I beg to move,
That this House has considered global Britain.
As the clock strikes 11 tomorrow night, we will start building the UK’s future as a sovereign trading nation. I should make clear that there are many aspects of global Britain that have nothing to do with trade. The Prime Minister will be leading an integrated defence, security and foreign policy review that will examine all aspects of our place in the world. The Foreign Secretary is spending today with his counterpart from our most important ally, the United States. The Government are committed to exceeding the 2% NATO defence spending target, and to spending 0.7% of GNP on development. Today, however, I will restrict my remarks to one aspect of the story, and that is trade.
Global Britain will be a beacon for free enterprise, free trade and free people across the world, and we will light that beacon championing the values for which the UK has long been known. From our abolition of the corn laws in 1846 to helping to found the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1948, the UK has long been a global leader in shaping the rules-based system, but from 1973 onwards that role has been increasingly curtailed. Tomorrow we will begin to reclaim that global leadership.
It is more than two centuries since our great political economist David Ricardo outlined the idea of comparative advantage, demonstrating how free and open trade benefits everyone, but it is an idea that still illuminates our country, and we have an opportunity to take that message out and across the world. Why is that important? First, it is the right thing to do. Believing in freedom is about more than economic theory. It is about believing in our freedom to set up a business, choose what we buy, and chart our own future. In its essence, free trade is about expanding that freedom across borders. It is the catalyst for sharing ideas, products, services and the innovations that improve all our lives. If we believe that people have the choice to access the best goods and services, we must also believe in free trade.
Secondly, that opportunity is important because Britain’s global leadership is sorely needed. Protectionist measures are on the rise across the world, increasing by three times the rate at the onset of the financial crisis. Brexit is the opportunity for this country to turn the tide, and to be a global champion of free, rules-based trade with the World Trade Organisation at its heart. That is not only morally right, but in the interests of our country. It is forecast that 90% of global growth will come from outside the EU. The world is bursting with opportunity—opportunity that Britain will seize with both hands.
Leaving aside our contrasting views on Ricardo and the corn laws, I believe that my right hon. Friend and I share a distaste for the vapid, elitist supra- nationalism that the EU represents. Will she consider the possibility of a preferential trading arrangement with our Commonwealth allies, as suggested by the former President of Nigeria? That would build on the bond which already exists in Her Majesty’s realm and beyond.
My right hon. Friend has made a very good point. The Commonwealth makes up a third of the members of the WTO, and I am determined that we will work with Commonwealth partners not only to reduce tariffs, but to promote the rules-based international system that will benefit all those nations.
As I heard during a recent visit to Stoke-on-Trent, ceramics producers currently face a 28% tariff to export their fantastic crockery to the United States. We export nearly £8 billion worth of cars to the US every year, but, again, we face tariffs. British beef and lamb have been banned from entering the US for more than 20 years. More free trade with our partners, reducing those tariffs and barriers, will play an integral part in our agenda to level up the country.
May I follow up the point that my right hon. Friend has just made, very eloquently? CANZUK—consisting of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and ourselves—has the potential to play a considerable role. What are the Government’s plans to strengthen our CANZUK relationship in respect of trade and free movement, as well as other issues of mutual interest?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When we entered the EU, those close relationships with allies such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia fundamentally became less close. We have a huge opportunity, as we leave the EU, to build better relationships. We have already named Australia and New Zealand as two of our priority trading partners, and we want to work with Canada, particularly on accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, so that we can build up those strong relationships.
Does the Secretary of State recognise that the UK does not, in fact, face a stark choice between maximising trade with either the European Union or the rest of the world? It is perfectly possible for the UK to maximise trade with the rest of the world through the European Union and through UK leadership in ensuring that the EU is open to the rest of the world. This false choice between the two could lead to the UK losing out on a range of opportunities.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. We want to have a great trading relationship with the EU, and we want to have a great trading relationship with the rest of the world. Our ambition is to ensure that 80% of UK trade is covered by free trade deals within three years, and that will mean lower tariffs for British producers sending their goods into the EU and also right around the world.
This is hugely important for levelling up our country, from the potters of Staffordshire and the sheep farmers of Wales to the robotics manufacturers in the north-east. By lowering tariffs and striking advanced digital agreements, we will give a boost to local economies, which will increase the number of jobs, increase wages and promote growth in those areas. That is the way we are going to level up our country: through enterprise and trade bringing more opportunities.
We are ambitious about securing a pioneering free trade agreement with Japan, which is already our main source of investment in Asia, employing more than 150,000 people across the UK. There are also fantastic opportunities to expand our trade with Australia in areas as diverse as defence, education, digital and infrastructure. These opportunities with the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are significant and will bring real value, but there is also an opportunity for us to become part of world-leading trade arrangements such as the CPTPP, partnering with 11 of the fastest-growing Pacific economies with consumer markets worth over $6 trillion.
We have the opportunity to make great free trade agreements across the world, and global Britain can once again become the ideas factory of the world, building the networks, the trust and the confidence that will underpin the success of British businesses in markets of the future. That is why we recently held the Africa investment summit, breaking down barriers to trade, building business links and forging new relationships in a continent that includes more than half of the world’s 15 fastest-growing economies.
It is good to hear such a doughty defence and exposition of some classical and enduring truths about the importance of free trade, not just to this country and everybody in it but to the rest of the world. Does my right hon. Friend agree that one small but symbolically significant thing we could do is to ensure that free trade is extended to our overseas territories? They are 14 fairly small territories scattered around the world, but each is potentially a trading post for Great Britain, and this could be of benefit to the residents of those territories as well.
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point, and of course we want to extend those trading relationships with our overseas territories as far as we can.
I am pleased to say that, as we leave the European Union, we will be launching a new GREAT ready-to-trade campaign, featuring the Union flag and showcasing a modern, confident and successful Britain. We will have billboards and press and digital ads in 18 cities across 30 countries outside the EU, and we will be encouraging investors and buyers worldwide by showing that the UK is ready, willing and able to trade. These efforts are key to our agenda to unite to level up our country, delivering opportunity and unleashing the potential of every part of the United Kingdom.
However, trade is about more than just exports and investment. It is also about shaping the sort of world we want to live in. Let us be honest, there is a battle raging at the moment across the world: a battle between protectionism and free trade, between unfair trading practices and the defence of intellectual property, and between those who wish to restrict human freedom and those who seek to advance it. Let nobody be in any doubt which side the United Kingdom is on.
Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the opportunities we will have from tomorrow is to allow developing countries to have tariffs removed so that we will get cheaper products and their economies will expand? It is trade, not aid, that is going to solve the problem, and the EU has held us back on that.
My hon. Friend is right. Of course we are rolling over all the existing trade preference schemes with those nations, but as we leave the EU, we have opportunities to be more flexible. We have an opportunity to add new goods and to ensure that there is not a cliff edge for those developing nations, so that they do not see those trade preferences eroded when they get to a certain level of development. I completely agree with my hon. Friend that it is enterprise in this country that will help us to level up Britain, and it is enterprise across the world that will help us to level up world economies, taking more people out of poverty.
Working together with our friends and allies such as the EU, the United States and Japan, we will defend the frontiers of freedom, opportunity and prosperity for people right across the globe. We will engage at the G7 and the G20 and in the Commonwealth to move forward with WTO reform, update the rulebook and strengthen transparency. We are ambitious not just to defend freedom’s frontiers but to expand them. Just as we led the way in opening trade in goods during the past two centuries, as global Britain we will seek to do the same for services. The UK is the world’s second largest services exporter. The Office for National Statistics has estimated that two thirds of UK service exports are traded remotely, so we will be looking for advanced digital and data chapters to help businesses right across our country to succeed. Investment in the UK tech sector grew faster than any other country in the world last year, according to research by Tech Nation. We want to build on that potential, with future FTAs setting a global benchmark to take advantage of innovations in data, digital collaboration and the digitisation of trade.
We are determined to level up, to deliver opportunity and to unleash the potential of every part of the United Kingdom. We will promote the future of free trade in a world of rising protectionism. Tomorrow, we will demonstrate that Britain is back and we are ready to trade.
The system of rules that has been at the core of world trade for the past 70 years is at breaking point. Corporations such as Google, Amazon and Huawei have arrogated to themselves enormous power. They are able to stand up to sovereign Governments, if not always their own, and to undermine fiscal and public policy. Countries such as China are emerging from non-market economy status with labour and utility costs that enable them to dump subsidised products on to western markets that undercut our domestic producers. The response from the USA has been increased protectionism, imposing arbitrary tariffs on aircraft, steel, aluminium and—my personal non-favourite—Scotch whisky, the impacts of which colleagues will be debating later today in Westminster Hall. At the end of last year, the American President made good on his promise to undermine the WTO by refusing to ratify the appointments to the appellate court. These actions go to the heart of the multilateral rules-based order.
None of this is meant as a criticism of Government. It is merely to set out the context against which the prudence of Government action must be assessed, because it is against this background that our country is tomorrow pulling out of the largest and most powerful free trade grouping in the world and, paradoxically, doing so in the name of free trade itself. It has therefore never been more important for this Parliament to articulate its support for an open and fair rules-based global trading system that creates wealth and jobs in a way that protects workplace rights and environmental standards and ensures that vital sectors of our national economy are protected from unfair external competition.
The hon. Gentleman knows that I share his distaste for monolithic multinational companies that do not play by the rules, but the EU has been singularly ineffective at dealing with them, as he illustrated in his opening remarks. Why, then, does he think our departure will not give us a better opportunity to deal with exactly the problems he outlines?
The right hon. Gentleman mistakes me. I am not seeking to reopen the debate about the EU. We are leaving the EU tomorrow, and we must forge a positive and constructive future.
Madam Deputy Speaker, if you feel any sense of déjà vu in what I believe is the fifth debate entitled “Global Britain” in the past two years, then for my part it will only be in asking the Government to set out a coherent strategy as to what that phrase is going to mean in practice. In previous debates, I heard calls from Government Members to bring back the royal yacht and talk of something called empire 2.0, but that does not constitute a strategy. To ask the Government for their strategy is not to talk Britain down or to act against the national interest; it is simply to ask that we work together as grown-ups to devise a new relationship with our closest trading partners and to agree a set of priorities for our country’s future relations with others in an increasingly fraught geopolitical context.
I represent a city that still has a big steel industry, and 75% of our steel exports go to the EU. Does my hon. Friend agree that securing a good trading partnership with the EU is imperative if we are to protect the UK steel industry at an extremely challenging time?
My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. She will know about America’s imposition of section 232 to impose tariffs, with the excuse being that its steel industry was necessary for national security. However, I accept that the Government say they want to negotiate a zero-tariff, zero-quota free trade agreement with the EU. We need to do that, and we certainly need to do it for the steel industry, which my hon. Friend represents.
Perhaps those who have the audacity to ask for a plan ought to be prepared to provide suggestions, so in that spirit, let me be clear that the Opposition will champion the United Kingdom as a leader on the world stage that uses its position to tackle injustice and the imminent climate catastrophe. That means that we want to invest in future technologies and next generation industries, foster innovation and grow jobs in the economy, and to do so in a way that helps our trade partners to do the same. We do not see trade as a zero-sum game of winners and losers. We see open and fair trade as a way of increasing global wealth, along with global justice and equality.
At a time of global turmoil and escalating trade wars, it is imperative to have a strategy that ensures that the UK is not helpless against a triple assault: the dumping of subsidised products into our markets, which undercuts our producers; punitive protectionist tariffs imposed upon our exports by our would-be partners; and potential disruption to our trade with the EU, which is still by far our largest trading partner. To that end, our relationship with the European Union must be the priority. We need a free trade agreement that not only protects our existing trade with zero tariffs and zero quotas, but ensures minimum future disruption in both goods and services. We cannot and must not allow a situation to arise whereby our businesses face tariffs on their goods to the EU, alongside onerous and complex administrative burdens, border inspections or delays to the supply chain.
Will the Minister address whether the Government intend to remain part of the pan-Euro-Mediterranean cumulation regime? If not, what is their assessment of the impact that that might have on UK industries and of how it might affect third countries with which we have concluded roll-over agreements and that have already included cumulation regimes in their own subsequent treaties? Producers must not be doubly impacted by a surge of cheaper imports from overseas, particularly where they are manufactured to standards lower than our own or in markets that are distorted by unfair or illegal practices.
The Secretary of State knows that she is introducing what has been called the
“weakest trade remedies regime in the world”,
and industry confidence was knocked still further by interim most favoured nation tariff measures that propose to abolish tariffs on up to 87% of imports. The EU and US are introducing safeguard measures that could see tariffs on our exports and increased diversion of dumped goods on to our market, wiping out foundation industries and the thousands of jobs that they account for in steel, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) said, in ceramics, which the Secretary of State talked about, and in major producers such as the automotive sector. I ask the Minister of State, Department for International Trade, the right hon. Member for Bournemouth West (Conor Burns), to set out in his reply to the debate out how the Government will protect our manufacturers, producers and farmers from a flurry of such imports under future trade agreements.
The hon. Gentleman tempts me, and I have a great deal of sympathy with his position. I believe that the decision that the Government have reached on Huawei is already a risk too far, so I share that view with him. Of course, he is right to point out that the Chinese Government’s subsidy to Huawei is just as damaging in that sector as subsidies for steel or aluminium.
Future trade agreements could undermine rights and standards, could change the nature of work and the protections offered to workers, such as leave arrangements and parental leave, could reverse environmental protections, and could compromise data privacy and our capacity to regulate in the public interest. Trade agreements could also see our public services being locked into greater privatisation and different pricing models. I say “could” because I am trying to be generous, since Government Members have sought to assure us that no such thing will happen on their watch, but that takes us to the heart of things: if that is so, why are they refusing to allow any degree of scrutiny or engagement in the process?
The trade Bill was supposed to be one of the flagship Bills underpinning global Britain. The Government boasted that it would set out the framework under which future trade agreements would be concluded, but it has been delayed. It has been kicked into the long grass. In fact, it actually came out of its eighth and supposedly final Committee debate two years ago tomorrow. In Committee, we made every effort to legislate for proper democratic oversight of trade agreements. How unreasonable we were! We asked for consultation with industry, a published mandate agreed by Parliament, transparency of agreed texts, scrutiny, debate and positive ratification, but we were blocked.
In the other place, their lordships valiantly reinstated the democratic safeguards and, despite all the Government’s attempts at obfuscation and frustration, their lordships actually managed to introduce significant amendments to the Bill. No wonder it has now languished down the other end of the building for almost a year. In the meantime, the Government have signed a raft of trade agreements—not the 40 originally promised for a minute after midnight on 29 March last year—many of which try to mirror the existing terms of the third-party agreements with the EU. Those trade agreements have been subject to little public scrutiny, with the Government taking advantage of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 process to ratify treaties without giving Parliament the opportunity to debate them.
New Members may be unaware of the vagaries of CRAGA, under which an international treaty is automatically ratified after it has been published and laid before Parliament for 21 sitting days, so long as neither House has resolved against it. How do we resolve against it? The Government have to make time or provide an Opposition day for such a vote, but they have no compulsion to do either. That means Parliament can be presented with a fait accompli—so much for the return of sovereignty. International treaties are possibly the most binding law we pass in this place. They commit our successors in international law and cannot simply be repealed by a future Parliament in the way primary legislation normally can.
Let us examine what is happening under CRAGA. One such agreement currently pending ratification, having been laid before Parliament on 20 December 2019, is the UK-Morocco association agreement, which purports to cover Western Sahara. Western Sahara is categorised as a non self-governing territory under chapter 11 of the UN charter, and it has been under military occupation by Morocco since 1975 after Spain surrendered the colony. The Sahrawi people have been denied the referendum that would allow them to exercise their right to self-determination.
The European Court of Justice has twice ruled, in 2016 and 2018, that Western Sahara is a “separate and distinct” territory from Morocco under international law, and that no agreement with Morocco can be applied to the territory of Western Sahara without the consent of the Sahrawi people. The group internationally recognised as the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people has rejected every proposal that the EU’s trade agreement with Morocco should apply to them. In fact, a coalition of 93 Sahrawi civil society groups has confirmed that the people of Western Sahara reject the inclusion of their territory in any agreement concluded by Morocco.
Our own High Court ruled just last year that the territory of Western Sahara is separate from Morocco under international law and that the UK Government are acting unlawfully by failing to distinguish between the territory of Morocco and the occupied territory of Western Sahara.
The proposed UK-Morocco association agreement is thus contrary to international law and our own law, and it should not be ratified by Parliament until all references to Western Sahara are removed. This is what happens when there is no process of prior consultation, mandate-setting, scrutiny, transparency or debate as part of the ratification process.
Other recent treaties that replicate economic partnership agreements concluded between the EU and countries in central and southern Africa, for example, force market liberalisation measures without allowing for any modernisation or incubation capacity for industry in those partner nations. That effectively locks in economic dependency and prevents the broadening of their economic and industrial base, which is essential to achieving their development goals.
The impact on chicken farming in Ghana, Cameroon and Senegal has been well documented. Dumped chicken products from the EU, farmed with subsidy support under the common agricultural policy, have decimated local chicken production, raising genuine food security questions for these least developed countries.
Is this the global Britain that Conservative Members aspire to be: compounding economic hardship, legitimising oppression and actively supporting regimes that flagrantly abuse human rights and international humanitarian law? I do not think so, but it is what will happen unless the Government openly and frankly outline a detailed strategy for global Britain, and unless Parliament is allowed to fulfil its constitutional role of holding the Government to account.
What is the Opposition’s policy? The hon. Gentleman is outlining a policy of the European Union. The Labour party wanted to join the customs union, which would have implemented exactly that policy. Is that protectionist and slightly weird policy towards the rest of the world still the Labour party’s policy?
I will try to take the hon. Gentleman’s question seriously, because it has a serious core. We have moved on from the debate about the European Union, and we must move on, so it is now about setting the right course for global Britain. That is what this debate is about, and we should not simply roll over the bad things in the EU’s trade agreements and economic partnership agreements. We should set out a new way to engage with such countries that is not exploitative in the same way as the previous treaties. I hope that answers his question.
We cannot forget that this Government have continued to support the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with arms sales, despite the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and despite the Court of Appeal ruling that such exports must cease. The Secretary of State had to come before this House to apologise for breaching the Government’s undertakings to the Court of Appeal and to the House of Commons. Perhaps she might be able to tell us the outcome of the Department’s inquiry into how many breaches of those undertakings there were and how they came about. I will happily give way to her if she can. If she cannot, can the Minister of State, Department for International Trade, the right hon. Member for Bournemouth West (Conor Burns), when he sums up, at least inform the House of when we might expect the outcome of that report?
I am reminded that we are also waiting for further information on the Department’s investigation into bribery and corrupt practices involving British companies overseas, especially those supported by taxpayers’ funds through UK Export Finance. Can we have an update on that investigation, too?
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Airbus has entered a deferred prosecution agreement in relation to allegations of corrupt practices overseas. This is not the global Britain that we should be projecting: a nation willing to sell arms and equipment to countries with a track record of violating international humanitarian law, where they may be used against innocent civilians, deployed in efforts to oppress citizens or exported through corrupt practices.
It is not just in the arena of international trade that the global order is under threat. NATO, too, is coming under increased strain. There are wrangles on costs and burden sharing, and member states are purchasing weapons systems outside the alliance.
Later this year, the UK will host the crucial United Nations framework convention on climate change—COP26—in Glasgow. This is a truly global responsibility but, sadly, it will also be the moment when America finally pulls out of the Paris agreement, in accordance with the notification it gave two years ago. It will also coincide with the result of the US presidential election. Many countries that have been earnestly engaging in the Paris process, seeking to reduce their own emissions, may come to question their engagement if America continues to be absent from the process.
The pattern of global power is shifting dramatically and swiftly. It is turbocharged by big data, the fourth industrial revolution, artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things. Above all, geopolitics will be affected by the energy transformation as the world moves towards a net-zero carbon economy.
