UK participation in EU and EEA organisations

Part of Trade Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:30 pm ar 25 Mehefin 2020.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Gareth Thomas Gareth Thomas Shadow Minister (International Trade) 4:30, 25 Mehefin 2020

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

We have left the European Union and await the oven-ready Brexit deal that the Prime Minister promised the British people in December—it does feel as though it is in the slow cooker as opposed to the microwave. Nevertheless, our proximity to other European nations inevitably means that our trade, as well as much else, will continue to require significant co-operation with our allies in European capitals and, indeed, in Brussels. Surely, we should not put ideology before common sense but should consider sensibly which EU agencies that impact on trade it is worth maintaining a particularly close relationship with and, indeed, where continued membership is worth seeking. We suggest in the new clause that we should seek continued membership of the European Medicines Agency, the European Chemicals Agency, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the European Maritime Safety Agency.

If we are not members of the European system run by the European Chemicals Agency, there is a risk of divergence in chemicals regulation. That may just sound like a concern about red tape. However, if we are not members of the European Chemicals Agency, there is a risk of, for example, the EU27 saying that chemical x is not safe to use but our own new national system telling us not to worry about it and that it is safe. If UK and EU decisions on chemicals start to diverge, that will put pressure on UK chemicals companies to decide whether to stay in the UK or to leave and base themselves in the bigger market of the European Union. I am sure that all Members of the House would want to avoid that.

It is difficult to see how access to the REACH database can be achieved without membership of the European Chemicals Agency. Ian Cranshaw, who spoke to us on behalf of the chemicals trade body when we heard witness statements, made clear how difficult it appeared to be to continue to have access to the REACH database without, effectively, membership of the European Chemicals Agency. He went on to set out how membership of the REACH database is the gold standard for chemicals regulation and how important it was for British firms to continue to have access to it.

The European Medicines Agency is critical to ensuring that medicines for humans and animals are safe. It helps to foster innovation and the development of new medicines across the European Union. By ensuring cross-European collaboration, it has helped to bring down the cost of medicines through its policing role in respect of the single market for medicines. Every month, the UK-EU trade in pharmaceutical products is huge; upwards of 70 million packages move between the UK and the EU every month. The UK pharmaceutical industry is very heavily regulated, and it is heavily regulated because it is an integral part of Europe’s medicines regime. It surely, therefore, makes sense to remain a member of that agency.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has responsibility for civil aviation safety across Europe, but it also has a series of critical trade-related roles, including being responsible for much of the airworthiness and environmental certification of all aeronautical products, parts and appliances that are designed, manufactured and maintained in Europe. It negotiates international harmonisation agreements with the rest of the world and concludes technical agreements with other countries, such as with the US Federal Aviation Administration. Continued membership of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency would give the UK access to a global industry leader, in terms of standard setting for trade in aviation. Surely, we should continue to belong to it.

The European Maritime Safety Agency was set up after the Erika disaster, when the oil tanker Erika broke in two in the bay of Biscay in December 1999 and thousands of tonnes of oil were released into the sea. It triggered a package of EU laws to improve safety in the shipping industry, including the establishment of an agency to oversee the implementation of safety laws, which have helped to ensure that the English channel and the rest of our seas are properly protected from oil spills and other pollution from the big ships that carry traded goods. Surely, it makes sense to remain a member of that agency.