Skip to main content

Car Exports

Volume 629: debated on Thursday 12 October 2017

The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union will be leading negotiations on our trade relationship with the EU, aimed at the greatest possible tariff and barrier-free trade with our European neighbours, including for the automotive sector. The UK will also be able to negotiate our own trade agreements around the world, and it is a high priority that we achieve the best possible deals with global partners. We are in close contact with stakeholders across the automotive industry to that end.

Last month, in a speech to the Bank of England, the Prime Minister described the free market economy as

“the greatest agent of collective human progress ever created.”

In view of the Prime Minister’s ideological objection to Government intervention, will the Minister say how the highly skilled workforce at Toyota in Derbyshire will be able to find comparable employment, in the event that of Toyota relocates thanks to the Government’s botched Brexit negotiations?

I know the hon. Gentleman stands up for those constituents of his who work at the Toyota plant, but we need to look more carefully at what Toyota is doing. It has made a £240 million investment in the Burnaston factory, to make a commitment to the UK after Brexit, and that has been supported by a further £21.5 million from the Government, who are also committed to the workers he describes in his constituency.

Given that the United Kingdom imports £30 billion worth of vehicles—more than we export each year—does my hon. Friend agree that it is in the interests of not just the UK but the EU for us to have barrier and tariff-free trade on vehicles in the future?

My hon. Friend is right. We are absolutely committed to a tariff and barrier-free relationship with the European Union in the future. It is worth remembering that the European Union exports twice as many cars to Britain as we export to the EU. It is in all our interests—it is in the interests of all the workers in the European Union—for us to achieve a successful and fruitful outcome.

Following the referendum and the subsequent depreciation of sterling, a number of car manufacturers in Britain have announced plans for further investment and an expansion of production. Nissan, in particular, says that it will expand production by 20% and invest more in the supply chain in Britain. Does that not augur well for Britain’s exports, and should we not start to look towards a time when we can export more than we import?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. One of the characteristics of the UK car industry over the last few years is the fact that UK components of the supply chain now represent 42%, up from 38%. We have a great opportunity in the whole European Union automotive sector, and our Department is working incredibly hard to ensure that we take advantage of it.

Given that this country voted to leave the European Union, is it not the duty of every Member to talk up the British economy and the chances that are available to British manufacturing to exploit the new opportunities that will be presented to it around the world?

My hon. Friend, too, is absolutely right. I travel the world—as, indeed, do all our Ministers—and meet representatives of businesses in countries around the world who see the huge value that this country has, and the great British brand that the Department is representing and selling abroad. What we have to offer is fantastic, and I am an unashamed patriot when it comes to our great exports from fabulous businesses such as Aston Martin, and any number of others. It is the duty of everyone in the House to support all those businesses, and to talk up the British Isles when they travel, not just around the world but in the United Kingdom.

The Secretary of State has just said that he wants the Government to be judged by their actions. Can the Minister tell us what the cost of the Nissan deal was, whether deals have been struck with other car manufacturers, and whether the Government have set aside a large budget to ensure that other sectors can continue to export successfully?

The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that, under state aid rules which apply not only to the European Union but to the World Trade Organisation, the Government cannot give subsidies to businesses to create unfair competition against other countries. However, as I said in an earlier answer, the Government have supported Toyota with a £21 million investment. Any support that is given to any businesses—in the automotive sector, and across the piece—will be fully compliant with all the rules by which we abide. Subsidies such as those from the European regional development fund are widely known about, and they are perfectly fair and perfectly legal.