From coal and whale oil to crude and shale, the geopolitical map has been moulded by the need to control energy supplies. Distribution pinch points such as the Suez canal and the strait of Hormuz have been flash points for conflict, and the projection of global power has relied on the ability to maintain security of energy supply. The inevitability of this shift is not simply due to the rapidly declining cost of renewables, or even the health and climate problems associated with fossil fuels.
Renewables, in many forms, are widely dispersed in most countries, promoting domestic self-sufficiency. They are not stocks that are used and then depleted; they are flows that are constantly recharged and so require less transportation and have no choke points. They lend themselves to decentralisation of production and consumption, and they can more easily be deployed at a local community scale. They also have marginal costs that approach to zero. So just as the geographic concentration of coal, oil and gas moulded our political landscape since the industrial revolution, the dispersed nature of renewable energy will erode those traditional patterns in a new global world. It is not clear that the Government have thought through the geopolitical implications of this energy transformation: which countries are likely to forge ahead and leapfrog the old technology; and which will fail to transform their subsoil assets of oil and gas into surface assets of human social and political capital quickly enough. It is often said that the stone age did not end because of a lack of stone, and nor will the fossil fuel age end because of a lack of oil, gas or coal. It will end with a lot of stranded assets that could pose severe financial risks that a global Britain must guard against.
The Government have sought to congratulate themselves repeatedly on our domestic progress towards net zero, but this has been achieved through the systematic exporting of our carbon emissions and an explicit policy of supporting activities overseas that we no longer support at home. I therefore welcome what the Prime Minister said:
“there’s no point in the UK reducing the amount of coal we burn if we then trundle over to Africa and line our pockets by encouraging African states to use more of it.”
He is right, and that is why we stopped UK Export Finance funding for coal back in 2002 and why we stopped official development assistance finance for coal back in 2012. What I want to hear from the Minister is an update, the logical corollary of what the Prime Minister said, which is that there is no point in the UK reducing the amount of fossil fuels we burn if we then trundle over to Brazil or Africa or India or anywhere and line our pockets by encouraging those countries to use more oil and gas.
UKEF has helped to finance oil and gas projects that, when complete, will emit 69 million tonnes of carbon a year. That is nearly a sixth of the total annual carbon emissions of the UK itself. Global Britain cannot be Janus-faced, with domestic virtue masking the international promotion of the very policies we say we want to prevent, freeing ourselves to embrace a net-zero future while locking other developing countries into fossil fuel dependency.
In the past 25 minutes, we have heard a lot of virtuous noises about renewable energy which we can all agree with. We know that the hon. Gentleman is against defence and security exports, against the US and against Saudi Arabia. He is against a whole number of things, and global Britain in terms of trade seems to mean for the Labour party “lining our pockets”. What is the Labour party’s vision of the role of the UK in the world? Does he not see enormous opportunities for us in working with continents such as Africa and Asia?
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has sought to intervene in that way, because that quote about lining pockets is from his own Prime Minister, so I not think he does himself any credit. The fact that he has not listened to the positive things that I have been saying is his problem, not mine.
UK Export Finance plays a significant role in enabling fossil fuel projects by removing risk and sending safe signals to investors—these are the wrong signals. The Government’s dangerous approach risks leaving the UK taxpayer on the hook, financing stranded assets as the world rapidly moves away from fossil fuels. That is the point: this is a problem for us and for our economic security in the future. That is precisely what Mark Carney, Bloomberg and many others in the financial taskforce have tried to point out.
Two years ago, I called for the UK to end all fossil fuel projects supported by UKEF and to focus on our renewable technologies instead. Will the Government recognise that that is what a confident, outward-facing, global Britain needs to do? The UK has not yet depleted entirely its stock of fossil fuels, but its future does not lie so much in their further exploitation as in our capacity to use digital technology, smart grids and big data to place ourselves at the vanguard of this energy transition.
Global Britain cannot be backward looking. We must look forward to new opportunities and the repositioning of global powers. We must harness our unique skills and capabilities, and leverage them to take advantage of emerging economies and emergent technological solutions. We need a coherent industrial strategy that ensures a diverse economic base and a skilled workforce capable of meeting the emergent opportunities of a very different but precarious world. We need a proper, robust, independent, trade defence measure, and we need a Government that defend British interests and stand up against unfair practices overseas, including tariffs imposed on the likes of ceramics, which the Secretary of State has talked about. We need a democratic approach to trade agreements that have the early buy-in of affected stakeholders, businesses, trade unions, civil society, devolved Administrations and the elected representatives of the British people.
We cannot seek to make progress on the new issues affecting trade, digital economies and cross-border data flows, the treatment of bundled goods and services, the enforcement of intellectual property rights and so forth until we move forward. We must demonstrate the effectiveness of the rules-based system, work to progress and re-establish the appellate body of the World Trade Organisation, but we must also reform its structures to deliver the global order that is more just and more equitable.
The title of this debate seems to be shorthand for the United Kingdom taking up its separate and equal status among the nations of the world, and everything that that means. As we approached this debate, people might have been asking, “What would it look like if Brexiteers had thought in advance about Britain’s global future? What would it mean if we had had a comprehensive analysis of every area of relevant policy that would change as we left the EU? What would it mean if we had actually drawn a picture of what Britain’s future would look like if it was global?” What if we had set out:
“Why the EU needs to Change
The Change we need
How Britain would gain influence outside an unreformed EU
How Britain would prosper outside an unreformed EU”?
What if we had then brought it together in a substantial conclusion.
I do not suppose, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you will allow me to read 1,030 pages into the record, but for anyone who thinks there was no plan, and that Brexiteers had not thought through what it would mean to leave the EU and where we wanted to go, I encourage them to Google—or use their preferred search engine to search for—“Change, or go” by Business for Britain, which was published before the designated period of the referendum began. I am very proud of that document. I recently revisited it to see what it said about trade policy, and I think it stands the test of time. I am sure it contains something I will not agree with, something outside the boundaries of the manifesto, but anyone with a fair, objective mind should understand that we have always been clear about where we wanted to go.
This really matters, because ideas inform action, and both ideas and action are guided by values. At the heart of the difficulties we have faced recently is the fact that too many people have not understood our values. Brexiteers, people like me, are liberals of the old kind: open and tolerant, and believers in a diverse society, one that makes progress. For a long time, I was in favour of the European Union as it was, including, at one point, the euro. Why did I change my mind? It was because of Gordon Brown going off and signing that Lisbon treaty on his own, trying almost to hide what he was doing. I came to realise that democracy was under threat. When I recall how I felt at the time of the Lisbon treaty, watching the European constitution being hammered through, positively against democracy and with a refusal of a mandate, I remember fear and anxiety. I remember that I was concerned for the future of the country.
I therefore listened to the concerns of our opponents—the opponents of Brexit—expressed in the past few years. I have listened to them with considerable sympathy. Today it is incumbent on all Brexiteers to manufacture consent for what we are doing, to recognise that we have won: we have the Prime Minister we wanted and the policy we wanted, and the majority in the House of Commons necessary to give the Prime Minister the power necessary to put that through.
The Prime Minister is a centrist. Anyone objective, looking at our manifesto and our programme for government, will see that he is willing to intervene in the economy, that he wants to be outside the EU but that he is open, liberal, tolerant and turning to the world. I am therefore making an appeal today for grace and patience, for people to be kind to one another, particularly as we approach this celebration. It is difficult to be kind to people when they have been trying to delegitimise election results and referendum results, including the recent election: I heard people talking about first past the post, seeking to delegitimise the result. It will not do to be trying to delegitimise the constitutional arrangements that have served us very well. It is difficult to be graceful to people when they are demonising you, in one case saying that Brexiteers—indeed, the European Research Group—were worse than Nazis. That is a ridiculous comment, yet demonisation has been common. It will not do for leaders of our society to be constantly seeking to demoralise the public, but that is what we have seen. No more—no more demoralisation, no more demonisation of opponents and no more attempts, please, to delegitimise legitimate results.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the reason he is so right is that the outcome of the general election, which endorsed the result of the referendum itself, is a tribute to the British people, who made the decision that we should be returned to this House in the numbers that we see?
Absolutely, and I shall come on to the question having been asked and answered.
Currently, journalists are asking me how I feel about tomorrow, the day of our leaving the European Union. It is, after all, the conclusion of what I have worked for for a good 10 to 12 years of my life—I got into politics because of that fury about the Lisbon treaty—so I should be elated. I should be rejoicing, but I am reminded of Wellington:
“Believe me, nothing except a battle lost is half so melancholy as a battle won.”
I approach tomorrow in a spirit of some considerable melancholy. I very much regret the division that this country has faced. I very much regret the cost of coming so far—the things we have had to do in British politics to get to this point. I very much regret the sorrow that my opponents will feel tomorrow as some are rejoicing on the streets.
I know that we are going to celebrate. I will celebrate—I will allow myself a smile and that glass of champagne and I will enjoy myself—but I will celebrate discreetly and in a way that is respectful of the genuine sorrow that others are feeling at the same time. That means not that I am giving in—it does not mean that I am turning away from what I believe—but that I recognise that all of us on the Government Benches who have won the argument now have a duty to be magnanimous. I urge that on everyone, inside and outside the House, even as we press forward. There are some who take an attitude of “no quarter” after the events of the past few years, and I say to them no, enough. We have to forgive and turn away from what has happened in the past, because we need to create the future that we can all enjoy and be proud of in this country. It is not a future based on past grievances; it is an open and expansive future that embraces the infinite value of every other person, even when we disagree with one another.
I do not wish to make a speech about disagreeing gracefully—perhaps on another occasion—but I do want to pick up on what the Secretary of State said about the battle of ideas raging around the world. She is absolutely right. It is a subject about which I have talked before, and if anybody is interested in my analysis, it is in the pinned video on my YouTube channel. A true conflict of ideas is going on right now—a widespread crisis of political economy—and when we listened to the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) talk through his ideas, some of the difficulties and conflicts about how we go forward in the world were evident in what he said.
I am not going to be critical of what the hon. Gentleman said, but one point that I shall draw out is that so many people, including him, have made a plea for us to comply with the rules-based international order. I want us to do that. I want us to build up the World Trade Organisation—a great multilateral organisation that does not involve having a supreme court with wide-ranging powers to deliver free trade—but I say gently that if we comply with the World Trade Organisation rules, we cannot discriminate against food that is safe to eat, yet there are Members of this House who make both pleas: they plead that we ban American food that is safe to eat at the same time as making a plea for complying with WTO rules. People will have to make up their minds as to what they want to do. I want to respect international institutions—the things we have carefully built up to pursue human flourishing through liberty under the rule of law, not only nationally but internationally.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important that we work together as a House to make sure that we do not take tariff reduction off the table, because if we are to achieve some of the ambitions that the Opposition outlined earlier, we need the ability to do deals with others, which requires us to be less protectionist in our own markets?
I fully agree with my hon. Friend. In fact, before I came to the House—before I expected to get into the House—I started a think-tank called the Cobden Centre. I consider myself to be an old English Cobdenite classical liberal. I believe that human flourishing will be best advanced by the policy on which my hon. Friend and I agree—one of liberalisation of both tariffs and non-tariff barriers. We should be promoting human flourishing through that deeply rooted sense of liberty that I know the Secretary of State fully believes in.
The battle in which we are engaged is, in a sense, the same old battle we have always faced. It is a battle between a belief in managing the lives of other people and a belief in liberty. Are we to be merely conservative, clinging on to the institutions of the past, or are we going to be what I would consider to be genuinely liberal? While respecting traditions that have worked, are we going to be genuinely liberal and progressive, recognising that human progress comes not through state planning and foreseeing every possible difficulty well in advance? That has never worked. It might sometimes make a contribution, but as a general principle it has not worked. Or are we going to recognise that everyone errs? Like entrepreneurs, are we going to recognise that things can and do go wrong? Are we going to have good-quality error correction mechanisms, which mean that in government, as in the market and as in science, when errors are made, they are rapidly corrected? Not only will progress in the world happen fast, but it will keep accelerating. We need the mechanisms to ensure that errors are not entrenched—not entrenched across the whole of Europe and the world—but corrected fast.
In concluding, I wish to turn to a speech made by Ronald Reagan in 1964 called “A Time for Choosing”. It is always a time for choosing. He talked about the long journey that mankind makes
“from the swamp to the stars”.
He said that
“this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is still the newest and the most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.”
He went on:
“This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”
The question has been asked—not just once, but four times. It was answered in a referendum; in a general election in which both main parties had leave manifestos; in European Parliament elections in which the Brexit party came first with, for want of a better term, a harder proposal for Brexit than the Government had adopted; and the question has just been asked and answered in a general election with a result that none of us could have foreseen. It is time for the whole country and the whole House, magnanimously on the part of those of us who were victorious, to accept that it is time to move forward gracefully, to believe in ourselves and our capacity for self-government, and to go forward and flourish.
Well, it was a fine speech, in parts, that the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) just made, and I say that with all sincerity. He ended—I can tell—with a quote from President Reagan, who I can only assume is a hero of his, and, indeed, of many of the colleagues who surround him on the Government Benches, but I prefer what the German Federal President Steinmeier said, which was that the politics of the European Union are based on the revolutionary idea that one’s opponent has a point. The hon. Gentleman brought that to this debate, because he did have a point, of sorts. What he said about how his side owns the victory is important; indeed, as a party that advocates Scotland’s independence, that is a lesson for us as well. These things do matter.
I remember that the day after the referendum, on Parliament Square, outside this building, a young girl held up a sign with the Europe flag on it that said, “I want my country back”, a phrase often used by people on the other side of the Brexit divide. There is a feeling of loss, and I will take at face value the way in which the hon. Gentleman extends the hand, but that does not mean that I have to accept everything that he asks the House to accept, because the clash of ideas does matter, and only a fool would not understand that there is a Scotland dynamic in this. Indeed, a Unionist should understand that better than anyone else.
I accept that the Prime Minister and the Conservative party have received a mandate to take England out of the European Union, but it is an arithmetical fact, adumbrated in all the electoral events that the hon. Gentleman just outlined, that that mandate does not extend to Scotland. I can accept that we had the referendum on independence in 2014, but facts change, circumstances change, and people’s minds change, too. I ask the hon. Gentleman—in all seriousness because he clearly has some clout on the Conservative Benches—to ask his colleagues in Government to engage their brains more fully than they have done to date in the Scottish dynamic of the constitutional conundrum that we are in and that will only intensify.
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making so much of my speech his own. What I say is that I hope I am not asking anything of him that I would not give myself. I said that I would accept the referendum result. I would have stood down in the general election of 2020, and I would have left politics. He is entitled to fight on, but I just say to him that the Prime Minister was right to say that there was a referendum in Scotland and that it should be accepted. It was stated that it would be a once-in-a-generation referendum. Of course, facts change. That is, I am sorry, to add nothing to the debate. I just ask him to accept his own referendum result.
I would not be in this House if I did not accept the 2014 referendum result. There would not be this huge number of Scottish National party Members of Parliament if we did not accept the 2014 referendum. As Ruth Davidson herself said, it is entirely right, honourable and indeed expected that the Scottish National party should continue to advocate for the very policy that it is in existence to try to deliver. There is nothing undemocratic or dishonourable about me and my colleagues advancing that cause.
None the less, even with accepting that the Brexiteers in the House have won—I can accept that—who, no matter what their Brexit position, can fail to have been moved by the scenes in the European Parliament yesterday, when parliamentarians from across the continent joined hands and sang that great Scots music hall poem, “Auld Lang Syne”. It is a song and a poem of friendship and of solidarity across the continent of Europe. What a contrast to the high hand of UK Unionism that we have seen just this week. This is what I mean when I say to colleagues on the Government Benches to please engage their brain.
The Scottish Government published a very serious document, seeking to alleviate the pressures on that part of the United Kingdom with regard to the movement of people. Scotland’s problem is people leaving, not people coming. It is inconceivable that the UK Government could even have read that proposal before they rejected it out of hand. I feel like they are doing my job for me, because in parts of my constituency—admittedly, it is a yes voting constituency, but it has always had the highest Tory vote in Glasgow—the people on whom they are relying, who are part of the coalition they need to keep the Union together, have not necessarily painted their faces blue and run into the forest declaring support for independence, but my goodness they want to have a conversation with my party in a way that they did not in the 2014 referendum. I ask colleagues on the Government Benches just to reflect on that, and on the fact that every single compromise that was offered by the Scottish Government and by the Scottish National party in this House over the past four years has been rejected out of hand—every single one of them.
I accept that the European Union—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), whom I am coming to, is yawning at this point. I accept that the European Union is the great devil for some people, but we just do not see it like that. The European Union as a project was created as Europe stood at the gates of hell and all of the history that went before it. Where there was Nazism and communism, it displaced those ideas and opened up economies and opened up markets. It allowed the clash of ideas in free and fair elections to take place all across the European continent. It still has a job to do in some parts of it.
The Secretary of State prayed in aid the Government’s trade strategy. The European Union, a place in the world where once there were warring navies in the waters and warring air forces in the sky, now has trading, shipping and exchanges of ideas and of commerce that I thought Conservatives would have welcomed, but perhaps I am at risk of re-running the old argument.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. In responding to a lot of the very strong libertarian views on free trade that have been advocated by those on the Government Benches, does he recognise that, in fact, the European Union represents, albeit imperfectly, the most advanced example in human history of economic integration and free trade? Furthermore, in recognising the perspective of Scotland, Northern Ireland has its very particular remain perspective, too. The Global Britain brand that has been put forward, albeit a very convenient and simplistic concept, does not take into account the fact that Britain is not the same as the UK, and that Northern Ireland is excluded from that branding.
Ah, well, the hon. Gentleman, who is new to the House, will have to get used to that. Those on the Government Benches have a habit of forgetting that the UK is a political state. It is a union of nations across these islands, even if they do not govern as such. He is, of course, correct. Let us take freedom of movement as an example. It is one of the greatest instruments of economic freedom, of peace and of the exchange of ideas that has ever existed, yet Minister after Minister fall over themselves to get to that Dispatch Box to decry freedom of movement. It is the very instrument that this country was enthusiastically setting up within the European Union. Of course, we should keep freedom of movement, and if the United Kingdom does not want to keep it, then I ask it please to think of the Scottish context, and work with us to deliver something that will help our economy, which is something that the Government keep telling us that they want to do.
Madam Deputy Speaker, if you will indulge me very briefly, I want to acknowledge the contribution that my own party has made to the European project over a great many years, starting, of course, with the great Winnie Ewing. She is the only person in Scotland ever to be elected to all three Parliaments—the European Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and, of course, to this place in a historic by-election in Hamilton in 1967. There was also Alan McCartney, Professor Sir Neil MacCormick, Ian Hudghton, my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Alyn Smith), and, more recently, Christian Allard, a French Scot representing Scotland in the European Parliament, Heather Anderson, who was appointed only earlier this week and, of course, Dr Aileen McLeod, who gave a fantastic speech yesterday, outlining our ambitions to be back in the European Union, and hopefully quickly.
Turning to the trade issue briefly, when the Secretary of State was at the Dispatch Box earlier, she responded to an absurd intervention from the hon. Member for Wellingborough, who seemed to blame the European Union for some kind of restriction that meant the United Kingdom could not do more in terms of international aid. The Secretary of State tried to lay on an almost Churchillian defence of free trade and economic freedom. It is the same Secretary of State, as the shadow Secretary of State pointed out, who, eight weeks into the job, had to come to Parliament to apologise for the fact that the Government had broken not one, not two, but three court orders banning weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. She was eight weeks into the job. This was only about four months ago. It is surely inconceivable that she should still be at that Dispatch Box today. We know that there is a reshuffle coming at some point, so who knows if she will still be there, but my goodness if that is a candidate for International Trade Secretary, she is in no position to come here and expect us to buy into her agenda on proper free trade that genuinely helps alleviate poverty and abides by the rules.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I apologise if he thought that I was yawning at his speech. It was just the fact that I have heard it so many times before. Does he accept that one of the advantages of coming out of the European Union is that we will be able, at our own bequest, to lower tariffs to developing countries?
