I welcome and support this historic Bill. Following the agreement, we will truly be an independent country, in control of our laws and national destiny, without any influence of the European Court. We will also set up an arrangement which can be worth more than £650 billion in reciprocal trade with the EU.
The agreement covers a number of subjects but, in view of lack of time, I shall discuss issues relating to the financial services sector, which I declare is my business. The financial services sector contributes around £130 billion to the UK economy and employs more than 1 million people. It generates more than 10% of tax revenues and contributed about 40% of the country’s £18 billion trade surplus in services with the EU in 2019. We should do all we can to protect its future.
As of 1 January 2021, UK financial services firms will not be able to continue their passporting privileges, which have allowed them to undertake financial services activities freely in the European Union. To undertake financial services activities, firms will need to register and comply with necessary requirements in each country or rely on equivalence.
Our Prime Minister has commented that the Brexit trade deal perhaps does not go as far as he would like on financial services. If a firm is to seek authorisation from individual countries, this will add to its costs and make the matter complicated. I appreciate that equivalence was not part of TCA negotiations and have noted that access to European markets can be established by a separate process which can grant equivalence to UK firms. I hope that further negotiations will be undertaken as soon as possible to establish market access to the European Union for our financial services firms. I very much hope that an agreement is reached and a memorandum of understanding is signed as soon as possible. I emphasise that we must endeavour to secure equivalence on a permanent basis.
Another issue of concern is that, from 1 January 2021, UK professional qualifications will not be recognised by the European Union. A British-qualified person will need registration in the country where he or she would like to undertake work. British qualifications are of a very high standard and are the envy of the world, and they must be treated accordingly. I hope that this point is discussed further and that an agreement is reached on this issue, together with the important matter of equivalence. I ask my noble friend the Minister to comment on the matters that I have raised regarding the financial services sector.