House of Lords

Debate: Queen’s Speech

24th May 2016 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, all forms of extremist behaviour are to be deplored. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, who is not in his place, was absolutely right to draw attention to the challenges of defining extremism. However, when he went on to refer to the need to defend the freedom to speak fearlessly, I say to him with respect but concern that that should surely be only within the parameters established by law. I hesitate to say this out of sensitivity to the French, but I think that lessons need to be learnt from Paris.

I sense that Islam, together with Judaism, is a victim of unawareness in large parts of the United Kingdom, sometimes bordering on ignorance. This is unhelpful. The British people have a reputation for fair-mindedness, so I have little doubt that the right explanations of background and facts will assist greatly the passage of the counter extremism and safeguarding Bill. There is a clear role for clerics.

I was delighted that the Pope, after five years of disagreement, yesterday met the senior imam from the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, who represents the highest authority in Sunni Islam. It should be remembered that extremism does not begin and end at national borders. It is a practical reality that politics and religion are part and parcel of national governance and politics on the international stage. Those policies inevitably affect us in this country and region. There is an undoubted role, therefore, for state actors to recognise their contribution by advocating and implementing moderate, inclusive policies. This would assist enormously in creating an environment of tolerance that would defuse religious tension and, by extension, extremism—and, equally importantly, perceptions.

Living in Portugal and travelling often to the neighbouring countries of Spain and Morocco, I am constantly reminded of a golden age of Iberia where  in Spain and Portugal Islam was pre-eminent over many centuries, and remains so in Morocco. Learning about the history and perspectives of Sunni and Shia Islamic sects, for example, and the advance of Islam along the north African coast from Damascus, is always helpful and assists in marshalling one’s thinking as to why differences exist and how best to engage across Israel and the Arab and wider Islamic world.

I was grateful, therefore, to the Minister responsible for Islamic affairs in Rabat for agreeing to my request at short notice last week to visit the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidins and Morchidats in order to meet the director-general and the vice-president of the al-Quaraouiyine University in Fes, one of the leading spiritual and educational centres in the Muslim world. The institute is a unifying school of jurisprudence formed by His Majesty the King to counter terrorism and offer spiritual guidance to imams and women. Among many matters we touched on, their explanations of differing interpretations of jihad and their thoughts on segregation were edifying, and particularly applicable when referring to returning jihadists, as “jihad” has differing connotations in the Islamic world. To the less radical, it is the cleansing of one’s soul.

Thirty-eight imams have already been sent from France to the institute, and I also met two anglophone imams from Nigeria. They vouched for the spiritual learnings of the institute. There are examples of signed agreements with Mali, Libya, Tunisia and many others, and, more latterly, with France, with the support of the union of French mosques in agreement with the French state. The Minister might wish to explore with British imams whether there is a role for the institute, as I sense that its teachings may well resonate with mainstream Islamic thinking in this country. This would help the Government in many of their aims.

This Government have the opportunity to show the world how religion, politics and civil society can have increased relevance in a modern world, but that tolerance and respect must prevail. Ordaining this in isolation is not the answer; the Government need to take great care not to be drawn into contentious turf wars.

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Motion to Take Note: EU Foreign and Security Strategy (EUC Report)

7th June 2016 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, I too congratulate the committee. The key recommendations of the report are clear, pragmatic and sensible. I have little doubt that many of our partners would prefer the UK to  continue to be a foreign policy and strategy leader of the pack and not an enforced go-it-alone wolf. While respecting the will of the people in the upcoming referendum, regionalism is the long-term future of the world. It is in the UK’s national interest to be a team player. Possibly next time consideration could be given to some key issues: the Palestinian question, for example, needs urgent closure, and the Iran-Saudi relationship remains ominous and an eye needs to be kept on it.

I endorse the need for urgent reassessment of EU foreign and security priorities, taking account of the risks facing and threatening the Union, together with resource availability. It makes sense that the new EU strategy arising from this should take a comprehensive view of EU foreign policy instruments—in particular, of how the Commission’s resources and instruments can support the Union’s foreign policy objectives.

It is right to recognise that the member states are the driving force in EU foreign policy. In this, however, the European External Action Service must play a more decisive and proactive co-ordinating role in improving cross-EU co-ordination and helping align Commission instruments with member state priorities. HMG should be considering how we increase the number of UK personnel in senior EEAS positions in order to influence the changes that we would like to see—a point made by many in this afternoon’s debate. The challenges will, of course, be considerable given the existing relative weakness of EU foreign and security policy co-ordination.

I note the proposal to establish ad-hoc groups to consider and agree rapid, decisive and ambitious action by member states, which could then become the wider EU position. It is my understanding that the EU has been using working groups on different areas of foreign and security policy for many years. It would be interesting to know how these ad-hoc groups will differ from these and how they might be constituted.

I have listened carefully to remarks this afternoon regarding Russia; it is a complex question. I believe that EU member states need to be more proactive in their approach towards Russia. The Russian temperament should be usefully understood. I remember well a senior committee gentleman, answerable to the Kremlin, who told me that he would travel with me anywhere in the world on one condition—that I pay respect to his opinion.

Apart from being seemingly disengaged, there has been too little forward strategic analysis of Russian policy and future actions towards, for example, Ukraine and the Middle East. While endorsing the proposed dual-track EU member state policy towards Russia, to which I would add those in its sphere such as central Asian and certain south Caucasus states and beyond, we need deeper analysis of the longer-term impact of sanctions on Russian government revenue and the Russian economy, especially given the separate impact of potential sustained low oil prices. The unintended consequences of the oil price are leaving a heavy mark on many producers, with social programmes being cut and rises in unemployment. These consequences could become grave and affect us adversely at home.

Definitions of areas of shared interest where there might be scope for EU-Russia co-operation and dialogue need to be thought through. Productive dialogue is  certainly possible, but we need to respect Russia’s culture and its past 100-year history and, importantly, let it be known that its view is sought and will be treated with respect. Only in that way can we have an impact on Russia’s thinking and actions. While we may not always agree, Russia, above all, almost demands that respect.

Given EU disunity on Turkey’s potential long-term accession, an urgent overall review of the relationship with Turkey, from fundamentals, is required. Turkey is an important partner for the EU on a range of key issues including regional security, counter-terrorism and trade. There is possible scope for a twin-track approach, focusing on the one hand on implementing and maintaining the EU-Turkey refugee action plan, and, on the other, on how to arrest the erosion of Turkish democracy.

Syria is arguably the source of the biggest threat. In promoting a more central EU role in the resolution of the regional crisis, HMG should explain more clearly what they are doing to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis and their other actions in the area. In doing so, HMG should encourage other member states to refocus on increasing their assistance to the area, and indeed to security sector reform in Tunisia and Libya.

The report rightly points out the need for the EU to prioritise its help in our southern neighbourhood, based on key security threats. The challenges in north Africa will need much greater EU effort if some of the underlying causes are to be addressed. In specialised sectors such as this, we need to focus on developing a collective, agreed EU policy programme. It is worth underlining that the UK is ideally placed, given our experience in Africa and the Middle East—especially compared with other member states, with the exception of France—and the expectations arising from it.

