To ensure the UK is ready for the first day after exiting the EU, The Trade Bill will put in place the necessary legal powers to operate a fully functioning trade policy. Before Brexit approaches, The Trade Bill will provide the necessary certainty for individuals, local businesses, and international trading partners, ensuring them that standards will be upheld, crucial policies enforced, and that business will go on as usual.
The Trade Bill has four key goals:
To create powers so the UK can transition into new trade agreements
To enable the UK to have continued access to £1.3 trillion worth of funds
To establish the Trade Remedies Authority, to defend UK businesses
To ensure the UK government has the legal abilities for gathering trade information
As the House of Commons penned the Tade Bill, Jonathan Hindle spoke as a witness for the furniture industry. Below we have summarised the passages most pertinent to those interested in the future of the UK furniture and design industry, and UK industry in general.
Achieving consistency through Brexit
Early, Hindle said, “Generally speaking, the furnishing and furniture industry is keen to achieve what I am hearing from a lot of other industries: stability and consistency, equivalence and mutual recognition across the process. We are keen to advocate dialogue wherever we can have it to achieve that transition as smoothly as possible.”
Later, Bill Esterson, Shadow Minister for small business, asked, “What are your concerns are about consistency?”
Hindle responded, “I cannot say that our industry is concerned at the moment that there will not be consistency; in everything that we are reading, we are told that attempts are being made to make that transition as smooth as possible. We do not currently endure any significant issues. There are some issues with policing and surveillance of some of the standards that we have mutually agreed; that is a current scenario and a problem now. I am hoping that the formation of the Trade Remedies Authority will allow for some more robust investment in policing and surveillance of the standards where we currently endure problems, but I would not say that we are suffering from dumping in the fullest sense of its description in this context, although we are a very substantial net importer. There is a big trade gap that we as a nation endure in our industry.”
Safeguarding British Trading Standards
Hannah Bardell, SNP Spokesperson for Small Business, Enterprise and Innovation, said, “What are your feelings on what the Bill does and the potential impact of leaving the European Committee for Standardisation?”
“I understand that the British Standards Institution is looking to remain a member of the European Committee for Standardisation and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation, for example. By and large, those standards, if they remain in place, are adequate. It is our ability to police, surveil and properly address transgressions that has much more been the issue for the industry. A plethora of products are making their way into the country that do not meet our stringent standards,” warned Hindle.
Powers of intervention
Faisal Rashid, from the International Trade Committee, asked, “As you are probably aware, the Bill does not make provision for the involvement of Parliament or others in the scoping negotiations or any ratification of new trade agreements. What provisions do you think it should make on future free trade agreements?”
Hindle, responded, “A very quick answer from the furniture industry point of view is that we would want to see as much scrutiny as possible. You referred to parliamentary scrutiny; whether that is the most effective form of scrutiny is another matter. We would certainly want the TRA to be made up of appropriate individuals to provide good-quality scrutiny.”
Imports, exports, and countries of origin
Matt Western, of the International Trade Committee, said, “I have a question for Mr Hindle, just in relation to the British Furniture Confederation. I want to explore rules of origin and the complexity of supply chains. If our European content is no longer under the same rule of origin, what impact do you think that will have on future trading relationships for these companies or for us in markets other than Europe?”
Hindle replied, “Fairly limited, inasmuch as when most people look for certificates of origin in tendering processes and evidence of supply chain in that regard, they ask for either an EU reference or a UK reference. If we were to devolve to a UK reference as a source of origin, it would carry equal weight in the minds of those in the particular markets that I am familiar with who often require that evidence.”
Western continued, “So you do not think that if, say, there was 60% of material from Germany or Scandinavian countries going into the components of British manufactured furniture, that would be an issue for your members?”
Hindle replied, “I cannot see it impacting the ability to trade effectively, or our competitiveness, or how we are perceived in any way; no, I cannot see that and I am not getting anything from our industry, as we poll it, to suggest any specific concerns on that particular point.”
What happens next?
A report will be drafted and then cross-examined at a ‘third reading’ before being taken up to the House of Lords.