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Leaving the EU: Services Sector

Volume 645: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2018

14. What assessment he has made of the effect on the services sector of the Government’s negotiating position for leaving the EU agreed on 6 July 2018. (906500)

The Government are seeking a comprehensive deal on services that will continue to allow our thriving services sector to trade with the rest of the EU, including, for example, through the mutual recognition of professional qualifications and a new economic and regulatory arrangement on financial services.

The City of London Corporation said of the Brexit White Paper

“the financial and related…services sector will be less able to create jobs, generate tax and support growth”

across the wider economy. What discussions did the Government have with the services sector before the Chequers deal was signed off?

I and our colleagues in the Treasury have constant discussions with the services sector. It is important that our distinctive financial services sector not be subject to a set of rules in the future that might be very much against its interests. Everyone who knows the City needs to recognise that the flexibility and distinctiveness of our approach must continue.

Airbus, Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Siemens—just a few of the businesses that have recently spoken out about the Government’s handling of Brexit. They alone provide thousands of jobs and significant investment in the UK, but the Government’s chaos is putting this in jeopardy. The Secretary of State himself was forced to rebuke the flagrant dismissal of his own Front-Bench colleagues, stating that big employers were entitled to be listened to with respect. Would he say that he has now listened to the concerns of business with respect?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. Those businesses did speak out. Since the publication of the White Paper, they have also recognised that the zero-friction proposal made in it merits support and they have committed to advocating for it across the rest of the EU, as I hope that she will.

Well, the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce have both said they are no clearer on the Government’s negotiating position in several key areas, and last night business leaders are reported to have warned the Prime Minister that her customs legislation was not fit for purpose, but the Government pressed ahead, even accepting amendments that their own colleagues state fundamentally undermine the Chequers proposal, and wrecked it, caving in to the hard, no deal Brexiteers. When exactly will the Secretary of State’s Government start paying more than lip service to the concerns of business?

The hon. Lady is wrong. All the organisations she mentioned have given the White Paper and the Chequers proposals a warm welcome. In the Prime Minister’s Mansion House speech, we committed to minimising frictions at the border. The proposal now is to have zero friction at the border. That is strongly in the interests of business and allows our successful supply chains to continue to prosper. We need the Opposition to recognise the national interest in having a good deal. Almost everyone in the country wants a good deal negotiated between Britain and the EU. Rather than edging for difference and trying to make political points, she should get behind this excellent suggestion for the country.