13.07.2018

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The Simple Politics guide to next week in Parliament.
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One heck of a week...

OK, so this is the final full week before the holidays start. Unlike when you were at school, though, it's not all videos and art projects. Oh no, it's one of the busiest weeks I can remember. And it will have repercussions that go well beyond 2018.  

What's so important?
Well, here are the headlines. There are two Bills in the Commons that could be amended to ensure that we stay in a Customs Union. They're the Trade Bill and the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill. There may be enough support for that from MPs for a serious government defeat. Theresa May has said repeatedly she doesn't want to do this. Add to that Boris Johnson's resignation speech on Monday (which is going to be pure box office) and a Liaison Committee meeting (where the PM is grilled by the heads of all the different select committees).

What is this Customs Union of which you speak?
A large part of being in the EU is being part of its Customs Union. It's an agreement between countries that they will open their borders to trade with each other. It's why you don't pay any tariffs when you buy something from anywhere else in the EU. It's also why we get a special 'EU' line at the airport. We all share regulations on all our products, so its fine to buy or sell anywhere. We also make trade deals as a block, not as individuals.

Those in favour of staying in a Customs Union point to the ease of selling, the lack of costly bureaucracy, and the capacity to easily keep the Northern Ireland border open. Those against it don't like not being able to make our own trade deals (they argue that this is exactly why we voted to leave), the rigidity of the regulations (which we'll no longer have a say in) and the competing priorities of the UK and The EU once we've left.

So what do the government want?
The plan, as laid out in the White Paper on Thursday is to have a 'common rulebook' that is quite similar to a Customs Union for all goods. They don't want to include services in that and hope to make trade deals to sell our service industry around the world. They say that regulations on services are far too erratic and could easily be shifted in a way that would damage our service industry.

And what amendments have been put down?
Lots and lots and lots. First of all, we need to remember that there are two different Bills on Monday and Tuesday. 

Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill Monday

The Bill is a technical piece of legislation creating the legal powers for the Government to put in place a customs policy which imposes tariffs and taxes on goods entering the country and will shape the plan for post-Brexit trade agreements between the UK and EU countries. 

A number of amendments to the Bill have been proposed by MPs. 
The main amendments from pro-European MPs are 
  • That the UK stays in the existing customs union, and that should be the main objective of any deal negotiated with the EU. 
  • Parliament has the final say on any proposed trade deal. 

However, a group of hardline Brexit MPs, including Jacob Rees Mogg, Kate Hoey and Priti Patel, have also tabled some amendments to try and stop the plan proposed by the Prime Minister after the cabinet meeting at Chequers. 

There are four amendments tabled by Brexiters, they are:
  • for the UK to refuse to collect duties for the EU unless member states do likewise,
  • for there to be no customs border in the Irish Sea (so Northern Ireland could not stay in the customs union),
  • for there to be a separate VAT regime from the EU,
  • the UK cannot form any customs union with the EU without a brand new law being passed by Parliament.

The Trade Bill Tuesday

While a member of the EU, the UK is party to trade agreements negotiated by the EU. This Bill aims to provide continuity after Brexit in trade relations with those countries with which the EU has a trade agreement. This Bill is limited to translating EU trade deals into domestic law, and does not cover any future trade deals with other countries. 

Amendments to this Bill that MPs will vote on on Tuesday include:
  • for any deal with the EU to include the UK staying in the customs union,
  • for there to be some sort of customs policy agreed with the EU before exit day,
  • for the Secretary of State to produce a report about the impact on the UK economy of any proposed deal with the EU.

Finally, a word of warning. Many people in the media are using the term 'Trade Bill' to refer to thhe Taxation Bill. Despite the fact that there is also the Trade Bill on Tuesday. It's quite confusing.
 
Monday - The main business for MPs is the Taxation (Cross-Border) Bill. Headlines could still be taken, though, by one Boris Johnson. He is giving his resignation speech in the Commons today. Expect it to be pretty scathing about the Prime Minister.

Tuesday - The Trade Bill swings into the Commons. There are some more calls for the Customs Union, but if there was a vote yesterday, it is very unlikely to get a different result today.

Also on Tuesday there is the Offensive Weapons Bill at the Committee Stage (when a small group of MPs goes through line by line to make sure it's all good) and the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney is in front of the Treasury Select Committee to talk about Bank of England Financial Stability Reports (no, me neither).


Wednesday - Not had enough Brexit chat? Good news! There is a whole lot of Brexit chat today, too.

First up, though, it's PMQs at 12. That might have a vague hint of Brexit, but as it's the last of the season, expect Corbyn to go with something evergreen that they can share on social media throughout the summer.

We then get MPs debating a change to the Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill that the Lords have made. The Lords want to ensure that energy companies have to say what they would have been charging if it wasn't for the cap to allow consumers to choose between them when the cap ends. MPs can accept that change and it becomes law, or tehy can take it back out and send the Bill back to the Lords.

Next up? Brexit time. This had been advertised as a Labour Opposition Day, giving Corbyn and his team the opportunity to talk about whatever they like. But it has now been changed to a general debate on our future relationship with the EU. But nobody will be watching anyway, beacause...

AT 3pm Theresa May goes up in front of the Liaison Committee. It's the Avengers of select Committees when all the chairs get together to quiz the PM on whatever they like. It's chaired by Sarah Wollaston and features such big names as Hilary Benn, William Cash, Chris Bryant, Yvette Cooper, Harriet Harman, Nicky Morgan and plenty of others. It's like a stripped back, more forensic, deeper PMQs. And, because each member of the committee gets to ask more than one question, it's much harder for the PM to duck any questions she'd rather not answer.

Thursday - It's an exciting start to the day as Dominic Raab will be up in front of MPs at 9.30 to take Brexit questions for the first time. Who knows where we'll be by then. It's all going to get a little technical after that. MPs are going to debate and vote on the new harassment plans for MPs and Parliamentary staff. These generally involve a greater role for the commissioner for parliamentary standards to help spot patterns and a panel with teeth that can ultimately throw someone out of the House.  After that, there is a vague chat about encouraging people to stop smoking and the Commons is done for the week.

Friday - No Parliament. Time for hobbies.
Our pick of the laws being debated in Parliament next week...
Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill

This Bill will give the Government the ability to establish a standalone customs regime, and ensure that VAT and excise legislation operates effectively, following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The details of the Bill will depend on the outcome of the ongoing negotiations between the UK and EU on trade, but the Government says that it will be guided by what delivers the greatest economic advantage to the UK and that ensures the most frictionless trade between the UK and EU.

More details
Trade Bill

This is one of the nine new pieces of legislation that lay the groundwork for Brexit. This Bill will attempt to carve out a future for Britain as an independent trading nation after we leave the EU.

The Bill will create powers so the UK can transition trade agreements that currently exist between the EU and other countries, and which we are party to through our EU membership. It will also set up a new Trade Remedies Authority, to defend UK businesses against unfair trade practices.  

More details
Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill
This Bill will put in place a requirement on the independent energy regulator, Ofgem, to cap energy tariffs until 2020, with the possibility of it being extended to 2023 if necessary. The Bill comes after the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee (a cross party group of MPs) scrutinised the draft Bill as part of the Government’s work to build consensus for the cap. The Committee backed an absolute cap on energy tariffs, which the Government has accepted in full.
More details
We need to talk about money...
I'm happy to chip in to help out
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