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Welsh Sheep Meat Trade

Volume 624: debated on Thursday 27 April 2017

12. What steps he is taking to ensure protection of the Welsh sheep meat trade in negotiations on the UK leaving the EU. (909882)

The Government are working hard to get the very best deal for the United Kingdom—a free trade deal with the EU that is more ambitious than any other trade deal yet struck. We are considering and analysing the impact of future trading arrangements on all sectors of our economy, including agriculture, developing policies to support our vision for a global Britain that is producing more, selling more and exporting more.

That answer was characteristically vacuous and meaningless: could the Minister try to concentrate? Welsh farmers are saying that the door is open to New Zealand competition that could clear Welsh lamb off the shelves because of the price, and the door is not open to new markets in the United States, although that was promised. The Minister will understand the cultural priority of maintaining life on Welsh farms, where one of the most ancient languages in the whole of Europe prospers at its purest and best. Is it not a major priority for the Government to give a guarantee to Welsh farmers?

May I say that I represent many more Welsh farmers than the hon. Gentleman does, and that I intend to continue to do so after the general election? The Government are intent on securing the best possible free trade agreement for this country, which will benefit all farmers, including Welsh farmers. Furthermore, we intend to ensure that Welsh exports continue after the general election.

If the hon. Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson) wishes to contribute on the matter of the Welsh sheep meat trade, she is welcome to do so.

I do, Mr Speaker; thank you. Welsh sheep are an important part of the farming sector in Wales, but the farming community as a whole, throughout the UK, is looking for reassurance that it will be supported as we leave the European Union. I have a very large agricultural sector in Sleaford and North Hykeham, and I would be grateful for the Secretary of State’s reassurance that the farming sector will be protected as we leave the European Union.

My hon. Friend is entirely right. The agricultural sector is of particular importance in the forthcoming negotiations. We have already increased the number of exports from the British farming sector. We are currently in the process, for example, of negotiations to open the market for UK lamb to Saudi Arabia. There are a host of other opportunities out there, which will be available to us once we have left the European Union.

I call Tom Pursglove on question 15. [Interruption.] Aah, excellent! I was rather hoping that the hon. Member for Crawley (Henry Smith) would beetle into the Chamber just in time. In fact, I was prolonging the previous exchange in the confident expectation that he would arrive. He has done so, so we will reinstate question 13.