As the Prime Minister said, an important part of the new strategic partnership that we seek with the European Union will be the pursuit of the greatest possible access to the single market on a fully reciprocal basis. Let there be no doubt that that will be a high priority in the negotiations. However, we believe that it is in the interests of both sides to secure it, and it is of course intended to benefit the people of Scotland. We want to get the right deal for the whole of the UK, including Scotland.
Exports to Norway from Aberdeen alone amounted to more than £750 million in 2015, and they are a vital part of anchoring the world-class supply chain in oil and gas. Will the Minister ensure that the oil and gas industry will be taken into account in this process, and that access will not be lost as a result of hard Tory Brexit?
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the importance of the industry to his constituency, and indeed to the entire United Kingdom. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has held an energy roundtable with industry leaders who, of course, included oil and gas industry representatives. I look forward to visiting parts of the industry in Scotland in the coming weeks.
Does my hon. Friend agree that selling into the single market is far preferable to being a member of it, because it is a highly regulatory, bureaucratic mechanism on which 87% of British businesses—the British economy—are not reliant?
As ever, my hon. Friend makes his case very strongly. I believe that the best possible access to the single market for UK businesses, and to the UK market for European businesses, will be in all our interests.
I recently met representatives of a very important multinational manufacturing company that employs people in my constituency. They told me that they did not believe that the Government understood the concerns of industry about Brexit, and particularly about the customs union. Why does the Minister think that is?
The Government are engaging closely with businesses and industries throughout the whole country to ensure that we have taken on board their concerns, and to ensure that we know what opportunities they expect to gain from this process. Many of the business representatives whom I have been meeting are excited about the opportunities for the UK to go out and make trade deals, and trade around the world.
If my hon. Friend has not seen Professor Patrick Minford’s analysis of the liberating effect of escaping from the common external tariffs, I, as a former economics beak, am happy to give him 45 minutes on the subject.
I look forward to the lesson.
What a fortunate fellow the Minister is!
The Secretary of State provided some clarity on his priorities for access to the single market in response to questions on Tuesday’s statement. He told the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) that he was seeking
“a comprehensive free trade agreement and a comprehensive customs agreement that will deliver the exact same benefits as we have”. —[Official Report, 24 January 2017; Vol. 620, c. 169.]
He meant the “exact same benefits” as those of being inside the single market. Will the Minister confirm that that is his Department’s negotiating position so that we can measure the Department’s success against it?
It is absolutely our position to secure the best possible market access, and, as we have repeatedly said, the ability for British businesses to trade with and within the single market.