No-Deal Brexit: Schedule of Tariffs

– in the House of Commons at 4:33 pm on 7th October 2019.

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Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Independent, Nottingham East 4:33 pm, 7th October 2019

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade if she will set out the final schedule of import tariffs proposed in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question.

On 13 March, the Government announced that they would implement a temporary tariff regime in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This regime would apply equally to all imports that are not subject to alternative trade arrangements and would apply for up to—I stress, up to—12 months while a full public consultation takes place to inform long-term tariff arrangements. The Government would prefer to leave with a deal and will continue to work energetically and with determination to get that better deal. This will require the European Union to show the same spirit of compromise that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is demonstrating in his engagement with our European friends and allies.

As the UK leaves the EU, the Government are stepping up their preparations to get the UK ready to trade if there is no deal. The temporary tariff regime will maintain open trade on the majority of UK imports, helping to support consumers, business supply chains and sensitive sectors of the UK economy. Due regard has been given to the five principles set out in the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018: the interests of consumers in the UK; the interests of producers in the UK; the desire to maintain and promote external trade of the UK; the desire to maintain and promote productivity in the UK; and the extent to which these goods are subject to competition. It reaffirms our commitment to become a free-trading nation. It realises the benefits of an independent trade policy to support increased trade and investment with partners new and old around the world and increased choice for British shoppers.

At the same time, Her Majesty’s Government recognise the importance of retaining some tariffs. Tariffs would therefore apply on just over 10% of imports, supporting sectors facing unfair global competition, mitigating otherwise significant adjustment costs for the agricultural sector, supporting the strategically important automotive sector and maintaining our commitments to developing countries. Preferential access to the UK market is important for our developing country partners, and tariffs are being retained on a set of goods, including bananas, raw sugar cane and certain kinds of fish, to demonstrate the Government’s ongoing commitment to countries in the developing world. During the article 50 extension, the Government have remained responsive to the concerns of business and have reviewed the tariffs that would come into effect if the UK left the EU without a deal.

To answer Mr Leslie, the Government will publish the final tariffs shortly. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on any amendments being considered prior to that announcement. As he will understand from his former guise as shadow Chancellor, to do so would be irresponsible. The Government will ensure that Parliament is informed as soon as is practically possible once a final decision has been made.

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Independent, Nottingham East

Thankfully, the Benn Act will safeguard Britain from a no-deal Brexit, but with the Minister still insisting that, in only 24 days’ time, we might somehow crash out on a World Trade Organisation basis, does it not beggar belief that the Government have still not got around to publishing the final schedule of import tariffs for that eventuality? The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has said that what we have had is not the final word, and he has repeated that today.

At present, we can import from and export to the EU without any customs duties applying, but that could be about to end. The consequences for so many sectors of our economy, including farming, manufacturing and engineering, are massive. I ask the Minister: how are businesses supposed to “get ready”, as the £100 million advertising campaign suggests, if Ministers still cannot tell us the tariffs that will be imposed and seem incapable of even the most basic competent level of preparation?

The CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn rightly asks why there is no time to consult industries about what tariffs will be applied. Even if we put aside the enormous non-tariff barriers of veterinary inspections, border checks and certification, are businesses to assume that the draft tariffs that were put out in March will still apply? Some of the import tariffs that Ministers are rumoured to be planning are really high. For example, if a British haulage company needs to buy an HGV truck from abroad, should it plan to pay an additional 22% on the cost or 10% because of the Government’s tariff plan? Will my constituents have to add 10% to the cost of buying a new car? What about the UK energy and bioethanol sector? Will customers have to pay the 4.7% tariff on fuel imported from the EU, as they currently do for fuel from beyond the EU? If not, will that not push the British energy sector into being at a competitive disadvantage when the 4.7% is imposed on its exports? There are container ships full of goods, components, textiles and clothing that have already been dispatched from the far east and elsewhere, heading for arrival at our shores at the end of the month. Will they face tariffs when they get to Britain, or not?

