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Trade Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of Lord Lansley Lord Lansley Conservative 3:45 pm, 4th February 2019

My Lords, in following the noble Lord’s remarks, perhaps I may say that the unreality of debates in Committee on this Bill will be exacerbated if we not only have amendments that, quite properly, raise relevant issues that are not presently included in the Bill but we then use them as the basis for a wide-ranging debate on every occasion. Let us not do that. On occasion, we in this House look broadly at what the resolution to our current impasse might be, but we also have a responsibility to use our time well on this Bill to try to ensure that it is effective legislation, because we might need it.

In that context, there is a very simple reason why trade in services is not in the Bill: the General Agreement on Trade in Services is multilateral, not plurilateral, so there is no need to legislate for this as it is something we are a party to only by virtue of our membership of the European Union. That is why the government procurement agreement has got into the legislation. If that were true for the General Agreement on Trade in Services, that would have to be included as well, but it is not; every member of the WTO is a member of the GATS.

However, the question is: do we want to legislate to mandate the Government in the negotiation on a future free trade agreement to seek to provide for a continuing and complete reproduction of our current relationship with the European Union, or at least to the extent that the amendment asks for that? As far as I can see, it asks for it up to mode 3—it does not include mode 4 arrangements, which allow for natural persons to be present in other member states—thus excluding the free movement of individuals for the purpose of the delivery of services in other member states. Therefore, it is not a continuity amendment, or at least it cannot be presented as such.

From the point of view of Ministers, broadly speaking at the moment it is important for us to understand to what extent free trade agreements that might be reproduced by way of continuity agreements in the event of a no-deal exit might lead to the perverse situation whereby we have greater service sector access to third countries than we do to the European Union, which would mean considerable dislocation for service industries in this country.

Finally, much as I wish that we were staying in the European Union and continue to argue that we should be in a customs union with a degree of regulatory alignment—we will come on to that briefly later—I certainly would not go as far as the amendment implies, which is that effectively we should be rule-takers on services with the European Union. That could be a very unhappy place for us to be, given that services make up 80% of our economy, as has been said. The fact that we are in a customs union for goods will therefore not preclude us from engaging extensively in discussions on trade in services with third countries, which is where much of the action may well be in future trade negotiations.