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Single Market

Volume 602: debated on Wednesday 18 November 2015

The single market offers enormous opportunities for Welsh business, accounting for 42% of Welsh exports. However, exports to non-EU countries account for 58% of our total exports and are worth more than £7 billion to the Welsh economy. That is why we are seeking EU reform to go further and faster on economic competitiveness, trade and deregulation, which will strengthen Welsh exports.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the success of Airbus in Wales and in the south-west, which has connections to my constituency, demonstrates the value of the single market, and that reforming it further to include the digital economy and energy will give those important sectors even more capacity to expand and grow?

My hon. Friend makes an important point, not least about the importance of investing in technology. If we are to drive up prosperity in Wales, we need more growth in higher technology. This afternoon, I am proud to be helping to launch a new compound semiconductor centre for IQE and Cardiff University. That is emblematic of the changes in the Welsh economy.

Twenty-five thousand jobs in Swansea bay city region rely on being in the single market. Swansea is, of course, in the convergence funding area. Will the Secretary of State support Swansea bay city region MPs’ bid to get the new tax centre for Wales in Swansea bay city region, given that it is an area of relative deprivation, and not Cardiff?

Exciting things are happening in Swansea and the Swansea bay city region. I am delighted that Swansea MPs are working together. If they have a proposal about future changes to the delivery of Government services, with opportunities for Swansea, I ask them please to send them through and we will consider them.

Does the Secretary of State agree that no one who believes we should leave the European Union is suggesting that we stop trading with our European neighbours, and the fact that they sell more to us than we do to them means that there is no chance of their wanting to stop trading with us?

The truth is that Wales’s future prosperity depends on whether we can transform the economy, improve productivity, invest in transport infrastructure and improve our skills and education. That is where Wales’s future prosperity and success lie, and the question of whether or not we remain in the European Union is therefore a secondary one.

The Secretary of State is just a little bit shy today. Why cannot he just recognise that 191,000 Welsh jobs are totally dependent on EU trade and that Wales is a net beneficiary of EU aid? Cannot he just say—we will protect him from the Tory “Little Britain” sketch on the Benches behind him—that Wales is better off in?

I am not often described as shy; I am interested that I have come across in that way to the hon. Lady this morning. I do not recognise the figure that she cites. The important point is that the single market creates a really strategic opportunity for Welsh business. That is what we need to defend and extend.