Customs duties

Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:45 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 5:45 pm, 20th December 2017

I will not give way now, because I have been on my feet for 22 minutes, and there are, I think, 53 amendments and new clauses to deal with. I will give way to the hon. Gentleman a little later.

I turn to the long series of amendments that are designed, in one way or another, to oblige the Government to publish reports or assessments on specific areas or issues, some in advance of exit day. They are new clauses 31 to 33, 40 to 44, 46, 47, 71, 72, 82, 84 and 85, and amendments 85, 86 and 219 to 221. It is in no one’s interest for the Government to provide a running commentary on the wide range of analysis that they are doing until it is ready to support the parliamentary process in the established way. All the amendments and new clauses I have mentioned share one common flaw. Ministers have a specific responsibility, which Parliament has endorsed, not to release information that would expose our negotiating position. The amendments and new clauses risk doing precisely that. I commend the excellent speech made by my hon. Friend Richard Graham, who is in his place. I thought that his speech was an interesting reflection of his own experience.

The risks and difficulties are easily illustrated by looking at some of the specific reports that are called for. New clause 42 asks for a report on severance payments for employees of EU agencies, but that is not a matter for the UK Government. The right to severance pay is a matter for the EU agencies, although we hope and expect that they would honour any relevant commitments to their employees.

New clause 48 calls for a strategy for the certification of UK and EU medical devices by UK bodies so that the UK can maintain a close co-operative relationship with the EU in the field of medicines regulation. That is of course our aim: we intend such a strategy to form a key part of our deep and special future partnership with the EU.

New clause 71, tabled by my hon. Friend Robert Neill, seeks to require a Minister to report before exit day on the Government’s progress in negotiating mutual market access for financial and professional services. I understand his motivations in wanting this information to be published. We are working to reach an agreement on the final deal in good time before we leave the EU in March 2019.