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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 McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Opposition Whip (Lords) 8:44 pm, 30th January 2019

I rise to move Amendment 38, and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for her support. This grouping includes many amendments along the same vein. Your Lordships will be pleased to know that I am not going to speak to each one individually, but I will address the common themes of this group of amendments, pulling out a few specific details. I am sure that a number of noble Lords will be speaking in more detail to their amendments within this group.

This group seeks the inclusion of new clauses after Clause 5 which will put on the face of the Bill a host of organisations, agreements and arrangements which are vital to the continuing smooth operation and functioning of life, organisations and businesses post Brexit. As I am sure the Minister is aware, many of these amendments have come from organisations, trade unions and businesses that are concerned about how they will be affected post Brexit and are seeking ways to mitigate any harm. Many of these amendments do not fully resolve the problem of Brexit, nor all the costs associated with leaving, but if the Government were to accept them it would offer a level of protection and certainty that is currently not there.

I turn to some of the specifics. It is rather nice to see Her Majesty’s Government listening to and acting on our amendments, specifically Amendment 38. I ask the Minister: is it correct, as stated on GOV.UK, that the UK will remain part of the common transit convention? Retaining membership of the CTC will reduce administrative burdens by removing the need for additional import/export declarations when transiting across multiple customs territories. It also provides cash-flow benefits by allowing the movement of goods across a custom territory without the payment of duties until the final destination.

Amendment 38, like so many other amendments in this group, expresses the belief that retaining membership or recognising mutual benefits of existing agreements is a good thing. If the Minister could helpfully accept all the other amendments in this group and add them to the Bill, we could move on rather swiftly. However, unfortunately, I do not think it will be quite that simple, so I will raise a few more points before passing on to others.

Amendment 39 deals with the mutual recognition of qualifications—again, a sensible approach to how we progress through Brexit. The amendment covers many vital roles: nurses, midwives, doctors, vets and architects, to name but a few. If we leave without a deal, no reciprocal recognition of professional qualifications or experience will exist between the UK and the remaining European Economic Area states.

While Her Majesty’s Government and the European Union are negotiating a withdrawal agreement, if a deal cannot be reached there will be significant implications for those who work in Europe and in the UK. To give noble Lords one example, UK-qualified architects who wish to be able to practise in the remaining EEA states after 29 March are being directed to contact the host state regulators of the country they wish to practise in to seek clarity on the respective states registration policies, now and post Brexit. If we were to remain in the mutual recognition of professional qualifications directives, it would not be necessary for individuals to contact host countries’ regulatory bodies. There would also be no need for any new system, such as the recognition of professional qualifications regulations. Could the Minister confirm whether there will be any meaningful differences between the RPQR and the MRPQ?

Amendment 40 is not dissimilar from Amendment 58 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. It simply calls on Her Majesty’s Government to take all necessary steps to implement an international trade agreement that allows us to provide for the continued rail service with Europe and cross-border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. In their Answer to a Written Question on 13 December 2018, the Government stated they would seek bilateral agreement regarding the operation of services through the Channel Tunnel after the UK leaves the EU. Could the Minister update us on those developments?

In further amendments, we explore the road haulage and passenger transport sector and ensuring the continuation of reciprocal agreements and access. Could the Minister clarify what advice has been given to coach firms that operate across Europe on the outcome of a no-deal Brexit?

Amendment 48 calls on the UK to remain in the tripartite agreement on the movement of horses between the UK, France and the Republic of Ireland. If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no deal in place, the UK would be treated as a third country, and therefore any movement of equines to countries within the EU would be subject to EU third-country rules. Her Majesty’s Government were seeking discussions with the European Commission to allow the UK to become a listed third country on the day we leave, as with Australia and New Zealand. Will the Minister update us on those discussions as well?

My noble friend Lord Grantchester has unfortunately had to leave, but he was going to pick up the issue of, and seek clarification on, the pet travel scheme.

Amendment 70 is probably the most comprehensive with regard to the agencies, authorities and organisations that we believe the UK should retain membership of. The list will be well known to the Government, since it comes from the CBI. The first group of nine are bodies of which the CBI says it is essential to retain membership for their members’ benefit. The amendment goes on to list a second group of five bodies, membership of which, although not essential, would provide a smooth road toward regulatory compliance post Brexit. This amendment makes it an objective for an appropriate authority to take all necessary steps to implement an international trade agreement with the EU that would enable the UK to continue to participate in these various EU agencies and bodies.

The November 2018 Political Declaration setting out the Framework for the Future Relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom stated that, although the parties would preserve regulatory autonomy, they would seek,

“to promote regulatory approaches that … promote avoidance of unnecessary barriers to trade in goods and are compatible to the extent possible”.

Accepting and including these bodies would do just that. With the CBI, TUC and many other organisations calling on the Government to act in such strong language, I hope that the Minister can oblige us, and I look forward to his response. I beg to move.