Let us see what comes forward. Sure, I am all for that debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) is much more qualified on these affairs than me. I will welcome it only if it is a genuinely good plan. If it is a good plan, we will be the first to welcome it. None the less, I have to say that, given who the International Trade Secretary is and given the short history that she has in office on these types of affairs, I am not exactly expecting very much.
The Secretary of State also mentioned the upcoming integrated defence and foreign policy review. We have had a number of miniature defence reviews over the past few years. It would be helpful if the Minister could tell us whether this will be a proper strategic defence and security review, or will be fiscally neutral—a bit like the modernising defence programme?
Think about the context in which this debate is happening. Earlier this week we heard the Government announce their Faustian pact with the Chinese Communist party over Huawei. The announcement comes from a position of great weakness. It is gullible Britain, not global Britain, that I see from this side of the House, and the sooner the Government are honest about it, the better.
I have a few other questions. More broadly, what exactly is the China strategy? We talk a lot about Russia, and rightly so—I note that the Minister who covers Ukraine is here, and he knows of my interest in that part of the world—but what is the China strategy?
What is the strategy to fix the utterly broken instrument that is the UN Security Council? It is supposed to underpin security, freedom and the international rules that keep us safe and allow free trade, but it has become largely redundant. Will NATO, which faces all kinds of strife, internally and externally, be included in the integrated review?
Will there be some kind of assessment of our capability? Tories love nothing more than thumping their chests and reminding us that Britain spends 2% of GDP on defence. That is wonderful, but what does it mean for our capability? That is where the debate really needs to go.
We need to hear more about the Government’s supine response to the Trump Palestine-Israel plan, which we had a brief exchange about this morning. The Government could not quite bring themselves to wholly disown the plan. Admittedly, it is not their plan, but it strikes me that they are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea on this. It is time to show some muscle, to be honest and to stand up for international law. If we are against the annexation of Crimea—we are right to be—we should be against the annexation of Palestinian land, and I would like the Minister to make that clear when he sums up.
To conclude, the Conservative party—and, by the sounds of it, the Labour party—might have given up on this country being a member of the European Union, but Scotland certainly has not. We will always be open to Europe. We will always be a place where Europe and the world can come and have a conversation—hopefully we will do more than that—and keep contributing to Scotland. The challenge for my party, and for my country, is to live up to the maxim that Winnie Ewing set out in 1967, when she said:
“Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on.”
Well, we want to get on and do more, and the saltire will not be drowned out by any of this global Britain nonsense.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I want to start by honouring my predecessor, Eleanor Smith, who sat on the Opposition Benches. She did great work in championing the NHS in Wolverhampton and representing the people there, and she was the first black woman to be elected to Parliament from the west midlands. I wish her every success in her future endeavours.
I am delighted to be standing here as the Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South West. It is an honour that I do not take lightly, and I am determined to ensure that I fulfil the opportunity with everything I have. I will be devoted in serving the people who voted for me, and for those who did not, I will serve them in the same way.
The story of Wolverhampton starts in 985 AD, when it was founded by Lady Wulfruna. It grew from strength to strength right the way up to the 19th century, when it was known as a global leader in the manufacture of locks and all kinds of iron goods. There is so much more that could be said about the great history of Wolverhampton, but we might miss the gems that are there today. My constituency is home to the great Wolverhampton Wanderers—the Wolves, as they are known—and I look forward to watching them beat other Members’ teams as they continue their current success. We have an excellent university, which welcomes people from all over to the heart of our city. We also have an outstanding local newspaper, the Express & Star, which is the largest privately owned newspaper in the country—even the Prime Minister has undertaken work experience there.
But the real prize in Wolverhampton is the people. They are some of the most genuine and straight-talking people you will meet. I experienced both those qualities on the campaign trial, sometimes wishing that the straight talking was not quite as direct, but I always knew where I stood. We have a multicultural, multifaith population, ranging from Christian, Sikh, Muslim, Hindu and many more. In Wolverhampton you can walk past a church, a gurdwara and a mosque all on the same street, and see the communities living and working together hand in hand. That is testimony to the great people of Wolverhampton.
The motto of Wolverhampton is “Out of darkness cometh light.” That is very apt as I move on to the next part of my speech, which is about how I came to be here, against all the odds. My childhood started very normally. My mum was a nurse and, like many other kids in my school in Hereford, my dad was in the SAS. When I was only eight years old, his life was tragically cut short. My mum had to bring up three boys on her own. She brought us up in a loving and caring home, and I want to honour her for that. But life as a single parent was not easy, and often she had to go without food just to make sure us boys could eat. I went to what was probably the worst school in the area, where I learnt far more about life than I ever did about education.
At the age of 16 I left school with no qualifications and signed up to be a soldier. I joined the finest regiment in the British Army, the Royal Green Jackets, and became a rifleman. I was still only 17 when I was shot in a training accident, tragically by a friend with a faulty weapon. When they finally got me to hospital, I was told that I had suffered a high-velocity gunshot wound, that I would lose my foot and that, if the bullet had travelled, my leg would have to be amputated up to the knee. I did what every hardened soldier does: I cried and asked for my mum.
They managed to save my foot, through four major operations and a month in hospital. While lying on that hospital bed, full of morphine, I was told that I would never walk without the aid of a walking stick, that I would never run again, and that my military career was over. I chose not to accept that. I made a decision to shut out any pain, both physical and mental—a decision that would haunt me for many years to come.
I spent almost a year in rehabilitation, learning to walk again and then to run. Eventually, against all the odds, I returned to full active service in the Army. For the whole year of rehabilitation, no one sat down and asked me how I was doing or what the impact had been. In fact, as soon as I was fit enough I was sent to Northern Ireland, during the troubles, for my first operational tour. I served in many locations around the world during my time in the Army, including Bosnia and Kosovo. While I was proving to be an effective soldier physically, those who knew me best knew that I was suffering emotionally. We never spoke about it or showed emotion—it was a sign of weakness—and we most certainly could never ask for help. Although it was wrong, I found that alcohol blocked the pain in my head and allowed me to escape reality.
After leaving the armed forces I became a bodyguard. I have had some great experiences, including protecting a Prime Minster and Government officials in Baghdad. I got to see a lot. I was excelling in what I did. From the outside I looked like I had it all together, but inside I was broken. The decision that I had made to shut out my pain when I got shot meant that I struggled to feel anything emotionally. I was numb. The more I progressed, the more the pain hurt. I was going through life in a virtual coma. I would spend evenings in my garage on my own, drinking, looking at a brick wall, wishing my life would end. I remember that my first thought in the morning, when I opened my eyes, was one of dread that I had not died in my sleep.
Desmond Tutu once described hope as the ability to see light in the darkness. I got to a place where I had no hope. Enough was enough and I finally decided to end my life. As I was in the process of doing it, I had one thought that stopped me: I did not want my children to grow up without a father, as I had done. I couldn’t do it. I felt a failure at not being able to take my own life. There was no escape from the life I was in. I was stuck.
In my mind, my life was over; I had been dealt a bad hand, and that was my life. I thought I would try to do something good for my kids. I never wanted anyone to have to experience my life, let alone my children, so I decided to take them to church. There are many reasons why people come out of despair. When I was trying to do something right by my family, I found faith. For the first time in many years, I could see a hope and a future. As the Wolverhampton motto says, “Out of darkness cometh light”, and I could see light out of the darkness. Over many years I learnt to face reality, and with my amazing wife, and great family and friends, my life has changed. I am grateful for every day that I have, and enjoy life to the full. Those who know me would testify to that.
So why politics? That is a question I have battled with for many years. I never voted prior to 2015, and my views of politicians and the decisions they made in this House could be described at best as negative. I have been on operations and stood alongside my colleagues, some of whom are no longer here because of decisions I attributed to this House. This was never my first option, but I was faced with a choice: I could moan about these decisions, I could ignore them, or I could try to make a difference. I chose the latter, and history will decide if I achieve this.
I have experienced global Britain. I have protected people in 50 countries around the world, and had the privilege of experiencing life. I have seen some of the best and worst of humanity—what people can do for each other, but also sadly what they can do to each other. I bring to this Chamber an unusual experience that I will use to help shape how we move forward. I want to champion social justice, and to see that families do not go without food, that people do not sleep rough or suffer in silence, and that they are helped when they need it. I basically want our children to grow up in a country of which they can be proud. I know how my life was transformed, and I want to inspire people to believe that they can see change in theirs.
We have promised a lot and we have a lot to deliver. Failure to deliver on our words will mean that all this has been for nothing, and the people of Wolverhampton and this country will be no better off. If we become a Government of action, we will change the very fabric of society for good. I have served my country before with pride, and I will do so in this Chamber.
It is an honour to follow the maiden speech of the new hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson), who told us his powerful life story. He illustrated so personally the cost and damage of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the struggles he had overcoming it. Bringing his experience to this place was so powerful, and I look forward to hearing more about his commitment to his constituents and to this country that he spoke about so eloquently.
This debate is about Britain’s place in the world. I know from what Government Members have been saying today and what they have said previously that they will spend much time and many contributions in the Chamber on this topic, covering UK trade deals and foreign relations, and defining what the UK thinks and what the UK will do. But how much time are the Government spending on reflecting on the other side of that coin—on how the UK is viewed by the rest of the world? How much time will this House spend discussing that? I cannot be the only Member of this House who over the past four years, when travelling to other countries for work or on holiday—or when meeting overseas visitors here—has been asked incredulously, “What is going on in your country? Why does the UK seem so determined to undermine its international reputation and economic position?” The overall impression of these people is that Brexit has undermined our standing and reputation across the world, and that is certainly the impression that I and many of my colleagues get.
There is one aspect of the issue that does not make sense to other people, especially to other European people. The leave campaign and the rhetoric of many leavers over the last four years has been full of sentiments about the UK “being done to” by the EU. Yet Seb Dance MEP pointed out clearly on last night’s “Newsnight” that our elected MEPs have actually had far more ability to initiate and amend legislation than a Back-Bench Member of this House. Sadly, Seb is no longer able to have that influence on behalf of the UK in the Brussels Parliament.
Some leave campaigners—not necessarily Conservative Members present today— have even suggested on social media over the past months and years that by leaving the EU, Britain could once again be great, ruling half the world as we once did. Too often, I heard Conservative Members be quite relaxed in saying that economic and reputational damage was a price worth paying for what I would call the illusion of freedom. What national-level politician anywhere else in the world would expect respect from their voters when admitting to that level of defeatism?
Because it is illusory, and I will keep pressing that point, as my colleagues, including those on the Front Bench, have done.
The mantra “get Brexit done” informs this Government’s rhetoric and the style I suspect they will be adopting going into the trade negotiations. As we heard earlier from the Secretary of State, they have a list of future deals—with the EU, the US and many other countries—that they imply will be quick and easy. You do not need to know much about negotiation to know that it is never quick, but a slow and deliberative process. International trade negotiations and deals take an average of about seven years to complete, and we are talking about eight months—not even a year—to complete a deal with the EU. It also does not take a rocket scientist to know that the larger and more powerful party will always come out with more at the end of the negotiations. By leaving the EU we are no longer an equal member—in fact, a relatively strong member—of the single biggest economic trade bloc in the world. We will be the fifth, sixth or seventh most powerful country and economy in the world, and we will be a long way behind the EU, the US and China in the size of our economy and therefore our negotiating power.
The Labour party, and many UK businesses trading with or in competition with other markets, fear that the Government’s aspiration for quick and dirty deals will undermine our standards, businesses and public services—the very things that many voters thought they were protecting when they voted leave. The “get Brexit done” party is talking about quick negotiations that, as far as I can see, will undermine so much. Such negotiations risk losing what we have achieved as fully participating members of the EU for the past 40 years, including high-quality food and safety, consumer and environmental standards, and workers’ rights. The climate emergency is now at the top of the international political agenda, and is another important aspect in which we risk losing out as we drop down in the pecking order through the international trade negotiations.
By leaving, we undermine any hope of a close relationship and co-operation with the EU in the future, compared with what Seb Dance described as the strong role we have just left at the top of the table. We heard a quote from Ronald Reagan earlier today, but I am going to quote another hero—or perhaps I should say heroine—of the Conservative party, Margaret Thatcher, who said in 1975, before we joined the EEC:
“If Britain were to withdraw, we might imagine that we could regain complete national sovereignty. But it would, in fact, be an illusion.”
I very, very sadly and reluctantly accept that the UK is leaving the EU at 11 pm tomorrow night. But I and my hon. Friends will continue to demand the power to scrutinise and vote on trade deals so that we can make sure that UK values, and UK businesses and their interests, are at the centre of all future trade deals. It is shocking that the Government removed the power of Parliament to do this in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. Labour Members expect parliamentarians to be at the centre of all future trade deals. The reason we want this is to protect our global and our national environment, and to protect our consumer standards and our workers’ rights, but most importantly, for the future of life on earth. Climate change, as I said, must be at the centre of all our trade negotiations. The UK should decarbonise export finance. As my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State said, current projects supported by the UK export system, when complete, will dump 69 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. The Environmental Audit Committee said in the previous Parliament that this is
“the elephant in the room undermining the UK’s international climate…targets”.
I also concur with the shadow Secretary of State about the atrocity of awarding export licences in respect of arms sales, products used for torture, and other controlled exports. This undermines further our reputation as a morally credible partner across the globe. Labour has called for robust enforcement of export licensing criteria in respect of arms sales and other controlled exports. Personally, I would like the UK to diversify out of the arms industry altogether and put those skills, technologies and jobs into productive technologies in areas such as renewable energy generation.
Do Government Members really want to take the UK back to being the poor man of Europe that I remember from my childhood, or will they share with us in a more positive vision for the UK’s place in the world based on the values that helped to shape Europe after 1989 and the fall of the Berlin wall—openness, democracy, compassion, and protection of the world’s precious resources and environment?
It is pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury).
May I first pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson), a fellow Green Jacket, on the maiden speech? The Green Jackets were famous for many things, but one of the most important things they did was to turn the red tunics into green, which meant that they were less vulnerable on the battlefield—something that is very good indeed, and occasionally warranted here as well. I am really pleased to see him wearing his regimental tie and taking his place on these Benches, and to congratulate him on a very powerful and passionate message. He spoke about being on the brink of despair, going through that, and his journey back. He is now able to share that. I hope that many veterans across Britain will hear his story and be stronger for it, recognising that there are people there to help and there is a life after being in the armed forces. Not everybody is affected in the way that as he was, but he has absolutely turned his life around, and it is fantastic to see him here in the Chamber today.
I know that my hon. Friend speaks with experience, commitment and passion on defence matters, so perhaps I could urge him to stand for the Defence Committee in due course. That segues me nicely into saying—if I may, with your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker—thank you to the House for the honour of being elected Chair of the Defence Committee. I pay tribute to the other candidates who stood in this contest, all of them very passionate about defence in their own ways.
I welcome the Secretary of State’s opening statement in this important debate on global Britain. Marking out a vision of where our country needs to go in these difficult and turbulent times is very important. For those of us who have been in the House a little while, the past three years have been a bit challenging in terms of working out where Britain should be going. We have been a bit distracted by other issues. Whatever one’s views on what happens on 31 January, it is absolutely clear that we can now provide a determined direction of travel for this country. We can send a message to people across the world that we have stopped arguing about something that we had huge disagreements over and that, whatever our previous views, we are on track to move forward.
In that guise, we perhaps lost a bit of confidence. It is worth reminding ourselves of the strengths that Britain has when it comes to financial services, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, oil and gas, life sciences and creative industries. We are European leaders, if not global leaders, in policing, intelligence, and, of course, the military. We play our role not just in Europe but across the world. I hope that now that we have the decision of Brexit behind us, we can pursue that, as we heard the Secretary of State say.
Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the shipping sector—the maritime sector—is also of huge importance, as we are a global leader in this country? Leaving the European Union but also being able to create 10 new free ports will add to that dominance and supremacy.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Some 90% of our trade still goes by ship. However, not all shipping lanes are as free as they should be.
Talking about global Britain leads to a desire to speak about trade and the economy. That is important, but I am going to focus on security, because, as the first line of the original 2010 strategic defence and security review reminds us, economic security and national security are interdependent of each other. If we do not have national security, we cannot build the economy in order to prosper. If we invest in defence, it is not just for the defence budget—we are also increasing our prosperity, from which all other budgets then benefit as well.
There is perhaps some optimism on the Conservative Benches following the general election, and a sense of determination. We have a mandate and we have the energy to, we hope, be in office for a number of years, and to craft where Britain should go over the next decade. However, that decade is going to get more dangerous and more complex than at any time since the cold war. The character of conflict is changing. It is moving from arguments and battles over terrain to the digital domain as we become ever more reliant on the digital economy. We have seen the rise of Russia. We have seen what Iran is up to. Extremism has not disappeared. We pat ourselves on the back that somehow we have got rid of the caliphate in the middle east, but extremism continues. We saw during the interruption in the general election that terrorism remains rife. Those challenges are dispersing and getting more complex, and they are challenges to our economy and our prosperity.
There are two issues very much at the forefront that we need to focus on, perhaps in the longer term, one of which is climate change and its consequences. One in four of the world’s population will come from Africa. They are not producing the jobs there that they need, and that will lead to huge migrational challenges. Some 80% of the world’s population lives within 50 miles of the coastline. If sea levels rise, where will those people go? How will those economies be affected? How will Bournemouth be affected—my constituency and that of my right hon. Friend the Minister as well?
Well, there is a man who has read the global strategic trends document of the Ministry of Defence. The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that this is important for his constituency, but it is also important for Scotland, particularly the north of Scotland, because if we do not deal with it properly, the rules that currently govern the South China sea will, all of a sudden, govern the high north and the north Atlantic—and that, as I am sure he would agree, would be a disaster.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman—who is now my hon. Friend, as we will hopefully work more closely on national defence issues for the United Kingdom. He makes an important point about these being issues that we need to tackle. When it comes to defence, there is an immediate knee-jerk reaction to speak about platforms—have we got enough of them and so forth? That is important, and we do no doubt face some challenges, but it is also about capabilities.
I go back to the fact that the character of war is changing. We are in constant conflict and competition. Why bother invading or, indeed, attacking a country when it is possible to digitally impose problems for any town, city or community from afar, through a laptop? Elections are being interfered with, and there is not even an international organisation that countries can go to and say, “My election has been interfered with by another state. Please can you take action?”
The second issue is to do with the rise of China. It has a President who has got the job for life, and in our lifetime China will become more dominant economically, technologically and militarily than the United States. It is setting its own rules on how it does business, which poses some huge challenges for us. We need to have an adult conversation with China to better understand it and ask, “What are the rules that we should be following?” We talk about the erosion of the rules-based order, but who is willing to step forward and say, “I’m going to challenge that—I’m going to defend the rules-based order or upgrade those rules, because they are out of date”? Let us not forget that many of them were created in the Bretton Woods conversations after the second world war. China was excluded, and it reminds us of that all the time. It needs to be included in a conversation with international organisations, whether it be the UN or the OECD, so that the rules and standards that we follow are observed, because they have not been.
China is doing its own thing, and we see that in the big debate we have just had over Huawei. Whether it is Huawei, Tencent or China Telecom, all those companies are obliged to provide sensitive information to the state. We do not know the relationship between Huawei and the Chinese army. We have no idea what the intelligence services do with that information. That is why concern has been expressed vividly in this House about the relationship that we have chosen for our 5G roll-out.
We were not in the room when that decision was made in the National Security Council. Experts are there to give the Prime Minister advice. My message to the Government is: we have taken that decision, but can we put a time limit on our use of Huawei or, indeed, any Chinese companies? Can we develop our own western capability, so that we can wean ourselves off the use of Chinese operations? We cannot predict the security that we will require in the future, or even today.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and congratulate him on his appointment as Chair of the Defence Committee. More and more we are seeing Chinese companies coming in and buying up companies carrying out research here in the UK. Because there is not enough Government funding, even where we are developing our own technology those companies have to seek funding elsewhere, and that is where they are getting it.
The hon. Lady is right. There is an uneven playing field that needs to be addressed. Why is it that Facebook, Amazon and eBay cannot operate in China, but Alibaba, Huawei and others can operate here?
