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Trade Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development 4:00 pm, 4th February 2019

My Lords, on behalf of all those who have spoken, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Stevenson and Lord Purvis, for bringing forward Amendment 45, the purpose of which is to provide an opportunity for the Government to put some remarks on the record about our approach to services which, as we all agree, is of crucial importance. So, before coming to some of the specific questions that have been raised during this short debate, I will take advantage of that opportunity to set out the Government’s position as it now stands.

As my noble friends Lady McIntosh and Lady Neville-Rolfe, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said, the UK’s services economy is a global success story. Our internationally competitive industries play host to world-leading firms as well as thriving small and medium-sized enterprises, and we have undertaken significant engagement with the sector on issues related to EU exit.

I would like to reassure the House that the Government are seeking arrangements for services and investment that cover all modes of service supply—my noble friend Lord Lansley correctly referred to the variations; that provide substantial sectoral coverage, including measures on professional business services, which my noble friend Lady McIntosh referred to; that go well beyond both sides’ WTO commitments as set out in the General Agreement on Trade in Services, which my noble friend Lord Lansley also mentioned; and that build on the provisions in existing EU agreements.

Moreover, through the political declaration we have secured a commitment from the EU 27 that our future trading relationship will be ambitious, comprehensive and balanced, and will include market access commitments to ensure that service suppliers and investors do not face quantitative restrictions such as monopolies, economic needs tests or joint venture requirements, which my noble friend Lord Hamilton expressed concern about; national treatment commitments, to ensure that UK service suppliers and investors are not discriminated against by the EU 27 and vice versa, as my noble friend Lady McIntosh referred to; new arrangements on financial services, grounded in economic partnership, providing greater co-operation and consultation than is possible under existing third country frameworks; appropriate measures on the recognition of qualifications, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, to support UK professionals practising in the EU 27 and vice versa; arrangements that allow for temporary entry and stay in each other’s territories for business purposes, including visa-free travel for short-term visits, as the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, rightly identified from his extensive work examining the internal market as a member of the Select Committee; and mechanisms to promote voluntary regulatory co-operation to guard against the introduction of unnecessary barriers to services, trade and investment, to which my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe referred. I pay tribute to the work that she did at BEIS in seeking to remove those barriers.

We have also been clear that after we leave the EU, the UK will have an independent trade policy covering all aspects of goods and services. To deliver that objective, it will be important to retain regulatory freedom where it matters most for the UK’s services-based economy.

I turn to some of the points that have been raised.