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House of Commons Hansard
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World Trade Organisation
15 December 2016
Volume 618
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2. What discussions he has had with the World Trade Organisation on the approval of new schedules for the UK after the UK has left the EU. [907891]

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I have had a number of constructive discussions with the director-general of the World Trade Organisation, Roberto Azevêdo. We have made clear to the WTO membership the UK’s intention to replicate as far as possible our current obligations in order to avoid disrupting our trading relationships or those of our trading partners across the world. The UK will need its own schedules in the WTO regardless of the nature of our future trading relationship with the EU.

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Given that the list of countries offended by the Foreign Secretary grows longer by the day, what contingencies are being put in place should there be some opposition to the renegotiation of the UK schedule?

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The contingency that the hon. Gentleman asks for is in place, because until new schedules are negotiated and agreed, current schedules will apply. It is worth noting that the European Union itself, having failed to negotiate EU28 schedules, is still operating successfully under the EU15 of 1995.

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Civitas has estimated that if we were to go to World Trade Organisation terms with the EU, EU businesses would have to pay £12 billion to access the UK market, and UK businesses will have to pay £5 billion to access the EU market. Does the Secretary of State accept those figures? If the Government do not accept them, will he tell us what the Government’s figures are?

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Whatever the actual figures are, there is one point that is more important—the introduction of any impediments to trade and investment in intra-European trade would be disadvantageous to producers and consumers alike. Of course, the Government have made it very clear that we will try to get maximum access to European markets in order to avoid a disruption of trade.

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Are not these WTO schedules of concessions just one of many examples of the mammoth bureaucratic task that has to be conducted, and should we not be thanking our ambassador to the European Union for the reality check he has given about the decade-long period it will take to extricate ourselves from this process? Does the Secretary of State agree we should not be rushing so headlong into this timetable?

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Yes, we face a number of bureaucratic challenges, but the people we should be thanking are the British people for giving us such clear instructions to leave the EU.

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The UK has high standards in the workplace and for its products and animal welfare. Does the Secretary of State agree that a free trade deal with zero tariffs with countries that have much lower standards could have a significant commercial disadvantage for many of our companies?

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The whole point of reaching an agreement is because it is beneficial to both parties, otherwise an agreement would not be reached, and regulatory and compliance standards will always be an important part of that.