EU Free Trade Agreements

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:40 am on 24th January 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of George Hollingbery George Hollingbery Minister of State (International Trade) 10:40 am, 24th January 2019

That was a pretty long shopping list, and I am not in a position to answer all the hon. Gentleman’s questions, but I will make one point. I told him in Committee back in November that there was a wide range of reasons why some of these agreements had been challenging in many instances. For example, there have been changing incentives. If this House cannot make up its mind on what Brexit looks like, it will obviously be difficult for some of our interlocutors to decide whether we will be leaving the EU on 29 March. That said, a responsible Government make plans for any eventuality, and we are working extremely hard to make sure that the 40 agreements we have in place are available to those companies that use the preferences they guarantee.

I told the hon. Gentleman earlier that I believed the majority of these agreements would be in place by 29 March, and I continue to believe that, but it would not be appropriate to go into further details on an individual country basis, because these conversations are necessarily confidential, and our partners wish them to be confidential. To go into them, therefore, would not be proper. I am very happy to tell the House, however, that I believe we will have the majority of agreements rolled over, and it is absolutely our objective to have them all rolled over.

Finally, one small detail worth clearing up—it has been a matter of some press speculation—is that the Swiss agreement does not include any provisions on free movement.