My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Grantchester and Lord Purvis, for tabling Amendments 34 and 54 and for giving this House the opportunity to discuss this important area. I entirely agree with the concerns that have been raised, particularly on areas such as agricultural products, affecting farmers and rural areas, which were addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and my noble friends Lady Byford and Lady McIntosh. I would like to take these two amendments together, because there is a fair amount of overlap in the questions that each amendment raises. I would also like to do so in some detail, because they cover a very technical area and I hope that my clarification will help—that is the aim of what I am trying to do.
We have tariff-rate quotas both in the existing EU FTAs that we are working to roll over and in our WTO schedules. A different approach is required for each, which I am happy to explain. In doing so, I will also address each amendment first as it refers to the EU FTAs and then as it relates to the WTO TRQs. I will first address TRQs in EU free trade agreements. The EU has been clear that it will not revise its free trade agreements with third countries as a result of the UK exiting the EU. This is because usage of those quotas tends to be low. The UK is therefore engaging directly with our trading partners to agree new TRQs to apply under the continuity agreements, and we are making good progress. We are agreeing TRQs for the same products at levels that protect existing trade flows. We will continue to report fully to Parliament on the TRQs agreed as part of our Clauses 3 and 5 reports on changes to the agreements. Amendment 34 would therefore be impossible to implement in respect of EU FTAs, as there is no division with the EU to refer back to.
On Amendment 54, as I mentioned, the Government have already committed to lay before Parliament for each transitional FTA a report that sets out any substantial changes to trade-related matters. These reports will include details of changes to the TRQs. Let me assure noble Lords that the reports will also include an indication of the impacts associated with the changes to the TRQs. However, we would not expect there to be substantial business impacts from changes to TRQs, as we are maintaining TRQs for the same products sized at a level which protects existing trade flows.
On the EU Council decision relating to the modification of TRQs, to which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, referred, I am happy to write to the noble Lord on that point and I will put a letter in the Library.
I turn now to the TRQs found in our WTO schedules. Here, the Government have taken quite a number of steps, and in addressing these amendments I believe it would be of value to noble Lords if I walked through them. To prepare to leave the EU, the United Kingdom has had to establish its own schedules of goods and services at the WTO. In doing so, we have taken the approach that we should maintain our current obligations as far as possible. This was announced to both Houses through Written Ministerial Statements on
The UK schedule was finalised in July 2018. We sent it to the WTO on
Between October and
I should also mention briefly the EU’s corresponding transition at the WTO. The EU has launched its own Article XXVIII process, as it, of course, apportioned the EU 28 TRQs with the United Kingdom. It formally started this on
My noble friend Lady Byford raised the issue of whether we could improve on them in the future. Our main focus in this phase is on continuity, ensuring that there is as much certainty for farmers and businesses as possible—that is our first aim. The future is another issue, but our primary focus now is continuity.