Future Relationship Between the UK and the EU

Part of Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:52 pm on 18th July 2018.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 6:52 pm, 18th July 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Paul Blomfield. He talked about what people had been saying two years ago; of course, the leader of his own party was saying two years ago that we should just trigger article 50 and damn the consequences, and we should not worry about planning and preparing.

The White Paper sets out the right Brexit deal—which will deliver on the result of the referendum, and take back control over our money, laws and borders—and makes detailed proposals for a principled and pragmatic Brexit. I thank Members on both sides of the House for their contributions today, and for the many congratulations to my new Secretary of State, to which I add my own. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mr Baker. He will not be surprised that I disagree with much of his analysis, but I recognise his dedication and his passion for this subject. I thank him for his work in our Department, and for his constant courtesy to all our officials.

My right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell—who notified me that, unfortunately, he would have to leave early—spoke about deep divisions on the referendum, but also about the need for people of good will to work together and come together to deliver a successful outcome. I have always believed in that, and it is exactly what we must do in relation to the constructive proposals in the White Paper.

I listened carefully to Keir Starmer. Both he and Owen Smith included colourful political commentaries in their speeches, but I think that, coming from a party that has experienced 103 Front-Bench resignations, those should be taken with a pinch of salt. He actually had very little to say about the topic of this debate. What he said about the White Paper was based on taking snippets out of context, which I do not think is a helpful or constructive way to debate.

We talked about the proposal for a free trade area in goods. This would be enabled by a common rulebook for goods, including agri-food; participation in EU agencies that provide authorisation for goods in highly regulated sectors; and the phased introduction of a new facilitated customs arrangement. The arrangement would remove the need for customs checks and controls between the UK and the EU as if they were a combined customs territory, enabling the UK to control its own tariffs to trade with the rest of the world and ensure that businesses pay the right tariff or no tariff. Put simply, it means neither the UK nor the EU imposing tariff barriers on one another that do not exist today.

Richard Burden spoke passionately about the automotive sector. I believe this is an approach that many in the automotive sector, including those I met over lunch today from Bosch, actually welcome and support. They have said that they would want to get a good hearing in EU member states. In combination with no tariffs on any goods moving between the UK and the EU, these arrangements will avoid new friction at the border and protect integrated supply chains that span both territories. We have heard from a wide range of international and multinational businesses that they would support that approach, but, crucially, as my right hon. Friend Sir Hugo Swire said, it is one that would deliver for many UK small and medium-sized enterprises that are part of the supply chains. We should never forget the importance of those SMEs.

We heard concerns from Government Members about the common rulebook and parliamentary sovereignty. The UK has played a crucial role in shaping the rules over the past 40 years. They do not change very regularly. They are relatively stable and are supported by a large share of our manufacturing, agricultural and farming businesses.