If British businesses suddenly have to start paying tariffs to export into Europe, what will the reciprocal tariffs be on goods imported into our country? How will British farmers compete with foreign produce when, for example, their lamb will face a 48% tariff when selling into Europe, their cheddar 57%, their poultry 37%, their wheat 53% and their beef 84%? The National Farmers Union is deeply concerned about the risk of foreign producers undercutting domestic production. So can the Minister at least do us the courtesy of setting out the rationale and strategic logic behind his decisions? Where is the parliamentary authority for imposing these tariffs and taxes? When will there be a vote in the House of Commons as the customs legislation requires?

Given that the Government now want a customs frontier in Ireland, will the Minister confirm that goods coming from the Republic into Northern Ireland will have tariffs added on? How does he think people and businesses in Northern Ireland will respond to the imposition of a tariff border in that way?

Would it not be far better to accept that erecting reciprocal tariffs between the UK and the EU is a fool’s errand—an endless cycle of costs and bureaucracy where everyone loses out in the end? Will the Minister at least have the good grace to acknowledge that, by leaving the single market and the customs union, British businesses and customers will be worse off, and for no good reason?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I said in reply to the hon. Gentleman’s first question that it would be irresponsible to go through the entire list of proposed tariffs prior to the formal announcement by the Government, which, as I indicated to him, he may not have to wait all that long to see. He spent the majority of his subsequent questions asking me to do that which I had said it would be irresponsible to do and I will not be drawn down that road, however tempting it is.

I thought the hon. Gentleman’s subsequent questions underlined the desirability of there being a deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union as we seek to leave. I hope that in the days ahead the EU will respond in the same spirit as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has demonstrated and show flexibility and compromise to get a deal that will pass the House. Then the tariff announcements might become redundant. That is very much our hope. The hon. Gentleman said that he found it extraordinary that so long had passed and we were yet to publish this. Many people in my constituency and around the country find it equally astonishing that it is more than three years since the UK voted to leave the EU and still people in this House are determined to thwart that democratic decision.

The hon. Gentleman asked specifically about the situation on the island of Ireland. I am happy to confirm, as I think he will know, that there will be no tariffs on goods coming from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland. On parliamentary process, he will know exactly how that works. The House will have the opportunity to have its say within 60 days of the tariff regime coming into place.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

This is the second of five urgent questions I have granted today. There is a premium upon time and therefore I reiterate what I said in respect of the last urgent question. People who came into the Chamber after the question began should not expect to be called. I have a list of about half a dozen people who beetled into the Chamber after the question began. Please do not stand. It is not the right thing to do.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Conservative, North Somerset

The day one tariffs were set to produce price stability, protect businesses that took time to make adjustments and ensure there were not additional costs for British importers, who then add value and re-export. Given that it is a good policy and that the assumption of a sterling depreciation of 7% to 13% in the event of a no deal has not changed, can the tariffs be published as soon as possible? Will my hon. Friend also make it very clear that, if we have to introduce the day one tariffs as they are at the present time, the responsibility will lie not with the Government but with those who refused to accept a deal of any sort in the House?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

My right hon. Friend has put that argument extremely effectively and powerfully. May I use this opportunity—my debut at the Dispatch Box—to thank him for all the work that he did in the Department? The fact that, in the last couple of weeks, we now have more than 72% of trade agreed in continuity agreements is largely due to the enormous efforts that he put in during his time at the Department. He is absolutely right: the day one tariff regime is determined to protect British consumers in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Those who can avoid a no-deal Brexit are our friends in Europe coming to terms with the Prime Minister in a deal that will be passed by the House and implement the democratic decision in the referendum of 2016.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box.

The Government failed to consult properly with business organisations or with trade unions before publishing these tariff measures, ignoring the very producers whose jobs and livelihoods would be most affected. Their refusal to listen and their inability to compromise are now posing grave dangers to our country.

The Government told us that EU manufacturers would be demanding a deal with us. They did not. The Government said that a trade deal with the EU would be the easiest in human history. It is not. The Government told us that they would have 40 trade agreements ready to be signed one second after midnight on Brexit day. They do not. Far from our seeing other countries

“chomping at the bit to strike trade deals with a post-Brexit Britain”,

as the Secretary of State claimed, many of those countries already have a trade agreement with us by way of the EU, but it is a trade agreement that will fall away if we leave the EU without a deal. The Government have failed to roll over all the existing deals with approximately 70 countries. That is why, earlier this year, the Government announced emergency proposals to reduce up to 87% of UK tariffs to zero, and to expand our tariff rate quotas in the event of a no deal. As new tariffs are imposed on our exports, damaging jobs, this is a desperate attempt to keep import costs down for British consumers.

