Trade Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:29 pm on 11th September 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Fairhead Baroness Fairhead The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 9:29 pm, 11th September 2018

We are working with the devolved Administrations and stakeholders to ensure that this future scheme takes account of the interests of all producers from the regions of the UK. Finally, in relation to the rest of the world, we are ensuring that the continuity agreements that we transition will fully protect UK GIs.

I turn now to the points made by noble Lords about scrutiny of the use of the GPA. The noble Lords, Lord Hain and Lord Grantchester, said that there is no ability to scrutinise the GPA. I disagree, but let me clarify that. The power in Clause 1 enables changes to be made to domestic procurement regulations in order to reflect the UK’s independent membership rather than membership through the EU, but in order to exercise this power, our accession will first have to be accepted by Parliament through the CRaG procedure. That is why the power is subject to the negative procedure—because Parliament will have had the opportunity to scrutinise the GPA before the powers in Clause 1 are exercised. The schedules to that have already been shared with the ITC and we would expect CRaG by the end of 2018 or early 2019. In order for the UK to accede quickly to the GPA after ratification, this Bill is necessary to avoid any loss of legally guaranteed market access for UK businesses.

My noble friends Lord Hamilton of Epsom and Lord Risby asked about the GPA and whether we must accede or lose our access. The truth is that we must accede or we will lose our access, so to provide continuity for UK businesses, we are already working on a timeline which sees the UK accede to the GPA as an independent member in time for EU exit, regardless of whether we have a deal.

I turn to readiness and the question of no deal, which was raised by many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Butler of Brockwell, Lord Taverne and Lord Purvis of Tweed. I have to confirm that it is absolutely not the Government’s plan to leave without a deal. Our plan A is to secure an agreement with the implementation period. We are confident of securing continuity for our existing trade agreements and indeed securing agreements to the implementation period under the draft withdrawal agreement. A number of noble Lords talked about resources. What I can say in response to my noble friends Lady Hooper, Lord Horam and Lord Astor of Hever is that the Department for International Trade is already recruiting staff to support the trade negotiations. We have recruited approximately 600 staff, who have made significant progress. I hope that that and the fact that we are closely focused on this issue meets the appeal of noble Lords to get on with it.

However, we need to continue to prepare for a range of potential scenarios if we do not reach such an agreement with the EU. In so doing, we will seek to bring into force the bilateral agreements with partner countries from day one. The powers in this Bill are an essential element in that process. We are actively engaged with partner countries. As one noble Lord mentioned, my honourable friend George Hollingbery, the Minister for Trade Policy, has said that it is clearly a challenge. There is no doubt that the timing is very tight but it is still our aim to maintain the effect of those agreements even if there is no deal on 29 March 2019.