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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 11:07 pm on 18th December 2017.

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Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Chair, EU Internal Market Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Internal Market Sub-Committee 11:07 pm, 18th December 2017

My Lords, in view of the hour and the state of my throat, I will be relatively brief. I thank the Minister for his response. In default of a previously written report, he has covered a lot of ground. I am not entirely clear why the department could not have written that down before. Nevertheless, I am grateful for it and look forward to a more detailed reply in the new year which fits his remarks in the general positioning of the Government following the conclusion of the withdrawal arrangements and the discussions that have now taken place at the highest level on the Government’s approach to Brexit.

There are two key points about this report. I thank all noble Lords who have participated in the debate—both the members of the committee and the newcomers. I was particularly grateful to see the noble Lord, Lord Green, join us. I will certainly take his point and will read the Japanese agreement in more detail than I have done hitherto. Those noble Lords who are outsiders will have noted, from the rather clever sequencing of speeches, with the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, being followed by my noble friend Lord Liddle, that the committee is not always easy to control or to bring to a consensus. However, broadly we do, and the report reflects our experience of that, whatever our preconceptions.

The two key things are these. These sectors—this wide range of sectors—are very important to this country. I think that many of us did not realise quite how large or how important they are, and they require special attention in relation to trade discussions. Hitherto, we had the suspicion that their leverage had been somewhat less than that of traditional sectors such as manufacturing and the City. It is therefore important that their voice is heard.

Their voice was, by and large, pretty unanimous. It was not that they wanted the status quo, but they were keen on the single market and wanted to move more rapidly than the EU was moving towards something like the single market. However, we know that that is not the Government’s preferred option; we are talking about the structure of a free trade agreement. All of us, whatever our previous preferences, are focused on what the nature of that agreement now is.

What we need more from the Government than we had tonight is an indication of how the esoteric elements of these various industries will fit in with their approach to negotiating that free trade agreement. If the Minister is able to give us at least an indication of that without betraying all the cards in the negotiations early in the new year, I am sure that all of us would be most grateful—as, more importantly, would be all those sectors. There is a lot of uncertainty and concern, and these sectors are all people based. They serve people and employ people, and their assets are not fixed but are intellectual and people-based assets, which means they are highly mobile. The success that the UK has hitherto had in these sectors is a fragile but very important thing, and we need to preserve it.

I hope that the approach of the Government in the trade negotiations does not ignore these sectors and that in fact there is a brave new world out there. I have as yet to be totally convinced that the Government have reached that point, but we will continue to monitor it, and I am sure that the Government will provide us with some further information.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 11.11 pm.