The scale of China is simply enormous. Alibaba is the size of eBay and Amazon put together. Huawei sells more mobile phones than Apple. The scale of it and the injection of cash from the Chinese Government is colossal, which is why we need to have a serious conversation. Given the importance that America, Australia and New Zealand place on this, we need a solution. I know that Huawei’s involvement is in the non-core elements of the 5G network and has been capped. But we made the F-35 stealth fighter—that was essentially the Five Eyes community coming together to make state-of-the-art equipment. Let us do the same with 5G. We should not just turn to Cisco, Ericsson or Nokia and say, “Please catch up with Huawei.” They will not be able to do it. We need the Prime Minister to talk with President Trump and say, “Over the next five years, let’s create the 5G and 6G capability that will allow us to have our own identity.”
If we do not, I predict that there will be a splintering of the internet. The rules that China is adopting and enforcing for its own people and for countries that use its technologies mean that there will be two operations and two versions of the economy. We cannot be caught on the wrong side of the argument in history, so we must develop our own western capabilities.
My right hon. Friend has made a number of great points about technology and how we and our Five Eyes partners need to develop a serious alternative. Does he also agree that there is a danger in the House sometimes of criticising almost everything that China does? To give one small example, when the Chinese automotive company Geely bought the London Taxi Company, it converted the engines to electric and is now exporting them to France and the Netherlands from the UK. It is a good example of what Chinese investment can achieve that is positive for the UK.
My hon. Friend is right, and I pay tribute to him for his knowledge, expertise and desire to educate the rest of us on the importance of what China is doing. There is a lot of duality in what China provides. It is providing some of the greenest capabilities in the world, but it is investing more in coal—it is building hundreds more coal-fired power stations at the very time when we need to wean ourselves off coal.
Militarily, I am also concerned. China’s space budget alone is £7 billion a year. Twenty years ago, its military budget was the same as ours. Today, it is five times that amount. Its navy grows by the size of our Navy every single year. Those are my concerns in the longer term, and that is why we need an adult conversation with China, to work out what international rules we should be following.
Finally, I turn to the review that we will conduct. This is a pivotal moment for the UK to recognise and take stock of the threats that we face. We need a sober assessment of how the world is changing and an honest review of our own capabilities. Our battle tank is 20 years old; it needs an upgrade. Our aircraft carriers are fantastic, but no further investment in the Navy means that the rest of the surface fleet has been depleted. In the Gulf war, we had 36 fast-jet squadrons; today we have six. We need confirmation of our capabilities and our aspirations. What role do we seek to play on the international stage? We then need to commit to what is needed to get there, which will require an increase in our defence budget. We need to upgrade if we want to play that role.
May I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on succeeding me as Chair of the Defence Committee? I thank him belatedly for the courage he showed when, as a Defence Minister, he argued at the Dispatch Box that we needed to spend more on defence. I urge him, in what I can assure him is an influential new role for him, to make sure that the new combined defence review takes place before, and not after, the comprehensive spending round. Otherwise, the same thing will happen that happened with the national security capability review, and there will be a fight between the intelligence services on the one hand and conventional forces on the other.
I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s kind comments, and I look forward to a smooth handover. I have a lot to learn from him, and he has done a great job as Chair. He makes a valid point: if the review is to be a fair assessment of our capabilities, we must ensure that it is not tied down by the limitations of any Budget.
I conclude by saying how passionate I am about defence, and I am delighted to take on the role of Chair of the Committee. I want to make it clear: we are managing the threats we face at the moment, but they are getting bigger and more complex, and we need to upgrade our capabilities. I believe we can win the argument for further investment if we take the nation and Parliament with us. Potholes and the NHS get more money because this place makes the noise. I will lead the charge to educate as many people as possible and say, “This is what we should be doing with our armed forces. This is how we can stand up on the international stage. This is what we must do to lead in an uncertain world.” That is what Britain should be doing in the future.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I would like to start by saying what an honour it is to follow the maiden speech made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson) Member for Wolverhampton, South-West earlier today. It was impassioned, compelling and utterly fantastic, to put it simply.
I wish to start in what I feel is the most appropriate fashion possible, and that is with a few thank yous. The first thank you is to my close family and my close friends for the unwavering support they have given me over many years—in particular, my wife Lynn, who at this moment in time will be sitting watching on television with our six-and-a-half-week-old son. She sent me some very interesting messages just before I rose here. [Hon. Members: “What’s his name?”] Leo. Yes, a fantastic son. In all seriousness, I would not be here without her support—her unending support.
The second thank you I wish to make is to those SNP activists in Aberdeen South who pounded the streets on my behalf in some downright awful weather, just off the North sea. They are second to none, and they were ably led by the wonderful Doug Daniel.
The third and perhaps the most important thank you that I wish to make today is to the people who voted for me—the 20,388 individual voters in Aberdeen South who cast their vote for the SNP candidate in that election. It is important to highlight that that number of votes is the largest number of votes in favour of any single candidate for Aberdeen South since 1979, and I will work every day as hard as I possibly can to repay the faith they have put in me.
At this juncture, I think it is important that I adhere to tradition and pay tribute to my predecessor. I am not quite sure who between the two of us was more disappointed that we did not actually get to head off against each other at the ballot box in the election. However, I think it is important that we do pay tribute to his work on animal welfare, and certainly the commendable work he did to push through the ban on upskirting in England and Wales. I also wish his staff all the best for the future.
As the third Member of Parliament for Aberdeen South in the last five years—less than five years—the House will be familiar from previous maiden speeches with many of the wonderful assets that my city has to offer, but it would be remiss of me not to big up the granite city: the famous granite city with the golden sands. I hope my colleagues are listening because, just before the turn of the year, a report came out that once again highlighted that Aberdeen remains the No. 1 place to live and to work in Scotland. There is a reason why it is the No. 1 place to live, and that is not just the wonderful communities we have but the wonderful natural assets we are fortunate to have on our doorstep, be that Greyhope bay, the Deeside way, Duthie park, Hazlehead park, Kincorth, Gramps and Cove harbour—to name but a few.
Ultimately, however, places are not defined by the landscapes; they are defined by the people. We are so fortunate in Aberdeen South to have so many wonderful community groups, community centres and local charities that do so much fantastic work, with the likes of Inchgarth community centre, Future Choices and Cove Woodland Trust, which I have got to know extremely well in recent times. The work that they do makes Aberdeen the place that it is. Aberdeen is not just the No. 1 place to live; it is also the No. 1 place to work, and the employment opportunities we have are so plentiful, be it in the burgeoning and thriving life sciences sector, the food and drink sector or, indeed, the tourism sector.
There is also an industry in Aberdeen that I am sure Members in the House will be overly familiar with, and that is of course our global energy sector. It is at this point that I want to reflect on the debate today on global Britain, because of course Aberdeen is a global city. It is a global city already: we export in Aberdeen. Aberdeen & Grampian chamber of commerce has some brilliant literature on this, which highlights the fact that we export at this moment in time to 120 countries around the world. Our expertise is international, and that is important because we have achieved that magnitude of exports while being a proud European city. The European Union has in no way held back the success of my constituency and my city, and that is why we voted—voted overwhelmingly—to remain in. I believe it is why I have been sent to this place, and I will make it my impassioned cause for Aberdeen and Scotland to once again be returned to the European Union.
There is an inherent irony in the fact that Aberdeen, a global city, is likely—is projected—to be the hardest hit city in the entire UK as a result of this Government taking us out of the European Union. As we stand here and debate global Britain, the global city that drives the Scottish economy and has a huge part to play in the wider UK economy is going to be detrimentally impacted by the policies of this Government. You know, that sums up Brexit: there is no logic. We will not forget, and we will not forgive this Government for what they are about to do.
At this juncture, I also want to reflect on the fact that the notion or fantasy that we are hearing about global Britain and taking off the shackles is a convenient decoy for the Government, because it allows them not to discuss their record back home: a decade—a decade—of austerity. What has that decade of austerity meant? In Aberdeen, it has led to a situation whereby if people live in a wealthy part of town, they will live for 15 years longer than those living in the poorest part of town. It has meant that food bank usage has risen by over 2,000%, and in November the local Press and Journal reported that in our city women in receipt of universal credit are having to sell sex in order to put food on the table for their children. That is the reality of 10 years of Tory government, so I say to Members opposite: Scotland rejects your austerity and Scotland rejects your Brexit, just as Scotland rejected your Prime Minister.
We are at a crossroads, and the reality is that only one group of people can be trusted and should be empowered to determine the path that Scotland now takes, and that is the people of Scotland. I will conclude by saying that Scotland’s future should, must and will be put in the hands of the Scottish people once again.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I start by congratulating you on your role. It is great to have you in the Chair for my maiden speech. I cannot say I have a favourite in the Speaker’s team, but it is nice to see you in the Chair.
I also congratulate the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn). While we may not agree on a lot of things, he speaks passionately for his community, and the people of Aberdeen South can be assured that they have a real champion in the hon. Gentleman.
It is hard not to praise my predecessors, and I want to start by praising my immediate predecessor, Adrian Bailey. Adrian sought hard to serve the community over 20 years. He was a dedicated MP, and I wish him and Jill all the best as they go off to their retirement.
Of course, I cannot mention my constituency of West Bromwich West without talking about the legend that is Baroness Boothroyd. I had the really good fortune to bump into Baroness Boothroyd in the Tea Room, and she has given me some instructions. As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, when you get an instruction from Baroness Boothroyd, you do as you are told. I have been told that I have to give her updates and reports on how the constituency is doing and, in her words, I have “got to look after them”. I made the promise to her, and she can be assured that I most definitely will.
Madam Deputy Speaker, please do relay the message to Mr Speaker that he does not need to worry: we are not looking to make it two out of three in having Speakers from West Bromwich West just yet—well, not in this Parliament anyway.
Thinking of strong women, it has been the women in my life who have really inspired me to come here. I think really of my mum, who is at home watching today. My mum is a fighter; she is a survivor. She survived terrible domestic abuse when I was younger. She saved me and my sister. She taught me that no matter what you do and where you come from, if you work hard, you aspire and you dream, you can do it—and you have to speak up for those people who cannot speak up for themselves. She is the inspiration for my being here, and I want to thank her today for driving me to come here.
My constituency is called West Bromwich West, but that is a bit of a running joke. We think that when the Boundary Commission came up with the name, it was probably about 4 o’clock on a Friday and everybody wanted to go home, because I do not represent much of the town of West Bromwich. Instead, I have the honour of representing three towns that neighbour it. Wednesbury, Oldbury and Tipton are three proud communities, each with their own history and heritage, but united by one thing—they will tell you as it is.
Oldbury has a proud industrial heritage, based mainly on steel and iron production that goes back some 400 years. It played a vital role in world war one by producing tanks at the Oldbury Carriage Works, and it was the site of the first ever branch of Lloyds bank. It also has an interesting sporting history—as I am sure hon. Members know, I am thinking of that bastion of English football, Tividale football club. Tividale has had an up and down history over the past 60 years, but the team are now stronger than ever. I am looking forward to getting down there and working with them to put their agenda forward over the next four and a half years.
Another delight of Oldbury is our Balaji Hindu temple, which we think is the largest temple of its kind in Europe. It is based on the Tirupati Venkateswara Hindu temple in Andhra Pradesh, and Dr Ratnam, Raaj, and the rest of the team there do incredible work crossing community lines and bringing people together. It was a pleasure to attend the first anniversary of the Gandhi peace centre at the Balaji Hindu temple, and its committee asked me to extend an invitation to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to the rest of the Speaker’s team to visit. I assure you that they have the best pakoras and masala tea in the black country.
Tipton also has a proud industrial heritage, based predominantly on coal mining and steel. We also have some famous black country personalities, one of whom, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson) will know, is Steve Bull of Wolves and of Baggies fame. No one can come to Tipton without trying the amazing food at Mad O’Rourkes Pie Factory. If you are ever in the area, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will more than happily take you there myself.
Wednesbury in the north of my constituency is a market town with a proud heritage that dates back to about to 1004, and St Barts, our 16th-century church, gives fantastic views of the black country. Heavy industry dominated Wednesbury for the best part of 500 years, and there are still elements of that today. It was predominantly coal mining, but pottery as well at one point. Wednesbury’s history is now even brighter with investment from the Future High Streets fund that hopefully will transform our high street, and the expansion of the West Midlands Metro from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill, which has been championed by my friend, our fantastic Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street. That will ensure that my constituents remain connected with the rest of the region, and the town’s future will be even brighter in May when it returns two Conservative councillors.
Four years ago, my constituents voted overwhelmingly to change the relationship that the United Kingdom has with the rest of the world, and despite what others may say, my constituents knew exactly what they were voting for. If any Member of the House thinks that my constituents did not know what they were doing at that time, I suggest they come to my constituency—I will personally take them there—and my constituents will explain to them, in the most articulate and reasoned way, why they made the decision they did, and why they would do it again.
This country is now presented with real opportunities. The Government’s enthusiasm to strike trade deals across the globe, combined with data from the International Monetary Fund that today suggested that about 90% of world output growth could be generated outside the EU, presents a great opportunity for areas such as mine. We want a new industrial revolution in the black country. I welcome the Government’s commitment to ensure that such opportunities are spread across the United Kingdom, and I reiterate that this must be a global Britain—not a global England, global London or global M25 but a global Britain that respects all four nations that make up these islands and the communities and cultures that form the bedrock of our societies. We must ensure that areas such as Wednesbury get exactly the same opportunities as Westminster, and my community is relying on us to get that right.
Unemployment in my constituency currently stands above the national average, as does the number of those claiming unemployment benefit. Wages are lower than the regional and national average. My constituents need this to work. Many of my constituents have lost faith in this place, because it has talked at them and not spoken for them. In my area, groups of people have acted with a born-to-rule attitude for half a century, and it was good to see that finally in December, those same people were sent packing.
In conclusion, I am in no doubt that this country is heading on a new and exciting path. There are opportunities out there for it to progress, develop, and take its place at the heart of the international community. Communities such as mine have sent me here to ensure that they share in the dividends of that new world, and that those dividends are not just handed out to a privileged few. People in my community are fighters and grafters. They are fundamentally good people, who deserve nothing more than to be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. I am excited for the new world in which we are embarking, and I say this to all of my constituents: I will ensure that we are never abandoned again.
I am pleased to follow fantastic maiden speeches by the hon. Members for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson) and for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey), as well as that by the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn), whom I congratulate on the birth of his new baby.
I am truly humbled and grateful to the people of Streatham for electing me as their Member of Parliament, as well as to my family, the hard-working members of the Streatham Labour party who pounded the streets every day, and all those who voted for me. I do not take this job lightly, and it is a personal honour to represent the community in which I was born and raised, and in which I continue to live today.
Over the past few weeks many new Members have boasted about their constituencies. I have been to many of those great places, but Streatham is undeniably the best. My constituency also covers parts of Balham, Clapham Common, Tulse Hill, and my birth place, Brixton Hill. There really is no place like it for its history of activism, community and faith. We have the longest high street in Europe, and an array of independent shops that is represented by our fantastic Streatham business improvement district. We hosted the first ever supermarket in this country. We have one of the oldest train stations, although Southern railway is not much to go by now, and one of the last working windmills was on Brixton Hill. We also have the iconic Lambeth town hall.
Let me say a few words about my predecessor. In 2010 I was so encouraged that a young black man who, just like me, was born and bred in Streatham could soon be our MP, that I went out and campaigned for him. I was paired with a young woman that day, and she reminded me—I was quite sceptical about party politics at the time—that although I was angry about tuition fees and the war in Iraq, many party members and MPs were just like me and thought exactly the same thing. They were able to be members of the Labour party, and I could be too. That evening I went home, opened up my laptop and joined the Labour party, and the rest is history. I thank my predecessor, Chuka Umunna, for getting me out campaigning that day, although he may not think much of it now, and for his amazing service to the people of Streatham.
There is one Member of this House who I must mention: our shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott). I never dreamed that I would get the opportunity to work for a living legend, a trailblazer, and the first black woman to enter Parliament, and for a black woman in politics there could be no better mentor. There is also no better person to put someone off wanting to get into politics, because I have seen the abuse that she faces, which has personally affected me. I see the way that some Members of the House treat her. I love her; you don’t have to like her, but you will respect her. I understand that we are here because of her, and Members such as Lord Boateng, Bernie Grant and Keith Vaz, and I am proud to be part of the most diverse Parliament in history. Indeed, there are so many of us that people are struggling to tell us apart, and we hope they fix that really quickly.
Alongside my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, my right hon. Friends the Members for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) and for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) have been an inspiration. They stand for a principled, unfaltering stance on opposing war, cuts and racism over decades. They have consistently supported peace, Palestinian human rights and LGBT rights, and they have opposed austerity, racism and bigotry, regardless of whether that was popular at the time, and regardless of being hounded by the reactionary press, or whether something would win in Parliament. To me, they are socialist heroes. They have always been where I aim to be: on the side of the oppressed, not the oppressor, and always on the right side of history.
I am proud to be the daughter of Ghanaian migrants, and they are even prouder that myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Abena Oppong-Asare) are jointly the first women of Ghanaian heritage to sit in this House. The support we have received from the Ghanaian community in the UK and globally has been immeasurable. Ghanaian Brits boast many notable names including Stormzy; June Sarpong; the editor of Vogue, Edward Enninful; and too many others to count. But as I am often reminded, the most important British-Ghanaian to ever walk this earth is of course my Mum.
I cite my heritage not just because it is important to me, but because it underpins my experience in this country, my country, and my fear as racism and other hate crimes are on the rise. Today, we are debating global Britain. There is the saying that, “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.” It strikes me that as a country we cannot begin to fulfil the idea of global Britain until we first address the historic injustices of the British empire, injustices including slavery and colonialism; first, because it is the right thing to do, but also because we may soon find ourselves out in the cold if we do not.
While we spent years debating Brexit and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson) said, engaging in monumental self-harm, India surpassed the UK to become the fifth-richest economy in the world: India, a former British colony, where this country presided over a bloody partition, the Amritsar massacre and the Bengal famine. Countries in Africa, such as Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, are among the fastest-growing economies in the world; countries that Britain deliberately underdeveloped, stole resources from and brutally enslaved their people. Madam Deputy Speaker, were you aware that in the mid to late 1700s, over 50 Members of this House represented slave plantations? Members of Parliament just like me enslaved people that looked just like me.
I am someone who believes firmly that the only way to tackle an issue is at its very root, and the racism that I and many other people in this country face on a daily basis has its root in those very injustices. Not only will this country, my country, not apologise—by apologise I mean properly apologise; not “expressing deep regret”—it has not once offered a form of reparations. People see reparations as handing over large sums of money, but why could we not start today with simple things like fairer trade, simple things like returning items that do not belong to us, and simple things like cancelling debts that we have paid over and over again?
I believe the reason for that is that we only apologise to our equals. We only make amends with our equals. So I have to ask: how can I be equal to every other Member in this House, when this is how this House treats people who look just like me? While billionaires and large corporates find creative ways to dodge their taxes, do you know who doesn’t? Most immigrants. They are the same immigrants who are vilified as the Government enforce their hostile environment and the 3 million EU nationals, many of whom live in my constituency—another Windrush scandal in the making.
I recently discovered that after the slave trade, this country—our country, my country—took out a loan of the equivalent of £300 billion to pay off slave owners. We only finished paying off that loan in 2015. That means that for decades the descendants of the enslaved and the colonised have been contributing to paying their oppressors. That means that members of the Windrush generation who were invited here to work paid their taxes to pay off a debt to those who brutally enslaved their ancestors. For their troubles, some lost their homes and their jobs, were separated from their families, detained, deported and dehumanised, and are now being denied the dignity of a proper civil compensation scheme.
Let us not forget the people of Grenfell Tower: 72 people dead and many more traumatised by the loss of their loved ones and the loss of their homes, a community scarred for generations. This Government failed them on their promise to rehouse them in the aftermath of the catastrophe and have failed to remove flammable cladding. They all need justice as equal citizens, and that means bringing those responsible to face the law.