So may I ask, first, whether the Minister will publish the Government’s assessment of the price rises that they anticipate would hit UK consumers in default of these tariff rates? The Government advise businesses that, in a no-deal scenario, we would trade under World Trade Organisation rules. However, the Government are yet to have our WTO schedules formally ratified owing to challenges over our tariff rate quotas—challenges that are likely to require substantial compensation to resolve. So, secondly, when does the Department believe that such a challenge may crystallise, and what contingency funds have they laid aside to pay compensation to any complainants?

The lunacy of the Government’s position has been exposed by a country that they previously regarded as a friendly model for their future free trade agreement with Europe. Canada has walked away from trade talks with the UK precisely because these measures would mean free access for Canadian exporters without requiring them to open up access to our goods and services in return. So, thirdly, can the Minister tell us what progress has since been made with respect to Canadian trade talks, and whether any other countries have similarly refused to negotiate as a result of the announcement of zero tariffs by the UK? Under this regime, UK companies will face competition from a flood of cheap imports, undercutting them and putting thousands of UK jobs at risk, without any reciprocal right of free access to their markets for our manufacturers and businesses.

Just about every single major trade body and trade union in the UK has decried the lack of engagement with it, and, in particular, the Department’s lack of understanding in respect of trade defence measures. So, fourthly, I ask the Minister what assessment he has made of the diversion of goods originally destined for other markets at a time when those other markets are increasing tariffs and taking substantive action to tackle the issue of dumping. These are existential threats to our industrial heartlands. The steel sector, the ceramics sector and the automotive sector are all greatly at risk from the proposed measures.

The EU has introduced stringent new safeguard measures to tackle dumping, and is due to set out its approach to tackling circumvention shortly. So, fifthly, does the Minister recognise that this could add further tariffs to our EU exports in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and could drive even more dumped goods to our markets? If so, sixthly, can he explain why the Government have sought to establish the weakest trade remedies authority in the world, and to do so without proper legal authority?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

Well, goodness me! We heard not a single word about what the Opposition would do to support the Government in trying to get a deal. We heard no word of compromise. We heard flip-flop after flip-flop, with not a single constructive suggestion from the shadow Secretary of State. Why am I not remotely surprised by that?

The hon. Gentleman talks about a lack of interest. [Interruption.] If Lesley Laird stopped chuntering and listened, she might hear something. The shadow Secretary of State said there was no interest in trade agreements. What does he think is going on with the United States? With Australia? With New Zealand? Everywhere that I have travelled in this role, I have discovered an enormous interest in what our withdrawal from the European Union means not just for the United Kingdom, but for our ability to do bilateral trade agreements with other countries. As I said in reply to my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State, we have transitioned over 72% of UK trade in continuity agreements, which will protect us in the event of a no-deal Brexit—which is something that the hon. Gentleman seems determined to advocate, given his lack of support for the Prime Minister.

The hon. Gentleman talks about the Trade Remedies Authority. There is not a single member of the civil service working today who was working in the civil service the last time the United Kingdom had her own independent trade body. The fact that we have established the Trade Remedies Authority, which I visited several weeks ago—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman took a bit of time to understand his brief, he would understand very clearly—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman laughs. He should be laughing at himself, because he does not understand the very policy that he shadows. The body is created. The body can function temporarily without the passage of the Trade Bill in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as he should know, and then we will put it on a statutory footing when we introduce a new trade Bill in a new Session of Parliament.

The shadow Minister talked about all the things that we have not done. Let us talk about some of the things that he said he would do. He said that he would respect the referendum. He did not. He said that he would implement the decision of the British people. He will not. What we will do is take the opportunities of having an independent trade policy—the opportunity to sign bilateral trade agreements and the opportunity of free trade—to deliver prosperity to our citizens.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Draft Domestic Abuse Bill (Joint) Committee

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his clear command of his brief. Will he take this opportunity to update us on the progress that he is making on seeking continuity of some of the other EU trade agreements, particularly those with Canada and Africa, many of which the Opposition opposed?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

