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Brexit: Trade in Non-financial Services (EUC Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:45 pm on 18th December 2017.

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Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union) 10:45 pm, 18th December 2017

The new year. Many of the points raised by this report about our future partnership with the EU and the future of the non-financial services sector relate directly to the second phase of negotiations, which I am delighted to say we will be beginning soon. As such, I hope noble Lords will understand that I will not be able to go into great detail on some areas at this stage.

Through the negotiations we will pursue a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the EU to ensure the freest possible trade in services, and to support the continued success of the UK’s professional and business services. Since the publication of the committee’s report we have made good progress in the first phase of negotiations, as demonstrated by Friday’s announcement that sufficient progress has been made. A key element of any future partnership will be how the UK and EU continue to trade services, a sector where the UK is a global success story. However, we cannot be complacent about this, a point well made by my noble friend Lady Noakes, who rightly drew our attention the challenges that the future flexible adaptation of services will provide to this country—opportunities that are available outside the EU.

Services are one of the fastest-growing components of the global economy and accounted for 79% of the UK economy in 2016. In his excellent speech, my noble friend Lord Wei was right to draw our attention to the need to focus on the future prospects and how we can develop and expand the sector. Both the UK and EU member states benefit from our close trading relationship. The UK exported about £63 billion-worth of non-financial services, and about £27 billion-worth of financial services to the EU in 2016—I am mindful of the scepticism that noble Lords have expressed about statistics, but those are the latest that I have.

However, it should also be noted that the UK exported significantly more in both non-financial and financial services to countries outside the EU. UK services exports to countries outside the EU grew at a faster rate than service exports to EU member states over the period 1999 to 2016.

Let me now address some of the issues covered in today’s debate. On the subject raised by many noble Lords—but in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle—freedom of movement, yes, of course it is the policy of my party, as exemplified in our manifesto at the general election, that we will end freedom of movement when we leave the EU. That is the policy of the Conservative Party. What he forgot to mention was that it is also the policy of his party to end freedom of movement—or at least it was last week; perhaps this week it has a new policy, but that was the policy. At least the Liberal Democrats have the benefit of consistency, although they got only 7% of the vote as a benefit of that consistency at the general election. Both the major parties committed to ending freedom of movement. Pointing out that it was the policy of my party is of course correct, but the noble Lord might have had the good grace to acknowledge that it is also the policy of his party.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, asked me about consumer organisations. Two Ministers, Robin Walker and Margot James, recently held a round table with consumer groups. I am due to meet various consumer groups in the new year. In April, in evidence at the EU Justice Sub-Committee, another consumer group, Which?, said that it had very good contact with government throughout the process. We will of course have further meetings with those groups.

In response to my noble friend Lord Green, we will seek to ensure continuity, including as we move into any agreed implementation period. The way in which we maintain our international agreements during any implementation period will of course depend on the terms agreed with our EU partners.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, asked about alignment. Of course, we start from a unique position, with the same rules and regulations, as the Prime Minister set out in her speech in Florence. We are committed to making the UK the best place in the world to do business, and this will mean fostering a high-quality, sensible, predictable regulatory environment. We are listening to businesses and want to minimise the regulatory and market-access barriers for both goods and services.

The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, asked how we are collecting more accurate statistics. We are working to best use current services data to inform our approach in future trade negotiations, and to explore new types of data. She also asked about the Trade Bill. The Trade Bill, introduced on 7 November, will ensure that the UK has the necessary legal powers and structures in place to enable us to operate a fully functioning trade policy on day one of our exit from the EU. The Bill will also establish an independent body, the Trade Remedies Authority, to conduct trade remedies investigations, providing a safety net for domestic industries against unfair and injurious trade practices or surges in imports consistent with our legal obligations in the World Trade Organization. The noble Baroness will also be aware that in the summer, we published a paper on enforcement and dispute resolution procedures. Given the absence of time, I shall not go through all the details of that.

