European Union (Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:57 pm on 7th September 2017.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham 2:57 pm, 7th September 2017

I am saying that either way, we could get a good deal. If the EU decides that it wants to impose tariffs on its food exports to us, we will be able take tariffs off food that comes from other parts of the world. Under WTO rules, it is always possible to take tariffs off. We could start getting from the rest of the world food that is cheaper than that which we currently get from the EU, even though it does not attract tariffs. I want to look after customers.

The other thing is that if we just accepted the full WTO tariff rules, we would have about £12 billion of tariffs, and I would recommend that all of that £12 billion be given back to our consumers. They would be no worse off at all, because we would return the money to them. They might even be better off, if we did free trade deals that brought down the price of food from other parts of the world.

My final point to the Government is that there is an issue about how we decide the date of our departure. I think it is clear that our date of departure will be 29 March 2019. It will definitely be so if we do not have an agreement, which is still quite possible, but I think we should aim to make sure that we leave on that date even if we do have an agreement. We still have 19 months left, and that should be the transition for most of the things that need it. That is, surely, what the time is there to achieve. I recommend that we have the argument of substance over that date now, and that it be put in the Bill now. I recommend very strongly that we aim for 29 March 2019, because in one scenario that will be the date of our exit anyway, and in any other scenario it would be highly desirable.

People are always telling me that we need to reduce uncertainty. If we told them not only that all the laws would remain in place—getting rid of any uncertainty about the law—but that the date of our exit would definitely be 29 March 2019, we would have taken a lot of uncertainty out of the system. I think that that would be very welcome. I find that businesses now, on the whole, just want to get on with it. They are very realistic, and they want to know what they are planning for. They have got some of the details, but they want as many details as possible. If we put that firm date in, we would make it easier still, so I would recommend that change to the Government.