Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:50 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Opposition Whip (Lords) 3:50 pm, 30th January 2019

My Lords, Amendment 31 is a short amendment but an important one. This is my first Bill and first amendment from the Opposition Front Benches in your Lordships’ House, so please forgive any mistakes from the outset.

Nowhere, as far as I can see, are rules of origin mentioned or dealt with in the Bill. This is worrying for a number of reasons. Most importantly, rules of origin will have a huge impact on the UK’s efforts to replicate our current EU trade agreements with other countries. Rules of origin are about how we define where a product or products really come from, and what “Made in Britain” actually means. It is important to the Bill because, if we are to take the Government at their word, this is just a Bill to allow the rollover of existing trade agreements—agreements that we currently have because of our membership of the EU and customs union. Without changes, rules of origin locally should be expressed in exactly the same way as they currently are. My concern is that they will not be. Post Brexit the EU will no longer be classified as “local”. The UK will be the new “local”. So a new definition will need to be written into these rollover trade deals, where “local”—which until leaving the EU meant inside the whole of the EU—will now mean not just the UK but the UK and the rest of the EU.

The issue of rules of origin is inextricably linked with our membership of the customs union. The big advantage now of being inside the customs union is that no tariffs or taxes are placed on imports or exports of goods traded between member states. Fulfilling the country-of-origin principle ensures that products can enjoy zero tariffs as part of free trade deals if they meet the requirement: conversely, if they do not, they will not. To give a practical example, trade deals in the car industry usually require about 55% of the components of a car to be considered as local. But most cars made in the UK have just 40% of UK-only content. If we then look at the fact that many of the subcontractors source many of their parts from abroad, a UK-made car could be less than 30% made in the UK. This is improved and passes a 55% threshold due to the fact that other manufactured parts of the car come from EU countries, currently classified as local. I ask the Minister: when we leave, how will this be addressed in each of the possible exit scenarios, as this is pertinent to the rollover of existing trade agreements? I also ask the Minister to clarify, if amendments need to be made to the text of existing trade agreements, how parliamentary scrutiny of those changes will be handled. I beg to move.