I turn to the subject of professional business services, which a number of noble Lords mentioned. We agree with the committee’s recommendation that we must be mindful of the significance of professional and business services. The sector is the single largest exporter across all sectors of the economy, with 26% of services exports to the EU in 2016, a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, in his introduction. The Government understand the concerns of the sector, including access to talent, being able to move people across borders to provide services, the importance of cross-border data flows and the mutual recognition of qualifications, on which I shall say more shortly. We also recognise the importance of access to talent and the fly-in, fly-out business model for the professional and business services sector. The Government will create a fair and sustainable immigration system that works for the whole of the UK.

To respond to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lords, Lord German, Lord Davies and Lord Whitty, the UK will remain an open and tolerant country that recognises the valuable contribution that migrants make to our society; it welcomes those with skills and expertise to make our nation better still.

The Government understand the report’s concerns regarding the challenges facing some parts of the sector, including the current provisions that support legal services trade. We also recognise the importance of rights of establishment to services sectors. The World Trade Organization estimates that around 55% to 60% of services trade relates to establishment overseas. The committee’s report noted how the trade in services agreement, or TiSA, provides an opportunity to update the global terms of trade for many services. The negotiations on TiSA are currently on hold; however, the UK continues to be committed to an ambitious agreement.

A number of noble Lords raised digital services, particularly the noble Lords, Lord German and Lord Aberdare. We are committed to ensuring that the UK is the global leader in starting and growing a digital business, trialling new technology or undertaking advanced research. On 1 March, the Government published the UK digital strategy, which has put in place the conditions to ensure that the UK’s digital sectors can remain world leading, alongside ensuring that the benefits of digital are felt across the whole of our country. The ability to collect, share and process data is crucial for many sectors, from financial services to tech and energy companies. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, was right to highlight the successes of that sector.

Data transfers are also crucial for our ability to co-operate across borders on law enforcement and security issues. On 24 August, we published a paper entitled, The Exchange and Protection of Personal Data. This set out how we want to ensure the continued protection and exchange of personal data between the EU and the UK, in light of the UK’s withdrawal from, and new partnership with, the EU. In addition, as part of the Government’s commitment to ensure that the UK’s digital sectors remain world leading, the Data Protection Bill was introduced on 13 September. The Bill is intended to create a new data protection framework fit for the digital age, which incorporates the provisions of the EU’s general data protection regulation into our domestic law. The Bill will ensure that the UK is prepared for the future after we have left the EU.

In response to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, the Government agree with the report regarding the need to engage with the digital single market. To date, the UK has been a leader in the emerging digital single market, arguing for an open and flexible market with a regulatory framework that reflects the dynamic nature of the digital economy. The committee’s report highlighted the importance of data flows. We recognise the importance of the free flow of non-personal data initiative, and resisting the introduction of unjustified data localisation requirements by other member states.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, drew our attention to mobile roaming. Of course, he is correct that roaming surcharges for travel within the European Economic Area were abolished in June. Of course, in the course of Brexit negotiations, we will seek the best possible deal that delivers for UK consumers and businesses in this sector.

A number of noble Lords raised the issue of creative services, particularly the noble Lords, Lord German and Lord Aberdare, who drew our attention to the successes of the music industry. They are, of course, right. The creative sector is one of the UK economy’s greatest success stories, and is growing by 8.9% a year, making it the second fastest growing industrial sector. The high-quality content and talent produced and developed is both recognised and respected across the world. The committee’s report recognises the broadcasting sector. The UK is the EU’s biggest broadcasting hub, hosting a large number of international broadcasting companies, a point well made by my noble friend Lord Inglewood. As the committee has observed, the EU regulatory framework underpins the business model of many international broadcasters currently located in the UK, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, reminded the House.

