EU Trade Agreements: Replication

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:55 pm on 13th February 2019.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Father of the House of Commons 12:55 pm, 13th February 2019

My right hon. Friend is right to stress that if we were to leave on 29 March with no deal, it would have a disastrous effect for many industries, because we would suddenly lose very important trading agreements across the world that we have enjoyed for many years. I agree with him on that, but does he not accept that when we get into the transition period he is still going to face enormous difficulties and will need a very long transition period to start negotiating so many trade deals with so many important markets for our economy? Does he not accept that his principal problem is the lack of bargaining power that the UK has on its own compared with what the EU has as a bloc in carrying out bargaining arrangements? He mentions human rights and other things, but very important countries such as Japan and South Korea, and others, are going to expect better terms from the UK, at the expense of the UK, than they have had to give to the EU. He says that they will take it to the wire. He accepts that he is having tough negotiations. Would he contemplate urging on his colleagues, even at this stage, moving to some sort of customs arrangement and regulatory alignment with the rest of the EU which will rescue us from these chaotic negotiations and allow us to enjoy the benefits of trade agreements which, for the most part, were ones that previous Conservative British Governments urged upon our EU partners and took a leading role in getting put in place in the first place?