Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 15th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2019-21 View all Trade Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 128-R-I Marshalled list for Report - (2 Dec 2020)
Baroness Bull Portrait Baroness Bull (CB)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty. I pay tribute to him for his tireless advocacy on behalf of the creative industries, particularly the music sector. As he pointed out, the amendment does not seek to recreate the past, as was suggested in response to a similar amendment in Committee. It seeks very specifically to secure the continued success of UK services, and in doing so to preserve the employment the sector provides, the economic contribution it generates and, as the noble Lord, Lord Fox, outlined, its potential to contribute to this country’s recovery from the pandemic.

The UK is predominantly a services economy, with services contributing around 80% of economic activity in 2019 and providing jobs for 85% of the UK workforce. It is not a coincidence that the primary destination for UK services exports is the EU’s single market. One of the best-established empirical results in international economics is that bilateral trade decreases with distance. The closer the country, the easier it is to get feet on the ground. Aside from services provided remotely, all modes of service require this physical presence. Thus, there is an inextricable link between mobility and service success.

British in Europe, an organisation representing the 1.2 million British people living in other European countries, gave extensive evidence in June to the Select Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union on the extent of the problems British citizens will face if they are denied appropriate mobility in Europe. To date, these concerns have been largely ignored, but they are proving to be well founded, with anecdotal evidence emerging of UK passport holders already missing out in exactly the ways anticipated even before the end of the transition year, with employers reluctant to hire UK citizens, job offers withdrawn, and, in one recent widely publicised example, British passport holders excluded from the casting call for the role of a British prince in a new film due to “new Brexit rules”.

Contractors working across multiple European countries face even more complex issues in being obliged to comply with multiple different formalities to gain a temporary right to continue working as a provider of cross-border services. Without a framework in place, British service providers will face exactly this patchwork quilt of unilateral solutions and immigration rules in the different EU countries to which their work takes them. Big companies that have the resources to tailor and adapt will probably survive, but individuals, freelancers and owners of small businesses will once again be the ones to suffer.

These small businesses are also likely to be hit hardest by any failure to secure an adequacy decision with the EU. A recent report from the New Economics Foundation and UCL estimated that SMEs are each likely to have to find between £3,000 and £10,000 to cover additional costs of compliance if they want to continue to transfer data from the EU to the UK, with the aggregate cost to UK businesses in the region of £1.6 billion. This is money that could certainly be better spent, especially as UK business recovers from the pandemic.

Even before Covid, the impact of leaving the EU without a mobility framework to replace the current one threatened the sustainability and the success of UK services. We know that Covid has had a devastating effect on those parts of the sector that rely on human gatherings: hospitality; air travel; the creative industries; arts and entertainment. In the creative industries alone, Labour Force Survey data from the ONS reveals job losses of 55,000, a 30% decline since March and significantly higher-than-average numbers of people leaving creative employment. This is clear evidence of the scale of the crisis in a sector which has, over recent years, contributed over £111 billion annually in GVA.

The absence of a mobility framework will not just put at even greater risk these elements of UK services that are already on their knees but risk also those which have been better able to weather the Covid storm—IT, financial and legal services—because of the barriers that it will impose on the continuation of trade. The UK service sector is one which can claim to be world-leading, and I am still at a loss as to understand why it has received so little attention throughout the Brexit negotiations. That is why I support this amendment, and in doing so, once again ask the Government to do everything that they can to secure an appropriate mobility framework with the EU. This will protect not only the jobs of four in every five UK citizens but the crucial contributions that services make to our economy and, through that, to communities up and down the country.

Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, but when I read Amendment 13 I thought that she and the noble Lord, Lord Fox, had temporarily forgotten that the Government were elected on a promise to get Brexit done, and that a part of that promise was to take back control of our borders. That means controlling who comes into our country. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has made fantastic progress in reorienting our approach on this. I know that some noble Lords still cling to a faint hope that, even though we have left the EU, we can carry on much as before, and at the heart of this amendment is that very notion. Whatever noble Lords who support the amendment have said, at the heart of what they are trying to achieve is something akin to the status quo.

In the negotiations, which have been so tortuous, it has not been difficult to miss that mobility has simply not been on the table. Indeed, the provision of services that is the target for the amendment is not a significant part of the negotiations. These are facts. Do noble Lords think that, at this late stage, the UK should go back to the EU and say that negotiations should start all over again and build in a mobility framework? That cannot be more than a pipe dream. It might be realised in due course, but noble Lords must accept the reality that there will be no special arrangements in the near term. We must learn to live the new normal of the UK being outside the EU, with all that this entails. Some service providers, notably financial services, have already adapted their business models; others will have to follow. Noble Lords may not like change and may wish to cling to the past, but we have moved on, and this amendment belongs in another era.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, with all the respect and affection which I hold for my noble friend Lady Noakes, I must disagree with her most strongly. I hope that, when summing up this debate, the Minister will set out the facts as they are. We passed a statutory instrument looking especially at the free movement of lawyers, and we have undertaken in this country to grant access to lawyers of the European Union and EEA to come and practise on the same terms going forward as are currently available. I realise that, as it is a different department, the Minister may not have the answers at his fingertips, but I would welcome a written response, to get the facts as they are. What update can the Minister give today on the basis that we have allowed incoming professionals?

