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Trade Bill - Report (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:15 pm on 6th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords) 8:15 pm, 6th March 2019

Follow that wonderful peroration! The Minister has been practising, I am sure. I congratulate him on his brilliance in getting out of the Tugendhat trap. He obviously thought that he would be judged on whether he met the very high standards required of an answer in this place before going down to an ignominious defeat—as I hope will be the case. He did it by setting his own bar and then deciding whether he had passed it by inventing, as often happens in these debates, the things that I did not say and then arguing against them effectively. He ended up by appealing to the green Benches down the Corridor, where I think he will probably find a slightly better response than he will get today.

I am sorry that the Minister has to defend the indefensible. As he said, all the arguments have been exhausted. In response to two of the charges, yes, the other place has considered this matter before, but somebody once said, “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?” On the question of uncertainty, surely it is better to have a certain target, even if it takes time, than the continuing uncertainty of whether there will be a target, and that is what this amendment tries to do.

Customs unions are not very widely found in the world. They are a very special thing, particularly when they involve equality of partners trading with each other. The majority of customs unions in the world involve single dominant economies forcing terms on others. This customs union is a particularly good example of the way in which mature democracies coming together can create good for all and we should be very chary of moving out of it.

The Minister challenged the wording of the amendment but it is incredibly inclusive and was drafted to make sure that it stood the test of time. It simply states:

“It shall be the objective of Her Majesty’s Government to take all necessary steps to implement an international trade agreement which enables the United Kingdom to participate after exit day in a customs union”.

It does not imply staying in the EU. I think that we have had the debate. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 207, Noes 141.