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Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day) (continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:44 pm on 30th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development 8:44 pm, 30th January 2019

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Marks, for moving this amendment and raising this very important issue. He is right to highlight the contribution which UK law has made to the commercial contract area and the success of trade and financial services.

We have long made clear our intention to negotiate a new relationship with the EU which covers civil judicial co-operation. The political declaration provides a positive means for discussion on this. It makes it clear that the UK and EU have agreed to explore a bilateral arrangement on matrimonial and parental responsibility and other related matters. This goes further than the arrangements that the EU currently has with any other third country to date.

The UK also remains committed to future co-operation on civil and commercial matters with the EU—recognising that this is in both our interests, for the reasons the noble Lord, Lord Marks, set out—and to similar co-operation with other international partners. In this area, the UK will, as a minimum, continue to prioritise joining Hague 2005 in our own right and seek also to accede to the Lugano Convention. The UK will engage with EU partners to ensure that these important issues, which provide vital protections for citizens, are the focus of detailed negotiations with the EU.

On the specific issues which the noble Lord referred to, co-operation in this area makes clear that the UK and EU have agreed to explore a bilateral arrangement on aspects of law. This goes further than any arrangements that the EU currently has with a third country. The UK also remains committed to international co-operation in future.

The noble Lord asked what would happen in the event of no deal. As a responsible Government, we are preparing for all outcomes, hence the statutory instruments debated in Grand Committee yesterday. We have published a dedicated technical notice for civil judicial co-operation, detailing how the rules would change in the event that we cannot reach a deal. This is not our preferred outcome—we remain focused on getting a deal that works for the UK and the EU. The rules on civil judicial co-operation rely on reciprocity. After exit, even if the UK were to apply these rules unilaterally, there would be no requirement on EU member states to apply the same rules in the UK. Without the guarantee of reciprocity, our broad approach is to repeal existing EU instruments and revert to applying the rules which the UK currently applies in relation to non-EU matters.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising this important matter, and I hope that I have provided as much reassurance as I am able to at this stage.