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British Producers

Volume 563: debated on Thursday 16 May 2013

Mr Speaker, good morning.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs continues to work with UK Trade & Investment and industry to promote exports and address market access barriers. We have opened the pork markets in China and Australia, expanded the beef market to Hong Kong, and opened poultry, beef and lamb markets in Russia. We continue to work hard to open and maintain markets for UK goods. We also champion British food at the world’s key trade events.

Good morning, Mr Speaker.

I would like to press the Secretary of State, if I may. Given the continuing emerging strength of the BRIC—Brazil, Russia, India and China—countries, what scope is there for British products in that market?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to spot the growth in these markets. Last year, our exports to China grew by 6%, our exports to India by 7% and our exports to the USA by 9%, and only last week the Prime Minister was in Russia talking to President Putin about increasing our exports there. At the moment, the BRIC economies represent only 3% of our total export market, but there are massive opportunities to expand further.

16. Happy Thursday, Mr Speaker. Will the Secretary of State reflect on the fact that the British food producers industry makes a significant contribution to the UK economy? What impact would it have on that industry, were the UK to leave the EU? (155350)

The hon. Gentleman is right to spot the importance of food production. It is the largest manufacturing sector in the country, and we would like to see exports expanded into Europe and the BRIC countries, as I have just said.

The Opposition were pleased to see the Prime Minister in the USA this week negotiating a trade deal on behalf of the EU to open up that new export market to the British food industry. I was disappointed to note the Secretary of State’s failure to support his Government’s Queen’s Speech in its entirety last night. Does he agree with his Prime Minister and President Obama that the UK is better off in the EU? Yes or no?

I entirely agree with the Prime Minister that we would like to increase our exports to the EU and around the world, and that is why he was doing sterling stuff in Russia. I entirely endorse his policy, which is that we should renegotiate and then put the proposed settlement to the British people. The question for the hon. Lady is whether her wishy-washy Wally of a shadow leader will give the British people a choice.

I am not sure where we stand on those words. I always play the ball, not the man, Mr Speaker. It is interesting to note that the Secretary of State is a little rattled.

At a CBI dinner last night, Roger Carr, its president, said that Britain needed to be in the EU in order to build our export base. Membership of the EU gives us access to a domestic market of 500 million people. Our export trade deals are negotiated through the EU. Nearly three quarters of our food exports go to our European neighbours. Once more, will the Secretary of State explain how Britain’s leaving the UK would help jobs, exports and growth in the British food industry?

We are talking about exports. We want to export to Europe, but yesterday’s results for the French economy, led by her leader’s close ally, show that unemployment there has rocketed to 10.6%. In such circumstances, it is hard to sell and increase our exports to the eurozone. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield North (Nick de Bois) is on exactly the right lines in looking at the BRIC countries. We want to export more to Europe, but we also want to export to expanding parts of the world, such as the BRIC countries.