I could not let my maiden speech pass without touching on the scourge of knife crime, because the area of Streatham is particularly affected. I agree that we need more policing and more community policing, but we cannot arrest our way out of this situation and we cannot seem to stop it. We need real investment in youth services and real investment in preventive measures, but most of all we need to be frank with ourselves. If you live in my area and you are a young black man who is caught or arrested with drugs, it is a very different outcome for you. But apparently if you admit to taking drugs in this House, you may find yourself a candidate in the Conservative party leadership contest and nobody seems to care or places the same level of responsibility on you. Now, I am not judging. I believe we all need to look at drug reforms, but I also believe there needs to be more equality in how people in this House are treated and the people we represent are treated.
We find ourselves in historic and unprecedented times. It is clear that we cannot carry on our old ways. Half of the wealth of the world is hoarded by the top 1%. We are more connected than ever, but fake news has ended up as an ally of the powerful. We live in a world where, across the pond, there is a leader who cages migrant children. To our shame, our Government this month voted down refugee children’s rights. This country welcomed Kindertransport children fleeing the mass murder of millions of Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis. I stand with Lord Dubs who was one of those children and who now opposes the heartless policy of the Government. I was proud to speak on Holocaust Memorial Day against the scourge of antisemitism and all forms of racism that allow fascism to thrive. I want to make it clear that with fascism rising across Europe, we must all say, “Never again” and mean it, but that charity needs to begin at home and it needs to begin in this House.
The case for being more internationalist could not be clearer. Fires are burning in the Arctic, the Amazon and Australia. In Indonesia, just like in parts of Italy and Britain, flash floods and heatwaves expose people and places to unimaginable risk. My right hon. Friend the Member for Islington North led this House to declare a climate emergency, but the Government have carried on as if it is business as usual. Brexit, coming tomorrow, looks set to weaken environmental protections, unless climate breakdown is confronted. What future the people on our planet have hangs in the balance.
This time of crisis is a test of the Government’s leadership and our duty to protect our citizens. Good leadership will create jobs, with a green new deal tackling economic insecurity and ecological crisis in one fell swoop. What leadership is it if we allow the Government to bury their heads in the sand as if the neoliberal pursuit of the profit for the 1% matters more than living within our planetary means in the interests of the 99%, citizens in constituencies like mine in Streatham? Our planet does not have time for the Government to check in with Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry about what we should do. The next generation needs real action on the climate crisis. From Britain came the industrial revolution. It is now time for us to lead the environmental revolution.
My road to Parliament was not by the well-trodden route of power, privilege, connection or wealth. I was energised as a student activist to stop the fascist BNP and to help stop the deportation of one of my fellow students. So I am very proud to have been appointed shadow immigration Minister and continue that fight today. My path is not the statistically trodden path of a young black girl from a council estate on Brixton Hill and that needs to change. It needs all of us to make sure it does.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy) for her maiden speech. She clearly holds her views with real passion, and we will hear more from her over the years. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friends who have made maiden speeches today: we heard my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey) and, if I may say so, the particularly brave and personal speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson). If there is a common theme, I believe it is that the mothers of this nation can be very proud of all of their offspring in this House this afternoon.
As we leave the European Union and make our own way in the world, I want to talk today about the Government’s role in backing British business. Although there is an important role for Government, and I will explain what I think that can be, we should place it in context. Despite the gyrations of this House, which until this summer resembled Dr Doolittle’s pushmi-pullyu—the animal that, as hon. Members will remember, had two heads and no tail—I can report that British business is in terrific shape. Exports are up, and we are the world’s 10th largest exporter despite not even ranking in the 20 most populous countries. Our economy has grown for nine straight years, and it is 20% bigger than it was in 2010. Not only is employment at a record high in my lifetime, but the rate of unemployment is lower than it has been for 45 years. We are the leading destination for foreign direct investment on the continent of Europe—bigger than France and Germany put together.
I am new, Madam Deputy Speaker, so perhaps you and other hon. Members will forgive me, but I am mystified as to why the House will, rightly, unite to celebrate our nation’s many sporting victories, but success on the global economic playing field yields not even a grudging acknowledgement from the Opposition. Although I accept that statistics can sound dry and abstract—sometimes they are—we do not have to look far to turn them into real sales, real jobs and real successes. Take Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, which is on the edge of my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan). It recently reported the highest ever sales in its 116-year history, and, on the back of that, more expansion into new markets, more investment and more jobs. Or consider the equally local sparkling wine producers of West Sussex, who now regularly beat French producers of a similar product in the world’s league tables.
In fact, in sector after sector, British firms are leading, or among the best in, the world. Next week sees the launch of the Solar Orbiter spacecraft, which is literally designed to fly to the sun. Its mission will take eight years, during which time it will have to withstand a temperature range of almost 700° C. That solar system-busting technology was built not in Silicon Valley, Shanghai or even Singapore, but here in the UK at Airbus in Stevenage. We wish it great success in its endeavour.
British businesses are thriving in all the fastest-growing sectors in the world: quantum computing, aerospace and automotive, artificial intelligence, genomics, battery and electric mobility, and many more. But there is always more we can do, and if we want to help British business—the Prime Minister has talked about making the UK the best place in the world to start, grow and run a business—there are three things that we should do. We must have the ability to trade with the biggest and the fastest-growing markets in the world. Brexit is an important enabler, but this is about much more than trade deals. The best and most productive way of growing British exports is not to squeeze a little more out of the 250,000 firms that are already exporting, but to help the 90% of British businesses that do not currently export at all to do so. That is about market access. It is about boots on the ground, year in and year out. Her Majesty’s trade commissioners are some of the most productive public servants that this country is privileged to employ, but there are only nine of them, and we need more. We need bigger and better—not nine but 900, or perhaps even 9,000 of them.
We need a joined-up aid policy. I welcome the recent success of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development at the African investment summit; I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke) will speak more about that later. We need a modern industrial policy that is as much about knocking down barriers as it is about picking winners. We need every Department to see itself as having a role in supporting businesses. We need frictionless access to talent, with the Home Office not just processing visas but speeding up the border queues at Heathrow airport. I support the creation of an economic super-Ministry that can act as a concierge to enterprise and a one-stop shop for smaller businesses, bringing together Companies House and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and servicing businesses digitally with a single identification.
We need a fiscal and governance framework that actively supports business. We do not always have to compete on the lowest rate, but we need something that is fair and stable, and that changes in response to developments in technology and consumption patterns. We need simplicity, reliability and predictability.
Finally, we need a competition policy that is rooted in the global world in which many of our British firms compete, and that does not prevent some of our most successful businesses from achieving their place in the domestic market and competing internationally on the world stage.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate on the eve of our departure from the EU. I congratulate the many Members who have spoken. I say to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson), who is just leaving, that we share many things. Although we do not share a party, we share a surname; we share the experience of spending time in Bosnia; we share a faith; and we share a commitment to social justice, which was wonderful to hear about. His speech was very brave and very moving, and I thank him for it.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn) on his speech and on the birth of his new baby. I congratulate the hon. Member for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey) on a lively, engaging and passionate speech, and I congratulate my near neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy), on her speech, which covered so many issues that are important for our constituents and local residents, but also for our place in Britain and the world.
Global Britain is important to the residents of Putney, Southfields and Roehampton. More than one in 10 residents are from other EU countries, and many more are from other countries around the world. As a constituency, we feel global and outward facing, so I am glad to hear many references to Britain being an outward-facing country even though we are leaving the EU.
I would like to distance myself from the scenes of the Brexit party waving their flags in the European Parliament yesterday. I thank the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) for mentioning that this should be a time of kindness, and for the acknowledgement that some Members and residents feel sorrow at this time. I welcome his comments about healing our divisions, and I hope that we will share more such sentiments across the House. Many Members and residents in Putney feel that what is going to happen tomorrow is an act of self-harm. We hope that we will see better times, but we are feeling sad at the moment. I associate myself with the comments of the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, who said:
“We will always love you”.
We will always love the EU, working closely together but in a different way, from tomorrow onwards.
Global Britain should not just be about enhancing the UK’s international prestige and influence on the world stage. A global Britain in 2020 needs to defend multilateralism and the rules-based international order from the threats posed by those who seek to refine them. We need to promote our core values and not use the act of distancing ourselves from protectionism as an excuse to move away from our values of human rights, democracy and environmental sustainability. We must not detach our discussions about global Britain from trade, trade democracy, trade justice and our leading role in international development and the achievement of the sustainable development goals. I want to focus on those areas.
On current evidence, the Government’s approach to trade does not take seriously our global responsibility to tackle the imminent threat of climate change, to defend human rights and to ensure trade democracy and transparency. Removing child refugee rights from the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill was not a good start, and I think doing so sent the wrong signals to the world. We have yet to see what will come up in the immigration Bill. I know that the Government say that that subject will be dealt with in the Bill, and I want to be optimistic. It is in that vein, and following that thread, that I will make my following comments.
I am concerned about our post-Brexit trade objectives. We still have next to no information on the Government’s trade objectives after Brexit. Despite repeated calls from organisations such as the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Trade Justice Movement, there has yet to be a sustainability impact assessment of post-Brexit trade deals, or any indication of how the Government see trade policy tying in to the broader industrial strategy and to environmental and social objectives. We have been given no clear indication of what the process will be for parliamentary scrutiny of post-Brexit trade deals.
There is already a huge democratic deficit in what is one of the most important processes in our country’s history. Future trade deals with the US leave us exposed to the risk of products being sold here that have been produced in the US under less environmentally friendly practices. We must take this opportunity to level up our game and not give in to a race to the bottom.
In a few weeks’ time the Government will attempt to roll the EU-Morocco association agreement over into UK legislation, despite widespread concerns about the ongoing Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara and the human rights of the Sahrawi people. Again, the Government are seeking to roll it over with as little scrutiny as possible. This is another example of trade agreements putting economic opportunism above human rights and international law. Is this what we want global Britain to look like? This cannot be the outcome of free trade.
What needs to be done? First, on fair trade, the Government need to work with organisations such as the Fairtrade Foundation and civil society organisations, co-operatives and trade unions to ensure a fair trade Brexit. For instance, future trade policy should ensure that economically vulnerable people do not find themselves paying new import duties on their sales to the UK; assess the impact on poorer countries of trade deals struck with wealthier countries; and make it easier for developing countries to sell their high-value products, not just base products, to the UK. We should also ensure that our trade policies are in line with our commitments to the sustainable development goals.
My hon. Friend is making a powerful case. She has mentioned co-operatives and linking economic and social justice. On microfinance in Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus’s Grameen bank helps women in particular to get start-up loans for businesses. Does my hon. Friend agree that such initiatives are a way forward and that our Government should engage more positively with them?
I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. I have spoken to women in Bangladesh about ways in which trading policies can be fair. Even those with very small incomes can engage in the global trading system. If we make that our aim and goal, it can be done right from the start.
My second point is that the Department for International Development should be kept as an independent Department. This is a very live issue at the moment. It should not be merged with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Working together, the FCO and DFID give us significant clout globally, which we are in danger of diluting if we merge the two Departments. DFID is considered one of the most effective aid agencies in the world, saving lives through health, immunisation, water, sanitation, education and climate programmes, and by empowering communities to do that. This must be led by a Secretary of State with permanent Cabinet representation and a place on the National Security Council.
We should also increase our environmental commitments to achieve a net zero future. Our now independent membership of the World Trade Organisation and our hosting of COP26 later this year provide a massive opportunity—I want to be as optimistic as I can about leaving the EU—to take global leadership of environmental trade policy and to outdo the EU in the implementation of environmental standards. However, that has to begin with getting our own ship in order. We need to take a more joined-up departmental approach to trade and climate change, and end the culture of siloism. We need to undertake environmental, gender and climate impact assessments before entering trade negotiations, which is why we as a House need to know what is going on in those negotiations. All too often, free trade can have a significant, detrimental impact on women in particular, which is why I mentioned gender impact assessments. We should ensure that all stipulations in future trade agreements are designed to meet our own climate and environmental targets, and we should seek legally binding climate commitments in trade deals, rather than too often ineffective environmental chapters.
Trade deals should also be subject to increased scrutiny, as the shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), has said. The Government seem to be making every effort to avoid proper debate on and scrutiny of our trade deals, and they are completely opaque in their objectives. They are hiding. The entire process needs to be reformed and subject to proper oversight, if our trade policy is going to reflect the sort of global Britain that we all want.
Tomorrow we leave the European Union and its regulatory framework. With the Chancellor already having confirmed that there will be no alignment with EU regulations, global Britain is now being defined in our trade and development policies. Are we prepared to enter into trade deals with regimes such as that of President Bolsonaro, who has pursued an aggressive policy on environmental deregulation, for which the Amazon has paid the price? Are we going to continue selling arms to human rights abusers and states violating international humanitarian law? Are we going to continue to let UK-based companies divert rivers and destroy indigenous communities in their own overseas operations? This cannot be the kind of global Britain we want to see.
To conclude, Brexit, tackling global poverty, achieving the sustainable development goals and taking urgent action on the climate crisis all bring huge challenges, but we must meet them with a very British commitment to fairness, by protecting rights and promoting peace, justice, equality, sustainability and prosperity in all that we do on the global stage.
It is an honour to follow the well thought-out speech by the hon. Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson). It has also been a privilege to be in the Chamber to listen to the maiden speeches by the hon. Members for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy) and for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn), and by my hon. Friends the Members for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey) and for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson).
Speaking in this debate on global Britain the day before we leave the European Union, I feel a sense of pride and relief. I do not mean nationalistic pride, as some suggest was the motivation for those who, like me, campaigned for Britain to leave the European Union. I mean pride that democracy has won and that this Government are delivering on the result of the 2016 referendum.
Having been a candidate in a certain by-election that took place just two weeks after the elections to the European Parliament, I have first-hand experience of how unforgiving the electorate can be on this issue. I also have a sense of relief that Britain can now move on—yes, move on politically, but also move on to reclaim our role as a global free trading nation. However, as many Members have said today, that comes with global responsibilities. I want to highlight three elements: the role that we can now play in strengthening ties with the Commonwealth and how that can deliver for Britain, why the UK should deeply appreciate the contribution of our overseas territories and dependencies and we must never forget their importance for this country, and why being outward-looking and globally ambitious can deliver for my constituency and the rest of the UK.
As a newly elected Member of Parliament, I have joined the all-party parliamentary group for Australia and New Zealand, the British-Canada all-party parliamentary group, the all-party parliamentary group for the Commonwealth, and the CANZUK all-party parliamentary group. CANZUK is an acronym, referring to closer theoretical, political and economic ties between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and, of course, the UK.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that we should have the closest possible ties with our friends in the Commonwealth. Does he agree with me that we should prioritise our free trading relationship with the United States, one of our closest friends in the world, so that the special relationship can endure?
Of course we should value our relationship with the United States, which is indeed a special relationship and should indeed endure. As I have said, however, I think we should look more broadly to the Commonwealth. No other countries in the world share as much, socially or economically, as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. We all share the same Head of State, have highly developed economies, share a common-law legal system, co-operate under the Five Eyes agreement for defence and security, share the same parliamentary systems, speak the same majority language, embrace human rights and western values, and even share common ancestry through historical bonds. With approval rates of 68% in the UK, 73% in Australia, 76% in Canada and 82% in New Zealand, CANZUK is an idea whose time has come. As the UK leaves the EU, I encourage Ministers to work with their counterparts in the other countries and explore that concept.
Let me make two suggestions for how we might make a start. First, the UK might join or at least develop closer links with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trading arrangement. Secondly, we could start to become more flexible in relation to the visa arrangements that currently exist with, for example, Canada under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, and introduce a sort of professional mobility visa. I know how difficult these arrangements can be, as the former owner of a professional communications company who wanted to employ who he wanted to employ. Let us look into visa arrangements with CANZUK countries that might benefit from intra-company transfers, investment visas and independent professionals.
Central to the goal of revitalising the UK on the world stage is the wider Commonwealth. We must prioritise these historic relationships. The Commonwealth should no longer just be seen as a “nice to have”, but should be considered crucial to the Government’s vision of an outward-looking global Britain. The Government are pursuing the biggest strengthening of the diplomatic network in a generation, opening up 14 new and upgraded posts including, crucially, nine Commonwealth posts. That will include 1,000 new jobs, and it shows that the Government are on the right path towards solidifying the crucial relationships with our friends in the Commonwealth.
I also want briefly to show my support for the UK’s territories and dependencies, whose importance to this country should not be downplayed. The UK should be proud of the way in which they have succeeded in developing their own economies and becoming mostly self-sufficient, without requiring financial help from the UK taxpayer.
Last week I went to a meeting at which the representatives of each territory and dependency had a chance to speak. I left feeling very impressed by their ambition and loyalty to the UK, and very much more knowledgeable about them. One comment left a strong impression, and I thought it worth putting on the record in the House. What price would a country like China or Russia pay for a geographical network of territories of great strategic importance and with loyal local populations, like the one that the UK has and enjoys? Let us show those territories how much we value them.
I once coined the phrase “Think Brexit, think Peterborough” as a way of trying to get local people and businesses in my constituency to think about the opportunities presented by Brexit, but perhaps I should now say “Global Peterborough”. We are on the east coast mainline railway heading north, and will soon be just 40 minutes from London. We are also on the A1, the main north-south artery. Our east-west routes are strong. We have been a headquarters for global international brands, and my city is diverse with communities from across the world. We are a British city, but we are also a global city, and we can take advantage of that to step forward on to the world stage again.
The UK’s place as Europe’s top destination for foreign direct investment has been sustained. It has held that position since 2003. Between April 2017 and March 2019, the Department for International Trade supported 3,118 individual investments in the UK and 120,000 new jobs. The UK has attracted more projects, new jobs and investment than any other European country, and now it is time for Peterborough to take its fair share of that.
Peterborough has many EU citizens including, historically, a big Italian population and more recently a large number of eastern Europeans. I am confident that the Peterborough Conservatives will soon elect our first Lithuanian councillor when the magnificent and hard-working Ruta Dalton wins in Gunthorpe ward in the local elections this May. We are one city, and that is as a result of the big and valuable contribution that our European populations in Peterborough have made.
I am pleased that the Government’s settled status scheme will help to secure EU citizens’ rights in this country. So far, there have been 2.7 million applicants, and 2.5 million have been told that they can stay after Brexit. Just six have been rejected on the ground of criminality. This quick and easy system will be of great comfort to my constituents in Peterborough. The message is loud and clear: we value your contribution and we want you to stay.
It is time to be confident for the future of our country and to think globally and think big. I often say the same thing when I talk about my city, but the same applies to our country, so let us move forward with optimism and build on and deepen our historical relationships with the Commonwealth. It is also time for businesses to be confident and seize the new exporting and trade opportunities. The Government cannot do it for them, but we are here to help and support them as we enter a new chapter of our country’s history.
I want to speak in this debate on global Britain about what this means to our country’s commitment to achieving the 2030 global goals: the 17 sustainable development goals that leaders of the world came together and agreed at the United Nations in 2015. As I prepared my speech for the debate, I reflected on my previous work in the developing world, and I asked myself this simple question. When our developing country partners in Africa, in the Commonwealth or in global institutions such as the World Trade Organisation hear the phrase “global Britain”, what does it mean to them and what do they hope to see from a global Britain in 2020 and over the next five years? I believe the answer to that question has three parts, but with shared prosperity through inclusive, sustainable economic growth as the common thread running through them all.
First, our partners in Africa hope most of all that global Britain means a new chapter in our economic partnership with the continent as we leave the European Union, deepening our ties and leveraging the potential for trade, investment, technology and aid-for-trade to transform economies and lift millions out of grinding poverty. With the Prime Minister’s leadership, 2020 has begun on the best possible note with the UK-Africa investment summit—the first of its kind—in London last week. I congratulate the Government on the success of the summit, which brought together Governments, businesses and international institutions and made it clear that Britain intends to be an open and collaborative partner to nations around the world.
