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Topical Questions

Volume 629: debated on Thursday 12 October 2017

The Department has three tasks: promoting UK exports to support a growing economy that serves the whole country; maximising opportunities for wealth creation, including through overseas direct investment; and negotiating the best international trading framework for the UK outside the EU.

I welcome Crawford Falconer to the Department as chief trade negotiation adviser—he brings a wealth of knowledge—and I can announce the convening of the Board of Trade today, which will ensure that the benefits of trade and investment are spread across the whole UK.

The EU Commission seems hellbent on damaging the economies of the remaining member states through its Brexit negotiations, so will my right hon. Friend say what preparations are being made for no deal?

The best thing for the whole of Europe is for us to reach a deep and comprehensive agreement on trade. We are committed to doing so, and we hope that our European partners will commit to move on to the second stage of negotiations as soon as possible, not least to remove any uncertainty to businesses and workers across Europe. However, if we are unable to do so, the Government have already undertaken a wide range of contingency plans.

Following the Bombardier tariff crisis, can the Secretary of State guarantee that Airbus in Bristol, which employs many people in my constituency, will not have new tariffs to pay once Britain leaves the EU?

There are two elements to that. Of course we want to maintain a completely tariff-free trading environment in Europe, and that is what we should be able to do, given that it is the starting point—that, of course, is unique in any trade negotiation. On the Bombardier case, we have made our views very clear to the United States. I spoke to Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, only last week.

T2. The Government’s approach, based on the Florence speech, is entirely sensible and pragmatic. Of course we want a free trade deal, but it takes two to tango. May I press the Secretary of State further on earlier questions relating to what happens if there is no deal and we leave the single market at the end of March 2019? Is the Treasury giving him all the resources he needs to prepare for no deal—for schedules and making deals with other countries? That is absolutely vital. (901094)

I do not really wish to trumpet this to other Departments, but our Department has a unique agreement with the Treasury: we are able to increase staffing levels when that relates to Brexit issues, and we will continue to do so. As I said, we want to ensure that we get a good deal. There is no difference between the Chancellor and me. The Chancellor says that we need to spend money only as necessary. I think that that is correct, but we also need to ensure that we spend money on all areas where contingency plans are necessary.

Thank you, Sir; it is always good to have you keeping me up to pace.

Recent reports suggest that Boeing provided Monarch Airlines with 45 Boeing 737 MAX jets at a cut price and that Boeing used a complex sale and leaseback deal to provide Monarch with more than £100 million in cash against a paper profit. Given the Secretary of State’s earlier commitment to trade defence remedies, why has he left it to me to write to the EU Commissioners to ask them to investigate this as a matter of potential illegal dumping and anti-competitive behaviour?

I am happy to look at the precise nature of the hon. Gentleman’s allegation, but I have to say that the Government’s response on Monarch has been exemplary. We have devoted an incredible amount of resources to getting tens of thousands of stranded British subjects abroad back to this country. The process was led incredibly well by the Department for Transport, and we should be proud of the Government’s efforts in helping the victims of Monarch.

T3. Sheep farming in this country is good for the countryside, food and farming. It is important that we combine making sure that we control quotas of New Zealand lamb with maintaining exports to France. How is the Secretary of State getting on with disaggregating the EU quotas on New Zealand lamb meat? (901095)

We will take the same approach to New Zealand lamb as we do to all other tariff-rate quotas: allocate them on the basis of usage. As I have already explained, that will keep the market stable and mean that we are not disadvantaging New Zealand exporters or our domestic market. That is not only the fairest thing to do, but the best way to prevent the UK from being taken to dispute at the WTO, which is again to our mutual advantage.

If the EU27 do not give the two-year extension that the Prime Minister begged for in Florence, trade barriers will rise between the UK and how many other countries? Does the Department have a number?

I am not sure that I fully understand the hon. Gentleman’s question. If it is helpful to him, I can say that there are 27 other countries in the European Union and the EU has more than 40 FTAs around the world. As I mentioned earlier, one of the roles of our Department is to transition those into UK-only FTAs, which should avoid any cliff edge or future trade barriers at all.

T4. The all-party parliamentary group on trade out of poverty, which I chair, is initiating an investigation into the role that the Commonwealth can play to help developing nations to trade out of poverty. We hope that that agenda will be taken up at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April. We have a potential leadership role, so will the Secretary of State communicate with the Commonwealth secretariat to ensure that that agenda item is taken up? (901096)

We have made it clear that we see our trade policy and our developmental policy as going hand in hand. We want countries to have the power to trade their way out of poverty. That will be one of our key themes at CHOGM and we will be setting out processes by which we think that can be made more possible in the future.

Many businesses in my constituency, particularly sheep and dairy farmers, are signing contracts early in the new year for exports in 2019. What certainty can the Secretary of State give them about pricing for 2019?

As I have said, our aim is to maintain market stability, but of course the good news is that the UK is continuing to export extremely well—we had an increase of about 15% in our exports in the 12 months to August 2017. We want to encourage that and to ensure that we get bigger market penetration, irrespective of what deal we get with the EU.

T6. Will the Secretary of State publish the Department’s plans for a no-deal situation before Christmas? (901098)

Across the Government we will make our contingency plans, but we continue to hope that the EU will come forward with a proper commitment to entering into the second part of the trade deal, as we think that is in our mutual interest.