Amendment 24A

Part of Trade Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:51 pm on 13th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development 5:51 pm, 13th March 2019

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for presenting his amendment, and I particularly thank him for the way that he has engaged with officials and with my noble friend Lady Fairhead on this important issue. I can cut to the chase and say that we are probably not going to be that far apart, but let me put some remarks on the record in the hope that we can agree to keep working on this between now and Third Reading.

Ministers from across Government have carried out an extensive engagement on EU exit with businesses, industry bodies and civil society organisations from all sectors of the economy and all regions of the UK. The Secretaries of State at DExEU and BEIS and the Chancellor of the Exchequer co-chair the EU Exit Business Advisory Group to ensure that business is not only heard but is influential throughout the negotiations. The group involves the director-generals and directors of the CBI, IoD, EEF, BCC and FSB. The meetings take place regularly and are included in transparency returns. Since July 2016, DExEU Ministers alone have organised and attended more than 500 engagements with business and civil society stakeholders from every sector of the British economy.

For goods, the UK and the EU want to be as ambitious as possible. As part of this, both parties have agreed to explore the possibility of UK co-operation with EU agencies such as the European Aviation Safety Agency, the European Chemicals Agency and the European Medicines Agency. In addition, the political declaration sets out that the UK will seek to co-operate with the European Maritime Safety Agency and the European Network of Transmission System Operators. As a specific example of this suggested co-operation in the interests of tackling shared safety and security issues, we will continue to co-operate with the European Maritime Safety Agency, including on exchange of information between the agency and the United Kingdom Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Let me turn now to the core issue that remains between us, which is the position of the EU Intellectual Property Office. The Government are working to find the best arrangement for the UK regarding EU agencies and bodies, but the decision to seek co-operation with an EU agency or body must be made carefully, bearing in mind the context of the UK’s overall aims for the future relationship and negotiations with the EU. As we negotiate our future relationship with the EU, the Government are determined to agree ambitious provisions to help businesses protect their intellectual property rights. Indeed, in the political declaration the UK and the EU commit to establishing,

“a mechanism for cooperation and exchange of information on intellectual property issues of mutual interest”.

In this regard, the UK would seek an appropriate level of co-operation with the EU and other relevant agencies such as the EU IPO. What we can achieve will be subject to the negotiations. However, since intellectual property is a wide-ranging and dynamic area of law, it would be unwise to stipulate in UK law exactly how we want to co-operate with the EU in this given area, as this could have wider implications for the balance of rights and obligations in the future partnership.

Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, I should like to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, that trademarks and registered designs are granted on a non-discriminatory basis. That means that, in all circumstances, British businesses will continue to be able to use the EU Intellectual Property Office to protect their trademarks and designs in the EU. The Government want to emphasise that we seek to be ambitious and to obtain the best result possible in the negotiations with the EU on intellectual property. However, as it stands, the amendment would be unhelpful in that it would bind the UK to a particular negotiating approach. The negotiation objectives are complex, and there are vitally important questions which must be weighed in their own right.

In accordance with the commitments made by the Prime Minister, Parliament will have a greater and more formal role in the development of the mandate for the next phase of the negotiations. The Government are more than sympathetic both to the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and to those of businesses. A thorough engagement with stakeholders and the EU has led the UK to saying that it will seek co-operation with five bodies that I mentioned earlier. This work requires thorough and weighted consideration of how active participation in an agency delivers wider negotiation goals in the context of any associated costs and disbenefits.

I thank the noble Lord for his constructive approach to engagement on this. I believe that we are not far apart from each other, particularly in the light of the progress that we have made to date. As a consequence, I can confirm, as has been the case throughout the process, that I and the lead Minister, my noble friend Lady Fairhead, will be happy to have further discussions to see whether we can reach a mutually acceptable agreement. We will therefore return to this matter at Third Reading. On that basis, I would ask the noble Lord to consider withdrawing his amendment.