Skip to main content

Leaving the EU: Trade

Volume 622: debated on Wednesday 1 March 2017

Following the EU referendum, Scotland Office Ministers have regularly met representatives of Scottish industry and business. What comes out clearly is the appetite to seize and make a success of the opportunities afforded to us by leaving the EU, forging a new role for ourselves in the world to negotiate our own trade agreements and be a champion for free trade.

I am a bit scared to ask my supplementary question because I think my Scottish National party colleagues have had three Weetabix this morning. My question is about exports, of which Scotland has made a fantastic success, particularly in food and drink. How confident or worried should we be if we come out of Europe that those markets will be damaged, and what can the Government do to support them?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight food and drink as Scotland’s top manufacturing export, accounting for £8.9 billion in 2015. Leaving the EU offers us the opportunity to negotiate new trade deals across the globe and create even more opportunities for Scotland’s world-renowned food and drink.

Agriculture and fisheries are key parts of the Scottish economy and Scotland’s export sector. Powers for both are devolved to the Scottish Government. Under the Secretary of State’s Government’s plans, will all decisions on agriculture and fisheries be taken by the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government after Brexit?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Government have confirmed in the White Paper that all the powers that the Scottish Parliament currently exercises in relation to agriculture, fisheries and all other issues will continue. We wish to have a dialogue with the Scottish Government, the other devolved Administrations and stakeholders about what happens to powers that are currently held in Brussels and where they will rightly rest after the United Kingdom leaves the EU.

Anybody watching this will realise that the Secretary of State did not answer the question. During the Brexit referendum campaign, people were told that decisions currently taken in Brussels on agriculture and fisheries would revert to the Scottish Parliament. The Secretary of State has not given a clear answer to the question, which really matters to our rural industries, our rural economy and Scotland as a trading nation. Let me try the same question again, and I would be grateful if the Secretary of State answered it. Under his Government’s plans, will all decisions on agriculture and fisheries be taken by the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government after Brexit—yes or no?

This Government’s plan is to engage with the Scottish Government and with the other devolved Administrations to discuss those serious issues. It is not to go out and tell the people of Scotland that the devolved settlement is being undermined by Brexit, which will lead to the Scottish Parliament exercising more powers. I can give the right hon. Gentleman an absolute guarantee that, after the United Kingdom leaves the EU, the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Ministers will have more powers than they have today.

Before I ask a question, I take the opportunity to send my condolences to the family of my great comrade, Gerald Kaufman, a genuine parliamentarian.

On 12 October, the Secretary of State stood at the Dispatch Box and said

“whatever support is put in place for businesses in the north of England will apply to businesses in Scotland.”—[Official Report, 12 October 2016; Vol. 615, c.287.]

That was in relation to the deal struck with Nissan. Does he stand by that promise?

I associate myself with the hon. Gentleman’s comments about Gerald Kaufman. He was a near neighbour of mine in the previous Parliament and I always found him to be the perfect gentleman.

I made it clear in previous answers that the Government’s approach will be consistent across the United Kingdom.

While some businesses and workers are aware of that welcome reassurance, I have yet to meet any businesses in Scotland that know about the commitment to give them the same deal as was done with Nissan. Why has the Secretary of State not been more public about the commitment? Why is it the best kept secret in Scotland?

I have made it clear to the hon. Gentleman how the UK Government are approaching the Brexit negotiations and how we are fully engaged with businesses in Scotland to ensure that we understand their concerns. We can go forward on a basis that will ensure that Scotland and the whole United Kingdom get the best possible deal from the UK leaving the EU.

Scotland’s international exports have increased by 41% since the Scottish National party Government came into office in 2007, which is a fantastic success story for Scotland. Will the Secretary of State therefore explain why the UK Government failed to negotiate any geographical indications for Scottish produce in the EU-Canada CETA trade deal?

I hope the hon. Lady’s approach on the EU-CETA trade deal is more consistent than that of her parliamentary group. On the Monday of the week when the Canada deal was discussed, SNP Members voted in favour. By the Wednesday, they somehow found that they were against.