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EU Membership

Volume 602: debated on Tuesday 10 November 2015

15. What recent discussions he has had with the Foreign Secretary on the effect on businesses of the UK’s membership of the EU. (902098)

I work closely with the Foreign Secretary, particularly through the exports taskforce, which I chair, to deliver growth for British business. UK businesses send 45% of their exports to the EU and benefit from the single market. The reforms that we are pursuing are good for the EU, good for the UK and good for British business.

Some 160,000 jobs in the north-east rely on trade with the EU. We are the only region in the country consistently to deliver a trade surplus. What assurances can the Secretary of State give my constituents, many of whom are understandably concerned about what an isolated Britain on the fringes of Europe might mean for their jobs and livelihoods? Will he vote to stay in the EU and stand up for British jobs?

The hon. Lady has some excellent manufacturers and other companies in her constituency, including Nissan, which recently announced a huge investment. What business wants in respect of the EU is more certainty and reform, so it welcomes the reforms that we are fighting for, and the certainty that the referendum will bring.

One of the biggest impacts on UK businesses comes from the EU social chapter. As recently as 2010, the Conservative manifesto said that we would “negotiate the return” of power over “employment legislation”. Is that still going to happen, or have we gone backwards in our ambition?

We have set out our priorities in respect of making the whole EU, not just Britain, more competitive. They include cutting red tape and having more free trade agreements. We have set out those priorities in detail. I listened carefully to what my hon. Friend had to say and will reflect on it.