Anne Main welcomes a Bill which will maintain the current liberalised trade by road between the UK and the EU post-Brexit

14th May 2018

Anne Main welcomes a Bill to maintain the current liberalised trade by road between the UK and the EU post-Brexit and reassure UK hauliers that whatever the deal agreed - or if no deal is agreed at all - with the EU, the transition will be implemented smoothly and will support the continued movement of goods by truck between the UK and Europe so that UK hauliers will not be left high and dry.


It is a delight to follow the optimistic and upbeat speech from the right hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson). I welcome this Bill as a modest, appropriate and measured move by the Government to make provision in case there is not a comprehensive free trade deal with the European Union. I am surprised that the Opposition have not actually stated their case. They sound as though they are just not in favour of the Bill at all but, judging by the absence of Opposition Members, I presume they are not going to vote against it. However, I cannot believe that the Bill is not something we would all welcome. A failure to plan is a plan to fail, so why would we not want this Bill?

The UK is an outward-looking, global trading nation, and I believe this will only be more the case after we leave the EU. As many Members have said, trade with the European Union is important—crucially, it is important to both sides. It goes without saying that it is in the EU’s best interests to maintain the current liberalised trade by road between the UK and the rest of the EU, and it is also in our interests to maintain that situation. We have heard all the statistics about the huge trade deficit with the EU—£72 billion in 2017—and how much that trade means in respect of the movement of goods across the UK. This shows just how crucial smooth access to the UK market for EU countries is. Many businesses across the continent sell their goods into the UK and, more often than not, they transport those goods here by road. We have all rehearsed the statistics as to why we need this modest measure to deliver that access and they are well in our brains now.

As the Prime Minister said,

“No deal is better than a bad deal”.

We cannot allow our UK hauliers to be left high and dry if we are offered a bad deal—if the EU does not come to a common-sense agreement, although we all believe it will do. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he is confident about that, and I share his confidence. The UK must make provision to allow for the outcome and this Bill does just that—it is a sensible piece of legislation.

This issue, like many others the House deals with, has significance in my constituency. Our proximity to London means that several haulage companies are based there, operating across the UK and into EU countries. In essence, the Bill is one that we hope we will never have need to call on. It is our backstop—our insurance position —and it therefore should have a fair wind and sail through its Second Reading tonight. I cannot understand the negativity we have heard from Opposition Members, who somehow interpret the Bill as being a massive piece of legislation that gives huge powers to the Secretary of State. I see it as exactly the opposite: something that is tidied away in case we should ever need it, although I share the Secretary of State’s confidence that we will not need this Bill.



Earlier intervention in the same debate

Does my right hon. Friend share my surprise at hearing the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald) say that any attempt to restrict the supply of workers coming in from the EU would be resisted? Labour Members’ support for a customs union and their not wanting any restriction on the freedom of movement of workers shows that they are in denial about leaving the European Union.

My hon. has correctly identifies that Labour Members are all over the place on this subject. There was no shortage of “Project Fear” in debates during the referendum campaign—people knew they were voting for something that would be very tough for this country—but, by and large, they voted because they understood the facts. I turn again to the point that Labour colleagues often make, which is that people did not know what they were voting for. Yes, they did: they were intelligent enough to understand the arguments, and to say otherwise is to insult the many people in Yorkshire and the north-east who voted to leave the European Union.


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