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Economic Effect

Volume 633: debated on Thursday 14 December 2017

5. What assessment his Department has made of the economic effect of the UK leaving the EU on different sectors of the UK economy. (902932)

Our sectoral analysis is made up of a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analyses examining activity across sectors, regulatory and trade frameworks and the views of stakeholders. Our overall programme of work is comprehensive and is continually updated, but it is not, and never has been, a series of impact assessments.

Last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the Treasury Committee that his Department has modelled and analysed a range of potential structures between the UK and the EU and that those analyses inform our negotiating position. Given that Ministers in the Department for Exiting the European Union are responsible for our negotiations, can the Minister say whether he has read those analyses and how they are informing our negotiating position?

We work very closely with our colleagues in the Treasury and, of course, we make sure that information is shared between us. Our negotiating position is informed, as we have repeatedly said, by a very wide range of analysis, much of which is in the form of advice to Ministers.

Paolo Gentiloni, the Italian Prime Minister, called on the EU this week to give the UK a “tailor-made” trade deal. Is it not precisely that sort of sentiment that would help all sectors if we concluded a trade deal that suited them?

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. We need to reflect on the fact that the UK is uniquely aligned among the countries that will be outside the EU; it is a huge market for the EU. There is a real opportunity for the EU to do a trade deal with what will be its biggest export market.

Yesterday, in response to a question from the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) querying the Government’s failure to conduct these impact assessments, the Prime Minister said:

“No, it is not the case that no work has been done in looking at that”.—[Official Report, 13 December 2017; Vol. 633, c. 397.]

How does the Minister reconcile that statement with others previously made by the Secretary of State, as it directly contradicts them?

I do not think it does that in any way at all. We have always been very clear that there is a wide mix of quantitative and qualitative analysis, and we draw on a range of work across government. We have released the sectoral analysis that has been done by our Department to the Select Committee, but of course what we will not do is release information that is market sensitive or that would be prejudicial to our negotiating position.

May I gently remind the Minister, Mr Speaker, that your ruling is that the Department must provide to the Select Committee any impact assessments that have been done? The question from the right hon. Member for East Ham was not about sectoral analysis; he explicitly used the phrase:

“Assessing the impact of leaving the European Union”.—[Official Report, 13 December 2017; Vol. 633, c. 397.]

Are the Government now telling us that “assessing the impact” is different from “an impact assessment”? If so, will the Minister explain the difference?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made this very clear in his evidence to the Select Committee. The information that has been shared with the Select Committee and is available to all Members of this House in the reading room includes assessments of the impact on the regulatory matters and of the importance of EU trade to different sectors.

My constituency is heavily dependent on tourism revenue. Will the Minister inform the House of any recent discussions he has had with this important sector?

Tourism is a hugely important part of the UK economy, and we have had regular discussions with the tourism sector and with the aviation industry that supports it. It is good to see tourism numbers in the UK hitting record levels this year.

The Minister’s sectoral analysis might tell him that the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland depends entirely on an open border, which is to be secured on a promise of regulatory alignment. The Environment Secretary has contradicted the Prime Minister, saying that this is a perpetually open and ongoing discussion, thus placing future regulatory alignment in doubt. Is he not inflicting a lifetime of uncertainty on the agri-food sector and on the people of Northern Ireland?

The short answer to that is no. What we are seeking to do, and what is clearly set out in the joint agreement, is ensure that the first priority for delivering on the soft border in Northern Ireland will be a strong future trade deal between the UK and the EU. Of course it is right that we ensure that where it is necessary to meet our obligations under the Belfast agreement, there will be regulatory alignment, so that we can ensure the continuing free movement of people, goods and animals across that border.