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Leaving the EU: Economic Support

Volume 655: debated on Wednesday 27 February 2019

3. What recent discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on sector-specific plans to support the Welsh economy in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. (909424)

8. What recent discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on sector-specific plans to support the Welsh economy in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. (909430)

I meet my counterparts in the Welsh Government on a regular basis, including Baroness Eluned Morgan on Monday, to discuss a range of policy areas. A responsible Government prepare for every eventuality, including no deal, and we continue to work together on operational readiness through the Joint Ministerial Committees.

That is all very well, but the Government’s no-deal assessment made it clear that the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the UK’s food and drink sector would be most damaging in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the sector comprises over 5% of those economies compared with just 1.38% in England. How can the Government claim, therefore, that this is a partnership of equal nations when they stand ready to ruin the economies of three, purely in the interests of Tory party unity?

The hon. Gentleman is quite selective with the data that he points to. He has highlighted one scenario, but if he is happy to take that message so clearly from the sector that he has highlighted, that same sector encouraged him to support the Prime Minister’s deal with the European Union. When that meaningful vote returns to Parliament, I hope that he will heed that message then.

Will the Secretary of State recognise that 92% of Welsh lamb goes for EU export? Welsh hill farmers have said that if a no-deal Brexit goes ahead, their industry will be decimated and wiped out—a view confirmed in his economic evidence that was published last night. If that is his analysis, will the Secretary of State for Wales act responsibly and make sure that Welsh lamb is protected?

I would say similarly to the hon. Gentleman that absolutely, we recognise the importance of Welsh agriculture, as we do all the important employment and economic sectors in Wales. The National Farmers Union and NFU Cymru were strong supporters of the deal with the European Union, so if he is happy to repeat their message today, I hope that he is happy to act on their message when it comes to voting on the meaningful vote in this House.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that agriculture is a very important industry not only for Britain but for Wales—particularly, as has already been outlined, Welsh lamb? What measures could be taken in the event of a no-deal Brexit? Clearly the deal would be the first option, but if there was a no-deal Brexit, how would those difficulties be overcome?

My right hon. and learned Friend raises an important point. Agriculture is an extremely important part of the Welsh economy and is disproportionately important there compared with the rest of the UK. We would, of course, act in a way that would protect the interests of that economy to ensure that those jobs are there for the long-term future, in spite of any short-term challenge.

Regardless of whether we have a no-deal Brexit, is my right hon. Friend aware—I am sure he probably is—that it is coming up to the 50th anniversary of the investiture of the Prince of Wales? How can we employ, in that sense of the word, the Prince of Wales’s soft power and so on to promote Wales and the Welsh economy?

Irrespective of membership of or departure from the European Union, with which matter we would not want to involve him in any way.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. As we leave the European Union, there is an opportunity to look outwards, and the Prince of Wales is a great champion of Wales and brings about significant soft power. We rightly recognised him last year by renaming the second Severn crossing the Prince of Wales bridge. I pay tribute to Her Majesty the Queen, who will host a reception next week to mark the 50 years since the Prince of Wales was named such.

The voice of Ogmore will be heard, but I see a great phalanx of men standing and only one female Member. Jo Stevens must be heard!

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Every sector of the Welsh economy is going to be damaged by the UK leaving the EU, so will the Secretary of State for Wales confirm that he will be voting to rule out no deal?

I will be voting for a deal with the European Union. The hon. Lady will have an interest in a whole range of sectors, be they agriculture or automotive, and all those sectors have strongly supported the Prime Minister’s deal with the European Union. I am disappointed that the hon. Lady voted against that, making no deal more likely.

11. One of the ways that the Welsh Secretary could start doing his job and providing support for the Welsh economy is by confirming how the Shared Prosperity Fund will work beyond 2020. Treasury Ministers and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Ministers will not give me an answer, so is it not time that he stepped up, did his job and explained to the House how the Shared Prosperity Fund will work? (909433)

I do not want to pre-empt our consultation, which will go out very shortly, but I say candidly to the hon. Gentleman that he will recognise that more than £4 billion—approaching £5 billion—in EU structural funds has been spent in the Welsh economy over the last 17 years; does he honestly believe that we have had the best value from that, and is there not a better opportunity to deliver better value for money for the taxpayer?

The question was a rhetorical one; it requires no answer, and indeed it would be inappropriate, as the Secretary of State knows.