I am particularly interested in lawyers, but I accept that the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, are looking at the overall picture, which is that 51% of all services that we export go to the European Union. That is an inescapable fact. Have we now progressed? Do we now have a situation in which those such as myself, some 30 or 40 years ago, will be able to go over on an ongoing basis—allowing those European and EEA lawyers to practise here, establish themselves and set up a freedom to provide a service as an attorney, lawyer or advocate—on the basis of reciprocity, so that mutual recognition is a two-way process? Is that now the case? Has that been agreed with our European partners? I believe that the generosity of spirit must be reciprocated by them.

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Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
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My Lords, I shall focus my very brief remarks on Amendment 16 in this group—mainly because, when I saw Amendment 25, I had no idea what it was about. I have now heard what the noble Lord has said and I am sure that my noble friend the Minister will respond in due course. When I looked at Amendment 16, I really could not see what kind of problem it was trying to solve; not only is it unnecessary for a statute to repeat commitments that have been made but the environment for aid is now governed by the 2002 Act, which is pretty clear about where aid can and cannot be given.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, may have concerns about what the Foreign Secretary may or may not have said, but for something to change the law may have to change and the noble Lord would have plenty of opportunity to engage with that issue as and when such a change was made. The noble Lord was good enough to say that the UK has an extremely good record on tied aid and has had so for a very long time; this is not a new commitment needing to be made. I repeat what I always say: it is unnecessary to put in legislation things that noble Lords are worried about—things that might be changed in the future or commitments that might not be kept up. However, if the noble Lord is merely tabling a probing amendment, looking for my noble friend the Minister to reiterate where the Government currently stand on tied aid, obviously there is no real issue. Apart from that, I just say to the noble Lord that the amendment is pretty unnecessary.

Baroness Sheehan Portrait Baroness Sheehan (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I will say a few short words about Amendment 16, which may enlighten the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, as to why I think it is very important. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed for putting it down.

The Pergau dam scandal of the early 1990s offers a timely reminder of how badly things can go wrong when tied aid becomes, as it did then, a regular feature of the aid budget—so much so that, in 1997, the UK’s aid budget was removed from the Foreign Secretary’s remit and placed with a newly formed Department for International Development. Maybe old habits die hard as this was followed in fairly short order by the International Development Act 2002, which tightly defined development assistance as two things: furthering sustainable development and improving the welfare of people in developing countries. It was designed to be pro-poor and, in effect, to ensure no more tied aid.

However, that and other Acts of Parliament on international development now have a sword of Damocles hanging over them. My noble friend Lord Purvis has outlined in quite a lot of detail the conflicting statements that we have heard with respect to the 0.7% target, which, as we now know, is to be reduced to 0.5%. He has therefore quite sensibly covered every eventuality in his Amendment 16 by invoking the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s recommendation on untying official development assistance. I hope the Minister will add his assurances to those of the Foreign Secretary and tell us that the bad old days of tied aid are indeed over. Trust is a hard-won commodity, and it is running in very short supply with this Government. I ask the Minister, whose word I have no reason to mistrust, to ensure that assurances given at the Dispatch Box are followed through.

Turning to Amendment 25, to which I have added my name, the Government’s early commitments post Brexit to protect current trading relationships with poorer countries, keep prices in check and help build our future trading partners are not turning out to be quite as reliable as we would have hoped, as with many other government commitments post Brexit. It now looks as though the world’s poorest countries will instead face additional challenges post Brexit. Quite a lot are being overcome, but not all.

Amendment 25 is necessary to ensure that developing countries do not lose market access or share, either because time has run out to agree continuity deals or because other arrangements have run into difficulties. Including some of those countries which could face higher tariffs in the list of least developed countries, as per proposed new subsection (2), would offer some protection.

My noble friend Lord Purvis has explained some of the issues surrounding our difficulties in agreeing a trading arrangement with Ghana. I hope the Minister will agree that insisting on a historic stepping-stone deal was unrealistic. As my noble friend said, Ghana asked that the existing ECOWAS EPA with the EU be used as a basis; I am delighted to learn from my noble friend that it will form the basis of ongoing negotiations. To have insisted that the stepping-stone agreement should form the basis of agreements going forward with Ghana was to disregard the fact that it is now a member of ECOWAS—the Economic Community of West African States—and as such has notified that agreement under the WTO. That would break international agreements, which I hope the Minister would agree is not a good look.

Ghana could have signed our agreement for the enhanced framework as a way out of the scheme but, as my noble friend Lord Purvis explained, it was presented with some difficulties in doing so because bananas are not included in the enhanced framework scheme. I hope this issue can be resolved so that other countries are not caught in the same trap. Had Ghana signed up to the enhanced framework scheme, about 30% of the bananas we eat in the UK, which come from Ghana, could not have got here. That would be a real shame, because a large proportion of them are Fairtrade; the Fairtrade Foundation has had great success in getting better working conditions and fairer deals for poorer farmers and the workers and communities that rely on them. I do not need to remind the Minister that the Fairtrade movement enjoys wide support in the UK. Proposed new subsection (3) is designed to overcome this difficulty for Ghana and other developing countries caught in a similar conundrum.

Time is tight, so I will move straight to the end. The regional economic unions in Africa—east, south, north and west—are now all pretty well established and the African Continental Free Trade Area, which represents a market of 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $1.3 trillion, opens on 1 January 2021. This October, just a few weeks ago, talks took place between the EU and the African Union on a modern relationship between the two trading blocs. What plans do we have for a modern trading arrangement with the African Union?