It is right that improving EU-NATO co-operation and co-ordination should be central to the new strategy. This should ensure greater synergy between the two bodies while ensuring that the EU has no role in territorial defence—again, as said elsewhere today. That will in turn ensure minimal duplication and more effective use of valuable resources.

The challenges are huge. Many of the report’s proposals and recommendations are medium/long term. If the upcoming referendum result is indeed for the UK to remain, I hope that HMG will take a major lead in promoting a more strategic and targeted EU foreign and security policy and give departments of state the resources to do so.

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Motion to Take Note: International Trade Opportunities

7th July 2016 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

Lords, I remember well sitting on the peripheries of a highly successful trade mission to Kazakhstan led by the noble Lord, Lord Green, and it is a pleasure to follow him today. The noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, should be thanked for moving your Lordships’ House on to arguably the single most important subject beyond that of the referendum.

Much was made during the referendum debate of what would, and needs to, accrue from exporting globally. On the United Kingdom’s standing in the world, the Prime Minster informed us that we are the fifth-largest economy—although, expressed in dollar terms, we have already, I believe, slipped to sixth or seventh. We are members of the Commonwealth, but even many of our friends there have entered into their own regional arrangements. These were all cited as illustrations as to why we need not be concerned for the future. Comments ranged from those of some, who took the view that we do not need to be a member of the single market, to those of others advocating that the European Union needs our market as much as we need it, which then comes back to that all-important question of access—or not—to the single market and on what terms.

While I have listened with great care to all the positive messages today, I believe that we are afforded a few moments for a reality check, all put forward in the spirit of helpfulness. On 1 July—I am following the example of the noble Lord, Lord Patten—there were 180,734 public procurement opportunities in the 27 member states where United Kingdom commercial interests could tender freely and equally due to our membership of the European Union. In the UK, there were 12,271 public procurement opportunities where entities from member states could tender freely and equally. While it can be generally expected that all is well for those tenders that have been approved, what of those upcoming tenders for which UK interests wish to be considered? For how long will it be the case that unfettered access remains? Will it be for the two-year negotiation period, or will we be disadvantaged from the time Article 50 is triggered?

Global opportunities and the environment in which UK commercial interests can thrive become imperative. In years gone by, it was often said that the world is our oyster. Certainly, the UK has many comparative advantages, but that environment is fast-changing. Increased competition comes from countries such as India, China and South Korea, with France wishing to protect its interests in the francophone area, and the multivector policies adopted by many countries, particularly those that are strategically placed. However, what gives me equal cause for concern is that the new world countries, where many of the opportunities previously existed for the United Kingdom, are starting to play the game by their own rules.

As an example, some time back I was requested by the national oil and gas state entity in Kazakhstan, KazMunaiGas, to negotiate with the three largest foreign oil and gas operators to recognise that procurement policy was not expected to pay scant regard to national goods, works and services capabilities. From these aspirations, I was able to create a memorandum that is known as the Aktau Declaration on Joint Actions, which was signed up to by all the operators concerned. This was in line with the desire to ensure,

“opportunities for the companies and citizens of Kazakhstan to benefit directly from oil and gas projects as part of a strategy to develop an indigenous capability in the sector … creating an appropriate environment and attracting joint ventures with technology transfer by companies in the global oil and gas supply”—

in other words, a stringent local-content programme. These activities become more dire with the low oil price and the little-known consequences of a low oil price that is holding back investment in capital projects.

The point of all this is that the rules of the game have changed and are changing. Partnerships and joint ventures with local employment will become increasingly mandatory. I cannot underline enough that what these countries expect is genuine partnership. The illustration I am offering noble Lords is being increasingly adopted by many around the world. I think particularly of Tanzania, where the president, or his Government, has signed up with the appropriate foreign entities.

Yesterday afternoon, I sent an email to 50 or so chambers of commerce around the UK and a trade mission organiser to inform them of today’s debate, requesting that if they had any points of specific concern that required being flagged to kindly let me know. I am most grateful to the large number who responded by return. A range of important issues emerged. The difficulty I now find myself in, with regret, is that those issues were far-ranging and far too numerous to do them justice—even a snapshot, with calls to action—and to be able to place on record today all the many concerns and challenges expressed. To be exact, I received 15 pages of condensed type of useful suggestions. There is no possibility of my doing justice to all that I have received.

However, the examples include the need to accommodate business visas with easier-to-obtain visas. For example, Dubai is now taking over as the meeting place of choice for not only nearby states but also west Africa. Our friends in west Africa prefer to go to Dubai instead of coming to London Heathrow or Gatwick, as they have done historically. The fast-track trade agreement with India was noted by a number of people, and clarity on a timetable for exit from the EU is considered essential. Lastly, to pick up one of many of the points made, stability should be sought from the Government similar to that being expressed in a clear and resolute fashion by the Bank of England. Would the Minister kindly allow me to package these up and send them over to her for her officials to review? By the way, it is a pleasure to see the noble Baroness at the Dispatch Box. The noble Lord, Lord Price, is, I understand, in the marketplace today, where the UK needs him to be—in China.

Nevertheless, over the years I have felt that there is not sufficient partnership between the public and the private sectors in the UK. That gap needs to be plugged. After all, while often too much can be expected from government, the support of—and, in many circumstances, assistance by—government is paramount. Conversely, the private sector is at the sharp end and its views need to be taken on board as an equal partner.

With regret, I now conclude my remarks with an unpalatable tale but one that illustrates the importance of the work that needs to be urgently carried out by the Minister’s department. At this point, conforming with protocol, it is appropriate that I declare that I am the founder and chairman of, a free-to-use global business portal created to stimulate global trade and investment, presenting national and international opportunities covering 195 countries and 25 sectors in eight languages—a large undertaking. I have been keeping the Minister’s department, including the head of digital, informed of progress and will of course continue to do so to the extent that they are minded. To go back to the tale, some short months ago I had occasion to speak with our consul-general in Casablanca, who informed me that the OBN—the Overseas Business Network—in Morocco, which is UKTI’s partner on the ground, was frantically arranging itself in Meknes for what was apparently the largest agricultural conference and exhibition in Africa. Making an immediate decision, I jumped into my car, albeit in Faro, and drove to Meknes, arriving in time for the last day—all well and good. I went immediately to the overseas pavilion, calling at the European Union stand, followed by those of Spain, France and others, including various African representatives. But then—guess what?—the UK stand had packed up shop the day before and left. There was no note, no catalogue, no point of contact—nothing.

We can only scratch the surface of what needs to be debated in this opportunity today, but there is so much more that could and needs to be added if the UK is going to excel in this highly competitive global market. I end with just one thought for the Government, which I believe has been expressed elsewhere. While there is an undeniable need for UKTI to settle down and become supercharged—a new word I learned yesterday, by the way—and properly resourced, there is an urgent need for a review in parallel that addresses this self-created, changed world that had its big bang on 23 June. But, all that said, we soldier on.

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Question for Short Debate: Israel and Palestine

13th October 2016 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, my remarks fit between those of the noble Lords, Lord Trimble and Lord Desai.

