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Trade Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 4th February 2019.

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Photo of Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Lord Kerr of Kinlochard Crossbench 7:00 pm, 4th February 2019

My Lords, I support Amendment 77 for the reason that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has just given, and I strongly support Amendment 80, for the reason that my noble friend Lord Hannay gave.

Amendment 78, however, is very strange. I support it, but we are in Alice in Wonderland territory here. It is an entirely academic interest, because it seems to me implausible that Mr Barclay and Mr Paterson, and their high-powered alternative arrangements group, would come back to this alternative arrangement—the Chequers proposal—given that they ambushed the Government to take it out by their amendment to the taxation Bill.

It was always rather a fanciful idea anyway. In its brief life, it had several forms. First, it was proposed as a reciprocal arrangement. The foreigners would have to clog up Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg and Bremen collecting our tariffs and operating our quotas, segregating our goods from goods going to the EU, which would be charged EU tariffs and subject to EU quotas. Once segregated, in some magic way, our goods would then proceed to the United Kingdom, having paid UK tariffs at their first European port of entry. That was never going to happen.

The second form, once noises from Brussels had been heard, was that we would do it for EU goods but the EU would not be required to do it for our imports at its ports. It was that, I think, which provoked the ire of the ERG: why should we collect foreign tax? But there was no possibility of the EU at any stage agreeing that we should collect its tariffs at our ports.

There are several degrees of lunacy here, and we have this very strange prohibition on the statute book. I think that the statute book should not contain nonsenses, and so I support the amendment. However, it does not matter. The EU would never agree this proposal in any of its incarnations. Mr Paterson, Mr Barclay and these other trade experts are not going to come up with it as an idea in the alternative arrangements committee, because they were dead against it. Therefore, although I support the amendment, I do not think one need spend a lot of time on it.