This Government take great pride in the number of those agreements that we have transitioned into continuity agreements. There are many more on the cusp of being agreed. We are dealing with some technical issues and there is ongoing engagement all the time. I was recently in Algeria and Morocco, where we are making substantial progress, and I returned yesterday evening from Vietnam—you might say that I am in another time zone, Mr Speaker, while Barry Gardiner is on another planet. Even in Vietnam there is significant interest in coming to a continuity agreement with the UK. We will continue to work to deliver those. Of course, as my right hon. Friend and I will both agree, it would be much better if we did not have to go to continuity agreements but instead got the best continuity agreement, which would be a new agreement between ourselves and the European Union, which I hope the Opposition will finally support.

Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Trade)

When the temporary tariff regime was announced this March, the UK Government argued that, if they maintained the current external tariff regime, there would be new tariffs on EU imports. They said that, if zero tariffs were maintained with the EU, even though that would minimise trade disruption, that would be required to be extended to the rest of the world due to WTO rules. The Government also said that they would keep 43 of the existing trade remedy measures that were in place, but much has changed since then. There has been another round of US tariffs and there is the potential for another round of EU tariffs in response to the US action, so let me ask the Minister this.

Given new tariffs from the US and the EU, has the schedule in the temporary tariff regime changed and, if so, by how much? Has the list of 43 trade remedies to be kept and 66 to be abandoned changed and, if so, by how many? Most importantly, with barely three weeks to go to a potential no-deal Brexit—although the Benn Act should protect us from that—I say to the Minister that it is not irresponsible to publish the new schedule. It is absolutely necessary to publish it, not least to allow businesses—importing and exporting businesses alike—at least a little certainty and to ensure that they can continue to operate within the law. The Minister is having a great time teasing us about when the schedule will be published, so may I ask him to publish it today so that businesses understand precisely what they are dealing with?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

Of course, I did not say that it would be irresponsible to publish it. I said that it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to comment on what is in it before it is published.

Photo of Alan Mak Alan Mak Conservative, Havant

High-value manufacturing and engineering are key to our economy, including in my constituency. Will my hon. Friend assure me that as we develop our independent trade policy he will take action to ensure our vital industries are protected from unfair trading practices?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. We are determined that the trade remedies body will be one of the most innovative and strong bodies in protecting not just free trade but fair trade.

Photo of Chuka Umunna Chuka Umunna Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Development), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

The Prime Minister talks about getting Brexit done by 31 October and indeed, the Minister has just referred to that, too, but is it not the reality that, if Brexit were to happen on that day, with or without a withdrawal agreement, no trade agreement, including a permanent tariff regime with our biggest customer, the EU, will be in place at the point of departure? Is it not the case that, to put in place a permanent trade agreement will take at least three years? If I am wrong about that, can he name one EU leader who is suggesting that we could get a permanent trade agreement in place quicker than that timeframe? Nothing is going to be done, really, by 31 October.

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

If there is a deal by 31 October, as the Government wish, it is highly likely that the deal will come with an implementation period. That would give us the opportunity to come to a comprehensive free trade agreement with our European Union friends and neighbours before the end of that implementation period. I give the hon. Gentleman full marks for consistency on this, as he has never seen any opportunities in the idea of Brexit, and he believes—it is a perfectly logical and consistent position—that our current membership of the EU under the current terms is the best thing possible. Many of us believe that there are significant opportunities for the United Kingdom not only to trade with our largest and nearest trading partner, but to have new bilateral trade agreements with countries around the world—that is the opportunity that Brexit provides.

Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford

Will my hon. Friend confirm whether an impact assessment will be published at the same time as the new schedule of tariffs to show the effect of these tariffs on both imports and exports, and hence on jobs within the United Kingdom?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

The schedule has been drawn up to take account of much of the lobbying and of the assessments that the Government have made, and by our drawing on wide expertise on the position that we would face in a number of scenarios. My hon. Friend will have to wait for the publication, but I assure him that he will not have to wait for very long.