The Palestinian situation needs to be redefined, if it is to be resolved. The people of historic Palestine have been saddled with the most intense and long-standing stream of emotional and political support, more than any refugee community has received in modern times. Such support, however, has been deluding the Palestinian people and kept them from facing a painful reality—an impossible dream. Their country and homes in Palestine have been permanently lost. Others forced to accept the stark reality of permanent displacement have ultimately been able to move forward with their lives, because they were allowed to settle as full citizens in adopted countries. Not so Palestinians—more than often they are treated as second-class citizens, with little or no civil rights.

The Palestine tragedy has played into the hands of some with the displacement, the Nakba, becoming a cause célèbre for Arabs and Muslims without sufficient support in practical terms. The Israelis have understood all this, and so was created the Palestinian Authority, which has done little more than legitimise de facto Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This illusion of return maintained by the Palestinian leadership has achieved the net result of perpetuating the misery for the Palestinian people, who have never given up the powerful emotion of hope. Some would say that this illusion of return has provided a powerful excuse to avoid integrating the Palestinian refugees as full citizens—the excuse being that the never-to-be-fulfilled dream of eventual return to Palestine, and being given citizenship, technically undermined their right of return to Palestine and so should be denied them.

This humiliation tears at the heart of all Palestinians, who care more vehemently about this than any issue in their lives. I combine my remarks on the impossibility of ownership of ancestral land with the critical need to have a legal identity—citizenship with full rights that would allow a person to operate productively in the modern world. This means having a passport and legal residency enabling them to live, work and travel, such as those of a citizen of any respected state.

Why might the time be arriving when Palestinians might consider the painful reality? The first generation, which lived through the Nakba, has now passed. Subsequent Palestinians have endured years of suffering, having grown up in refugee camps with minimal education, training or work opportunities. As things stand, there is no viable future for them or their children. What is required is a collective decision of the Palestinians, but only by those Palestinians who have no nationality, since they are the only ones paying the price. A referendum of all stateless Palestinians should take place on the single question of right of return and claims to Jerusalem in return for nationality and a homeland. Israel should proactively adopt and drive this catalyst for change. It holds the cards and is the only player with the hard power to effect change on the ground.

Rejectionists might resort to terrorism, but the Palestinian people who will have voted will have an enormous stake in its success. Their will would prevail in creating a foundation block in rebuilding a secure and prosperous Levant—failing which, a son of ISIS could become the future of the region. The sensitivity of return must be balanced with the prospect of life in dignity for their children and their children’s children.

Step forward King Abdullah. The time has arrived for the people to decide. Give them the hope they cherish. Let this become a defining moment, a time of partnership, allowing Israel to redefine its contribution to the Arab world.

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Question for Short Debate: UK Exports

08th March 2017 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, this Question encourages the Government to share their thoughts on this important subject. There will be other opportunities as we prepare for completion of the Brexit negotiations, but we need to start a process now to prepare for the time when we leave the European Union. I thank all noble Lords speaking this evening. Sensing contributions of an international nature, I will restrict my remarks more to the situation as I see it within our country.

I declare that I am the founder of, a powerful multipurpose network of active business opportunities and information across 195 countries in 25 sectors and 11 languages. It is a comprehensive website, three years in development.

The United Kingdom is embarking on an ambitious new journey, for which we must prepare and manage carefully. Addressing the export promotion needs of our devolved regions and England will lead to employment growth and prosperity. Although a measure of uncertainty has been removed, many challenges remain. It therefore cannot be business as usual; rather, we must tackle these difficulties with clarity of vision, determination and renewed vigour.

We will succeed in increasing exports if we place increased emphasis on tolerance, respect and the well-being of all our people, all pulling together. Our country thrives in times of great adversity. We keep calm and carry on, stoically British.

Now the task is more nuanced. We must be outward-looking and positive as a nation, dispensing with negativity and adopting a can-do attitude. Not only are we called upon to be resilient, we also must be entrepreneurial, seeking and capitalising on every opportunity. Let us embrace the vital contribution of women in society and business. Let us relish our extraordinary multicultural diversity. These are the strengths that form the bedrock of our 21st century society, the pillars helping to define and unite us as a nation. “UK first, in a spirit of partnership with existing and new friends”, should be our mantra.

An early question for Government is, “What do they consider to be their best role?”. Government must share the burden and understand where their strengths lie to succeed in increasing exports. Should the Government fulfil a B2B role, or might it be better to outsource these activities and focus on B2G and, of course, G2G—Government to Government? Their core mission should be to strengthen links between private sector and public sector, creating the right environment to allow for the private sector to succeed as equal partners.

Taxpayer money can be better channelled through partnerships with the private sector. It is essential, however, that the Government support business confidence, particularly if there is any short-term economic downturn. The French and German Governments proactively support their exporters, while our UK private sector is often left to fend for itself. The primary responsibility is to create the right environment for the private sector to thrive. Would the Government consider incentives, such as tax breaks and allowances to support British exporters?

Government must enhance the business capabilities of the Civil Service and consider an urgent and transparent root-and-branch reform to meet the challenges of the future. In addition, Government must ensure that export finance is available where there is traction from our exporters to popular and even sometimes risky markets.

What are realistic levels of export values and numbers of new exporters? Indeed, how are we to measure success? Understanding this would help devise policy. The Government’s recent Green Paper, Building Our Industrial Strategy, is a good starting point, a road map to reach a destination. Questions then arise: by whom, to where, and by when? Generally, there are insufficient data on which to gauge the efficiency of business support performance. Estimates of the current number of exporters vary widely. It needs to be decided whether manufacturing will regain its prominence, and if so, which aspects. This sector requires strategic thinking and clarity to address varying needs of airport expansion, energy generation and the future of the foundation industries that underpin manufacturing. Government should move more quickly and use this network to create access into new markets, helping with market intelligence and research, increasing awareness of business opportunities and enabling ease of access for SMEs. The Overseas Business Network initiative has so far delivered. The Prime Minister’s trade envoys are excellent. Both should be recognised and supported further, particularly into new markets.

It is essential that all stakeholders are around the table and playing an active role. Business needs a simple and, ideally, a single route to advice and support. Digital routes exist, but business prefers to speak to a person. This is where multipliers, approved chambers of commerce and the trade association movement come into play. Their B2B contributions are a great strength. I think I am right in saying, however, that there is no single central list of trade associations in the UK. That needs to be resolved. Some will rightly ask, “What of funding? What of resources?”. Solutions could be found. For example, part of the fees for each company registering with Companies House could be given to a nominated chamber and association. This would generate beneficial multipliers to improve services. Competition would dictate to which nominated multiplier these funds would go. Companies would attach themselves ideally to one chamber and one association. These B2B activities should then be marshalled to ensure maximum impact on opportunity.

Government should support more mini fast-in, fast-out missions as well as the big set pieces. They should insist that all applications for public funds, whether small business support grants or major infrastructure  proposals, be weighted by the contribution each makes to the nation’s exporting capability. They should develop a comprehensive package of trade missions over the next three years to introduce both new and experienced businesses to new markets and to generate new trade and project the positive GB message that we are an outward-looking nation reaping benefits from Brexit.