Thanks to its rapidly growing population, Africa will be home to a quarter of the world’s consumers by 2050. That is exciting news for British businesses looking to connect with new customers and build strong export markets across the world. Locking into that export potential is a compelling opportunity for many up and down the UK, and is especially pertinent as we shape our own independent trade policy outside the EU. My right hon. Friend the International Development Secretary has previously remarked that Brexit means that Britain will be able to turbocharge relations with Africa. That is a statement I very much agree with. Our strengths, including our record as a leading source of private investment in Africa, mean that we will always be at the front of the queue to support the growth and development of that continent. That matters to my constituency, because we can create more local jobs by creating opportunities for local businesses to export to emerging markets. A good example in Stafford is JCB, which exports generators from its manufacturing plant in Hixon to numerous countries in Africa.
By bringing together British and African businesses, we can harness the huge potential of the continent. The UK has already signed trade agreements with 11 African countries, and the Government have said they are committed to making it easier for African and UK businesses to trade and invest. African countries currently receive less than 4% of global foreign direct investment, so I was pleased that the Government said that they are listening when African nations say they want mutually beneficial partnerships that move beyond aid and attract quality investment to drive green, sustainable growth and to create jobs. We must not only build on the African investment summit, but work with our African partners to develop a new economic partnership over the next decade.
To help us to define this new blueprint, earlier this month the Overseas Development Institute and the all-party parliamentary group on trade out of poverty, of which I am proud to be a vice-chair, tabled a proposal with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea and Fulham (Greg Hands) for the Prime Minister to establish a joint UK-Africa prosperity commission. It should look at establishing the most pro-development trading arrangements possible between African countries and the African continental free trade area, which goes live in July, covers 54 countries, and will be the largest FTA in the world, with a market of over 1 billion people.
We should also achieve our target of becoming the largest investor in Africa and improve the investment climate and infrastructure for doing business and trade in Africa for businesses large and small. We should also scale up our “aid for trade”, making sure that we have impact at scale and pace through by the footprint of UK-backed initiatives, such as TradeMark East Africa, across the continent. Such initiatives have already shown that they can deliver benefits nearly three times greater than just cutting tariffs on trade between African countries in initiatives like as the African continental free trade area. The proposal for a joint UK-Africa prosperity commission has great merit and deserves the most serious and urgent consideration by the Government. What could be a better way to make global Britain a reality for Africa?
Next, our partners in the Commonwealth, who will gather in Rwanda in five months’ time for the Heads of Government meeting, hope that global Britain means the UK will continue to rejuvenate the Commonwealth and remain a force for good in the global economy that began at the London summit in April 2018. In London, the 53 Commonwealth Heads of State took the historic step of launching the new Commonwealth connectivity agenda to realise the huge potential of the Commonwealth for expanding trade and investment, particularly for the many developing country members in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific.
Global Britain should present an opportunity at the Commonwealth summit in Rwanda to redouble our commitment to delivering ambitious results for the connectivity agenda in areas where the Commonwealth has the greatest potential. That could include boosting digital economic connectivity and electronic commerce, making trade in goods easier and faster by streamlining red tape and harmonising standards, ensuring that we leverage the diaspora as an engine for investment across the Commonwealth, and empowering women through trade such as scaling up the Commonwealth SheTrades initiative.
Finally, our partners in the World Trade Organisation, who will also gather in June this year for the 12th ministerial conference in Kazakhstan, also hold special hopes for global Britain as the UK becomes an independent member of the WTO. The WTO is a central pillar of the global economy and a rules-based trading system on which the prosperity of developing countries depends most of all. The UK has a key role to play in the WTO as a champion of an open, rules-based system that works for everyone and leaves no one behind.
At the 12th ministerial conference, the UK, as global Britain, should lead on building consensus and agreement in the organisation for new rules to discipline those who overfish to further protect the world’s oceans and blue economy; to expand the WTO’s work on e-commerce, investment and small and medium-sized enterprises, with particular attention to the needs of developing countries; for detailed reporting on implementation of the women and trade declaration made at the last ministerial conference in Buenos Aires in 2017; and for a proper action plan for the next two years.
This is not just a new year but a new decade, and there is no better time to consider emerging opportunities for Britain. Our exit from the European Union is a chance for us to reassess our standing in the world and to renew our relationship with neighbours, near and far. The Government must continue to make it clear that we want closer trading partnerships with the Commonwealth and with African nations, and the UK must continue to ensure these countries get the investment they want. As we chart a new course for our country, investing in the economic power of Africa’s burgeoning and youthful economies will play a vital role in the success of global Britain.
I join fellow Members in congratulating the hon. Members for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn) and for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy) and my hon. Friends the Members for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson) and for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey). They are all fine additions to the House, and it is an honour to follow them in this debate.
I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson), who I believe was the first Member to address global Britain specifically on a humanitarian level, which I hope to follow in my speech.
Those who heard my maiden speech last week will note that I spent a great deal of time extolling the virtues of an outward-looking Britain that does not shrink from its obligations in the world. I will now expand a little further on that speech.
It is as if my hon. Friend heard my previous intervention. I totally agree that an improved infrastructure network will allow us to decentralise capital from our city centres into our rural communities, thereby ensuring that we are a united country with opportunity throughout.
This country has always made its mark. It continues to do so now, and it is my express hope that it will continue to do so in future. I will focus my remarks on three elements: my constituents and local businesses; the national level; and, finally, the humanitarian element. All three elements have shown innovation, ability and value to this country. This House and the other place have had a positive impact on the world through our humanitarian projects and our ambitions for environmentalism and conservation.
This House has a long and proud record of finding ways and opportunities to make our mark on this country and across the world. A global Britain is one that is not just focused on trade but is dedicated to standing against the injustices of the world, to helping those most in need and to standing up for the international rules-based order when others have vacated that space. We have a continual duty to fill that void.
The hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) said that global Britain lacks definition. To my mind, global Britain is an outward-looking, sovereign nation that is in control of its own destiny and is able to intervene without the restrictions of the European Union.
I am proud to have in my constituency a vast array of businesses and enterprises of international acclaim. Their contribution to my communities and their value to my local economy is enormous. Brixham fish market, the largest fish market by value in England, uses cloud-based technology from across the world to allow buyers from across the UK and Europe to purchase the finest British fish. That combination of traditional marketplace ethos and using new technology to reach all areas of Europe and beyond shows how we are respecting the past and embracing the future.
It is the future that many of us are here to debate. The ambition of my town of Brixham does not rest on its past achievements; like many Members in this House, it is looking forward. This is seen in the harbourmaster who explained to the Prime Minister recently that an investment of £15 million in a northern breakwater arm might result in further investment, further portside growth and an expanded domestic fish market, which will no doubt incorporate further exports to the EU and to Europe, benefiting local employment and that business. It is also seen in the team at Brixham Trawler Agents, who are already helping to drive up our domestic appetite for that fish, demonstrating that coupling a domestic and international focus can pay dividends locally, nationally and internationally. Only with a global outlook can we hope for our rural economy to thrive and expand.
Although I intend to spend much of my time in this place speaking about fish, I would like to move on to a few other subjects. During the election, the Secretary of State for International Trade was kind enough to visit my constituency to see Valeport, which creates oceano- graphic, hydrographic and hydrometric instrumentation. This small but growing firm in the centre of Totnes encapsulates this country’s appetite for ingenuity and innovation. Be it in technology designed to innovate by monitoring the patterns of seal migrations, in machines that observe sea levels in the fight against climate change or in technology used for naval programmes, this is a firm of potential almost unrivalled anywhere in the world. Valeport’s export market is growing rapidly, and I know its global ambition will be supported by the Department for International Trade in the coming months and years.
Through our commitment to increasing tax relief for firms investing in research and development, we can ensure that British products are on procurement lists the world over. We should all celebrate that, but we can always go further. According to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, we do not rank in the top 15 countries for research and development spending, and the Office for National Statistics ranks us 11th in Europe. So I hope many Members of this House will agree that we can do more, giving us greater freedom and opportunity for our businesses to innovate, create and research. I hope we will thus be able to encourage greater levels of foreign direct investment and to have a renaissance of British produce and technology permeating every industry and country across the globe. That is not fantasy; it is a reality that is readily available, and it is one we must seize.
Let us consider the example of our food and drinks market, which only recently the Food and Drink Federation recognised as exporting more than £23 billion-worth of produce. I am happy to see that so many Scottish National party Members are currently debating the future of whisky exports in a Westminster Hall debate. These are opportunities we can seize as we move forward and look ahead. I welcome what we have done so far. We have the clout and the market share; now we must recognise the opportunity potential before us to drive up those export figures. The “Buy British” campaign is just the start. We must ensure that our meat markets are recognised as the finest in the world, just as French wine might be recognised for its quality—we must adopt a similar mentality.
I started off by saying that my remarks were going to be about not only trade but the services that we have on offer. The English in Totnes language school helps bring people from across Europe, through the Erasmus scheme, and from across the globe to learn English. It benefits our local communities, our towns and our high streets, and we have an opportunity to expand that beyond the current Erasmus scheme to look further afield. I look forward doing that as the local Member of Parliament.
My real-world experience before coming to this place was in the maritime industry. I worked for two shipping companies, Braemar ACM and Poten & Partners. Both firms taught me a great deal about international business. Perhaps more importantly, they demonstrated UK dominance in the maritime sector and shipping sector. That fact is not often discussed, and I mention it today not as a boast but as reminder to all in this House that we must protect and develop this area in the years to come. After all, this industry contributes £18.9 billion in turnover, an increase of 41% from 2010, and £6.1 billion in gross value added, an increase of 38% from 2010. It directly supports 181,300 jobs and indirectly supports 682,000 jobs in this country. It is estimated that the UK shipping industry helps to support a total of £45 billion in turnover in this country. That is a remarkable figure, and I hope many in this House will work me to support that in the coming months. London remains that global capital in shipping services, home to brokerages, legal services and insurance outfits, with capabilities that are almost unrivalled across the globe. Those services are domiciled here because of what this country can offer—such as domestic stability and global access—and in part because of our maritime history and culture. That does not change on 1 February.
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) is not present to translate the Latin that I am about to say, but the words “dictum meum pactum”—my word is my bond—are understood across the shipping sector, and I hope they will be understood across every trade deal that we are to sign in the coming years. We must create a culture of ambition in our country to ensure that we are always expanding our reach and striving for what is best for our country and for the international rules-based order.
I hope the House will forgive me if I move on briefly to the humanitarian debate that this House and the other place have had over the past few years. My own experience has been in helping the creation of the prevention of sexual violence in conflict initiative that the right hon. Lord Hague and Baroness Helic championed in the other place. I look forward to working on the issue with Members from all parties. I hasten to add that this year there will be a conference, on which I know the Foreign Secretary is keen to make an announcement. That gives us a great opportunity to show our reach: with 150 countries signed up to our initiative, it echoes the sentiments of those who recognise the UK as a force for good.
A truly global Britain is one that looks beyond the balance sheet of import and export numbers and recognises the impact that we can have to right wrongs, protect individuals and lead on matters that might not always appear to be in the national interest. Whatever debate we have about our aid budget in the coming months, I hope that the House will recognise that what is in the national interest will not always match what it is right to do. I hope that the latter will always take precedence over the former and that we will stand up to be a truly global Britain.
It is a pleasure to participate in this debate and a real pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall), whom it is good to see in his place. I should also acknowledge the many excellent maiden speeches that we have heard in this debate.
Tomorrow marks the day when we will leave the European Union. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Paul Bristow), I approach tomorrow primarily with a sense of relief—relief that after three and a half years of wrangling, delay and uncertainty, we have reached the point at which we are about to deliver on the 2016 referendum result.
My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. I wonder whether he has noticed that on the Opposition Benches there is not a single Labour Back Bencher, not a single Liberal Democrat Back Bencher and not a single SNP Back Bencher. They used to make a song and dance about Europe; where are they?
I am tempted to say that perhaps they heard that I was about to speak, but I suspect that is not the case. I share my hon. Friend’s regret, because that is a sad reflection of the level of interest among other parties in the important matter of Britain’s place in the world after we leave the European Union.
As I was saying, it is with a sense of relief that we will leave the European Union at 11 o’clock tomorrow evening. For me, that is primarily because it is absolutely essential that, having given the British people the decision to make as to whether we stayed in the EU, it is imperative that we deliver on the result. It is sad that it has taken us three and a half years to get here, but through great determination on the part of many in this House and the great determination of the majority of the British people, who have consistently given us the message that they meant what they said in 2016, we are now at the point of being able to deliver on the referendum and will be leaving the European Union.
Having reached this point, we are left with a clear choice: we can embrace a positive view of the future of our nation outside the EU, or continue the debate that we have been having for the past three and a half years. After hearing some of the contributions from the Opposition Benches, I am slightly concerned that too many in this House seem to want to continue the same debate, even though we have now reached the point of leaving. The best thing for our nation right now is for everyone in the House to embrace the fact that we are leaving, have an optimistic and positive view of our future outside the European Union, and get on with the job of delivering what the British people want and ensuring that we make the most of the opportunities we have.
I think the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber when I spoke earlier. The United Kingdom is a multinational state. I wish his nation the best Brexit possible, as it is in my nation’s interests that his nation gets it right, but may I remind him that the conversation is very different in Scotland? He is a Unionist. He should know better than this.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his predictable intervention. Let me remind him that in 2014 the people of Scotland voted to stay in the United Kingdom. This was a decision that the United Kingdom made as one country, and the majority of people in the UK voted to leave the European Union. As a member of the United Kingdom, Scotland is part of that decision and that process.
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. I agree with everything that he is saying. He talks about “we” and about our nation, but does he acknowledge that, as part of that British family, the overseas territories and Crown dependencies must not be forgotten in any future free trade agreement? I refer in particular to Gibraltar, which is leaving the EU along with us tomorrow evening at 11 o’clock. Will he make sure that everyone understands that we have a responsibility to our territories and dependencies as well?
I am very grateful for that intervention, and I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. One of my hopes is that as we leave the European Union, we can perhaps turn some of our focus more starkly to our overseas territories, which, perhaps in recent years, have felt a little ignored. Leaving the European Union gives us the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with our overseas territories and make more of them, because we will be free from the shackles of the European Union. I absolutely agree with what he says.
It is absolutely vital that this House does now adopt an optimistic and positive vision for our country as we leave the European Union. I have found that since the general election every business I have spoken to now has a much more optimistic and positive view of what we can achieve as a nation as we leave the European Union, and we in this House need to adopt that same attitude.
Leaving the EU presents us with a number of opportunities. We have heard a lot already in this debate, including from the Secretary of State, about the opportunities for free trade and the opportunities that having our own independent trade policy will bring. There is the opportunity for us to have our own immigration policy. I believe that we can have a fairer, more compassionate, more effective and better immigration policy that works for our country and is not tied into the discrimination that the EU policy of free movement has forced on us
As someone who represents a constituency that has a number of fishing communities, I believe that leaving the common fisheries policy will present a great opportunity for us to revive our fishing industry and make sure that it gets a fairer share of the quota. Overall, I like to think that as we leave the European Union we have starkly contrasting choices of what our country could be like: it is the difference between being an oil tanker as part of the European Union, or a speedboat as an independent country outside the EU. No longer will we be tied to 27 other nations and need their agreement before we can do anything. We can be much more flexible, and much quicker to respond to global events and to demands that the world places upon us. That, for me, is in a nutshell how I see the opportunity of our leaving the European Union. We can be much more responsive and much more flexible in today’s ever-changing world.
I am sure that Members of the House would be surprised if I were to speak on this subject without specifically referring to Cornwall. I absolutely believe that Cornwall can play a significant role in ensuring that we deliver on the vision of a truly global Britain outside the EU, but that is not new. Throughout its history, Cornwall has played a significant part in delivering on global Britain. Today many people see Cornwall as a place for holidays, ice creams, pasties and perhaps fishing, but our history is about our being a major contributor to Britain’s global standing.
First of all, Cornwall has not only excelled at mining but has exported around the world. We have contributed our Cornish expertise and ingenuity to many places, particularly to many Commonwealth countries, and to North and South America. In Cornwall we define a mine as a hole in the ground anywhere in the world with a Cornishman at the bottom of it, because so many left after the decline of the tin mining industry that they formed a diaspora around the world.
There is good news, however, because Cornwall has an opportunity to become a global player in the extraction of precious metals once again.
I welcome my hon. Friend’s comments and agree with him, but only up to a point, because I would be failing my constituents if I did not say that there is still a proud independent streak in Cornwall. The partnership with Devon and the other counties in the south-west goes only so far, particularly when it comes to the order in which we put cream and jam on a scone.
The recent identification of large deposits of lithium in Cornwall presents a great opportunity not only for Cornwall but for the whole UK, which could have its own secure domestic supply of what will be one of the most in-demand and crucial elements of our future. The more we need batteries for electric vehicles and other forms of energy storage, the greater the demand for lithium and other elements will be. In today’s ever-changing global climate, we cannot overstate the importance of having our own domestic supply of significant amounts of lithium, not only to supply the car industry and other industries in this country, but to export an element that will be in huge demand in the years ahead. I do not think that can be ignored. Cornwall is ready once again to contribute significantly to global Britain through the extraction of precious metals.
Another way in which Cornwall’s history links to our future is in telecommunications, which in recent days has been mentioned a lot in the news, and indeed in this House. Many Members might not realise that Cornwall was once the most well connected place on the planet, for in June 1870 the final section of the submarine cable between Great Britain and India came ashore at Porthcurno, a small cove in the far south-west of the county. Just a few days later the first ever telegraph message from Bombay was sent to Britain via that cable. That station went on to become the world’s largest submarine telegraph station, and it remained a training centre right up until the late 1990s. Even back in the 19th century Cornwall was right at the heart of connecting the UK to the rest of the world. Cornwall is once again ready to play that part.
Hon. Members will not be surprised to hear me mention Spaceport Cornwall, which we are ready to roll with. We are still hopeful that, as planned, we will be launching satellites from Cornwall’s spaceport next year, once again playing a key part in helping the UK stay connected to the rest of the world and fulfil the vision of global Britain.
In summary, I believe that great opportunities lie ahead as we leave the EU tomorrow night. I believe that it is incumbent on us to take a positive stance, to have a positive vision of the part that the UK can play globally outside the EU as an independent, free-trading nation once again, and to ensure that we provide the positive lead that I believe our country needs us to play.
I would like to compliment everyone who has made a maiden speech today, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson). His was a particularly good speech until he mentioned the Royal Green Jackets being the best regiment in the Army, at which point I started feeling nauseous.
I want to speak about the value of the United Nations to global Britain because we never, ever discuss the United Nations, and it is an invaluable arm of our foreign policy. I am somewhat biased because I was once part of the organisation as a United Nations officer in 1992-93. Let me say one thing about wearing a blue beret: when I put it on, I felt it was rather special. It was not just national but international. I remember telling a Bosnian Croat commander who was blocking my way in Bosnia, “Get out of my way; I represent the United Nations.” To be honest, I felt that was a huge moral authority.
Of course, we are no longer a great power. Any vestiges of that disappeared in 1956 with the Suez debacle. At that time, we were rapidly decolonialising and the events of 1956 probably accelerated that process.
I very much respect what my hon. Friend says. I am just nervous about this, “Oh, we’re terribly unimportant nowadays” argument. We are not a superpower and have not been since the 1950s. China is the new superpower and the United States of America, our closest ally, is a current superpower. But there are a series of great powers underneath that level, including France, Germany and Japan, and rising ones such as Brazil and Indonesia. Arguably, because of our varied and integrated assets—our language and culture, and the military in which my hon. Friend served—we are still a great power, and perhaps the most leading one.
I am not going to argue with my hon. Friend about the semantics, because I agree with him. There is a level below the superpower of which we are most definitely a member.
I firmly believe that our participation in the United Nations really helps us to have influence in the world; and if we get it right, we get it very right. We were a founding member of the United Nations in 1945, which then—75 years ago—was an organisation that reflected the power politics of that time. Now there are 193 members and the United Nations is honestly the world Parliament, albeit a flawed one just as we are flawed here. It is the best we’ve got.
