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Trade Bill - Committee (4th Day)

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

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords) 4:45 pm, 4th February 2019

My Lords, a powerful case has been made by the party to my left. My sadness is that the framing of the amendment before us deals largely with how any future trade agreement with the EU should have a relaxed approach to the mobility framework and, picking up the point of our earlier debate, tries to insert in some measure the fourth pillar of the GATS process, which allows for individuals to travel in support of goods and services.

The case we heard, and the emotion it raises, are about the much broader ideas of freedom of movement and the ability to transfer skills, particularly in the creative industries. Although it was not specifically mentioned, presumably it seeks to try to loosen the way in which the Government currently treat overseas students. There is a wider, richer, deeper and more important argument about the need for mobility, its importance for any modern nation state and the contribution it can make to our economy and our culture. That needs to be answered, but it is not picked up particularly by this amendment.

We too discovered this problem when tabling amendments. The title of the Bill means that we could not have as broad a discussion as we would wish. However, there is an immigration Bill coming, and others in your Lordships’ House will want to pick up many of the points made here and raise them in the context of a much wider and more appropriate set of immigration conditions and arrangements, which will satisfy much of the discussions we have heard this afternoon.

On the narrow question of where we move, it would be wrong to try to seek a broader solution to the problems identified through a generic approach. There is no doubt that what appeared to be—and it was appearance rather than reality—unbridled immigration was a factor in the referendum that led to the formation of the Brexit arrangements. We would be stupid to ignore that. There are probably answers and solutions that would be satisfactory to all concerned, but not in this amendment. Nevertheless, I will listen carefully to what the Minister says in response to this point. This issue will not go away and we look forward to returning to it at a future stage.