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Leaving the EU: Trade Policy

Volume 629: debated on Thursday 12 October 2017

5. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that the Government will have an effective trade policy after the UK leaves the EU. (901074)

10. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that the UK will have an effective trade policy after the UK leaves the EU. (901082)

As the Prime Minister set out on Monday, the Government are preparing for the UK’s future as an independent trading nation. We will maximise our opportunities globally by seeking a deep and special partnership with the EU and boosting our trade relationships around the world.

The trade White Paper establishes the principles that will guide future UK trade policy and sets out the preparatory steps we are taking, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State laid out earlier in response to Question 1.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is Government policy to take full control of the UK’s trade policy in services regulation, to take advantage of the free trade opportunities that are open to us as we leave the EU? Does he agree that this must not be obviated by any conditions of a period of implementation for our new arrangements with the EU?

The Prime Minister has made it very clear that we want a deep and comprehensive trade agreement with the EU. We in the Department for International Trade are losing no time in preparing ourselves for our own independent trade policy in terms of transitioning existing EU FTAs, in terms of the 14 trade working groups that we have set up and in terms of transitioning trade preferences for the developing world, and that includes the ability to scope out and negotiate new trade agreements once we leave.

Will the Minister update the House on the work that the Government are doing to engage with frontier markets, and how these are being prioritised with existing established markets?

May I first congratulate my hon. Friend on becoming the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Pakistan —[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]—which, I can tell him, went down extremely well on my visit to Islamabad last month. We are devoting resources to frontier and emerging markets through our economic horizons group. We are committed to transitioning the EU’s scheme of trade preferences with those markets into a UK scheme, which will bring real economic assistance to developing countries, including Pakistan.

Northern Ireland will be the only part of the United Kingdom to share a land border with an EU member state after the UK leaves the EU. What discussions has the Minister had with his counterparts in Northern Ireland regarding future trade and investment opportunities and potential issues post-Brexit?

The whole Government are engaging very closely with those in authority in Northern Ireland, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and also engaging with the other side of the border. I should be meeting the Irish Trade Minister tomorrow.

Given what the Minister says, why have the Government not responded positively to the request that Singapore made 10 months ago to revive the third country training partnership, which in their words would support global Britain’s role in the Commonwealth and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations?

The Government take the Commonwealth and ASEAN extremely seriously. In fact, yesterday we hosted a celebration for ASEAN’s anniversary, and we actually hosted the first Commonwealth Trade Ministers’ meeting ever, in March, here in London, and we are making extensive preparations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting next year.

Could my right hon. Friend advise what steps the Government are taking to ensure that when we leave the EU, businesses do not face a cliff edge for trade with countries that are beyond the EU but covered by trade agreements that the EU has?

The Department for International Trade is devoting significant efforts to transitioning the EU’s existing FTAs into a UK FTA. We are doing this in consultation with the European Union. In the majority of countries—certainly all those that we have spoken to so far—third parties are in agreement with that. Just two weeks ago I was in Peru, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was in Colombia, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State met the Ecuadorian Trade Minister to talk about the transition of the EU/Andean FTA—a perfect example in this space.