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House of Commons Hansard

Leaving the EU: WTO Tariffs

13 December 2017
Volume 633
  • 2. What assessment he has made of the potential effect on Welsh exports of using World Trade Organisation tariffs when the UK leaves the EU. [902829]

  • We remain confident that we will reach a trade agreement that is in the mutual interest of Wales, the UK and the EU, and we remain committed to delivering a trade policy that reflects our status as an outward-facing nation at the forefront of global trade.

  • I have had the pleasure of spending some time on Mark and Helen Williams’s farm near Welshpool. What reassurances can the Minister give them that their lamb exports to Germany will not be hit by a 40% tariff if we fall back on to WTO rules, and that they will not be affected by large-scale imports from New Zealand, which operates to lower welfare standards than the United Kingdom?

  • I can give the same assurances that I have given to Welsh farming unions and farmers across Wales. This Government are working for a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, but we also see opportunities to export Welsh lamb to other parts of the world. We have had recent success in exporting Welsh lamb to the middle east, for example. I can assure Welsh farmers that the Government are committed to markets within the EU, and also to expanding opportunities throughout the globe.

  • Is it not also important to look at the opportunities for Wales from imports with lower tariffs on food and clothes, which could particularly benefit the least well-off?

  • I thank my hon. Friend for his question. Opportunities are being grasped by Welsh businesses as we speak. Exports from Wales have increased dramatically—by 18% in the last year—and it is interesting to note that while there has been a 16% increase in exports to the EU, there has been an increase of over 22% in exports to the rest of the world. Welsh manufacturers and businesses are taking the opportunity to export to all parts of the globe.

  • Last Friday’s progress report on the negotiations was described by the Brexit Secretary as a mere “statement of intent”. Is that the position of the Government?

  • The position of the Government is very clear. The breakthrough last Friday means that we can move on to what is important for Welsh businesses, Welsh farmers and Welsh communities: the trade talks that are absolutely essential for us in Wales. The hon. Gentleman should congratulate the Prime Minister on her success last Friday.

  • What are the Government doing to ensure that Wales continues to benefit from positive UK-wide announcements, such as the Toyota investment in Derbyshire and the plant at Deeside? Companies such as Toyota and Airbus are very important to the success of the Welsh economy.

  • My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and she knows Wales extremely well. Airbus and Toyota are key parts of the north-east Wales economy, and investment in those plants, and the success in terms of the efficiency of those plants, mean that they are well-placed to take advantage of the opportunities that will come our way once we leave the EU. All employees at those plants are committed to working hard to ensure that their employers have a healthy future after we leave the European Union, but that success is based on ensuring that they are also competitive in the world market.

  • Some 90% of Welsh red meat is sold in the EU. That market is already being destroyed by meat from Romania and Spain. If Brexit happens after the confirmation referendum that we might have following the advisory referendum, the only remedy that has been suggested is to send more Welsh lamb abroad on the hoof rather than on the hook. Is the Minister happy with that, and will Brexit mean more suffering for sentient animals?

  • The whole House will be interested in the hon. Gentleman’s conversion to being the defender of Welsh farmers, which would be a first for the Welsh farming community. The Welsh farming community is proud of its animal welfare standards. It is proud of the fact that Wales has the best lamb and beef available in all parts of the EU, and it will be successful, regardless of any scare stories peddled by the hon. Gentleman.