EU VAT area and pre-commencement requirements

Part of Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:00 pm on 16th July 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Labour, Warwick and Leamington 8:00 pm, 16th July 2018

I rise to speak to new clauses 1, 11 and 12, and very much in support of a customs union.

I was surprised by the way the former Secretary of State, Mr Davis, described the border between Detroit and Ontario, which I was lucky enough to visit in February with fellow members of the International Trade Committee. I witnessed something slightly different from what he witnessed. I did see friction—even on a very cold, icy day, people spent considerable time at the border. There is an X-ray building for pantechnicons, and vehicles are frequently taken out of queues to be examined. The situation there is not as simple as he suggested. To underline that—perhaps he is not aware of this—Canada is having to invest in a second bridge across the river between Ontario and Detroit to safeguard its businesses because of the delays they suffer.

I agree with Mr Clarke, for whom I have huge respect. He described the great fear associated with what seems to be the pursuit of ideological goals or indeed personal ambition on the part of certain individuals. Importantly, for almost a year I have been trying to encourage businesses—the likes of Jaguar Land Rover in my constituency and others—to speak out. Businesses are terrified of doing that because they fear incurring the wrath of the public. They see it not as their responsibility but as ours, as elected representatives. However, in recent weeks they have felt it necessary to speak out, and of course we have heard from Airbus and Jaguar Land Rover. On the rare occasions they speak, they do so softly, but it is important that we and the public listen to them.

It is far more important for us to listen to the likes of Jaguar Land Rover and BMW-Mini than—dare I say it—to Boris Johnson. I think the public are beginning to see that—and to recognise that, among all the debate that goes on in this place, those business voices are starting to provide some clarity.

Businesses have waited for more than two years for the Government to give them some sort of direction in the face of uncertainty, which is a threat to them. I was interested to hear Sir Bernard Jenkin. I respect him and his experience, but disruption and uncertainty are the greatest concerns for businesses, which have been reviewing their options for the past 24 months. Irrespective of where we end up in the coming weeks, they are already making decisions and looking at options abroad for future investment.

Anything that makes life difficult for businesses—anything that adds cost and time—makes them review their options and consider what is in their best interest. In the automotive sector and many others, businesses would not be so obviously viable if they had to incur the cost of additional tariffs under WTO rules. They will review a 10% or 4.5% tariff, cost it in and think, “Is it really best for us to stay in the UK?”