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Brexit - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:25 pm on 19th October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union) 3:25 pm, 19th October 2019

Of course they will not have direct representation, which is why we want to see that there is ongoing democratic consent to these arrangements from representatives of the people of Northern Ireland.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, raised the issue of customs. Before I address her point, I am sure that noble Lords will want to join me in saying how good it is to see her back in her place. We will leave the EU customs union as one United Kingdom. The UK will be a single customs territory, with control over our independent trade policy. The new protocol also explicitly sets out that Northern Ireland is in the United Kingdom’s customs territory. The EU’s administrative customs procedures will apply in Northern Ireland, in order to make sure that goods destined for the EU comply with the correct process. No tariffs will be payable on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland unless those goods are at risk of moving on to the EU. The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, asked me about compatibility under Section 55 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018. Section 55 is not a barrier to the withdrawal agreement. The agreement is clear that Northern Ireland is, and will remain, part of the UK’s customs territory.

The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, raised the issue of regulatory alignment. The new protocol establishes a single regulatory zone on the island of Ireland. This involves Northern Ireland aligning with a limited number of specific EU regulations. The UK Government will always be committed to protecting Northern Ireland’s position in the UK’s internal market. The new protocol explicitly enables the United Kingdom to maintain the guarantee that businesses and farmers in Northern Ireland will continue to have unfettered access to the rest of the UK market—which is something I am sure noble Lords will welcome.

Looking ahead, we have also negotiated and agreed changes to the political declaration, as noted by many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Birt. This will provide a framework for an ambitious future relationship with the European Union. We have removed all references to the backstop from this political declaration while setting out our clear intention to pursue a future relationship with a comprehensive and balanced free trade agreement at its core, alongside agreements on security and wider areas of co-operation. It ensures that the United Kingdom will take control of its own regulatory affairs. Our commitments to the level playing field will be commensurate with the scope and depth of the future relationship. This will prevent unfair competitive advantages and uphold the current high standards in areas such as employment and environmental standards.