My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on introducing this debate and focusing on rules of origin, which is the main complexity that will arise with trading goods. I suggest that this should not be exaggerated. It is the big difference between free trade areas and customs unions but I note that the Swiss, who have a free trade agreement with the EU—not a customs union—do not seem to be too upset about that. They do not seem to be calling for a customs union. They seem to be coping with all the problems that noble Lords have told this House are insurmountable; the Norwegians likewise.
The Canadians have a free trade agreement with America but are not calling for a customs union. Even our Canadian Governor of the Bank of England, when he returns to Canada and joins in the political process there, is not going to call for Canada to have a customs union with the United States to overcome all these supposedly insurmountable difficulties. They are not insurmountable and they are going to get somewhat simpler.
The EU is bringing in the REX system for self-declaration of rules of origin—you will have to do the calculations but you will not have to buy a certificate; you will just declare the origin of the goods. Of course, you will have to get it right; as with any self-declaration, you will be open to investigation and checks if there is any reason to suppose you are cheating, but it will simplify the process greatly.
Can the Minister confirm that we will be able to join the pan-Euro-Med convention on rules of origin if we have a free trade agreement with any member of that convention—for example, Israel? I believe that when you belong to it you can begin to assess diagonally, as they say, the components of your goods when you export among them. If that is open to us, it will ease things as far as we are concerned for a large group of countries.