Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Fairhead Baroness Fairhead The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 4:30 pm, 30th January 2019

My Lords, before addressing the amendment directly, I too warmly welcome the noble Lord, Lord McNicol of West Kilbride, who is making his first contribution at the Dispatch Box today. I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, that it probably will not get any easier, but I very much look forward to our debates.

I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord McNicol and Lord Purvis, for tabling Amendment 31. As the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, said, it is a short amendment, but it covers an important area. I confirm that the Government share the objective of the amendment. We are committed to ensuring that the rules of origin used in our continuity agreements enable businesses to continue to operate, as much as possible, through their established value and supply chains. That is particularly important where integration with EU supply chains is significant.

I wish to reassure noble Lords about the concerns that may have prompted the amendment. As I have stated, there are technical issues in continuity agreements that cannot be simply cut and pasted. Rules of origin are among those. We are continuing to work with third countries to deal with the issues involved, with the objective of ensuring continuity for businesses and consumers when the UK leaves the EU.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, asked about negotiations with partners without involving the EU. Just to clarify, the ROOs for each agreement are negotiated bilaterally between the parties. The sequence of such agreements is such that we need to negotiate bilaterally with partners before negotiations open with the EU. EU producers and exporters will benefit from EU content being treated as UK content in our continuity trade agreements, as their business arrangements will not be disrupted. I can confirm that the UK does not need to ask the EU for permission to do this.

Our approach includes using standard rules of origin mechanisms to remain as closely aligned with the status quo as we possibly can. Importantly, as Amendment 31 advocates, this approach includes seeking to ensure that UK and third-country exporters can continue to make use of EU content in their exports to one another. As my noble friend Lord Lansley correctly said, this is referred to as cumulation.

As with many other aspects of international relations, our partners understandably view our negotiations and discussions as sensitive, so we are unable to give precise details on progress at this time. Nevertheless I will reassure the Committee that discussions on rules of origin are progressing constructively. As my noble friend Lord Lilley pointed out, because there is mutual benefit there is a willingness to engage.