Debates between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Suttie during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 13th Oct 2020
Trade Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard)

Trade Bill

Debate between Baroness Noakes and Baroness Suttie
Baroness Noakes Portrait Baroness Noakes (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I was quite surprised to find the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, concentrating on the costs involved in the border between the UK and the EU. When I put my name down to speak in this group, I thought it was about assessing the costs of our trade with other countries. Let me be clear: I am always in favour of ensuring that the Government identify the costs and burdens on business in all of their activities, so he will not find me opposing his amendment on that ground at all.

However, his amendment is very unclear, because it is not clear what the counterfactual is: costs compared with what? In the context of his subsection (1), which is about the rollover agreements, are the costs compared with the current status quo—that is, in the implementation period—or with trading on WTO terms after 1 January, or with something else? It is very unclear. In the case of subsection (2), presumably the cost will be compared with trading with those other third countries on WTO terms because that would be the counterfactual. It seems to be highly unlikely that we would enter into a free trade agreement with another party that involved costs additional to those trading on WTO terms, so the noble Lord’s amendment does not entirely make sense.

Baroness Suttie Portrait Baroness Suttie (LD) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I shall be brief, as my noble friend Lord Purvis has already made a characteristically clear and robust case for impact assessments as set out in Amendment 42, to which I have added my name.

Given the highly complex and as yet unresolved nature of the situation in Northern Ireland as a result of the Northern Ireland protocol, does the Minister not agree that impact assessments would be particularly helpful to the business community there? An evidence-based approach would provide an opportunity to highlight any particular concerns and any additional costs that could have such a negative impact on Northern Ireland businesses, not least because of the highly complex supply lines there. Impact assessments would provide a greater understanding of the facts and allow for more effective planning and preparation, as my noble friend Lord Purvis has said.

The Minister will know that, in May, the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group submitted more than 60 detailed questions to the Government, following its analysis of the impact of the changes facing Northern Ireland businesses at the end of the transition period. However, 17 of these questions remain unanswered. Can the Minister say when he expects answers to be given to these remaining questions, most especially given that we are now just over two months away from the end of the transition period?

The Government published a detailed, 60-page document setting out the possible economic advantages of a trade deal with the United States. A detailed analysis was presented in May this year on the likely impact of a trade deal with Japan. Yet in March this year, Michael Gove told the House of Commons Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union that there would not be an impact assessment on the UK-EU trade deal currently being negotiated. Can the Minister therefore explain what criteria is used to decide whether or not to carry out an impact assessment on any future trade deal? Can he say whether the Government intend to publish an impact assessment on the EU-UK deal and, if so, when will it be done? Will particular attention be given to the very specific set of circumstances facing Northern Ireland?