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Leaving the EU: Aerospace Sector

Volume 648: debated on Wednesday 24 October 2018

2. What representations he has received from the aerospace sector in Wales on the priorities for that sector when negotiating the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. (907184)

The UK, and specifically Wales, is home to a world-class aerospace industry. I have regular meetings with the aerospace sector and met Airbus last month in north Wales as part of my engagement with the CBI. It is a top priority to continue to create and maintain the right conditions post Brexit for this growing international sector to thrive.

First, I welcome the Minister to her post. In June, Airbus said that a no-deal Brexit would severely undermine

“UK efforts to keep a competitive and innovative aerospace industry.”

It concluded that it would be “catastrophic” to have a UK Brexit. Does the Minister agree?

As I have said, the aerospace sector in north Wales is absolutely vital. Airbus has been making those statements through conversations with those involved with the north Wales growth deal. I know, having met the hon. Gentleman last week, that a thriving sector, and the skills associated with it, are absolutely vital. The F-35 avionics global repair hub shows that this is a sector in which we are world-leading, and the UK Government in Wales will continue to support it.

My hon. Friend is quite right to mention the importance of the proposed north Wales growth deal to the aerospace industry in north Wales. Can she say when the Government are likely to make a substantive announcement about that deal?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his long-standing commitment to the north Wales growth deal, and for pushing for action and progress in this area. There are some very positive movements, and we hope to make real progress. We need a further update from the Welsh Government, and there will be key meetings later this week.

Airbus employs many of my constituents in Newport and Filton. Close collaboration between the Civil Aviation Authority and the European Aviation Safety Agency is vital to this industry. What are the Government doing to safeguard that?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the jobs and opportunities around the avionics sector in Wales. We are aware of the benefits of collaboration, and seek that as part of the overall deal. It is something that Switzerland—a non-EU member—enjoys, and we will continue to look for it as part of our overall deal.

Airbus employs a number of constituents in Eddisbury. Can the Minister confirm the Government’s commitment to striking a deal that provides for frictionless trade in this sector?

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting how important this sector is in her constituency. As an assiduous constituency Member, she raises the challenges ahead, but a good deal that works to support jobs in the supply chain is absolutely the primary focus of discussions, and a pragmatic, frictionless deal is what the Government are working for.

With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, may I congratulate Louise Magee, general secretary of Welsh Labour, and her partner Luke Holland, who have had a beautiful baby girl, Catherine Ivy, who is to be known as Kitty? Mother and baby are doing fine, and Luke is coping well, I understand.

I welcome the Minister to her place. The Welsh Government have pledged £3 million to support Airbus in preparing for Brexit. ADS, the national trade association that represents aerospace companies, has urged the Chancellor to ensure that there is enough financial liquidity for companies such as Airbus, which rely on just-in-time European supply chains. What are the Minister’s priorities for the Welsh aerospace sector?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. As I have said in my previous answers, Wales has a deep-rooted, world-leading aerospace sector, and the Government understand that. There has been cross-Government engagement with all key stakeholders to support it. Frictionless trade and supporting the sector are absolutely vital, and we are ready to work and step up to that challenge.

That may well be, but the Government’s Brexit advice paper suggests that companies such as Airbus may move their headquarters to an EU member state in the event of no deal, which would be absolutely catastrophic for our Welsh economy. Does the Minister agree with her Prime Minister that no deal is better than a bad deal, as far as Wales is concerned?

The UK Government in Wales are not complacent about the challenges of all scenarios. They are working extremely hard to make sure that all the opportunities are there in any deal, and are working to make sure that the sector thrives. That is vital to the Secretary of State, and to the UK Government. We will continue to stand by the Prime Minister in getting that frictionless deal.