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

For manufacturers in the north of England, it is hard to know which is worse: the fact that this Government are prepared to countenance no deal, or the fact that the deal that they are proposing significantly disadvantages the north compared with Northern Ireland. Can I ask the Minister, therefore, further to the question from Jeremy Lefroy: which representative organisations has he met that represent companies in the complex modern manufacturing supply chain?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I have met both companies and representatives of companies—and, indeed, representatives of the two devolved Governments. My first visit as Minister of State for Trade was to Scotland, to meet Derek Mackay, and I then went to Wales and met Baroness Morgan; our two counterparts. I have met with various representatives of trade organisations and employers’ organisations. We are listening widely. The idea that the hon. Lady seems to be advancing that we are sitting in Whitehall dreaming up schemes that are completely and totally divorced from reality—[Interruption.] If Alex Cunningham really thinks that—well, how many years has he been in the House? Come on.

We have our own advisory body, which we set up within the Department, and that has multiple employer groups, business and representatives of the regions and nations of the UK. We seek to inform ourselves as much as possible before these decisions are made.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Conservative, South Suffolk

I very much agree with my hon. Friend’s point that the best way out of this situation is to pass a deal and avoid a no-deal outcome. However, I recently met arable farmers in my constituency who are profoundly concerned that, if there were a no-deal outcome, they could face tariffs of €90 a tonne. That would make their surplus unexportable through the port of Ipswich, especially as we seem to be considering nil tariffs on foreign wheat and barley. Does my hon. Friend understand that, from their point of view, that is not unilateral free trade, but unilateral protectionism for overseas competition? Whatever happens in the schedule, I urge him please to remember to support the bread basket of England.

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I point him to the comment that I made twice in my first reply to Mr Leslie—that this day-one tariff regime will apply for up to 12 months, and it will be reviewed during that time. We will be open-minded and open-eared to representations that are made to us. I would be happy to extend an invitation to people to meet me and to talk specifically about the point my hon. Friend made, which, if I may say so, he did robustly, as he always does, on behalf of those he represents.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee

Fawcett in Castleford, which exports malt to Europe, has described the tariff arrangements it will face in the event of no deal as manufacturing suicide. Tereos in Normanton, which imports sugar, expects a 50% increase in its costs as a result of tariffs in the event of no deal. Will the Minister confirm that these tariffs are not just costs that can be mitigated away by preparations or border changes, and that these are real costs to industry? If he has done all this work on the possible impact of different tariff schedules, surely he has a responsibility to publish the full impact assessment alongside the tariff schedule.

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I indicated the tests this tariff regime is set against. It is set to try to protect the interests of consumers and producers in the UK, and it will be kept under review. It will go for up to 12 months. However, I stress again that the best way to avoid any of this happening is for us to come to an agreement in this House and with the EU, and to get a deal through and leave the European Union on 31 October in an orderly way. Then, this would become an academic exercise.

Photo of Richard Drax Richard Drax Conservative, South Dorset

The Leader of the Opposition’s vision is for us to stay in the customs union. Does my hon. Friend not agree that that does not honour the result of the EU referendum?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

It will not come as an enormous surprise to my hon. Friend that I agree wholeheartedly. Indeed, at the time of the referendum, the Government, of which we were Back-Bench observers, spent over £9 million sending a leaflet to every home in this country making exactly that point.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. I reiterate what I said at the start of this exchange, which is that people who arrived after it began should not stand and expect to be called—[Interruption.] No, no. No matter how illustrious they are, and irrespective of the exalted office that they occupy. Other Members of this—[Interruption.] Order. I am not debating the point with Angus Brendan MacNeil. I am telling him what the situation is, and that is the end of the matter.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Labour, Cynon Valley

One of the most successful exports from my constituency is Penderyn whisky, which comes from a small village in the Brecon Beacons. If the Minister went to Wales, he must have discussed the situation of an industry such as that with Baroness Morgan. Penderyn is obviously concerned about the impact on its export potential.

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I am incredibly grateful to the right hon. Lady, whom I hold in the highest regard having worked with her on a couple of international issues. She almost invites me to trespass on to the subject of the next urgent question on the potential imposition of tariffs by the United States on the whisky sector. I would be happy to respond to that question in detail during the course of my reply to that UQ, but the Government take this matter very seriously and will be working to try to persuade our friends and allies in the United States that the imposition of such tariffs is not the way to go, that they harm both of us, and that the best thing to do is to talk and come to a resolution.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

I gently point out to Angus Brendan MacNeil that there is a later urgent question on a matter about which he has considerable knowledge and in which I think he will be interested. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to participate in that exchange, he will, of course, have the opportunity to do so, and the whole House and the nation will benefit from his eloquence.

