Future International Trade Opportunities

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:03 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Party Chair, Co-operative Party 5:03 pm, 1st May 2019

I agree; the hon. Gentleman makes a good point. Without dwelling on that point, the CER report helpfully points out that it is significantly more difficult to open services markets than goods markets to trade, because many barriers to trade are regulatory in nature. The quality and safety of a service is difficult to decide at the border.

As I pointed out in my intervention on the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, no group of countries has gone further than the European Union in making it easier to sell services produced in one country in another in a bloc, yet still barriers remain. Therefore, pulling out of the single market and negotiating a free trade agreement, however ambitious it ultimately is, would inevitably throw up new barriers to trade, particularly if we withdraw from the EU’s collective rulebook, shared institutions and cross-border enforcement regimes, as it appears the Prime Minister wants. Some of the impact of withdrawal from the single market for services could be offset with, for example, significant mutual recognition of qualifications and—more controversially—the temporary movement of people.

It is not fashionable to worry about the future of financial services—the case for further regulatory reform of the industry can easily be made—but it remains one of the few world-class industries we have in the UK, and it is clearly set to be damaged significantly, putting jobs in my constituency at risk. For that reason, I urge the House to vote for us to stay in the single market as part of a soft Brexit deal, put back to the British people in a public vote with the option, nevertheless, to remain in the EU.