Sector trade also must be promoted by the creation of hubs manned principally by the private sector, centres of excellence, properly supported and funded to facilitate the needs of exporters. The UK has a comprehensive national and local network of chambers as well as an overseas network and is a trusted international brand that opens doors. These all need to be developed as vital resources. Figures suggest that in the past, one in five SMEs exported. Has that increased? Do the Government have a target level? Gone are the days when the world would come knocking. Business must get out into the field, understanding local culture and local rules.

The challenge is how to get them out there. Encouraging joint ventures or dependable partnerships would seem a useful way forward. There are plenty of initiatives in the offing, but we need to be innovative in our thinking, make things happen.

Yesterday I offered introductory remarks to the New Silk Road Forum. The Iranian ambassador gave a keynote speech. Opportunities abound for UK business interests, but we need to get a move on.

What might the UK reasonably expect to achieve in future trade agreements, and over what period of time? That is a general question which I will not develop this evening. I have focused on policy but time does not permit me to address FTAs, other than to wish the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Price, well.

I will say a very quick word about the events industry, an industry of paramount importance and one which requires support. It attracts 9 million visitors and, on average, 170 exhibitors for each show. Internationally, just 20 UK-based organisers create 1,049 events outside the UK. UK shows can be used to secure an international position for the UK. Challenges include the need to ease entry. Health and safety and data issues also require attention.

We are in a fast-moving world of differing geopolitical and geo-economic alliances. This is a call to action. We are on the starter blocks of a long journey, poised for the off. The prize: a successful global Britain, a critical link to an interconnected world, a vital hub for international commerce and increased exports. Let us make it happen.

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Motion to Take Note: Commonwealth

16th March 2017– Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, I rise with nostalgia. My first endeavour as a new boy in your Lordships’ House was to table a Motion calling attention to the importance of the Commonwealth. I warmly encourage closer working relationships with the Commonwealth, noting that the UK enjoys reciprocally beneficial membership of this invaluable intergovernmental organisation of, as the Minister reminded us, more than 2 billion people in 52 countries spanning six continents.

The UK has received unstinting support over the decades—including in military conflicts, disaster relief and its role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council—from the Commonwealth family of nations. Our distinguished Commonwealth partner country, Malta—now president of the Council of the European Union—hosted the most recent Heads of Government meeting in 2015, exploring the theme of “The Commonwealth: Adding Global Value”. It was a timely and relevant theme for this leading Commonwealth country—ours—as we stake out the Brexit ground. We, too, must seek to add value globally.

When we joined the EEC in 1973, our formal bilateral trade, aid and investment relations with Commonwealth countries—the Commonwealth preferences scheme—ended. Picking up a theme of the Minister, subsequently, under the Lomé convention, the Cotonou agreement and the economic partnership agreements, Commonwealth trade was notionally with the EU but headed primarily for British markets.

Political hay has sometimes been made of punishment that the UK might receive because of our vote in the recent referendum. Will any such punishment extend to our Commonwealth partners? Thirty-six of them are small countries with small markets lacking the negotiating clout to fight their corner with the Commission. Will Malta and Cyprus, joint EU and Commonwealth members, help them to consolidate their position, or will they be hampered by their own small state status? It is possible—I put this thought in the minds of government negotiators—that we can create a Commonwealth free trade area compliant with WTO rules. However, that would require considerable political will and expertise to modify existing rules of other customs unions to which members may also belong.

There is both an economic and a moral imperative to address this issue during the impending Brexit negotiations and beyond. Media reports sometimes dismiss Commonwealth trade potential, yet intra-Commonwealth trade could reach US $1 trillion by 2020, as the Minister also reminded us.

Opportunities await us. Commonwealth target growth sectors are financial services, technology, infrastructure, healthcare, tourism and sustainability. We in the UK are leaders in each and every one of those fields. Consider the welcome impact we could have in ensuring greater access to green technologies across the Commonwealth, particularly in areas plagued by natural disasters and sea level rise attributable to climate change.

Our expertise in the field of education is well recognised, as are the financial, research and cultural contributions to our country of increased numbers of international students and faculty—in significant numbers, from Commonwealth countries. Not only can this sector be enhanced here at home, but there is also significant comparative advantage for exports of technology, expertise and institution-building skills.

There exists much scope for our SMEs to enter and thrive in those Commonwealth markets, with access and performance eased by harmonised legal, regulatory and language frameworks—a happy circumstance described as “the Commonwealth advantage”. Many SMEs have not exported to the EU in part because of bureaucratic burden. They could and should now seize every opportunity offered for trade within the Commonwealth. I welcome the inaugural Trade Ministers meeting and the recognition of the timely benefits of improved intra-Commonwealth trade, industry and investment. The secretariat and the CFTC are well placed to co-ordinate Commonwealth business requests centrally, while Her Majesty’s Government can officially support Commonwealth development finance initiatives, such as the trade finance facility, that dovetail with their own. That is mutually beneficial.

Why is it important to engage at this level? There is far more at stake here than just the trade numbers, attractive though they are. The Prime Minister of Malta, speaking to Heads of Government at the most recent CHOGM, reminded us of the Commonwealth’s youth who, just like ours, can easily become aggrieved by being out of the loop, alienated by lack of respect, a poor standard of living and unemployment—and as easily seduced by extremist propaganda. Prime Minister Muscat pointed out:

“Terrorists are more scared of well-educated girls and boys who manage to get a good job than they will ever be of any army”.

Look no further than to the heartrending affair in Nigeria’s north-east.

We therefore have a shared interest in seeking to improve education and job opportunities for our young at home and, importantly, across the Commonwealth. To do so would assist in reducing migration—irregular or otherwise—by mitigating the conditions propelling peoples to flee their home countries. In turn, perilous journeys to the European mainland could be reduced, far right policies would have less traction and people traffickers would be put out of business. That is a win-win situation, well within our grasp.

I conclude, as I did in 1994, with the wisdom of Mr Arnold Smith, the first Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, when he remarked:

“100 years from now, I suggest, historians will consider the Commonwealth the greatest of all Britain’s contributions to man’s social and political history”.

I trust that today, the message will travel Commonwealth-wide: your partner and friend is back.

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Question for Short Debate – Brexit: Gibraltar

21at March 2017 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, the Gibraltar quagmire is easy to define but mighty difficult to resolve. The cocktail of complexities is varied and impacts on all participants, including the challenges of a determined Madrid, the time immemorial socialist province of Andalusia and that mother of all complexities, the Brexit negotiations: they combine to defy easy resolution.

I see one of five possible alternatives. First, the tempting old adage, “When in doubt, do nothing” seems in the circumstances unsustainable and should be discounted. Secondly, we could revisit 2004 when the El País editorial of the tercentenary, advocating the benefits of tripartite talks, were given more credence as both Madrid and London then hosted socialist Governments. Thirdly, we could bring balance to the table and recognise that there is indeed a fourth participant of equal standing to the people of Gibraltar: namely the people of Andalusia. Fourthly, we could constitute confidence-building initiatives resulting from regular civil society-led discussions, possibly with bilateral members as observers.

Red lines should be removed to allow co-operation through civil society to take centre ground to define and develop mutually beneficial goals and objectives.  An important consideration is that discussions and decisions should reflect the wishes of the people most affected. Consent is key. The status quo is not an option now that the Brexit negotiations are about to begin. After all, as has been said throughout this evening, 96% voting to remain does suggest a willingness to engage. While first and foremost it is clearly for the people of the region to decide, I firmly believe that Gibraltar’s future long-term prosperity must be rooted in mutually beneficial regional co-operation.

Might I then suggest that the centre ground of Seville be a convenient location for talks, and possibly also an ideal location for a long-overdue Gibraltar representative office? A view held in certain quarters among Spanish politicians has suggested that sovereignty need not be on the table. Rather, matters including the environment, free exchange of financial information and police co-operation—from terrorism to drugs—were considered more essential. Some time ago it had been agreed that access to medical assistance was on the table, including reciprocal recipient and donor transplant exchange using Andalusian hospitals.

Interestingly, the socialist parliamentary group in the Cortes, the Congress of Deputies, through its deputy for the province of Cadiz, presented on 9 March just past a non-legislative proposal in relation to the commercial customs checkpoint at La Línea de la Concepción and the non-commercial frontier checkpoint with Gibraltar. This will be submitted to debate and vote in the Committee for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, possibly as early as next week. If it passes that hurdle, it could proceed to a vote and possible adoption by the Cortes as a whole. This is a development inviting close scrutiny and continued interest.

The noble Lord, Lord Boswell, might wish to consider forwarding his committee’s report to Spanish local and national officials most exercised with Gibraltar, including the Parliaments in Madrid and Seville. Engagement, after all, is everything at this critical juncture. I have little doubt that HMG recognise the anomalies and possible complicating consequences of the country at large voting to leave. HMG will not wish to have their overall Brexit negotiation strategy frustrated but will also not wish to be held hostage to this complex issue. Positive results can come from dialogue and could divert looming dark clouds.

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Debate: Queen’s Speech

28th June 2017 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, my remarks this evening will be general in nature, not solution-driven. I look forward to contributing to each of the upcoming Brexit Bills.

I hope that the Government are in listening mode. I sense a degree of consensus building in the air this afternoon. This is in the national interest and that of the Government. Time will tell whether the architects of the referendum campaign were cavalier with the future of this country. Time will tell whether four decades of real engagement with the European Union was vitally in our country’s interest, and on balance whether a future as a central player in a resurgent Union would have suited our purposes. Political expediency has driven this referendum process and brought us to where we are today. The electorate have now determined an altered play following the election, with those architects who advocated to leave possibly being consigned to the political wilderness if the Brexit negotiations go wrong. Let us hope that we do not arrive at that outcome.

As a 30-year resident on the continent, I have to date been particularly mindful of the referendum result, recognising what appeared to be the inevitable. The inconclusive election, however, has removed those constraints in my mind. And, not for the first time, this House of unelected Peers must defend the best interests of democracy, decency and common sense—all things that large swathes of people in this country are praying will prevail. I am concerned that some who advocate a global vision are in fact narrow in their international visionary outlook. When those same people look to the past as evidence of the United Kingdom’s ability to see this through, they do not take sufficiently into account that we have moved on as a nation, just as I am concerned that the Commonwealth—which many deem to be our saving grace, particularly in trading issues—also has moved on, with multivector strategies. Understanding and being at the cutting edge of tomorrow’s supply-chain world is key to where our future lies and where we should target.

I will not be arguing on internal market or customs union issues, or the question of fisheries and so on this evening, but will observe extremely closely henceforth how things progress, recognising that the result of two years’ negotiation will need to be looked at as a whole, from the perspective of the national interest. The art of successful negotiation that will stand the test of time is to show that the end result is a balanced, positive outcome for both sides. Now is the time to focus on an approach to our continental partners that addresses their needs as well as those of the United Kingdom, and to build political consensus, knowing that the test of true leadership is the need on occasion to tell people what they do not want to hear.

Our media have entrenched positions, as do the continental press. They make for disturbing and disparaging reading. We are from all accounts facing an identity crisis; we have lost the reputation of being pragmatic and rational; the best we can hope for is the least possible economic disadvantage; and the British citizenry are depicted as victims. Monsieur Barnier was reported in an article last Saturday as saying that he needs the UK to set out its plans more clearly, as he cannot negotiate with himself. The director-general of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, yesterday called for,

“action, clarity, leadership and a plan”.

In addition, it is alarming to witness the apparent disarray in Cabinet. We must not play poker with our great country.

We must address an underlying tragedy we face as a nation, caused not solely by Brexit. Our country feels more divided and under greater stress than for many a year. We have to find ways to overcome this division and bring people together. We must move on from the negativity of the party-political dogfight. I therefore join with others in encouraging the Government to consider appointing an independent, cross-party commission to advise Parliament and the electorate as to whether what has been negotiated is working, and has worked. There are plenty of wise people who would take on that responsibility with a sense of dignity and purpose. Managed correctly, it could act as a healing process to the turmoil we face internally as a nation over the referendum process. If so, it should be set up quickly and run in parallel with the negotiations, reporting as soon as possible and regularly.

Nobody can predict the outcome of exiting the European Union. I live in hope and expectation, however, that political masters can turn this around. Senhor Carlos, my regular taxi driver from São Brás, Portugal, rightly states, “The European Union needs the United Kingdom as much as the United Kingdom needs the European Union”. That is a good starting point for negotiations to begin.

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Motion to Take Note: Middle East (IRC Report)

4th July 2017 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, I declare that I am associated with a major Middle Eastern entity, although naturally the views I express are mine alone.

I offer congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and his team on their many thought-provoking assessments. As the title of the main report indicates, the region under consideration is primarily the Middle East, although extending to north Africa and the Levant. Defining a region can be elusive. I would always classify the Levant as being in the Middle East and wonder why there is not more consideration of Israel’s contribution within the Middle East. I remember well a conversation with Crown Prince Hassan in Amman when we discussed the role of Israel in the Arab world, as applicable then as now. Regional tensions might be reduced if Israel focused more on the Arab world rather than Europe or the United States and, conversely, if the Arab world was more accepting of Israel, although I accept that positive moves are afoot. The common thread of extremism and terrorism, cyber or otherwise, has to be tackled.

North Africa, included in the report under the banner of MENA, has a different dynamic from that of the Middle East. MENA, as it impacts north Africa—expedient geography to the Foreign Office, Brussels and the OECD, with their development initiatives on governance and competitiveness—is of course very much of the world of Islam, but with differing politics and trade issues. It is a pity, but in the circumstances understandable, that the committee was unable to visit Riyadh and Tehran—two Middle East linchpins. It is preferable always to test the broader world view from within rather than solely as perceived from London. Both offer a world of opportunity for the United Kingdom. All commentators inform me that the UK is lagging behind in connecting with Iran. The signing of a $5 billion contract with Total is testament to that. I see the inability of the Iranian embassy to open a bank account in London as a detriment. I ask the Minister: are there any developments in that regard and what is holding back the ability to do so?

