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Topical Questions

Volume 670: debated on Thursday 23 January 2020

We are a few days away from leaving the European Union, and, for the first time in 46 years, establishing the UK’s independent trade policy. That gives us the opportunity to take up our independent seat at the World Trade Organisation, to champion free trade, and to secure free trade deals with partners around the world. There is a huge opportunity for the UK, and we want to make the 2020s the decade of trade.

There are many great British manufacturers, including Croft Architectural Hardware in my constituency. As well as making products for the Palace of Westminster, it exports them to the United States and China. What more can we do to support fine British manufacturing talent like that?

I congratulate Croft Architectural Hardware on its brilliant work. I understand that we have helped it to attend two trade fairs in the US through our trade show access programme. I also note that there is currently a 4% tariff on door knockers; I hope that in future trade agreements we shall be able to get that removed.

Can the Secretary of State point to any examples of intersecting customs unions anywhere else in the world? Will she confirm that under the EU customs code to be implemented in Northern Ireland, goods will have to be declared and products of animal origin will have to pass through a border inspection involving both documentary and physical checks, and does she accept that those will subsist completely irrespective of the tariff regime in any future free trade agreement with the EU?

As we have made very clear, we want to ensure that there is no hard border in Northern Ireland. That is a priority for the Government, and we have reached a new agreement with the EU that delivers on it. Of course, we need to work through the details of precisely how that arrangement will work.

The hon. Gentleman needs to recognise that the world is moving on: we are moving into an area in which trade is being digitised, and we are finding new ways of facilitating customs. Rather than being negative and a naysayer, why does he not contribute to the solution?

T3. Guildford is home to a growing computer gaming industry. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to encourage inward investment in that sector? (900363)

The Department’s high potential opportunities programme, which aims to identify and promote a range of foreign direct investment opportunities throughout the UK, is currently working with the Enterprise M3 local enterprise partnership and others in Guildford to highlight the commercial opportunities offered by the video game and 5G clusters in that region, which are world-leading.

T2. Given President Trump’s description of climate campaigners as prophets of doom, and given the revelations that he has banned all reference to a climate crisis in any US trade deal, what assurances can the Secretary of State give the House that any UK-US trade deal will support the UK’s own climate objectives, and, indeed, persuade the US to recommit itself to the Paris agreement? (900362)

I believe that the UK has a huge opportunity to promote clean energy and our climate change agenda—our carbon reduction agenda—across the world. Yesterday I met the New Zealand Trade Minister to discuss how we can work together in the future to incorporate those into forward-leaning trade agreements. We will seek to do that with the US, the EU, and all the other partners with which we work.

T5. In the light of the very welcome UK-Africa investment summit, what assessment has the Minister made of the commercial opportunities for British firms across the whole of that great continent? (900365)

I spent months working with colleagues across Government to deliver the UK-Africa investment summit, which took place on Monday. I am delighted with the result and proud of the work of so many officials in making it happen. We have announced 27 commercial deals worth more than £6.5 billion from across African markets, but as my hon. Friend has pointed out, there is enormous potential for more.

T4. Glenkinchie distillery in my constituency is threatened by the tariffs imposed on Scotch whisky by President Trump. Given the decision to leave the EU and seek a trade deal with the USA, and given threats about changes to the definition of Scotch whisky, what assurances can the Minister give that we will not be washing down chlorinated chicken with a glass of American rye? (900364)

I would gently say to the hon. Gentleman that if we are to de-escalate these tariff disputes, attacks on the US Administration and the President are unwise and unwelcome. We are working across Government to persuade the United States that these tariffs are damaging to the Scots whisky sector—[Interruption.] If Scottish National party Members would stop chuntering and get behind us, we might have more chance of removing these tariffs. We will seek to stand up for the Scots whisky sector and persuade the United States to remove these tariffs. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been in touch with trade representative Lighthizer, and we will work for the Scots whisky industry. Get behind the Government!