EU VAT area and pre-commencement requirements

Part of Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 16th July 2018.

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Photo of Ian Murray Ian Murray Labour, Edinburgh South 6:45 pm, 16th July 2018

I will tell the hon. Gentleman who is teetering on the cliff edge: the 10,000 or 12,000 people in my constituency who work in the financial services sector. The advice and analysis that we have had from the hon. Gentleman’s own Government’s Treasury is that staying in the customs union and the single market is the least worst option, and that the WTO route that he suggests would leave this country teetering on the edge of a GDP reduction of somewhere between 9% and 16%, depending on the part of the country. If that is a positive argument for taking us out of the EU, the country needs to be given a people’s vote on whether we are going down the right track.

Anna Soubry moved new clause 1. She did not really mention new clause 12, but it presents a customs union option that could provide a platform to unite the vast majority of this House. When the Division bell rings for the votes on new clause 36 and amendment 73, I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe that we should all go into the Lobby against them to show how many people in this House actually want to protect this country’s future prosperity and how many want to take away any future prosperity for their own narrow ideological needs. I say to my own Front-Bench team that when the Division bell rings I hope Labour votes against those amendments and makes a stand against what the hard-line right-wing Brexiteers are trying to do to our country.

There is absolutely no way we can achieve frictionless trade—what the Government want us to try to achieve—while putting in place policies that set hurdles in front of it. The amendments would mean no VAT alignment, but if there is no VAT alignment, there is no backstop. If there is no backstop, there is no withdrawal agreement. If there is no withdrawal agreement, we have to have a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. If that is the aspiration behind some of these amendments, we will in the future have to take a long hard look back at this point, when we are about to inflict the single largest act of self-harm to this country, to see what people were actually trying to achieve. The right hon. Member for Broxtowe’s introductory remarks on new clause 1 sum that situation up. She was attacked with pretty disgraceful remarks from some in her own party, but she was merely trying to put forward an argument that would prevent this country from doing economic damage to itself. What a remarkable thing to happen.

We have two Bills in front of us this week—tonight’s Bill and the Trade Bill tomorrow—and all the Government have to do is keep the customs union and the single market on the negotiating table. New clause 12 does not mean that the Government have to implement anything; it just asks them to keep the proposal on the table. That is what would be in this country’s best interests. I agree with the right hon. Member for Broxtowe that this Minister is one of the best in the Government. I disagree with the vast majority of things that he does, but he is courteous, intelligent and always answers questions in the best way possible. He cannot honestly be sitting there this evening ready to accept the four amendments thinking that that would be in the best interests not only of the country, but of the Chequers agreement that the Prime Minister managed to cobble together last Friday. We need Government Front Benchers with a bit of backbone to stand up for the interests of this country. By the time we go into the Division Lobby very late on Tuesday night to pass the Trade Bill—after the customs Bill before us has been passed—Government Front Benchers could then say that they have stood up to the hard right of this country and stopped economic Armageddon, and that they have done the right thing.