Iran’s significant historical and current influence, the unresolved Israel-Palestinian situation and the recent Gulf rifts with Qatar exacerbate old and new regional tensions. Multiple crises define the MENA region. One also should not be blind to Afghanistan; the effects of the refugee exodus reaching directly into Europe, Italy in particular; and the bilateral tussle between Morocco and Algeria over Sahara. Matters are compounded on the one hand by an apparent withdrawal by the United States, while still defending its national interest combating ISIS and al-Qaeda, and on the other hand by Russia and its interests becoming increasingly centre-stage, with support for Syria and nuclear activities in Iran. Co-operation generally between these state actors needs to be established. Events have the potential to get out of hand.
The Middle East requires vital stabilisation. Trust and confidence-building measures are urgently required. Yet throughout the Arab world, with all its turmoil, Arabs, barring extremists, are intrinsically a peaceful people; to raise one’s voice is considered very much a non-Arab trait. Undeniable contributors to a more settled region would be a greater role for women in society and state affairs; a strengthened civil society; and, I suggest with respect to regional elders, a move to a younger leadership pattern, currently in the offing in Saudi Arabia, together with the acceptance of social media as a practical reality. Of course I recognise that these issues are anathema to many but they are none the less unavoidable for tomorrow’s leaders. There is much to reflect upon.

The report’s emphasis is more on political and security issues than trade. Given the importance of trade to a post-Brexit United Kingdom, perhaps I might offer one or two pointers. The unintended consequences of low oil prices and political instability are giving great cause for concern to UK trade with the Middle East. Trade figures show that the low oil prices are affecting spending plans, with countries now urgently seeking new models for financing future plans. The UK leads in this area and it is where we can help. On the positive side, wealthier GCC countries have adequate financial buffers to insulate them from the current volatility in the price of oil and other global factors, where non-oil sector growth is supported by high government expenditures on infrastructure, including public transportation, housing, healthcare and aviation. A real effort is taking place to diversify economies away from oil and gas. A good example of this is the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 and Kuwait’s recently announced five-year plan, while in Egypt, where a more challenging market exists, the economic and political outlook should improve with enhanced security conditions, reduced fuel subsidies, tax-system reform and the Suez Canal expansion project.

However, trade finance for international trade remains a major challenge for economic recovery and development. For my part, I am engaged with two emerging initiatives. A new committee for Middle East trade—COMET—will work in an advisory role highlighting opportunities and challenges for members and government. COMET will provide a new approach in the UK by working with government and the private sector stimulating interest for British exporters where no UK advisory body exists. It is felt that the immediate future for UK trade should focus on British partnerships in medium-sized ventures, particularly those that support employment coupled to training, while keeping a watching brief on the high-value projects, most of which are long term. Key areas for growth range from legal and Sharia-compliant financial services to energy infrastructure, defence and security, educational and vocational training and healthcare. The key question is how the UK can best co-ordinate and mobilise its resources during these challenging times to ensure that British companies maintain their interest and do not turn away from these markets.

In addition, a meeting, lunch and gala dinner on 10 October under the banner of the global CEO club will take place in London. The royal families of various countries, together with industry leaders from throughout the region, are to attend. I have been asked to encourage the Prime Minister to address a strong guest list, and I wonder whether the Minister would consider this through his good offices. The purpose of the event is to introduce leaders in the region to partner with United Kingdom interests. There is much to play for.


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Motion to take note: Brexit: Acquired Rights (EUC Report)

4th July 2017 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, I could not agree more with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, when he asked what type of country we wished to be. I further note—he prompts me in suggesting this—that, frankly, all successful economies have inclusive immigration policies. I will refer to the game of poker during my remarks. What a winning hand that during consecutive debates this afternoon I should follow the noble Lord, Lord Judd.

I must congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and her committee team. She has done the House, the Government and the country, together with all those most directly affected, wherever they be, an inestimable service. Emotions understandably run high on this issue, both here and on the continent. Some issues belong elsewhere. Matters that impact targets should be recognised but tagged for resolution in legislative debate and amendments to the appropriate Acts. But what we are dealing with today is the here and now. I have detained the House on multiple occasions already as I, too, will be impacted by the end result, as a long-term resident on the continent—but I will not rehearse what is already on the record. An equitable divorce is sought, but I sense that the situation has the potential to get out of hand.

Mrs Golding, a barrister specialising in EU law and a tenacious chair of the British in Europe movement, represents the interests of the two combined groupings of the 4.5 million Britons on the continent and EU citizens in the UK. Allegations that the Government of the United Kingdom are neither listening nor engaging are troubling. There is a view that the Government are playing poker with the lives of millions of good, decent people, who are caught up in a situation through no fault of their own. Although UK Ministers have made themselves available, the Secretary of State has been described as “elusive”. Conversely, it appears that Monsieur Barnier and his team, representing the European Commission, have had constructive and transparent meetings with the group’s representatives and are described as supportive.

A number of issues have emerged following the Prime Minister’s offer to the European Commission, as highlighted by Mrs Golding. The UK proposal does not respond to the comprehensive offer made by the EU on 22 May to guarantee the vast majority of rights, but instead represents an entirely different form of offer founded in UK law, which relates to the future immigration status of EU citizens in the UK. Thus, when comparing the two proposals, it is not possible to compare like with like, and the application and principle of reciprocity is complicated.

The UK proposal lacks detail on safeguarding the rights of UK citizens in the EU. By contrast, the EU offer is a detailed proposal to guarantee the vast  majority of the rights that UK citizens in the EU currently have. This includes free movement and would protect the rights of UK citizens in the EU, subject to certain clarifications as regards freedom of establishment, the position of students commencing their studies now, and voting rights. Arguably, therefore, the offer set out in the UK proposal for EU citizens in the UK represents the substitution of acquired rights of EU citizenship under EU law with a lesser “settled status”, for which EU citizens will be required to apply and which is not for life. This status could be lost following a two-year absence from the UK, and these citizens would then have to apply to return to the UK under UK immigration rules unless they could prove that they had “strong ties” to the UK—a vague concept that is not defined.

It is also claimed that EU citizens would no longer benefit from the same family reunification rights or from the overarching principle of equal treatment to British citizens in the UK. In addition, the position as regards both groups on other rights, such as pensions, healthcare, rights to work, rights of establishment and the mutual recognition of qualifications, requires clarification. We are aware that the UK proposal states that the ECJ,

“will not have jurisdiction in the UK”.

Opponents argue that, given the cumulative experience in case law of the ECJ on the rights of both groups, reference by UK courts to the ECJ would clearly represent the easiest and most practical option.

Perhaps a more efficient and pragmatic solution would be to create a dispute resolution body with jurisdiction to enforce citizens’ rights, offering a way for all affected individuals to safeguard their rights as regards the final guarantee set out in the Article 50 withdrawal agreement. Divergent interpretations of the rights of EU nationals living in the UK before Brexit and British nationals living in the EU before Brexit must be avoided.

