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Leaving the EU: Manufacturing

Volume 662: debated on Wednesday 26 June 2019

1. What recent assessment he has made of the potential effect on manufacturing in Wales of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. (911489)

The manufacturing sector is of vital importance to the Welsh economy. The UK’s modern industrial strategy plays a key part in supporting industry. We want to get a deal with the European Union to give a smooth and orderly exit.

The Secretary of State says that he wants to get a deal, yet he is backing a candidate for the Conservative leadership who advocates no deal. With the news from Ford, Airbus, Honda and Nissan, and from so much of the Welsh manufacturing industry and the steel industry, how on earth can he, as Secretary of State, justify that position? Or is he simply trying to keep his job?

The hon. Gentleman is highly selective in what he cites. If he heeds the calls of some of the employers he mentioned, he will know that they supported the deal that came before Parliament and urged him to vote for a deal. By definition, his voting against the deal made no deal far more likely.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the opportunities for manufacturing in Wales when we leave the European Union will be to supply the rest of the United Kingdom with goods and services?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Manufacturing in Wales is more productive than the UK average, so is well placed to take the new opportunities both in the UK and globally that will arise as a result of our leaving the European Union. Like both leadership candidates, I would prefer to have a deal than not to have one.

How many Welsh exporting manufacturers are moving workers to the EU27 to set up front offices, distribution centres and so forth, and what help are the Government giving them to export Welsh jobs?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for providing me with the opportunity to highlight the Welsh economy’s export record. Exports are now at £17.7 billion—that is a 7.5% increase, which highlights how the Welsh economy is exporting strongly and at record levels.

As someone who started his working life at Ford in Bridgend, may I ask the Secretary of State what he is doing to ensure that high-quality, high-value manufacturing jobs are going to continue at that excellent site, which has such good rail and road connections?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend; with his local knowledge, having worked at the plant, he truly understands the value of the skills that the people there bring. Those skills are a real incentive to attract further investment. Along with the Welsh Government, we have set up a joint taskforce that will be led by Richard Parry-Jones, an industry expert who is best placed to make recommendations to the Government. We look forward to receiving that report shortly.

Given the almost daily news of business closures in Wales as a result of Brexit uncertainty, and the real prospect of no deal, how can the Secretary of State justify his support for a candidate to be Prime Minister who is prepared to sacrifice thousands of manufacturing jobs in Wales to further his own personal ambition? Does the Secretary of State think it is a “do or die” Brexit?

I am disappointed that the hon. Lady looks to undermine the Welsh economy. She needs to recognise that unemployment is at record low levels, economic activity is at record high levels, exports are growing and manufacturing is prospering. When it comes to Brexit, she also needs to recognise that when she voted against the deal on 29 March, she was the one who increased the prospect of no deal.

The last thing I would do is undermine Wales. I am proud of my country and I am proud to have represented Wales many times. When you pull on that red jersey, Mr Speaker, there is nothing like it.

I will try again: given the Secretary of State’s apparent support for a no-deal Brexit as a price worth paying to keep his own job, what can he possibly say to people in Wales who stand to lose their manufacturing jobs as a result of his Government’s catastrophic mishandling of the Brexit negotiations?

I highlight the fact that manufacturing is doing well in the Welsh economy, with 12,000 more manufacturing jobs in the economy now than there were in 2010. There are now 4,000 more manufacturing jobs in the Welsh economy than there were last year. Manufacturing employers would like to see a deal with the European Union; perhaps the hon. Lady should explain why she has voted against a deal with the European Union. Furthermore, she needs to explain why she is rejecting the will of the Welsh people, who voted in stronger numbers than the UK average to leave the European Union.