The ministerial team undertakes regular engagements with the international business community, both in the UK and abroad. In addition to regular visits to Brussels the ministerial team has undertaken 27 trips across EU member states this year. That is supported by business engagement conducted by our embassies.
I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. Over the past 50 years, considerable expertise has been built up in the North sea energy sector, which has led to enormous global export opportunities. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that that continues after we leave the EU, with particular emphasis on the emerging offshore wind sector?
The UK has been an active member of the North sea’s energy co-operation initiative since 2010. The aim is to explore the most cost-effective way of developing offshore grid infrastructure to exploit the considerable renewable energy resources in the North and Irish seas. The UK brings significant experience and expertise to this co-operation. Working together with other countries through this initiative will enable us to maximise the considerable business opportunities in the emerging offshore wind sector.
Business is getting more nervous as it watches the Government negotiating more with themselves than with the European Union. Can the Minister confirm that it is Government policy to ensure that there are no new impediments to trade for our world-leading service industries, such as financial services, education, the creative industries and others?
Considerable amounts of data have been released recently showing an increase in confidence in various sectors, whether it is retail, services, manufacturing or construction. We have to build on that, which is why the Government are committed to reducing barriers to trade to enable our businesses, our exporters, our manufacturers and our service sector to thrive outside the European Union.
The Minister referred to the offshore wind sector. She visited my constituency, the port of Immingham and neighbouring Grimsby a couple of weeks ago. Does she agree that the facilities there for serving the offshore sector, and the wider trade deals that could follow Brexit, are greatly to the advantage of northern Lincolnshire?
I was delighted to visit the ports of Immingham and Grimsby at my hon. Friend’s invitation. I was very impressed by the energy estuary, which is located there, and by the wealth of experience and output. It is the energy powerhouse for our nation.
The Conservatives are already arguing about what promises were made, or not made, at the Dispatch Box on Tuesday night; the Cabinet cannot agree a position on the EU; and the Brexit Secretary threatens to resign every other week. What message does that send to the international business community?
Well, let us look at the facts. As I said, CBI data shows an increase in output generally, the OECD revised its forecasts upwards for this year and next, and there is record low unemployment throughout the country. Those are signs of an economy that is confident and optimistic about the future, not one such as the hon. Gentleman describes.
May I gently say that with ingenuity, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) could shoehorn in his question about fisheries policy, which is a matter of significant interest to the international business community? He is not obliged to do so, but we can happily give him a go.
The Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), was pleased to meet the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations yesterday. He is keen to keep engaging with the sector. We have been absolutely clear that when we leave the EU, we will leave the common fisheries policy. Indeed, from 2020 we will be negotiating as an independent coastal state. Let me reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) that our plans for exit from the common fisheries policy are not affected by the backstop discussions.