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Leaving the EU: Customs Arrangements — [Mr Gary Streeter in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 3:46 pm on 10th July 2018.

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Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General 3:46 pm, 10th July 2018

My hon. Friend is right inasmuch as that is potentially the case if there are any inconsistencies—we might otherwise have varied our rules accordingly to accommodate an FTA. However, the Government have made it clear that although we will have total alignment at the start, we will not seek an arrangement where we will be unable to deviate from that in the future, albeit we recognise that there will be consequences for doing so.

A number of hon. Members raised the issue of preparedness, and I assure them that we will be in a good position and ready on day one if we have a no-deal situation. The Chancellor allocated £3 billion for Brexit preparations in the last Budget. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs received £46 million last year and around £250 million in this financial year. We have already recruited, or have in train the recruitment of, around 1,000 new staff going into HMRC with a focus on borders. We have said that we will move that figure up to between 3,000 and 5,000. Some Members mentioned the customs declaration system. The National Audit Office has suggested that we are broadly speaking where we need to be to ensure that that system comes online and live before March next year.

Chuka Umunna asked why the EU would allow us to collect EU tariffs when there are no such arrangements with any other trading partner. We are in a unique situation. We are a very large trading partner with the European Union. We have complete alignment at the moment in regulations with that market, so we start from a position that is not occupied by others.

I think I have gone through most of the points raised by Helen Goodman. I am grateful that she said that initially she broadly welcomed the proposals, and we should all do.

My hon. Friend Antoinette Sandbach made the very important point that we are seeking an arrangement that can command the broad support of the British people—an arrangement that ensures that the UK and the EU have frictionless access to each other’s markets for goods; that provides regulatory flexibility in the way that I have described; that enables commitments to Northern Ireland to be met and the Good Friday agreement to be honoured; that sees us leave the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy; that allows us to deliver an independent trading policy; that ensures that, in future, all laws in the UK will be legislated for by our Parliament; that restores the supremacy of UK courts; and that ends the free movement of people and vast payments to the EU. The broad majority of people in our country will welcome that achievement.

I hope that, particularly in the debate on Monday, Parliament as a whole comes together. This is a moment in our history where there are undoubtedly significant opportunities, but also a number of challenges. I hope we see the debate through that prism, rather than through anything that is rather more narrow and party-political. On that note, Mr Streeter, I gladly give the Floor to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon.