Protecting Against the Effects of the Extraterritorial Application of Third Country Legislation (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 26th March 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Fairhead Baroness Fairhead The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 9:15 pm, 26th March 2019

I thank noble Lords for their contributions in this short but useful debate. I hope I have been clear about the Government’s commitment to the continuation of these regulations. To address the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, about why we are doing this, we believe that if we do not retain and amend this legislation, we will no longer be able to offer protection to UK businesses from the harmful effects we consider to be illegal under international law. We would in effect be acknowledging the superiority of the sanctions regime of a third country relative to our own. Successive Governments since the 1980s have agreed that this is unacceptable and our Government is no exception.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, also highlighted some of the real challenges of these regulations. Yes, they provide protection, but there is also a challenge for companies who find themselves in that spot between being blocked from complying and failing to comply, and therefore being in breach of sanctions. This instrument is not a perfect solution. In application it is probably to be used more as a tool to dissuade companies and individuals from complying with extraterritorial sanctions. In terms of usage, only about 14 applications have been received by the Commission. I hope that answers the hard point of the questions.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, asked some questions about the application process for the exemptions. At the moment businesses apply to the European Commission for exemptions; we will try to make that a bit more straightforward by providing a dedicated mailbox for our businesses to apply for exemptions once the SI enters into force. We hope that that will be a much more readily accessible approach.

On the question of when guidance will be published, over the coming months we will start with the EU guidance and update it to make sure that it complies with the UK context.

In terms of the devolved Administrations, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, acknowledged that this is a reserved power. We have kept the devolved Administrations informed of the policy on this matter and have sent them the Explanatory Memorandum. In terms of criminal proceedings in Scotland, this has been permitted under the 1996 order, so I hope that that is relatively straightforward.

My final response is to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. He asked how this fits in with current foreign policy with regard to Iran in particular. There are sanctions that we support against Iran. However, as I have said before to the House, we believe that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best plan to make sure that we prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. We believe that protecting trade with Iran, supported by this blocking regulation, is important to show that we are committed to legitimate trading with Iran. We are firm believers in the importance of the JCPOA.