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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 Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development 4:45 pm, 4th February 2019

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for introducing this amendment which deals with an important area already touched on this afternoon. It will of course be pored over in some detail as the immigration Bill makes its way to your Lordships’ House.

There is no dodging the key line in the political declaration. At paragraph 56, I think, it makes it clear that free movement will end as the UK leaves the EU. The noble Lord is passionate in his advocacy of free movement, and he has expressed his view that it is a stupid idea—I think I quote him correctly—to get rid of it. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, identified, this issue is more complex. To use his term, unbridled immigration was an issue, and we would be stupid to ignore that. Therefore, there is a difference of views here but, as the noble Lord invites me to set out the Government’s position, I will put it on the record if I can. I appreciate the desire to ensure that businesses and individuals who trade in services and goods between the UK and the EU will have the ability to move across borders to do so. The Government are committed to securing the best deal for UK businesses. We have set out a clear proposal for an ambitious future relationship with the European Union, including a reciprocal framework for mobility. This was reflected in the political declaration on our future relationship. The detail will be discussed in the next phase of our negotiations.

One area where I am absolutely at one with the noble Lord—and, I am sure, with all Members of your Lordships’ House—is in seeking to separate out, in the sometimes rather toxic atmosphere of the current debate, the immense contribution to our national life made by the many people who have come here to work or study in the arts. We have to separate out what is happening in the wider political debate from our deep appreciation for all that they do for our public services, our academic institutions and the economy in general. That is beyond doubt. However, our gratitude is not limited only to those who have come here from the EU. It applies to people who have come from around the world to this country; we appreciate the contribution that they make and it is right that we put that on the record.

The Government recognise the need to ensure that we have sufficient mobility provisions with the EU to support our trade agreement, and that we implement an immigration system that works in the national interest. The political declaration makes it clear that arrangements for market access with the EU as part of the future relationship should allow for a temporary entry and stay in each other’s territories for business purposes in defined areas. It also makes it clear that we want visa-free travel for short-term visits. We have said in our White Paper on our future relationship that we recognise that mobility is a key element of economic, cultural and scientific co-operation. On the cultural element, of course, I identify strongly with what the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said about the contribution of the arts and the creative industries.

We want to support professional service providers to reach clients and advance manufacturers to deploy key personnel to the right place, and to encourage scientists to collaborate on world-leading projects. We have also said that we want to agree provisions on intra-corporate transfers that allow UK and EU-based companies to train staff, move them between offices and plants and deploy expertise where it is needed. The noble Lord, Lord Fox, said that we were using future context for a lot of the aspirations in the future framework, but in effect his amendment would provide a carte blanche. We need to see that the agreement we reach regarding people accessing the UK post-Brexit is reciprocated for the many people in this country who make a significant contribution to other EU countries in a variety of fields. The correct place for that discussion is during discussions on the future economic framework, which will occur once we leave the European Union. I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord but for that reason, I feel unable to go further at this point and ask him to withdraw his amendment.