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Leaving the EU: Exports

Volume 651: debated on Thursday 20 December 2018

4. What proportion of his Department’s staff are supporting businesses that export to the EU in preparation for the UK leaving the EU. (908321)

Merry Christmas to you, Mr Speaker, the staff and all Members.

We have a dedicated overseas European network of 253 staff promoting exports and investment. At home, we have sector and regional teams equally dedicated to the promotion of the UK economic interest. Every one of the 3,920 people in DIT, whatever their specific function, acts to support exports from Scotland and the rest of this United Kingdom.

I am delighted to hear it. Regardless of whether the disastrous agreement that the Government have reached with the EU comes into force, it is indisputable that unless we stay in the single market and the customs union, the UK will become a third country in its EU trade relations. Has the Minister included in the export strategy a position on whether businesses will have to get economic operator registration and identification—EORI—numbers if they want to export to the EU, our largest marketplace by far?

Of course, it is important to remember that for Scotland, the rest of the United Kingdom is its largest marketplace by far. More than 60% of trade from Scotland goes to the rest of the United Kingdom, whereas just 17% goes to the entirety of the rest of the EU. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman lean on his Front Benchers and try to ensure that his party, as the other Opposition parties should do, joins the Government in getting a deal with the EU that makes sure that Scottish exporters and those in rest of the country can have the best deal possible.

Mr Speaker, I wish you a happy Christmas and a calmer recess.

I congratulate the three wise men on the Front Bench on the huge effort in exporting UK plc. However, it is my understanding that exports account for only about 30% of our GDP, compared with 47% in Germany. Where do they think the greatest opportunities are, within or outside Europe, to narrow that gap and export more to the rest of the world?

I thank my hon. Friend for that entirely useful question, which highlights the importance of increasing exports. As a percentage of GDP, our exports have been in the 20s seemingly for time immemorial. We have got the figure over 30% and we have set a target of reaching 35%. The whole country needs to engage in this more. We think that there are more companies that could export and do not than there are companies that can and do. That is why the Department has been set up and why are we are dedicated to trying to increase that percentage. We want to improve performance in all parts of the United Kingdom. For example, in Scotland, exports constitute just over 20% of GDP, whereas the figure is more than 30% in the United Kingdom overall.