The most important United Nations organ is the Security Council, which consists of five permanent members. As everyone probably knows, they are the United States, Russia, China, France and ourselves. We were all allies in the second world war, and incidentally we are all nuclear-capable. Any one of the permanent members of the Security Council can veto a resolution to prevent its adoption, regardless of the fact that it may have majority support among the 15 members because the Security Council includes 10 non-permanent members, with five being elected each year to serve for a two-year period.
Critics quite rightly say, “Things have moved on. You’re looking at something that was relevant in 1945 and things have hugely changed since then.” They are right. In a way, the United Nations is stuck in the past. The way it is set up is. Many people say—and my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely) just implied this—that states such as Japan, Germany, India and Brazil, and perhaps the European Union in the round, should be permanent members. Others say that France and the United Kingdom should not. Actually, they have a point—we must accept that—but may I just examine it and tease it out a bit? In terms of GDP contribution to the world, the United States is at 24%, China is at about 16%, Japan is at 5%, and then Germany and India at 4%. The UK and France are next, at 3%, followed by Italy, Brazil and Canada, at 2%. Interestingly, Russia is at less than 2%. Thus we hear the odd phrase that Russia’s economy is smaller than Italy’s—that is where it comes from. Using such measures, and assuming that the Security Council continued to have only five permanent members, they would be the United States, China, Japan, Germany and India. The UK and France would be out, and so too would Russia.
But in truth there is no real mechanism for change in the United Nations, and I do not think there is much appetite for it either. Trying to change that sort of organisation would be incredibly difficult. For instance, it would require the agreement of all five current permanent members—in other words, they would be volunteering for redundancy. I do not see that happening, and I am not sure whether the world would want it to happen. So, for the foreseeable future, the United Kingdom will remain a permanent member of the Security Council. That is really good news for us, as global Britain—great news. It provides us with a platform, and we do not have to pay too much for it because we use our reputation. Our reputation in the world is huge, regardless of the fact that we have lesser and lesser defence forces. I have had direct contact with that myself, as I once rang the Security Council from the field, and when I said I was British, that got me through pretty quickly. We have a very good reputation in the Security Council, and the General Assembly as well.
Let me comment particularly on British involvement in UN peacekeeping, which, of course, the Security Council authorises. No United Nations operation can take place without being sanctioned by the Security Council, and we, as a permanent member, have a veto on that. I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West back in his seat. I am sure he missed my slight dig at the Royal Green Jackets, so I want to get it in again now he is back—but he can read it later. For peacekeeping, there are three practical ways in which we contribute in the Security Council: first, by helping to provide the mandate, then by funding the forces, and then by contributing forces. Overall, the United Kingdom contributes nearly 7% of the UN’s budget for peacekeeping. That is more than we have to, but we still do pretty well because it is considerably more than our world GDP percentage.
I am glad to see that the Minister for Defence People and Veterans, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer), is now in his place, because I am about to give him a bit of a hand, as he is a good friend. It was a good idea for him to attend and perfect that he has just arrived. From hints put out by the Government over the last weeks, I gather that they intend to put more effort into UN peacemaking and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. That is really good news—I am totally up for that. In fact, as part of our defence review, I am up for the idea of earmarking part of our armed forces to be sent to the United Nations when there is a requirement and we agree it. I like the idea of a battle group that is UN-designated.
I accept that the United Nations is not perfect, but it is well worth having, and honestly, it is all we have got. Every recognised state in the world—all 193 of them—is a member, and each has a seat in the General Assembly, as do we. Of course, the UK may not like some of the resolutions and debates in the General Assembly, but there is no doubt that it is the best forum—indeed, the only one—for gauging world opinion. Condemnation within the forum of the world is never welcomed by any country.
I have concentrated on one part of global Britain, but that is because I wanted to, because I believe that the United Nations is so important. The United Nations is a crucial part of keeping and improving our international influence. We are doing well now—we are not doing badly—but if we put more effort into it, we could get much more back. Our permanent seat on the Security Council is incredibly valuable, because that is where legally binding international mandates are designed, and through our own arguments, with our good Foreign Office officials and our good Ministers, such as my hon. Friend the Member for—where is it?
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart). Today’s debate comes at a crossroads in our island’s story. In the 1950s, US Secretary of State Dean Acheson said:
“Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role.”
The role we eventually found for half a century was in the European Union, and now our citizens have decided in aggregate that we leave the European Union and forge a new destiny. What is that to be?
Global Britain, at the moment, is a slogan in search of a strategy, and it is the duty of this Government and all of us to bring it alive. I welcome the announcement of the security, defence and foreign policy review and lots of work in other Departments, and I hope that the Budget will pivot to boosting Departments that can deliver a more global Britain. The good news is that we have most of the ingredients already. It is now about the recipe and how we bring them together.
Here are some of the key elements beyond language, law, history and the Commonwealth. Domestically, we are the top destination for foreign direct investment in Europe. Last year, we had more investment in technology than the US or China. We have a strong domestic starting point for engagement with the world. Abroad, as a result of a significant change made by this Government, some £12 billion of funds used through the Department for International Development has achieved remarkable things—since 2015, some 76 million children have been immunised, and some 60 million women, children and girls have benefited from nutrition programmes.
We now have in the Department for International Trade, so recently created, more trade negotiators than the US Trade Representative. We have exports that have risen 22% in the last three years—now over £654 billion—and that are contributing 30% or almost a third of our GDP, up from 27%. We now have in our diplomacy 14 new posts and, I believe, the greatest global diplomatic coverage of any nation in the world. On issues such as the environment, we are now hosting the climate change summit, COP26, in Glasgow.
When it comes to sport and culture, we are leading in so many ways, whether in films, TV, the premier league, singers—you name it. Our values have never been forgotten. We are leading on Christians in danger, media freedoms and girls in education, as well as the campaign against rape as a weapon of war, as mentioned earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall). So we do have much to build on.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Foreign Office overseas staffing department has been cut by over 1,000 staff in the last 30 years? Does he agree with me that, whatever the future holds for Britain post Brexit, we must ensure that the Foreign Office—the diplomatic service and, specifically, its consular staff—have the best possible resource and training, so that when families lose loved ones abroad or are constituents are held against their will or are ill-treated abroad, the Foreign Office is properly resourced, staffed and skilled to make sure that our constituents and our citizens are looked after and represented?
The hon. Member makes a good point. As a former consul and diplomat, it is hard for me to argue against additional resources for the Foreign Office. I would say that the figures she mentions I think relate to a reduction in the numbers of British diplomats deployed overseas, but during that time there has also been a considerable growth in the numbers of locally employed members of high commissions and embassies. There is a balance there, and local knowledge is incredibly useful as well. She is right, however, and I did say earlier that I hope the Budget will see a boost for all Departments that can deliver global Britain.
It is not just as the United Kingdom that we have an overall aggregate global role. If we look at every constituency in the country, there are huge links between our businesses, or indeed our hospitals, and overseas organisations. In my constituency of Gloucester alone, we export to China alone valves for the oil and gas sector, the cylinders that go into every Dyson vacuum cleaner, marine engines and the landing gear for every Airbus—and we export tea to China. That story of engagement is replicated across the towns and cities of the entire United Kingdom.
I want to make a point about pay and conditions. We produced a “Global Britain” study last year, and one of the things that surprised me is that ambassadors do not always have line management of all staff in embassies, so if people are from DFID or the MOD, it is more difficult for them to fall under a cohesive and integrated approach to management. People were also on different salaries for doing the same job, very often to the detriment of the Foreign Office. It would be very good if, in the foreign and defence review, these things were ironed out, because it would be an encouragement to folks in the Foreign Office and actually valuable for them.
My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. All I would say at this point is that the most important thing for us overseas is to have one HMG—one presence of Her Majesty’s Government’s representatives—and the boss should always be the ambassador or the high commissioner, regardless of which home Departments individuals in that embassy or high commission originally came from.
That is part of the projection of our values, and our role in and our contribution to the world, which we do need to look at as we move forward: very much part of Europe, but no longer a member of the European Union; very much part of the international rules-based order, which we played such a large part in establishing; and an outward-looking, independent nation—working in partnership with many others and many organisations, but making our own decisions in the best interests of the United Kingdom and in line with our values. Contrary to what one or two Opposition Members said earlier, those actually are valuable and are precious to the world. Those of us who have been a Prime Minister’s trade envoy will have experienced that across the world.
That means working closely with our neighbours, especially on security issues and European borders, and constraining Russian expansionism. That is our traditional role in maintaining the balance of power on our continent. It also means taking different views where we need to, and the same will be true of our relationship with today’s superpowers, the United States and China. We will be making decisions, whether on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, 5G telecoms, or free trade agreements, that are right for the United Kingdom.
For the past few years, the Labour party has appeared to be against business, international trade, defence and security, and against so many countries who are close allies. It has never spoken up for the global opportunities, and largely sees only corruption and villains. Unlike that, we believe in the huge opportunities and benefits to this nation from manufacturing as well as services, and from apprentices in both. We believe in creativity, and in opportunities to export our education, satellites and pharmaceuticals. That, I believe, is the opportunity that lies ahead.
We will need some changes to help bring that alive, so perhaps I can make a few recommendations to which the Minister can respond. We need a Foreign Secretary who has overall responsibility for £12 billion of development, as well as for diplomacy. We need the Departments for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and for International Trade to work more closely together, and with MPs, to hold “Global Britain” exporting seminars in every constituency across the land. We must focus on attracting key foreign technology investors and capital, and I welcome the Government’s decision on visas for scientists. We must continue to lead in aerospace and digital businesses, and I welcome the commitment to working with our Five Eyes partners on telecoms alternative technologies.
Above all—you would expect me to say this, Madam Deputy Speaker—we must look more closely at what we can do with Asia, and at opportunities for closer engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the possibility of acceding to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the opportunities for working more closely with Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, our Commonwealth partners, on defence, training and preparations. We must help nations with their cyber and finance requirements, and create huge numbers of jobs in those nations through our own expertise. One British insurer alone has 275,000 agents working in Indonesia. Those are franchises and independent, small Indonesian businesses. Those are the opportunities for us. We can take them forward and be a great power for good. We can make global Britain a real strategy.
It is a matter of time. I thank my hon. Friend.
There has been much talk about global Britain, and last year I and others published “Global Britain: A Twenty-First Century Vision”, which I circulated to many MPs this week. Unfortunately, I came third in a tight field of three in the race to be Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, but I hope that was a comment on me, rather than on my work, which I hope is still useful.
That study contained 20 ideas, one or two of which have been mentioned by other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart), who spoke about the importance of the United Nations. The United Kingdom has arguably been the world’s greatest nation at developing alliances throughout our history. Indeed, we would not have done so well in the last two world wars if those alliances had not been in place. Whether NATO, our close relationship with Europe now that we are not part of the European Union, or CANZUK, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Paul Bristow) eloquently referred, there is a wealth of alliances that we could be building. The victor in the Foreign Affairs Committee race, my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat), spoke about partnerships with middle-ranging powers, or with great powers such as Korea and Japan, which are important.
On soft influence, when my hon. Friend and I, and other hon. Members, go abroad, perhaps in uniform, we are very well received in large parts of the world. One very important instrument for our soft influence is using our military academies to educate people, particularly from the middle east, but anywhere—for example, Kazakhstan.
Absolutely. In my very brief time at Sandhurst, I saw people who were there from foreign powers. That is a very important form of soft influence, along with our universities and higher colleges. In Shrivenham, there are many international students, especially in the higher courses. I thank my hon. Friend for making that point.
I want to add one thing to the debate about the necessity for strategy. Despite having a wealth of think-tanks that study strategy, I am not sure we have done it well enough in the past few decades. We have been too tied to the United States for its concept of strategic hard power, much of which we might agree with, and too tied to the European Union for our definition of soft power, through trade and so on. A global Britain would give us the chance to develop our own idea of how to combine hard and soft power when it comes to trade negotiations, the export of values, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester spoke, and many other elements.
Many Members have spoken about the rules-based order, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood) and the hon. Member for Putney (Fleur Anderson). There are now considerable threats to the rules-based order, not only from the rise of Russian authoritarianism but potentially from the rise of China under the leadership of the Chinese Communist party. I may well differ with my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester on some of these matters. I think he see many opportunities and some threats. I see many opportunities, but also many threats. We have to understand much better not only how we ourselves can project an integrated power, but how others are projecting an integrated power to us.
Is not one key element in this discussion, which does not get much political oversight, how China operates in different universities and the academic sector, not just here in the United Kingdom but throughout the western world? Could that not do with a bit more—oversight is maybe the wrong word—political and Government attention?
I very much agree, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point. The Foreign Affairs Committee covered China’s role in universities in this country, but we need an understanding of how we use integrated strategy and how people use that strategy against us. For example, I suggested in the “Global Britain” study that we should think about rolling the Department for International Development and the Department for International Trade, as agencies, into the Foreign Office. People who prioritise DFID think that that cannot possibly be done, but we can still have the 0.7% and a significant aim for aid, while having those Departments as agencies within the Foreign Office to have greater integration between the different elements of power that one has at one’s disposal. That is just a suggestion. I am not saying that one should do it, but I think we need to think freely about the options we have. One would not want to copy Russian power, because it is very often used unethically and immorally, but its notion of integration is very important.
I want to say a few words about Huawei. I know I have, with my role as a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, bent the rules slightly. I am very grateful to the Whips for their generosity in allowing me to talk about this issue in the past week or so. It falls under the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, but I have been talking to them extensively to make sure they are not too disappointed in my actions.
Huawei is probably the major strategic goal of China in the UK and Europe over the next five to 10 years. By that, what I mean is that China’s strategic goal, with its Made in China 2025 and Digital Belt and Road initiatives, is to become dominant in the cyber space. That presents potential opportunities, but also very significant threats. I am concerned that in the past 15 years, Huawei, which is an arm of the Chinese state—let us be under no illusion about that—has built up a potentially dominant position in many countries. That presents significant problems and threats to us, and I would just like to rehearse some of the arguments. I do so in part because this will come back and be a focus of discussion here, certainly for the next month or six weeks as the Government seek to put through secondary, and potentially primary, legislation.
First, there is a claim that Huawei is a private firm. In no meaningful sense is that correct, as we would understand it. The company is 99% owned by a Chinese trade union, and Chinese trade unions are part of the one-party state. To follow up on what the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald) said, I think we need a better understanding of non-democratic systems. We tend to assume that the rest of the world is a little bit like us in different ways. I lived in a one-party state, the Soviet Union, before its collapse, and I am glad I did. One-party states are functionally different. For us, the rule of law is given the highest rank. In one-party states, the rule of the party is given the highest rank, and the rule of law is ranked somewhat lower. So party comes before law in such countries, in a way that it simply does not in democratic states. That goes to the heart of the question of being a non-trusted vendor and a high-risk vendor. I will develop that argument in a minute, if I may, although I will be conscious and respectful of Members’ time.
Huawei is not a private firm; it is 99% owned by a trade union, and trade unions are part of the Chinese state. Considering that previous Secretaries of State have described Huawei as a private company, is the UK Government’s position that they believe Huawei to be a private firm, or do they accept that it is part and parcel of the Chinese state? I will probably write a letter to the various Secretaries of State to follow that up, because I think it is important.
My second point is about the idea that we can limit Huawei to the periphery of the network. That is key to Government plans, and I think it is highly questionable. The Government say that there is a way of managing the risk through network design, but many other countries say that that cannot be done. Mike Burgess, the director general of Australia’s version of GCHQ, said that
“the distinction between core and edge collapses in 5G networks. That means that a potential threat anywhere in the network will be a threat to the whole network”.
I will quote some other experts whom I have talked to. One told me:
“Basic cybersecurity principles tell you that one vulnerability or weakness in the system threatens the entirety of the system.”
I would like to know whether the Government think we can build out threat in our network design.
As regards the core versus edge arguments, many experts argue that proposed solutions based on segmentation between functions are
“yesterday’s perspective on tomorrow’s problem.”
Such experts argue that it is not possible to segment 5G as we could with 3G and 4G, because some of the core functions will be pushed to the edge. As the architecture moves on, those core functions will be stretched across the network via virtualisation and intensification of active features of radio access network equipment. Another expert said:
“Many…core functions have to move close to the edge in order for 5G to offer the benefits it does”—
that is, latency and speed.
I was reading an article in The Strategist, a magazine put together by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. The article was written by one of the magazine’s cyber experts who formerly worked at Australia’s version of GCHQ, and who said:
“I was part of the team in the Australian Signals Directorate that tried to design a suite of cybersecurity controls that would give the government confidence that hostile intelligence services could not leverage their national vendors”—
“to gain access to our 5G networks. We developed pages of cybersecurity mitigation measures to see if it was possible to prevent a sophisticated state actor from accessing our networks through a vendor. But we failed.”
I cannot believe that I am agreeing with the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), but his assessment is right. What the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely) has just described is the Government willingly bringing us a digital Dunkirk.
Let me be fair to this Government. They have not been in power for long and we have had 15 years of Huawei effectively coming into our country by subterfuge. I think there is a role for foreign lobbying, but it is doing damage and we need a foreign lobbying Act, which I hope to work on. To be fair to this and the previous Government, their telecoms review at least tries to bring order to something that has been driven by a price-dumping strategy. I will come on to that later. I want to make progress so that I do not talk for any more than another five minutes.
My hon. Friend poses a bigger-picture question about the role of democracy in today’s world and the threat from authoritarian regimes. Does he agree with me—I should declare an interest as chairman of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy—that we need to create a democracy fund that spends more money and uses our influence more effectively in encouraging and helping nations that, like us, have difficulties in making sure that democracy is working as well as it possibly can?
That is an excellent idea, because we are a values leader in this world. I do not at all negate the role of soft power; I just think we need to get the integration of hard and soft power right.
I will crack on. I would like to know from the Government what our network architecture is likely to look like. How can we think about how edge and core functions will work in our 5G in five or 10 years’ time? Moreover, if we were red-teaming this, we would need to ask how non-trusted, high-risk vendors could manipulate future network design. If there is a realistic chance of them being able to do so, that would be potentially damaging.
We have been told that a non-spy agreement with China is feasible. It is not. Huawei has offered one. Article 7 of China’s national intelligence law states:
“All organizations and citizens shall support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence efforts in accordance with the law”.
That is pretty cut and dried. How will this Government guarantee the security of networks when non-British passport holders have access to them, given the nature of the Chinese state and Chinese law? This is not about being anti-Chinese; it is about questioning the role of the Chinese Communist party and the one-party state.
I question the claim that the security services are happy, and not only because Sir Richard Dearlove wrote the foreword to our report on Huawei a few months ago. I think there are ways of phrasing things to get the answers one wants from the security services. Much as I respect the National Cyber Security Centre, I am concerned about some of the advice it is giving, only because I hear very impressive people in different positions saying different things and I do not believe it is possible to give certainty for five and 10 years ahead. By building a 5G network now, we are effectively committing to allowing the Chinese state to introduce 6G and 7G in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time.
We are told that this enables market provision. It does not. Huawei came to power by, in effect, stealing the intellectual property of Nortel, a Canadian company, leading to its collapse. Considerable allegations have been made. In future weeks we might hear more—who knows?—about the nature of the deals that Huawei strikes with western telcos and about accusations of price dumping and other things. More generally, Huawei is funded by the China Development Bank, to the tune of $10 billion in loans and a further $100 billion in credit lines, which means that it can simply undercut any commercial fair price offered by a western telco. That puts permanent pressure on Samsung, Fujitsu, Nokia and Ericsson.
About 10 years ago, Huawei had 5% of the market. Now, China collectively has about 40% of the market. On the current trajectory, in 10 or 20 years’ time there will be no market apart from that dominated by ZTE and Huawei, and Nokia and Ericsson will go the same way as companies such as Nortel, about which we no longer hear. That is cause for concern. It is simply a myth that this enables market provision. Indeed, it limits it.
We are told that there are no alternatives, but yes, there are. There would be short-term delays and additional cost—there is no question about that—but this is a question of balance. I look forward to having a grown-up discussion when the Bill comes before the House.
I will not dwell on the human rights argument—I want to be respectful of people’s time—apart from saying that there have been allegations from ASPI and others that Huawei has worked on the oppressive surveillance kit in Xinjiang province.
