Taxation (Post-transition Period) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:40 pm on 9th December 2020.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 4:40 pm, 9th December 2020

Somehow or other, I always thought that taking back control would look rather different for this place than this: to have just 24 hours to consider 112 pages of highly technical and detailed taxation legislation is an affront and insult to this House, and an abuse of the process by which we are supposed to govern ourselves. Those on the Treasury Bench who have brought forward this legislation in this way should hang their heads in shame. But, as Anneliese Dodds indicated in her contribution, it is, unfortunately, necessary. It is remarkable that amongst these 112 pages there are so many enabling provisions; so we know that in fact the detail is still to come and there will require to be secondary legislation to implement the detail of what our businesses will actually need.

The kindest comment I can make about the Bill at this stage, given the time available to me, is that it is just a foretaste of things to come. Essentially, most of what we have here pertains to the relationship with Northern Ireland, and even at this stage the Government are still tying themselves in knots because they promised three things of which they could only ever at best deliver two. They said we could come out of the customs union or we would have no border north and south or have no border east or west. In fact, if we were going to come out of the customs union, eventually we had to have a border north or south, or east or west; we could not have all three. I listened to John Redwood talking about electronic borders, but the clue is in the title: it is a border. Once sovereignty trumps economics, that inevitably leads to having borders—something that should be heard in all parts of this House.

I was struck by Alison Thewliss quoting Robert Burns, saying:

“The best laid schemes o’
Mice an’
Men

Gang aft agley,”

I was disappointed and a little surprised that she did not then deliver the next line of that stanza:

“The best laid schemes o’
Mice an’
Men

Gang aft agley,

An’
lea’e us nought but grief an’
pain,

For promis’d joy!”

If ever I heard the perfect way of describing Brexit, that has got to be it:

“An’
lea’e us nought but grief an’
pain,

For promis’d joy!”

The House will remember, of course, that Robert Burns was an exciseman, so he would know quite a lot about customs and the matters in this Bill; Lord alone knows what he would make of it if he were alive today.