Customs duties

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 20th December 2017.

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Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 5:30 pm, 20th December 2017

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments, but I am only just beginning to conclude my opening remarks—I am only eight minutes in. I will come to the new clause in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke a little later. I will not rush on this occasion.

I turn to amendments 399 to 405 in the name of my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin; I am grateful to him for tabling them. I also pay tribute to my hon. and learned Friend Mr Cox, my hon. Friend Mr Jenkin and, if I may say so, my hon. Friend Mr Baron, who I understand has worked hard behind the scenes to create consensus for these amendments. These amendments are closely linked to amendments 6, 43, 44 and 45, which were discussed on the first day in Committee, and Government amendments 381 to 383.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that the United Kingdom will cease to be a member of the European Union on 29 March 2019 at the conclusion of the article 50 process. The Government have recognised the uncertainty that many people felt as to whether the exit day appointed by this Bill would correspond to the day that the UK leaves the EU at the end of the article 50 process, and that is why we brought forward our own amendments setting out when exit day will be. The purpose of our amendments is straightforward: we want to be clear when exit day is and, in the process, to provide as much certainty as we can to all. In the course of that, we want to align domestic legislation to the international position, as has been set out.

Amendments 399 to 405 build on and complement the Government amendments setting exit day. We have always said that we would listen to the concerns of the House, as we have done throughout the Bill’s passage. As part of that, the Government have had discussions with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset, and we are grateful that he tabled his amendments. They provide the Government with the technical ability to amend the date, but only if the UK and the EU unanimously decide to change the date at which treaties cease to apply to the UK, as set out in article 50.

Only one exit day can be set for the purposes of the Bill, and any statutory instrument amending exit day will be subject to the affirmative procedure. As I said in an intervention, we will bring forward an amendment on Report to make this requirement clear on the face of the Bill.