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Leaving the EU: UK Trade Policy

Volume 663: debated on Thursday 11 July 2019

5. What plans he has to use the Board of Trade to ensure that the constituent parts of the UK benefit from UK trade policy after the UK leaves the EU. (911899)

Re-establishing the Board of Trade has been one of this Department’s major achievements over the past three years, and it will continue to meet in all UK nations and regions. Included as advisers to the board are the Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland, for Scotland and for Wales, and it has representation from business advisers from across the UK. We will make sure that all parts of the UK benefit from the jobs and investment that come with an independent UK-wide trade policy.

My right hon. Friend will know that Copeland is home to a thriving agriculture sector. Will he tell us more about what is being done in his Department to open up new markets?

There are a number of ways in which we can do that. The traditional trade agreements are one of them, but market access is another. For example, countries such as China are huge markets for Northern Ireland dairy products and Scottish beef, and the Department is focusing increasingly on identifying regulations that, if removed, will automatically increase market access for UK exporters.

When the Foreign Affairs Committee met businesses in Hirwaun, south Wales, they were very critical of the Board of Trade. They said that it simply did not listen to Welsh concerns and did not project Wales on the international market. Is there not a danger that the Welsh Assembly might take it into its head that it wants to do that work instead of—and, I would argue, less effectively than—the United Kingdom?

The hon. Gentleman may be slightly confusing the Board of Trade with the Department for International Trade. They have slightly different functions. When the Board of Trade met in Wales recently, we presented a number of awards to Welsh exporters, but the Board of Trade is an augmentation of the DIT in that it is able to take its own trade missions abroad. The advantage of the DIT to Wales is that it provides access to a much bigger network than could ever be achieved by the Welsh Government, and thus gives Welsh business a far greater capability than it would otherwise have.

9. I was delighted to welcome my right hon. Friend to Stirling last year for the first ever meeting of the Board of Trade in Scotland. He has mentioned Scotch beef. The National Farmers Union of Scotland has launched a social media campaign, #BackScotchBeef. Will my right hon. Friend be beefing up his Department in Scotland, to provide more presence and resources to support the export of Scotch beef? (911903)

I am delighted to say that the outcomes of the Department’s efforts have already been pretty beefy. The important point is, however, that because Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and therefore has access to a Department of State with a very large international footprint, we are better able to tackle issues such as market access to Scottish beef than Scotland would ever be if it were an independent state.

The north-east is the one region that consistently exports more than it imports, but its voice in international trade policy and its representation on trade missions do not reflect that. What is the Board of Trade doing to support the voice of the north-east, rather than providing a platform for the Secretary of State so that he can tour the regions without delivering change?

The point of the Board of Trade’s visits to the regions is gathering information that the Department can use for the purpose of export policy and recognising the excellence of those who have already succeeded in exporting. I should have thought that the hon. Lady considered it a worthwhile exercise for the Government to recognise the excellent exporters in her own region.

Will the Secretary of State hold a meeting of the Board of Trade in Kettering, so that we can meet the Northamptonshire chamber of commerce to discuss export opportunities?

I am astonished that we have got this far with only one bid for a meeting place for the Board of Trade. As with all my hon. Friend’s suggestions, I will take it seriously.

If trade is to work for all parts of the UK, all parts of the UK—including Kettering—must be heard before, during and after trade negotiations. The Government have announced the creation of a ministerial forum for international trade, but they have provided no information about its membership, how often it will meet, or what its exact terms of reference will be. Will the Secretary of State now give us some much-needed detail on how both the nations and the regions of the UK will be included in the entire trade negotiation process?

As I have said, the Board of Trade’s advisers—which is what they are technically called—are the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We have visited all the English regions, and I intend in future to be constantly moving around the regions and nations of the UK, to thank the businesses that have contributed to Britain’s record export performance, to consult those businesses and to create a network of business people who will act as champions and mentors for companies that want to export.