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Leaving the EU: Negotiations

Volume 633: debated on Wednesday 13 December 2017

5. What assessment he has made of the effect on Wales of the outcome of exit negotiations between the UK and the EU. (902832)

14. What assessment he has made of the effect on Wales of the outcome of exit negotiations between the UK and the EU. (902842)

I have always said that we will negotiate for every nation and region of the United Kingdom, and our goal is to secure a deal that works for all parts of the country.

Following weeks of chaos, the Government have realised that their original Brexit promises were the stuff of fantasy. They conceded on continuous regulatory alignment with Europe but, hand in hand with Labour, the Westminster Tory Government remain ideologically committed to severing Wales’s membership of the single market and the customs union. Will the Secretary of State tell us how many Welsh jobs his Government are prepared to sacrifice to placate Brexiteers on both sides of the Chamber?

I am sorry to hear the tone of the hon. Lady’s question. It is almost as though she is disappointed with the Prime Minister’s great success last week in getting an agreement and with the prospect of moving on to phase 2 of the negotiations. I will happily talk about investment and employment opportunities. We are obviously extremely pleased with record low levels of unemployment over recent months. Even since the referendum, we have seen some of the greatest inward investment projects coming into the UK and Wales, and I hope that the hon. Lady will welcome that and support the process.

I spent some time this morning with the Brexit Secretary’s sectoral analyses. They provide an interesting snapshot, but they do not provide any views about the future. I want to take the Secretary of State back to June 2016, when he said that 100,000 jobs in Wales are

“directly linked to our place in Europe.”

In fact, he also said:

“The economic argument trumps everything else, at the end of the day this is down to the economy, jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Will he indicate whether he stands by his remarks of 18 months ago? Will he tell the House how many jobs in Wales he is prepared to sacrifice and in which sectors?

It would be interesting to know whether the hon. Lady wants to respect the outcome of the referendum, in which the majority of Wales voted to leave the European Union. Leaving the EU provides new opportunities. We want frictionless trading arrangements and to exploit new markets around the world. Exports to markets outside the European Union are growing much faster than exports to the European Union, and the figure for Wales is above the UK average. I hope that the hon. Lady recognises that businesses are already seeing the opportunities.

Last week, Northern Ireland was given a carte blanche final say on the Government’s phase 1 Brexit position. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is now time for the same privilege to be afforded to the accountable and sitting Parliaments of Scotland and Wales?

I have said this several times, and I will continue to repeat it because it is extremely important: we will negotiate a Brexit deal that works for every part of the United Kingdom. Yesterday’s meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee was positive, but the differences will be debated, as is only right and proper. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will respect the outcome of the referendum that the UK voted for.

Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda i chi, Mr Speaker, and to all Members. Last week showed how important the Irish dimension is to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and the negotiations. Will the Secretary of State give me a categorical assurance that Welsh ports, especially Holyhead, will be safeguarded and given the same treatment as those in Northern Ireland when it comes to trade?

I share the hon. Gentleman’s interest in Welsh ports. Holyhead is clearly important, as is Fishguard in Pembrokeshire. Leaving the European Union provides new opportunities for both north-west and south-west Wales. After we have left the European Union, they will be gateways to Europe in a way that they have not been previously, and local authorities and businesses will need to respond to new opportunities for growth.

Order. I remind the House that an hon. Member should not leave the Chamber until the exchanges on his or her question have been completed. It really is the height of parliamentary discourtesy, and I hope that I do not have to say it again. I have just been alerted to someone doing that, and it should not happen again.