The Department for Exiting the European Union is working with all Departments at both ministerial and official level to ensure that our preparations for exit from, and new partnership with, the EU are on track. We are committed to seeking the best possible deal for the United Kingdom—one that works for all the regions of the country, including the north-west. I was delighted to visit the region earlier this month, and meet local businesses to discuss their views on Brexit.
Despite the very positive work being done by organisations such as the St Helens chamber of commerce, the latest polling shows that confidence among businesses in the north-west has fallen by 22 points, to just 33%. I am intrigued to know to what the Minister attributes that; is it the fact that this Government’s chaotic and shambolic handling of negotiations means that there is a real anxiety among businesses that we will crash out of the single market with no deal?
I very strongly disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s analysis. During my visit to the north-west I was pleased to meet with thriving businesses that are looking forward to the economic opportunities flowing from Brexit, such as trading with an expanded global marketplace. Together with huge investment in the north-west, such as the Mersey Gateway bridge and the northern hub in Manchester, the port of Liverpool, for example, stands potentially to act as an expanded gateway for global trade. This week’s Office for National Statistics trade figures show that exports are rising—by 7% to the end of April—faster than imports. That is good news for ports like Liverpool, good news for the north-west region and good news for the country.
Absolutely; the integrity of the United Kingdom is paramount as we pursue these negotiations. I am very encouraged by the Government’s commitment to securing a unique and mutually beneficial free trade agreement with the European Union that supports our businesses, our jobs and our economy.
Given that all the analyses show that Scottish GDP would fall by 2.9% in the least-worst scenario of our staying in the single market and the customs union when we leave the EU, what GDP figure are the Government working towards with their current negotiating position?
Let us look globally: we have an economy that has increased output—those are the CBI’s figures—we have the OECD upgrading growth forecasts for this year and next, and we have the lowest net borrowing in over a decade. That is a very different picture from that suggested by the predictions that were made two years ago. Let us base our position on facts, not scaremongering about the future.