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English Regions

Volume 624: debated on Thursday 27 April 2017

8. What steps he is taking to involve representatives of the English regions in the Government’s preparations for the UK leaving the EU. (909876)

Mr Speaker, it is nice to be here. The Government are committed to securing a deal that works for the entire United Kingdom, including all parts of England. The Department for Exiting the European Union and the Department for Communities and Local Government are working closely with the Local Government Association and regional partners across the country to understand clearly the issues related to exit and to identify any regional differences. As my hon. Friend will be aware, the Secretary of State has already committed to bringing the newly elected combined authority mayors in England together for a summit in the summer.

I thank the Minister for that answer. At departmental questions some weeks ago, the Secretary of State agreed to hold a meeting in York for the mayors of the north to make sure the region’s interests were properly represented. With Yorkshire’s devolution deals proving challenging to agree, will the Secretary of State agree also to invite the leaders of those areas not represented by a mayor?

The Government are committed to securing a deal that works for the whole United Kingdom, including every part of England. DExEU Ministers have visited Yorkshire on a number of occasions, and that includes the Secretary of State’s visit in November. I am sure he will be willing to consider another visit after the election.

The north-east has benefited hugely from investment and funding from the European Union—a counterbalance to the neglect of this and other Tory Governments. What guarantee will the Minister offer that the repatriation of powers from the European Union will not mean further concentration of powers in Whitehall and that powers will be devolved to the north-east and other regions?

After the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, we will give full consideration to further devolution to bring powers as close as possible to all parts of the country. We are committed to securing a deal that works for the north-east, and Ministers have visited every part of England, and that includes a recent visit to Sunderland and Peterlee to talk to local people about manufacturing issues.

On his visits around the regions of the UK, will the Minister make it clear that to deliver the Prime Minister’s commitment to take back control of our money, our laws and our borders, we must leave the single market, leave the customs union and establish sovereign control of our borders and all the maritime waters within the exclusive economic zone?

Visiting the north-east is always a good thing to do, and we are very happy to have the Minister, but he does need to listen while he is there. The Engineering Employers Federation has warned that walking away with no deal would condemn north-east manufacturing to

“a painful and costly Brexit.”

The EEF wants the Government, instead of posturing, to focus on obtaining full World Trade Organisation membership, a clear position on customs and a sensible transition period. Why are the Government not listening to the needs of manufacturers in the north?

On the contrary, we deal regularly with manufacturing industry. Indeed, I recently had a meeting with the EEF that was very successful. The fact of the matter is that we are intending to seek the best possible free trade agreement with the continuing European Union. Our position will be, however, unlike that of Labour, that no deal is better than a bad deal. I find it extraordinary that the Opposition seem to think it sensible to go to the negotiating chamber expecting to have no deal.