Customs duties

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 20th December 2017.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham East 4:15 pm, 20th December 2017

I agree that we want to have a tariff-free relationship with our European neighbours—that much we can all agree on. However, the hon. Gentleman should look at the circumstances where we export to third countries outside the European Union that are not part of the free trade agreements that we have accrued over the 40 years of our membership of the European Union. Those free trade agreements are there for a reason. As we heard earlier, the reason people want out of the pure WTO arrangement and into an FTA is precisely that they want to minimise many of the transactional barriers and the inertia that can be there.

Let us take the car industry as an example. The chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the car industry’s own representative, is now voicing concerns about investment in the sector gradually beginning to ebb away, partly because of the uncertainty of this whole situation. The level of investment in the industry in the UK was £2.5 billion in 2015, then £1.6 billion in 2016, and it is heading to less than £1 billion this year. Car companies are “sitting on their hands”, according to the chief executive of the SMMT.