Photo of Andrew Percy Andrew Percy Conservative, Brigg and Goole

Anybody with a ha’p’orth of understanding of the Canadian skill at negotiating trade deals should have foreseen in March, when we issued our day-one tariff schedules, that Canada would not sign a rollover for the comprehensive economic and trade agreement. As we move forward with these new schedules, will the Minister assure me that nothing in them will undermine the deal that the Canadian Government and the Canadian opposition both say they want to achieve? If we are unable to achieve that deal, will he assure me that the Department is beginning work on at least rolling over the provisions on labour mobility, which are so important when it comes to independent professionals and inter-company transfers?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

My hon. Friend yields to no one in his understanding of and expertise in Canada. I understand that not least because he never tires of telling us. I pay tribute to him for his work as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy. I am probably not allowed to say this at the Dispatch Box, but I hope that he will take up that position again in due course, because no one in this House is better qualified to do it. I am happy to confirm to my hon. Friend that we remain determined to come to terms with Canada. It is one of our closest allies, and we share so much in common in terms of values. A free trade agreement between us will be to the mutual benefit and prosperity of all our citizens.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon Independent, North Down

Dairy Council Northern Ireland represents the four companies that account for over 90% of the milk collected from farms in Northern Ireland each year. We are talking about 3,000 farming families in Northern Ireland. I want the Minister to address the warning given by the chief executive of Dairy Council Northern Ireland, who said today:

“If we don't get a Brexit deal and cannot transport raw milk south, without significant delays and/or certification requirements, then our industry is facing a crisis of epic proportions”.

How will the Minister attempt to reassure dairy farmers in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

We are still seeking to come to terms and get a deal by 31 October. That is the Government’s ambition and, as the hon. Lady will know, I am more alive than most to the situation in Northern Ireland. The situation there is unique and complex, and I hope that our European friends would demonstrate some of the spirit of compromise that has been demonstrated in various parts of the House, including by Opposition Back Benchers, in helping us to get to that deal and to avoid the difficulties that she so rightly identifies.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Brexit), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Trade)

Welsh farmers are still unclear as to how the Government intend to sustain Welsh farming, particularly the production of beef and lamb. Is it by long-term tariffs, is it by market-distorting subsidy, or is it by paying farmers to produce nothing at all?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

First, we still want a deal, and therefore we hope this does not come into play. I was in Vietnam only two days ago to push Welsh lamb to the Government there as we look to a deal, and that is just one of many places where we are looking for new export opportunities by removing barriers and doing free trade agreements. The Government are looking closely at how we would respond to protect such producer interests in the event of a no-deal situation, and I believe nothing is ruled out.

Photo of Gareth Snell Gareth Snell Labour/Co-operative, Stoke-on-Trent Central

The Minister and his Department have been in consultation with the British Ceramic Confederation on the impact that zero tariffs could have on the ceramic industry, which would affect many of my constituents. Can the Minister give me an assurance that on day one, if we have a no-deal Brexit, which I genuinely do not want to see—I think a deal is the way forward—no anti-dumping legislation and no anti-dumping duty on Chinese goods will be less than it was the day before under the European scheme?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

Not only would I be very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss this in some detail, but I would be very happy if he felt minded to invite me to visit some of the ceramic manufacturing businesses in and around his constituency. I am sure that will have been heard by people who can make it happen.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

It is reckoned that a quarter of rural businesses may face bankruptcy if there is a no-deal Brexit and we see the expected tariff schedule. Dairy has now joined beef and lamb in expressing an existential threat. How many rural businesses does the Minister think will survive in my primarily rural constituency if we have a no deal?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I hope the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will help my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Government by doing all they can to lobby our European friends and allies, and indeed Monsieur Barnier, to ensure that does not happen.

I hope the predictions of doom and gloom and bankruptcy that the hon. Gentleman makes again today prove as ill-founded as those he has made over the past three years.

Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts Chair, Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee

I am sure the Minister will agree that certainty is important for business, so will he give a guarantee that, on 1 November, all the necessary systems and technical infrastructure will be in place for businesses to be able to deal with any tariffs that are imposed? Particularly for small businesses, how far in advance of 1 November will advice and guidance on these systems be available?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I have indicated several times that I do not think hon. Members will have to wait too much longer for the publication of the schedule. The Government are working with incredible energy to put out the information that businesses need. It has been more than three years since the referendum, and businesses have had plenty of warning.

By the way, recent surveys indicate that the behaviour of this House has made it more likely that businesses will not put in place the necessary measures to prepare for the event of a no deal, because this House continues to send a signal that it intends to do all it can to thwart that.

Photo of Paul Girvan Paul Girvan Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Education), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport)

Everyone seems to be interested in what is happening with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Our farming industry has serious concerns about the tariffs that will potentially be imposed by Europe. As Lady Hermon said, milk is exported to the Republic of Ireland, where it is mainly processed, before being sent back. Milk will have no tariffs on the way back, but it will receive tariffs on the way into the Republic of Ireland.

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

As I indicated to the hon. Member for North Down, I am acutely alive to these very serious challenges. I spent the first eight years of my life in Northern Ireland, so I understand it pretty well. The best way to avoid these challenges is to come to a deal.

By the way, the best way to have effective government in Northern Ireland is for all the parties in Northern Ireland to get back together and get back into government. Let us get a functioning Executive and a functioning Assembly that can truly speak at a local level for the people of Northern Ireland.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North

The imposition of tariffs on the export of chemicals from Teesside will have a hugely detrimental effect on the region’s industry. That comes on the back of the decision by Ineos to close its plant, which is both a supplier and a customer within a complicated supply chain. What are Ministers doing about this additional threat to the chemical industry—over and above the tariffs—that will cost more than 220 direct jobs in my constituency, and potentially many more? Maybe the Minister could visit us, too.

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I always stand ready to visit colleagues from across the House and their constituencies, and their local businesses, to understand the background to commercial decisions that are being made. I am not particularly aware of the detail of that one, but, again, if the hon. Gentleman thinks it useful, I would be happy to have a meeting with him. It may be more appropriate for him to meet colleagues from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, but I am very happy to talk to him.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston

I was approached by people from Stanlow oil refinery in Ellesmere Port over the summer as they were concerned about proposals to zero-rate certain petroleum imports. I therefore added my name to a cross-party letter from a number of Members whose constituencies were affected by those proposals warning the Secretary of State about the impact such proposals might have on the refinery sector. Will the Minister therefore assure us that these concerns have been listened to and the proposals will do nothing to impact the viability of the UK refinery sector?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

The issue of the refineries and how tariffs may have an impact there has been discussed and continues to be looked at closely at the heart of government. Those representations are having an impact and are being listened to carefully.

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

Obviously, we do not consider that the imposition of the temporary tariff regime is, of itself, a good thing; we would much prefer to leave on 31 October with a deal. As I have explained, what these arrangements do is our level best to protect producers and, crucially, consumers in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Minister for his responses. The Ulster Farmers Union has consistently stated that it has worries about tariffs—I declare an interest, as a member of the UFU. I know the Government and the Minister are well aware of the position of Northern Ireland lamb, beef, pig and chicken producers, and I am keen to know what discussions he has had with the UFU in order to support, assist and protect our farmers in Northern Ireland. In addition, have any discussions taken place with the Republic of Ireland?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that. I have not had direct talks with the UFU, but the voice of Northern Ireland is very effectively represented in government by the Secretary of State and the Minister of State, and the voice of Northern Ireland will always be heard when the hon. Gentleman is in this House.

Photo of Martin Docherty Martin Docherty Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Industries of the Future and Blockchain Technologies)

In the last hour, the President of the United States has tweeted:

“As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!).”

So I wonder whether the Minister can tell my constituents who are producing and bottling fine Scotch whisky—this is especially in relation to the next urgent question—whether these arrangements are to be used as leverage against the unmatched wisdom of the President of the United States in a future trade agreement of a no-deal Brexit?

Photo of Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I am enormously grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that. As I said, this is my first appearance at this Dispatch Box, but my cursory knowledge of these matters is that one is accountable at this Box for things within one’s responsibility. However vast the portfolio that I have the honour to discharge, the tweets of the President of the United States were not in my job description the last time I checked.