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Part of Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 16th June 2020.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury) 10:00 am, 16th June 2020

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Rosindell. I take what the Minister says about the measure affecting relatively few businesses at the moment, but as this develops, that might not remain the case. There is a certain irony in the EU providing mechanisms for simplifying and harmonising these rules and trading across the EU—people moving their goods around the place—when the UK stands to come out of the EU and lose some of those benefits for businesses in all our constituencies.

There is an irony as well that the Government have decided to adopt these new rules. I am sure the Brexiteers in the room are no less keen on being rule takers, but that seems to be what the Government are doing in this case. We want to see as much harmonisation and simplification for businesses, because that is to their benefit. That is why we think it is important to stay in the EU in the first place.

Figures from the Scottish Government suggest that Scottish GDP could be 1.1% lower after two years, on the current cumulative loss of economic activity from leaving the EU, and up to £3 billion over those two years, on top of the devastating effects of the coronavirus outbreak. There will be an impact without having a free trade deal or an extension, at least for Scotland’s agriculture, fisheries and manufacturing sectors.

We want to see a comprehensive assessment of how all the sectors listed in the amendment will be affected—leisure, retail, hospitality, tourism, financial services, business services, health, life and medical services, logistics, aviation, transport, professional sport, oil and gas, universities—because they could all be affected by this clause. It would be wise for the Government to look at the impact of what they are proposing. It is always wise for the Government to look at the impact of their proposals on anything, I suppose, and we encourage them to do that.

Because the measure is retrospective, will the Minister say what notifications have gone out to business that may be affected and what guidance has been given? He said that companies can opt to use these rules or not. How does that work, and how does the guidance ensure that people know what they have to carry out, whether they decide to use the rules or not? It sounds quite confusing from what the Minister said. Finally, because he did not make it clear, will he say what happens to these measures after the transition period?