The EU insists that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Is this wise? Instead, a separate and definitive agreement on citizens’ rights should be reached now, well ahead of the main Article 50 negotiations, if current anxiety and uncertainty are to be alleviated. The definitive agreement needs to be confirmed in the Article 50 withdrawal agreement to give it treaty status and the force of international law.

An additional issue must once again be flagged. Families, many with children, face the stark reality of enforced separation because of the quirks of being a non-EU spouse and not meeting immigration criteria for residence in the UK. So for the fourth time I ask the Government: will the repeal Bill ensure that UK law conforms to the European Court of Justice ruling C-127/08 on the implementation of directive 2004/38/EC for the rights of non-EU spouses of EU citizens to move freely in the EU, with unfettered access to the UK? A government response claims:

“United Kingdom law relating to the rights of EU nationals and their family members”—

this is the key point—

“to enter and reside in the UK is fully compliant with the decision”,

of the ECJ. Will the Minister ask her officials to look very carefully at this, and state unequivocally that  non-EU spouses and family can enter and reside in the UK without precondition? Will she kindly ensure that a copy of that response is placed in the Library?

Recognising the gravity and importance of what is before us this evening, I have asked my own IT development team to ensure that relevant papers pertaining to citizens’ acquired rights—including a link to the committee’s report, the expert opinions presented by Mrs Golding and today’s proceedings—be made readily available for public viewing. To this end, I have registered a domain——and invite members of all parliaments in the European Union, Governments and the public at large to keep abreast of proceedings.

I cannot believe for one moment that 4.5 million people deserve such potential disruption to their lives. Is it possible that the matter is becoming overcomplicated and we are losing sight of the woods in contemplating each tree? It is entirely possible that EU citizens can simply become dual nationals, as people all over the world do when they wish to obtain or retain dual rights. Certainly, British citizens currently in the EU have more limited rights as residents than if they became citizens of the countries wherein they currently live. At present they must comply with national residency criteria, particularly with the 183-day rule, taking into account primary residence status and centre of economic interest; pay national social security and municipal taxes as required; and convert driving licences, and so on. This visible and verifiable commitment of intent and compliance with these rules should then allow for an absolute right to remain status.

The Government assure us that their offer ensures that EU citizens in the UK will have the same rights as UK citizens in the UK. Are British citizens being offered the same protections, rights and benefits across the EU? It is the duty of government to act to protect the equal legal and moral rights of all citizens, regardless of origin. This House should attempt to steer the Government and the negotiations away from the cliff edge and the abyss beyond.

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Statement: Monarch Airlines

9th October 2017 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, would the Minister care to say a word about the passengers who were caught out in needing to return home from the UK as opposed to returning passengers? In the wake of Monarch and wishing to ensure no future disruption to passengers, should the Government be encouraging Ryanair to abide by the payment of local taxes and social security to individual EU countries where pilots are stationed on a permanent basis rather than to Ireland, where their contracts are designated? I understand that the French have won a case in the ECJ, with the result that Ryanair pulled all its planes from France.

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Foreign Policy: Support for UK Businesses in Global Trade

14th November 2017 – Contribution by Lord Waverley

My Lords, does the noble Earl wish to concede that a combination of conflicting intradepartmental priorities and policies, leading sometimes to a lack of visible ministerial support, has a detrimental impact on industry’s ability to enter and further new markets? Given that government should not consider itself to be the sole arbiter of bilateral relations, should not a primary focus be to create an environment whereby the private sector thrives, best achieved in step with policy and industry?

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Question for Short Debate: Exports: Africa and the Commonwealth

27th November 2017 2018 – Contribution by Lord Waverley

My Lords, I offer a warm welcome to the Minister and should let her know that we are here to help—although on occasion it might not seem so. I congratulate, too, the noble Lord, Lord Popat, on securing this debate. One of the great joys in life is waking up to an African dawn.

Notwithstanding the continued march of globalism, cross-border global trade remains plagued by multiple barriers. These impede economic development in emerging economies, and particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises which take disproportionately little in world trade. The challenge has to be to address the factors that inhibit or prevent SMEs from exporting. A number of overarching principles ought to be considered central to increasing cross-border trade. These include targeting policy, especially towards SMEs and emerging markets, constructing policies in consultation with key stakeholders, growing an export culture, and raising international ambition, particularly through government briefings, school education, the improved teaching of modern languages and advisory services. I would encourage the Minister to have her team examine, if it is not already doing so, the range of existing policies and best practices from around the world, particularly on the challenge of removing informational asymmetries between market participants.

Trade is a multidimensional process that is based on four primary pillars: logistics, commerce, finance and insurance. But there is little linking within global value chains. More importantly, while the world is digitising many of its processes, this is being done in piecemeal fashion. Much of the progress to date has been between business and consumers, with relatively little from business to business. The core element, logistics, is the weakest link. The logistics industry as a whole is generally fragmented and inefficient. While some individual companies’ logistics are digitised—for example, the likes of FedEx and DHL—this has generally been done only vertically within each large company or has been limited to specific tiers within a supply chain. A horizontally integrated world trade digital economy platform would bring considerable benefits.

The digitisation and integration of these four elements, underpinned by a multidimensional platform, would bring efficiency gains, substantial reductions in the cost of trade and an expansion in the volume of world trade. The economic, social and developmental benefits globally, in particular for SMEs in emerging economies, would be significant. Such a platform would also include the de-risking of the business process, the improved provision of trade finance and insurance, the creation of new jobs, increased cargo security, reduced fraud and tax evasion, including VAT, expedited disaster relief responses and increased post-harvest yield and strengthened contaminated food containment. This would offer increased buying power in middle and lower-income countries, which could then buy our high-value goods and services.

I have been briefed on the technology of the public/private partnership Global Coalition of Efficient Logistics, GCEL, which has already been proved in practice. The first pilot test involving complex supply chains was across the US/Canada border, one of the world’s busiest land borders. The first benchmark trade lane is in the process of being deployed between China, Japan and Indonesia, at the request of their Governments. In addition, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders have recently signed a memorandum of understanding for GCEL to digitise the operation of ports throughout the APEC region.

This trade digital economy platform technology could be an additional way to cement relationships within the Commonwealth and pan-Africa. The upcoming CHOGM, which we all look forward to—we wish the Government the best and welcome all our friends from around the world—could afford an opportunity for the UK to introduce a pioneering initiative of substance as a partner nation. I have no doubt that many small nations would take an interest.

Being innovative and achieving more with less is key to strengthening the UK’s position in tomorrow’s world. The UK is enviably well placed to spearhead and pioneer global development of the new digital economy, with our core skills and qualities of IT, innovation, finance, insurance, an educated workforce, a stable population, and the rule of law. However, we need to get a move on in readiness for the challenges and opportunities that will shortly be upon us.

