The hon. Gentleman has made a good point. I shall come on to those matters—by which, as he knows, I am exercised—a little later. I will say, however, that we want a good relationship with the European Union. The fact that we are leaving it does not mean that we should not have that relationship and nurture it.
The Minister rightly pointed out that the Japan deal is an “EU competence only” agreement because of the exclusion of investor-related matters. I noted his statement that the UK would seek a stand-alone investor agreement, and I should like to know a bit more about that. One of the things that concern me slightly is the legal basis that will apply as we leave the EU and, potentially, enter a transition period. In particular, I should like to know what access third parties would have to our markets under EU free trade agreements, potentially without reciprocation.
I understand that the Department has been undertaking bilateral discussions with the third parties on these matters. It is positive to hear about the bilateral agreement that we are negotiating with Japan for after we leave the EU, but I think that during the transition we shall need more clarity. Article 124 of the withdrawal agreement relies on a notification to be given by the EU that the third parties would somehow abide by the arrangement, but it is unclear to me whether that means that we will seek formal third-party confirmation, and, if that is the case, I should like to know what legal basis will apply to enforce it.
We need to caution against the uncertainty that could be extended during this process. We have article 50 running now, we have a potential transition period, and there is talk of potential backstop extensions. During all this, it is proposed that we should be effectively in the customs union and large parts of the single market, but it is unclear what the underlying legal basis would be. Clarity would be much appreciated by business. It is clear to me that no countries will want to conclude deals with us, or even start to negotiate seriously, while they think there is any chance that we will stay in a customs union with the EU, and the Government need to stand firm against any such suggestion. In my view, Labour has cynically undermined business certainty in this regard. Both importers and exporters need clarity on how this process will work.
In a customs union, not only would it no longer be possible for us to improve JEEPA, but we would have no say on our trade policy and no say on our trade defences, and the EU would be able to sell third parties access to our markets.