropriate in any future negotiated international trade agreement with the EU. They did not appear in my original list, but they could well be considered. I also discovered that the CBI was keen to draw the Government’s attention to its view that the future relationship with the EU would suffer tremendously if a considerable effort was not made to approach bodies such as the European Medicines Agency and then including the European Aviation Safety Agency, the European Maritime Safety Agency and the European Network of Transmission System Operators in the same manner. The version before noble Lords perhaps still does not catch the full attention of the Government, but I hope that, when the Minister responds, he might suggest that we work further on this to make sure that we have reached an agreed position before we get to Third Reading. If so, I would be happy to work with the Government on that.

The Minister will probably raise the question why paragraphs (f) and (g), covering the European Food Safety Authority and the European Union Intellectual Property Office, are on my list whereas they perhaps would not meet the criteria that are going to be raised by the Government. I would be interested to hear his arguments on this, because many Members of your Lordships’ House would think that the European Food Safety Authority meets all the criteria of the others in the list. Moreover, if we are to make a future of our economy in the new modern world, we are certainly going to need to work closely with the European Union Intellectual Property Office, which has a high reputation for all the work that is involved in trying to regulate and bring forward arrangements for new technologies. I beg to move.

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for presenting his amendment, and I particularly thank him for the way that he has engaged with officials and with my noble friend Lady Fairhead on this important issue. I can cut to the chase and say that we are probably not going to be that far apart, but let me put some remarks on the record in the hope that we can agree to keep working on this between now and Third Reading.

Ministers from across Government have carried out an extensive engagement on EU exit with businesses, industry bodies and civil society organisations from all sectors of the economy and all regions of the UK. The Secretaries of State at DExEU and BEIS and the Chancellor of the Exchequer co-chair the EU Exit Business Advisory Group to ensure that business is not only heard but is influential throughout the negotiations. The group involves the director-generals and directors of the CBI, IoD, EEF, BCC and FSB. The meetings take place regularly and are included in transparency returns. Since July 2016, DExEU Ministers alone have organised and attended more than 500 engagements with business and civil society stakeholders from every sector of the British economy.

For goods, the UK and the EU want to be as ambitious as possible. As part of this, both parties have agreed to explore the possibility of UK co-operation with EU agencies such as the European Aviation Safety Agency, the European Chemicals Agency and the European Medicines Agency. In addition, the political declaration sets out that the UK will seek to co-operate with the European Maritime Safety Agency and the European Network of Transmission System Operators. As a specific example of this suggested co-operation in the interests of tackling shared safety and security issues, we will continue to co-operate with the European Maritime Safety Agency, including on exchange of information between the agency and the United Kingdom Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Let me turn now to the core issue that remains between us, which is the position of the EU Intellectual Property Office. The Government are working to find the best arrangement for the UK regarding EU agencies and bodies, but the decision to seek co-operation with an EU agency or body must be made carefully, bearing in mind the context of the UK’s overall aims for the future relationship and negotiations with the EU. As we negotiate our future relationship with the EU, the Government are determined to agree ambitious provisions to help businesses protect their intellectual property rights. Indeed, in the political declaration the UK and the EU commit to establishing,

“a mechanism for cooperation and exchange of information on intellectual property issues of mutual interest”.

In this regard, the UK would seek an appropriate level of co-operation with the EU and other relevant agencies such as the EU IPO. What we can achieve will be subject to the negotiations. However, since intellectual property is a wide-ranging and dynamic area of law, it would be unwise to stipulate in UK law exactly how we want to co-operate with the EU in this given area, as this could have wider implications for the balance of rights and obligations in the future partnership.

Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, I should like to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, that trademarks and registered designs are granted on a non-discriminatory basis. That means that, in all circumstances, British businesses will continue to be able to use the EU Intellectual Property Office to protect their trademarks and designs in the EU. The Government want to emphasise that we seek to be ambitious and to obtain the best result possible in the negotiations with the EU on intellectual property. However, as it stands, the amendment would be unhelpful in that it would bind the UK to a particular negotiating approach. The negotiation objectives are complex, and there are vitally important questions which must be weighed in their own right.

In accordance with the commitments made by the Prime Minister, Parliament will have a greater and more formal role in the development of the mandate for the next phase of the negotiations. The Government are more than sympathetic both to the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and to those of businesses. A thorough engagement with stakeholders and the EU has led the UK to saying that it will seek co-operation with five bodies that I mentioned earlier. This work requires thorough and weighted consideration of how active participation in an agency delivers wider negotiation goals in the context of any associated costs and disbenefits.

I thank the noble Lord for his constructive approach to engagement on this. I believe that we are not far apart from each other, particularly in the light of the progress that we have made to date. As a consequence, I can confirm, as has been the case throughout the process, that I and the lead Minister, my noble friend Lady Fairhead, will be happy to have further discussions to see whether we can reach a mutually acceptable agreement. We will therefore return to this matter at Third Reading. On that basis, I would ask the noble Lord to consider withdrawing his amendment.