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

It is an interesting question that the hon. Lady asks, but how does she think that exit day would be set by the House? If it is not set on the face of the Bill and immovable other than by primary legislation, it must be set in secondary legislation. I would have thought that that was plain to the hon. Lady. We have done the right and pragmatic thing, which is to align UK law with the international treaty position. That enjoys wide support across a spectrum of opinion, and I am glad to support these amendments in the way I have set out.

Let me turn to the issue of the customs union, and I particularly noted what my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset said about it. The issue has been widely aired, and I do not intend to be tempted into a broader debate on trade policy. We are confident that we will negotiate a deep and special partnership with the EU, spanning a new economic relationship and a new relationship on security. Businesses and public services should only have to plan for one set of changes in the relationship between the UK and the EU, so we are seeking a time-limited implementation period during which access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms. During this implementation period, EU nationals will continue to be able to come and live and work in the UK, but there will be a registration system. The details of the implementation period are of course a matter for negotiations, and we have been clear that we will bring forward the necessary implementing legislation in due course. However, it would not be right to sign up now to membership of the customs union and the single market pending the outcome of negotiations, as new clause 52 would have us do.

New clause 13 goes further and seeks for the UK to remain a full member of the customs union in perpetuity. We are not seeking to remain a member of the customs union or the single market. We will be seeking an arrangement that works for the whole of the United Kingdom. We want this to include a new, mutually beneficial customs agreement with the EU, and we want to see zero tariffs on trading goods, and to minimise the regulatory and market access barriers for both goods and services. In any event, it simply is not possible for provisions in domestic legislation to have binding effect at the international level. We will leave the customs union when we leave the EU. Domestic legislation cannot implement unilaterally what would require international agreement.