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Exiting the EU: Welsh Economy

Volume 628: debated on Wednesday 6 September 2017

6. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on the potential effect of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on the economy in Wales. (900694)

I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on how all aspects of our exit from the EU will affect Wales. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will maximise certainty to individuals and businesses across Wales and the rest of the UK.

Fifteen months after the referendum result, progress on Brexit is still too slow. About two thirds of Welsh exports go to the European Union and thousands of Welsh jobs depend on this trade, so what is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that our Welsh economy is not wrecked by a cliff-edge Brexit that would damage these vital ties?

The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will be debated tomorrow. I hope that he will support that Bill because of the certainty and security it provides by closing loopholes and ensuring that we have appropriate frameworks in place. Those in themselves present the issue of a cliff edge that he mentioned.

Since the referendum result, we have seen record inward investment in Wales, record levels of employment and a proposal to scrap the Severn bridge tolls. Does that not show that under the Conservative Government the future for Wales is very good indeed?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. He is a passionate campaigner for not only the UK and Wales, but the benefits of leaving the European Union. We want a stronger, fairer, more united and outward-looking Union, and Members on both sides of this House have a role to play in that.

One hundred years ago, y Gadair Ddu—the Black Chair—was posthumously awarded at the Birkenhead Eisteddfod for Hedd Wyn’s awdl “Yr Arwr”. I would like to congratulate the poet’s nephew Gerald Williams and Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri on safeguarding for Wales the family farm, Yr Ysgwrn, which will be opened officially today.

This month also celebrates the referendum 20 years ago that brought devolution to Wales. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is a bare-faced Westminster bid to take back control against the will of the people of Wales. Will the Minister tell the House what his Government will do when Wales denies consent to the Bill later this year? Would it not be political folly to press ahead in such circumstances?

Order. I am most grateful to the hon. Lady. If colleagues could show some sensitivity to time, that would be appreciated.

I would certainly underline many of the points that the hon. Lady made in relation to Hedd Wyn, whose former home is being opened today.

The hon. Lady will recognise that withdrawal is about creating the smoothest form of exit that we can possibly deliver. My right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State and I met the First Minister earlier this week, and we are keen to deepen our engagement even further. We want the Welsh Government to respond so that we can come up with the sort of frameworks that will work for every part of the United Kingdom.

The Secretary of State has said in the past that there will be more powers for Wales, but is not his banal rhetoric undermined by the Government’s record of broken promises? The tidal lagoon—no decision; S4C funding—slashed; rail electrification—cancelled. Will he list the powers that Wales can look forward to and say when we will hear what they are?

I am disappointed by the tone of the hon. Lady’s question. She is well aware of our strong record on devolution. Earlier this year, we passed the Wales Act 2017. Last December, we agreed a new fiscal framework, which gives Wales a very fair settlement, and we are trying to work as closely as possible with the Welsh Government to deliver an exit from the European Union that works for every part of the UK. Wales is obviously my interest in that.

I am sure that the Secretary of State knows that the Welsh economy could be damaged by careless talk about Brexit. The public narrative from the Welsh Government is often alarmist and could even scupper future foreign investment. What can my right hon. Friend do to reassure potential foreign investors that Wales is open for business and remains a first-class destination for foreign investment?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is a shame that many Opposition Members and remoaners fail to recognise the opportunity that leaving the European Union creates. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was in Japan just last week, she announced a deal in relation to Aston Martin—yet another significant trade arrangement with Japan on the back of those with Nissan and Toyota—and the Vale of Glamorgan and the midlands will benefit further from it.