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Customs Union

Volume 653: debated on Thursday 24 January 2019

16. What recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of negotiating a permanent customs union between the UK and the EU. (908764)

The statutory instrument covering the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals—REACH—regulations relating to chemical production on Teesside and elsewhere is inadequate, according to the industry. Surely a comprehensive customs union, which has been described by the director general of the CBI as a “practical real-world answer”, would solve such complex problems.

Well, indeed he does, clearly, so he does not see the rich opportunity of an independent trade policy that backs our businesses to go out in the world and succeed, or the opportunities that they would have through a trade policy. In a way, this really goes to the crux of the issue, because there is a lack of vision among Labour Members. They cannot see the benefits of an independent trade policy, and are therefore willing to contract that opportunity out to the European Union and have no say in it.

Like the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng), the Secretary of State has no doubt seen the comment by Tom Enders, the chief executive officer of Airbus, that the Government’s handling of Brexit is a “disgrace”. More than 6,000 good-quality jobs in Alyn and Deeside are dependent on Airbus. What share of the blame does the Secretary of State take for this?

The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that those are good-quality jobs. We see that in the potential of things such as the ring for the future, the research and development centre at Airbus and the apprenticeship programmes that we see in industries—

The answer to that is, again, to listen to the voice of business. It is clear that business wants an implementation period, not just for the certainty that it would deliver, but because, from a regulatory position, it does not want to have to take two steps and have two changes.