Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Kramer Baroness Kramer Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Treasury and Economy) 5:15 pm, 30th January 2019

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, as he has said a great deal of what I was going to say, and I am not going to repeat it. I would underscore, to the Minister, the general frustration at this point in time of knowing that we, the UK Parliament, know far less about the negotiations that are proceeding with these rollover and continuity agreements than we would have known had we been in the European Parliament and this was a trade deal that was being negotiated by the EU. We would have been far more informed, consulted and engaged. That loss of democratic input is exceedingly frustrating. This is not a terribly good sign for the future. I hope very much that, having decided secrecy is the way forward for these continuity arrangements, the Government change their mind before they go on to any new arrangements.

Amendment 60, in the name of my noble friend Lord Purvis, would insert a new clause, “Additional review of the impact of the proposed future trading relationship with the EU on the United Kingdom economy”. Another general frustration is that, at this point in time, we still do not have the Government’s assessment and analysis of the impact of the deal that Theresa May has negotiated—never mind the one that she may negotiate—on the future economy of the EU.

If noble Lords will remember, in November the Government published EU Exit: Long-term Economic Analysis, which modelled a number of scenarios including the Chequers deal, but did not actually model the deal that was on the table. I am sure it was inadvertent—I said it on the day—but the Chancellor, when speaking on various media outlets, therefore quoted the economic consequences that came from an analysis of the Chequers deal, not from an analysis of the deal that Mrs May had then staked as her option and choice. The numbers were starkly wrong as a consequence. All of us had advice from various different institutions—I cannot remember whether it was the IFS in this particular case—that, if we wanted to dig through the numbers and find something close to May deal, we had to choose a set of numbers called “modelled White Paper with 50% non-tariff barrier sensitivity”. We were told that would give us better numbers, and they were dire compared to the numbers that were in the charts for the Chequers deal. I never want to see a Chancellor of the Exchequer—I fully believe it was inadvertent—quoting and talking to the British public about a set of outcomes which his own document counters significantly.

It seems to me that, if the Government were to undertake to provide us with accurate figures or their best estimate of an accurate forecast, that would be exceedingly helpful for the complicated discussions we are involved in. It would be helpful, even today, to have the figures for the May deal, never mind the May deal as it is to be adjusted. I am really quite shocked that, having known they handed us wrong numbers in November, the Government have not given us reasonable and rational numbers now.