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EU Markets (West Country Food Exporters)

Volume 627: debated on Thursday 20 July 2017

8. What recent discussions he has had with food exporters in the west country on safeguarding tariff-free access to EU markets. (900593)

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I have a number of leading west country food manufacturers in my constituency, including Falfish and Rodda’s cream, both of which are successful exporters. In addition, we are working closely with trade organisations, such as the Food and Drink Federation, to understand the needs of the industry. We have been clear that we intend to put in place a new partnership with the EU, which will include a comprehensive free trade agreement.

The Minister will know that 80% of west country fish and 30% of our lamb is exported straight to EU markets, free—currently—of tariffs and other barriers. Those food producers will be extremely concerned by the comments today of the International Trade Secretary, who appears completely relaxed about the prospect of leaving the EU with no deal. Does the Minister agree with him, or with the Chancellor, who said that this would be a very, very bad thing?

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, the UK has a significant trade deficit in food and drink products with the EU, so the EU needs access to our market as well. We have a significant deficit of around £18 billion a year, and I believe it is in the EU’s interests, therefore, to secure a free trade agreement too.

Ah, how very apposite; the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) was banging on about fish. I call Mr Marcus Fysh.

I am afraid I am not going to speak about fish today, Mr Speaker, but another time I will be happy to do so.

Farmers in Somerset expect their Government to negotiate continued tariff-free cross-channel trade, and hundreds of thousands of farmers across the EU expect the same of theirs. What are Ministers doing to secure engagement now between Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and Europe’s national customs agencies to ensure that timely and appropriate data exchange keeps agricultural trade smooth after we leave the EU?

We have set out plans in this Session for Bills dealing with trade and customs, and those Bills will address the issues that my hon. Friend has raised. I know that colleagues right across Government are working in a great deal of detail on customs issues to secure an agreement.