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Motion to Take Note: Trade and Customs Policy

5th December 2017– Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, parallel preparations in advance of final Brexit implementation are essential, even though the end product is yet to be determined. As a reluctant but optimistic Brexiteer, I have no difficulty with a paper entitled Preparing for our Future UK Trade Policy. The principle of free trade and the goal of enabling continuity, boosting global trade relationships, supporting developing countries in reducing poverty and a rules-based framework for trade remedies and trade disputes are objectives that allow the UK to hold its head high.

I have spoken on multiple occasions over the months on such matters and will not repeat what is already on public record. The covering note on the cross-border trade Bill, however, presents a Rubik’s cube of complex legal and technical issues within equally complex political constraints. It is that lack of clarity around political constraints that makes the technical analysis a testing exercise, such that businesses have no alternative but to prepare for the contingency scenario of no agreed customs arrangement.

It is hoped that this month will shed light on the probable Brexit end game. While a hard Brexit is still on the cards, given the continuing uncertainty, renewed focus on delivering the ideal scenario of frictionless trade, with an interim implementation period, would appear more sensible. Brexiteers should understand, and accept, that frictionless trade will be perceived by some as though we are still in—but surely this is a small price to pay to ensure overall readiness. I have also come to accept, albeit reluctantly, that addressing detail through secondary legislation is acceptable in the circumstances.

In essence, this is about an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU. Questions arise, however. Excise and VAT regimes must function effectively on exit day, so what is the Treasury’s preferred option? Is it a continued waiver from entry and exit summary declarations? Is it to remain a member of the Common Transit Convention, so that goods will not need to complete import and export declarations at each new border crossing? Is it to seek mutual recognition of authorised economic operators and press for bilateral implementation of a technology-based solution for roll-on roll-off ports? Will the Government be supporting the adoption of these simplified procedures, including presentation waivers, the use of the CTC and self-assessment? Or would the Treasury prefer an option of a virtual border, where the UK, in partnership with the EU, operates a regime for imports that will remain in the EU market even if they are part of a supply chain in the UK first?

Leaving the EU without a negotiated agreement will necessitate other EU countries having infrastructure in place for the two-way process of importing and exporting to work effectively. Is there any evidence  that such preparations are under way? To achieve frictionless trade, the Government must ensure that all departments and related agencies operating at the frontier are joined up. The main cross-channel port countries of Belgium, France and the Netherlands will need to alter their systems to accommodate UK imports and exports. Beyond budgetary issues, this will require co-operation and direction from the Commission. Preventing disruption will require both sides to be prepared for changes.

I spent a large part of yesterday evening scouring public-source EU documents. It is a given that, as of the withdrawal date, the United Kingdom will no longer be part of the customs and VAT territory of the Union. However, in one of those documents, in the subsection, “Modes of Transport”, in each of the sections pertaining to “Maritime”, “Air”, “Road and Rail”, “Postal Shipments” and “E-commerce”, the following words appear:

“These changes will be implemented when all the … IT systems will be available”.

Would the Minister care to comment on this prospect? What is being anticipated, by whom, and at what cost over what period? From what I understand from the excellent briefing this morning, the EU is not expected to have its systems ready until 2025—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. So even if we were to enjoy a transition period of two years, it would take us to March 2021. What is the process that would be enacted during the period 2021 to 2025?

We are at a critical juncture in the Brexit journey today. The Irish frontier complexities loom over the negotiations. The question of no divergence on regulatory alignment remains the bogey. I have not been to the large logistics centre on the Chinese side of the Kazakh frontier, but it might be that relevant lessons could be learned given the long-haul shipments that eventually reach Europe.

I have previously raised the possibilities and benefits of an integrated digital economy platform in relation to cross-border challenges. Given that 60% of global B2B trade currently runs through the systems of the leading 12 technology companies, signing up 150 of their leading customers would be sufficient to ensure that the digital economic platform captures around 60% of global trade by 2030. I understand that the Global Coalition for Efficient Logistics—GCEL—stands ready to demonstrate the potential of its digital technology in respect of trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic, in order to enable trade to take place between the two in a manner satisfactory to all parties and without the need for a physical border. I am aware that principals will be in the UK Friday and Saturday, and I have little doubt that a meeting of interest to the Minister and her department could be arranged.

Very briefly, and as a concluding thought, I will flag the concerns of SMEs, many of which have never prepared documents for a customs exit or entry clearance—again, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. It stands to reason that a lack of experience, staff and resources for dealing with significant changes, procedures and paperwork will become a challenge. Would the Minister consider placing this issue in her in-tray for consideration? What possible training exercise might be readily entered into?

The greater the divergence between EU and UK regulations and product standards, the more customs capacity the UK will need to develop. The Minister should recognise constraints at the physical border and consider moving checks inland. The UK currently has access to more than 20 EU systems used to track the movement of goods and vehicles. Although an FTA could grant the UK permission to continue to use at least some of these, no deal could require the UK to build and integrate new systems from scratch.

Finally, I have two quick observations. I listened very carefully to the noble Lords, Lord Whitty and Lord Kerr, as I have done to all noble Lords. Two thoughts emerged. Will the Government draw up a comprehensive list of FAQs—frequently asked questions —to address the issues as we move along this journey? That would be very helpful for all our good friends around the country to understand where and what the game is, what they must do, how they should do it, and so on.

Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, referred to his Article 50. As no one can judge the political future environment, there may well be a need to consult the people. In anticipation of this, could we jettison the term “second referendum” and instead vote on the “final outcome”—a point raised at a joint meeting that the noble Lord and I attended?

Many other challenges remain. However, I will leave it there for the moment.

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Question for Short Debate: Zimbabwe

7th December 2017 – Contribution by Lord Waverley 

My Lords, it would be an unmitigated disaster if the transition of leadership did not deliver positively for the kindly, long-suffering peoples of Zimbabwe. We must all harness our best endeavours to draw attention to the short, medium and long-term needs of that country and then assist in any practical way possible. The re-establishing of the agricultural and tourism sectors would be a natural first step to create immediate economic order.

Urgently needed is more investment in farming, as well as imaginative ways to bring in expertise and capital to make the new generation of smallholder farms more productive. I envisage joint ventures or other forms of co-operation agreements, with emphasis on local content. For example, a German farm company is working on outgrowth schemes. It supplies seeds and fertilisers, invests in irrigation and some processing and then takes its fees out of export earnings. The key is to guarantee a minimum price but share in the proceeds. This model works well in Colombia, which endures similar challenges.

There is likely to be a land audit next year. Consolidation of the title deed system would offer new farmers collateral to raise finance. This would require co-operation from displaced commercial farmers who have issued claims against new owners. The tobacco market has shrunk, so commercial farmers have to find new cash crops. Food supplies to the region would be a good target, with emphasis on processing and added-value industries. Then there is the revitalising of the tourist and mining industries, possibly the assistance of immediate aid and longer-term assistance for capital development and professional aid. However, ​addressing essential human rights and electoral improvements should proceed in tandem. Let that be a prime focus of Governments and NGOs. The Ghanaian and Namibian Presidents’ remarks are to be welcomed, but Zimbabwe’s future progress requires more than warm words. These patient peoples must be supported to guard against any further slippage on their path and destiny to a future of truly representative democracy, for which the military’s role should be recognised.


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