We agree with the report that continued strong protection for intellectual property is important. It helps to protect individuality and support innovation in the creative sectors. The noble Lord, Lord German, asked about intellectual property. Globally, the UK has a competitive edge in protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights. We are discussing options with users to ensure that the UK’s intellectual property regime, including protection of unregistered designs, will continue to properly support innovation and the UK’s creative industries. The report also mentioned the limitations of TRIPS. As part of its WTO membership, the UK has committed to meet certain minimum standards of intellectual property protections set out in the TRIPS agreement. I am pleased to say that, in many cases, existing UK law—either domestic or EU-derived—goes beyond these standards. We do not expect that situation to change as a result of leaving the EU.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, asked me about air services. As a former Aviation Minister, this is an issue close to my heart. Aviation is a critical network industry that underpins the functioning of the economy and international trade. The UK has the largest aviation network in Europe and our airports service is the third largest aviation network in the world. It is in the interests of both sides to maintain closely integrated aviation markets. The Government are seeking the best possible relationship with the EU in the field of air services and are looking at all the options to deliver that. The precise form of the UK’s future air services relationship, including with EASA and SESAR, will be a matter for the negotiations. The committee’s report mentions bilateral air service agreements. Air services between the UK and a number of countries outside the EU—notably the US—are currently determined by EU-negotiated agreements. The Government will be seeking new, bilateral, arrangements with those countries as a matter of priority. The target is to ensure that market access levels are preserved and to have identified arrangements for this before we leave the EU.

We also acknowledge in the report that ownership and control rules may have implications for both UK and non-UK airlines. The UK is, and will remain, an excellent base to do business, to establish headquarters or to found a business, including in our world-renowned aviation sector. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the contingency plans of individual airlines. The report correctly highlights that there is no WTO provision regarding aviation services. This is a fundamental consideration when it comes to negotiating our future relationship with the EU. EU member states benefit from liberal market access. We have a common interest in getting the best possible outcome.

A number of noble Lords mentioned tourism, education and health-related travel services. The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, in particular, talked about education. The Government recognise the social and economic benefits of a healthy tourism sector. The UK and the EU have a common interest in securing a mutually beneficial agreement on tourism in future. The noble Baroness asked about EU students. We highly value the contribution of EU and international students, researchers and academic staff. We have listened to the concerns of the higher education sector and taken action to provide greater certainty for it.

We have already committed to underwrite successful bids for Erasmus+ which are submitted while the UK is still a member state, even if they are not approved until after we leave and/or payments continue beyond the point of exit. Home fee status is also secure for the duration of students’ courses. Bids for higher education study periods submitted before the exit date will include mobility in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years. We have also confirmed that research councils will continue to fund postgraduate students from the EU whose courses start in 2017-18.

The report mentions trade in education and health-related travel services. The reciprocal rights that will apply following the UK’s exit are subject to the wider negotiation on our future relationship with the EU. We support existing processes of voluntary co-operation in higher education, such as the Bologna process, which contribute to improving skills and employability in increasingly competitive global environments.

I will say a word about the mutual recognition of qualifications, which was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Whitty, Lord German and Lord Berkeley, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Donaghy and Lady Hayter. They all raised the importance of the mutual recognition of qualifications, which has also been the subject of negotiations on the withdrawal agreement. The Prime Minister has been clear that she wants EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU to be able to continue their lives broadly as now. That is why we have agreed the continued recognition of qualifications where recognition decisions were received or where recognition procedures were ongoing before the withdrawal date. This will cover qualifications recognised under the mutual recognition of professional qualifications directive, lawyers practising under host title and approved statutory auditors.

We are committed to getting the best possible deal for the United Kingdom in negotiations; that includes for the non-financial services sectors. We will continue to update Parliament on the negotiations for our departure from the European Union. Again, I would like to reassure noble Lords that we are working to formally publish our response to the committee’s report as soon as possible, and that will be early in the new year.

I am grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions over the course of this wide-ranging and informative debate. I am sure that the House will continue to play a valuable role in the work of the Government and contribute towards securing a deal that works for everyone.