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Free Trade Agreements: Regions and Devolved Administrations

Volume 658: debated on Thursday 25 April 2019

3. What steps he is taking to ensure that the (a) regions and (b) devolved Administrations of the UK contribute to the formulation of new free trade agreements. (910511)

We are committed to ensuring a meaningful role for the regions and devolved Administrations in the development of our trade policy. The DIT has been consulting widely on its approach to potential FTAs with regional representatives from local government and local enterprise partnerships. I can further confirm that we are putting in place a new ministerial forum with the devolved Administrations to cover international trade, as well as continuing to discuss wider future working arrangements on trade policy.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Businesses in Redditch such as Mettis Aerospace, Bee Lighting and Thorlux Lighting are at the heart of global manufacturing and are leading-edge businesses. Will the Minister confirm that he is working closely with representatives of west midlands manufacturing industry to ensure that their interests are represented and our local economy can benefit from future trade agreements?

As my hon. Friend will know, my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) is very keen on our keeping up contact with the Mayor of the West Midlands combined authority. We of course do so, and create contacts with businesses that way. The strategic trade advisory group, which will be helping us with FTAs, includes representation from regional business. We will always be there to consult with local business, and I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean) to contact the local DIT business office in Birmingham in relation to any businesses in Redditch that need its help.

Does the Minister accept that the devolved Administrations must be fully involved in developing both the negotiation mandate and the negotiations themselves when the international trade negotiations have an impact on devolved competencies?

I have visited the devolved Administrations several times and I talk with the Ministers on a regular basis. I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady that the devolved Administrations have a key part to play as we go forward and negotiate our free trade agreements. We are currently in negotiation with the DAs on putting together what is known as a concordat on how they will be implemented. The progress on that, to be quite frank with the House, has been disappointingly slow. From our end, we have not reached an agreed policy position, but we will do so shortly, and I am keen that the devolved Administrations are properly involved.

If all these trade agreements are going to be so glorious, irresistible and beneficial to the economy, why not simply give the devolved Administrations the power to express their consent through legislation for each of them?