Next, it is claimed that the quality of Huawei’s work is high. Well, the Huawei Cell says that the coding is sloppy. Indeed, Infinite State, a tech company based in the United States, found sloppiness in Huawei’s source code after analysing 1.5 million files, but also said that on multiple occasions Huawei coders had disguised unsafe functions, and that too concerns me.
In general, I question the reassurances that we have been given. What positive action can we take? If I were suggesting stuff to a Government whom I strongly support, what would I say? First, we need public debate. Australia had nearly a year of public debate about this, because it raises significant issues such as data privacy, human rights and our attitude to human rights abusers abroad, and whether the Magnitsky Act could apply to Huawei if it is used to supply oppressive equipment in other parts of the world.
There are significant practical, economic and moral implications that have simply not been discussed. We have been getting it wrong for about 15 years, and our answer is “We have got it wrong, so let us just brush it under the carpet.” Huawei is hiring the great and good for its board, and a former senior Government information officer is oiling Whitehall to make it safe for Huawei. All those points raise significant ethical, political and economic questions.
We could try separating Huawei in the same way that BAE Systems in the United States is an entirely different company from BAE Systems here. We have not done that. Why not? A public inquiry into how we have messed this up so badly might also be a good idea. My preferred option, however—and I would love the Government to consider it—is an international conference to agree trusted vendor status for the free states of the world, the liberal democracies, so that they could have trust in the future building of a critical national infrastructure. Machine-to-machine communication through 5G will revolutionise and become the core of our communication society.
Finally, we need a foreign lobbying Act. We know that Huawei’s lobbying operation in this country is very well funded and very extensive, but apart from that we know little about it. I think that, for the purpose of good government and, indeed, leaving the European Union—I keep reminding myself that we are doing that tomorrow, which is wonderful—we need more transparency, not less, and we need more accountability, not less. That is one of the reasons why I chose to vote to leave the European Union.
It is an absolute honour to speak in the debate. This is the third speech that I have made since I was elected; I know that that is quite a lot for someone who has been in this place for only a very short time.
I wanted to speak in the debate for two reasons: because it is the final opportunity that I will have to speak in this place while we are a member of the European Union—and I am very happy about that—and because of the impact on my constituency, which has its own port and is just down the road from the country’s biggest sea container port in Felixstowe.
This is of course a time for us to come together, although I appreciate that tomorrow will be a difficult day for many people. I must admit that I shall be celebrating: I shall be at two pub parties in my constituency. Both the pubs are in a part of town that has historically been Labour, but this time, and hopefully for a long time, people have come over to the Conservative party, because they believe in democracy, they believe in Brexit, and they believe in this country.
I want to pay tribute to some of the other Members who have made speeches today. First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Paul Bristow), whom I have known for many years and with whom I will be working to try to convince the Government that we need more investment in our regional rail and road infrastructure so that we can step up to help global Britain. I will not, however, be on the same side as my hon. Friend this Saturday, when he will be visiting Portman Road in Ipswich to watch the Ipswich-Peterborough football game. That will be one occasion on which we will not be on the same side, but I imagine that after that we will always be on the same side.
As I said in my maiden speech, Ipswich has been on an important trading route since Roman times, and that long tradition continues today. The port of Ipswich is the UK’s leading exporter of grain, and in 2019 it doubled its grain exports after the good harvest. The 2.5 million tonnes of cargo—worth more than £600 million —handled per year at the port are a source of employment for 1,000 of my constituents. As I mentioned earlier, down the road we have the port of Felixstowe, the UK’s busiest container port, which employs a further 5,000 of my constituents. Overall, I represent 6,000 constituents who work at ports, so their stake in global Britain could not be higher.
I share my hon. Friend’s view on that. Indeed, I hope that Ipswich will become a free port.
We know that 48% of the UK’s containerised trade goes through the port of Felixstowe, and a total of £80 billion-worth of goods pass through it every year. Both of these ports are major contributors to the East Anglian economy, and I know that my right hon. Friend the International Trade Secretary will share that view. We must remember that the ports do not just support the people employed directly by them, and that the business done at the ports ripples throughout the economy, supporting many thousands of jobs and livelihoods in the community. It is my firm belief that, as we leave the European Union and embrace a more global Britain, ports such as Ipswich and Felixstowe and the communities surrounding them can do even better if given the right tools to do so.
As members of the European Union, our trade policy has largely been made in Brussels, where the voice of East Anglia is but a whisper as 27 other countries with competing interests jostle for position on the EU side of trade negotiations. Some have said that trading off some of our interests in order to negotiate as part of a bloc is worth it because we have greater clout in negotiations with third-party countries, but that argument is meaningless if many of the proposed EU trade deals never see the light of day. Recently we saw the long EU-US negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership fall through. We also saw the negotiations with South American countries fall through. The EU-Canada deal, which eventually got through, did so only after the Walloon regional parliament in Belgium finally agreed to adhere to its main ambitions.
Inside the European Union, we have also been greatly restricted in our ability to designate docks, and the industrial clusters that rely on them, as free ports. Designating free ports would give our manufacturing sector a huge boost and create thousands of jobs. Given that most of our ports are located disproportionately in areas of high deprivation, employment growth from new free ports would occur where it is needed the most.
While we have been tied to a sluggish European Union, and paying for the privilege, the rest of the world has been moving forward at pace. In the past, before the internet, refrigerated shipping and the rapid rise of the developing world, regional trade blocs were understandably seen as the future, but today trade is more and more global. The EU now has an increasingly small share of the global economy and it is estimated that 90% of world output growth in 2020 will be generated outside the European Union. As a member of the European Union, our trade patterns have reflected these irresistible trends. The share of UK exports going to the EU has fallen from 55% in 2006 to 45% in 2018. In the face of all this, the EU has exhibited its protectionist tendencies. EU tariffs are high on goods such as food and clothing, which disproportionately impacts the least well-off in our society. These tariffs are also unfair to the least well-off people in the world, as those in developing countries struggle to compete in our marketplace on fair terms.
By way of contrast, other countries have reaped the benefits of embracing global free trade as independent nations. Among the most successful of these is Chile. Although not a large nation, it has struck free trade deals that cover 86% of global GDP, including with the EU, China, the USA, Japan and Canada, and a partial deal with India. I believe that if Chile can do it, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland can most certainly do it as well.
Outside the European Union, we can pursue a bold free trade agenda with the interests of East Anglia and its powerhouse ports at the forefront. We can be nimble and we can do trade agreements quickly, and I am glad to see that the Government have not lost any time in this endeavour, with deals with South Korea, Switzerland and Israel set to take effect once we leave the European Union. I am pleased that dialogues are also under way with many other nations, including the United States and our Commonwealth partners in Australia and India. I welcome the fact that one of the Government’s principal aims in these discussions is to ensure that our trade policy reflects the needs and the potential of the whole of the United Kingdom, because the potential of Ipswich and East Anglia is enormous when it comes to trade. The ports of Ipswich and Felixstowe have already had investment in preparation for Brexit, and both ports have the potential to expand. An estimated 98% of non-EU crates pass through the port of Felixstowe as quickly and as easily as goods arriving from the EU thanks to cargo tracking systems, which allow many goods to clear customs before they even reach the UK.
Furthermore, Ipswich’s workforce and community are ready to take advantage of the benefits of increased trade, as they have done for centuries. Like I said, East Anglia just needs the right tools in place to realise its trading potential, which will benefit the whole country. The people of Ipswich and Felixstowe, some of whom work in the ports, and elsewhere in our region stand ready to help the Government achieve their ambition to be the greatest country on earth, but we need Government support for our rail and road infrastructure to help us do just that.
Some 48% of the country’s containerised trade comes through the port of Felixstowe, but the only route around Ipswich involves a bridge that closes when it is windy. That simply is not good enough. We need a solution for the Orwell bridge so that it never has to close. We also need an Ipswich northern bypass, and we need to sort out Ely North junction. We need the complete electrification of rail routes across East Anglia, because rail freight currently goes down to London and then up again because of inadequate rail infrastructure.
The people of Ipswich are world beaters when it comes to international trade, and they stand ready to embrace competition. We in this place must remake the UK as a beacon for free trade around the world once more while ensuring that the people of this country have every opportunity to benefit fully from that. To be a truly global nation, we have to be nimble, dynamic, flexible and buccaneering. We should not be inward-looking, rigid, protectionist or sclerotic. I said in my maiden speech that this is the greatest country in the world, and tomorrow presents a fantastic opportunity to spend the next decade proving that to everyone around the world.
That was a marvellous speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt). He may have spoken only three times, but I encourage him to speak many more times in this Chamber. The maiden speeches we heard today were all different, but they had one thing in common: they all held the House. The House listened and was respectful, and these new Members will be a useful addition to this Parliament.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I am so pleased that you are in the Chair. I have been waiting not five hours to make this speech but more than 30 years. I cannot tell you how unbelievably happy I am about what is going to happen tomorrow. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) quite rightly said that we should remember that some people will be disappointed, but there will only be a few Liberal Democrats left, so— [Laughter.] No, the point is that I have knocked on thousands of doors over the past 30 years, and I know that whether someone voted leave or remain, they will celebrate tomorrow because the decision has been made and we are leaving, and I will be in Parliament Square tomorrow to celebrate.
I have a couple of things to say about Brexit and then I will talk about something perhaps more important. We will end the free movement of people. We will stop paying billions of pounds to the EU each and every year. We will make our own laws in our own country to be judged by our own judges. Since we went into Europe, more than 2 million people net have come here, and the problem with that is that they came here whether we wanted them to come or not, which made us restrict immigration from the rest of the world. I am looking forward to us having a fair immigration system, under which we get the people we want from all over the world and we keep out the people we do not want. The amount of money that we have given this club since we joined—after all the money they have given us back in funny projects—is £211 billion net, and yet that same club exports in goods nearly £100 billion more to us than we sell to them. That is not a good deal, and that also ends tomorrow.
Then I thought—I do not think this has been mentioned today—that what has happened is that the establishment has been beaten. I lived in Wales in the 1990s and stood against Neil Kinnock in 1992, and the position of the Conservative party then was that we should be in Europe for ever and that we should join the euro. That was the held position when Mr Major led the party. I got myself into trouble, as I put in my manifesto that I wanted to come out of the EU. Mr Major was not much pleased. I did not quite win against Neil Kinnock—I lost by a mere 30,000 votes to 6,000—but it was the best ever Tory result in Islwyn.
In 1997 the established view of the establishment, whether it was big business, the media—especially the BBC—the civil servants, the Government or the Opposition, was that we were in decline as a nation. They all agreed that we were in decline as a nation and that the only way we could survive was to become part of this federal Europe. That changed over time. I fought the seat of Pudsey in 1997, and I think I was the only Conservative candidate to be endorsed by the Referendum party. Under Mr Major and co we were still the party of staying in Europe.
Moving on to 2001 and we had William Hague. At least then we were fighting to keep the pound, which we managed to do. There had been a slight move in the establishment. Then we come to 2005, when I was first elected. The establishment view of Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne was, “We are staying in the EU. You right wingers are fruitcakes,” and things like that.
With the help of my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) and a number of others in our group, we organised the 2011 Backbench Business debate on whether we should have an EU referendum. I remember George Osborne arranging for the debate to be brought forward from the Thursday to the Monday so that we Eurosceptics would be put in our place. On the day, 81 Tories voted against a hard three-line Whip, because they were in touch with their people, to say that a referendum was necessary. In 2013, thanks to the last Speaker, there was an amendment to the Queen’s Speech regretting that it did not include an EU referendum.
This House slowly began to believe that we should come out of Europe, or at least that we should give the people the chance. I was delighted when David Cameron granted the referendum, and I was delighted to work with my hon. Friends the Members for Kettering and for Corby (Tom Pursglove) to create Grassroots Out. We toured the country, and many of those rallies and meetings were attended by colleagues I now see in the Chamber, including some on the Front Bench and even one in the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker. It was clear to me that people wanted us out and that Parliament was behind.
We won that referendum, and I remember being in the Division Lobby after a later debate, before David Cameron resigned his seat. He gave me a friendly punch in the stomach to show his appreciation. Who would have believed that after that result, for three and a half years, the establishment would continue to fight? We very nearly lost our grip on Brexit. Thankfully, now that we have a Prime Minister who had the courage to resign as Foreign Secretary, who led the Vote Leave campaign, and who got the withdrawal agreement changed when nobody said he could, we are coming out tomorrow, and I am so proud of that. That is the result of what we did in this Chamber and what the people outside did. It is right that the Opposition continue to scrutinise and criticise, as that is their role, but there are fewer of them because they did not listen to the people.
I am very pleased about what is going to happen, but this seems unfair on the people who have actually achieved this. They put up with all the propaganda, turning down the “fact” that we were going to have bubonic plague, massive unemployment and falling house prices—there was all that money thrown at the remain campaign. People will celebrate tomorrow, but why should we not do something a little more permanent? We should follow the example of some of our European neighbours. Germany has nine bank holidays, France has 11, Italy has 11, the Netherlands has 12 and Belgium has 15, so why not take a leaf out of their book? We have only eight in this country, so why not have an extra bank holiday? I suggested this to the Leader of the House, but I was not sure from his answer whether or not he was in favour. I will introduce a private Member’s Bill next week—
I must just finish this important bit. I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, and I will not yawn at that moment either. My private Member’s Bill will establish a bank holiday on the Friday nearest to 23 June each year. It is a good time to have a bank holiday, and we do not have one in June at the moment. I want it to be known as “United Kingdom day”. [Interruption.] Members may scoff—
He does. But the advantage of this is that we can celebrate our sovereignty at the same time as celebrating our nations of the United Kingdom. That would be a permanent reward; every June, people would have the day off and say, “Thank goodness for that Brexit vote.”
We will work that bank holiday if the hon. Gentleman is successful in getting it. Throughout his speech he has been railing against the “establishment”. I know he sees himself as a kind of mild-mannered, modern-day answer to the metric martyr here in Parliament, but the Brexit project is entirely of the establishment. Is he really asking us to believe that people such as Arron Banks are not the establishment? They are, and the hon. Gentleman is the establishment now, even if he does not want to believe it. But why does he want to take a leaf out of all of those European countries’ books, all those countries he is so desperate to get away from? Why is he so workshy, in wanting to have another bank holiday?
I am grateful for that intervention. The praise the hon. Gentleman gave me about being a metric martyr was kind. I was just saying that on this last day of our being in the EU let us take the one good thing that the EU does, which is have bank holidays. Once we are out, we will not have all these pettifogging regulations and all this oppression on industry, so industry will do better. So let the workers have the extra day off to celebrate.
I am pleased and honoured to be the last Back Bencher to speak in this debate, the last Back Bencher to speak while we are still in the European Union. People in this Chamber deserve credit, but the people who deserve the most credit are the British people, and well done them.
It is a pleasure to respond to this important, wide-ranging debate. The Opposition welcome the opportunity to discuss Britain’s place in the world at this critical juncture for the future of our country. Although we formally leave the EU at 11 o’clock tomorrow, there are still a great many unanswered questions about the UK’s future relationship with the EU and with countries all around the world.
In the Labour party, we of course want to see Britain as a globally influential country, trading with partners as equals and fulfilling our obligations to the poorest people in the world. We are optimistic and ambitious for our country, but we believe that we face a great many challenges, too, and it is not doing Britain down to be clear-eyed about that. We should all expect some frank and detailed answers from the Government.
Let me congratulate those Members who made their maiden speeches today. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson) spoke extremely movingly about his journey to this place and the adversity that he has overcome. I am certain that his experiences will allow him to make an important contribution to our debates. The hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn) spoke about the global nature of his city of Aberdeen, and made a powerful case for fairness in the face of injustice. The hon. Member for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey) spoke movingly about the sacrifices that his mum made, and I am sure she is very proud of him. We do not thank our mums enough. His point about spreading opportunity throughout the country was well made. My hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy) spoke powerfully about the need to fight racism and injustice at home and abroad. She is exactly right that our country’s trade must be fair as well as free.
I wish to make a few points and pose some questions to the Government about exactly how prepared they are for the opportunities and challenges ahead. First, the Government must be clear about their priorities and capabilities as we seek to strike trade deals around the world. The Government have already said that they intend to carry out negotiations with the EU and US simultaneously, as well as moving ahead with the Australian and New Zealand deals. A number of important EU trade deals must be renegotiated, including those with Japan and Canada. Altogether, that will require significant resources and expertise to achieve.
The significant task facing the Government comes against the backdrop of a broader challenge: as the UK takes responsibility for trade policy for the first time in 40 years, we face a severe shortage of the skills and experience necessary to negotiate on the global stage. In a submission to the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Foreign Office has already acknowledged that it will be a challenge. It said:
“The UK has not had to operate on the frontline of trade policy and negotiations since it joined the EEC. The scale of the UK’s challenge in building trade capability from a very modest base is unparalleled amongst developed economies.”
When he responds to the debate, will the Minister tell us just how modest a base we are dealing with? What progress have the Department for International Trade and the Foreign Office made in training officials to an expert level in trade policy and negotiations? Put simply, just how many fully trained trade negotiators do we actually have?
On the subject of Government preparedness for trade negotiations, we are in the quite extraordinary situation of not knowing which Department will be responsible for the negotiations. The Government have said that the EU trade talks will be run from the Cabinet Office, but we still do not know whether the Department for International Trade will be merged into another Department or stay as a stand-alone entity. Can the Minister shed any light on that?
Whoever conducts the negotiations will have to think carefully about our priorities. That means engaging seriously with businesses and civil society about the potential benefits and costs of trade agreements. So far, we have had a lack of clarity from the Government about the trade-offs involved in a deal with, for example, the US. Instead of rushing into a deal for political purposes, the Government must engage fully and consider our national interests.
The UK is taking control of its trade policy at precisely the point that the global rules-based order is under great pressure and openness to trade is declining globally. We can no longer rely on the WTO to settle trade disputes, because of the US refusal to appoint new members to the appellate body. We must be a strong voice for free and fair trade and work with partners around the world to further those aims.
Is it the Labour party’s policy to abide by WTO rules, as they have been committed to by the UK? Is it the hon. Lady’s intention to build up the WTO, or does she envisage some other way of establishing free trade? I am delighted to hear, by implication, that she is open to free trade around the world.
I welcome that intervention. I will answer it very, very bluntly: we do want reform of the WTO rules.
I turn now to a couple of specific challenges that we face over the coming years. The Government’s announcement on Tuesday regarding the role that Huawei will be allowed to play in delivering our 5G network is an example of the global pressures that we face. The Government have given assurances about the security of our critical national infrastructure, and it is vital that these assurances are matched with action. The crucial question must be: why do we not have our own domestic tech and manufacturing capacity to deliver this technology and meet our own security needs? We must not allow ourselves to be held hostage in a geopolitical tug of war.
Global Britain must surely be underpinned by a strong and dynamic domestic economy, with good jobs and prosperity spread across the country. As we leave the EU, the Government must set out exactly how they will attract overseas investment into all the regions of the UK and help to grow our export base, particularly in manufacturing.
One of our most important industries is the British steel sector, which, as the Minister will know, faces acute global challenges. We are still waiting for a steel sector deal, and we need urgent action from the Government on the prolonged dumping of Chinese steel.
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. She is making an excellent speech and posing some really good questions. On steel in particular, does she agree that we, on these Opposition Benches, have had many sterling champions of the steel sector? I wish to single out for special praise my colleague, the former Member for Scunthorpe, Nic Dakin, who lost his seat. The Members on the Government Benches who have taken those steel seats have their work cut out if they want to live up to the standards set by Nic Dakin and our colleagues who fought for the steel sector for so long.
I thank my friend for that intervention. I certainly agree that colleagues like Nic Dakin, the former Member and friend from Scunthorpe, and my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden), who is co-chair of the all-party steel group, have done sterling work and made very powerful contributions in this House on the future of steel and the steel industry.
As we leave the EU, this Government must stand up for these vital British interests. We also need to be better equipped in this Parliament to scrutinise trade deals. We on these Benches have repeatedly called for a new system of parliamentary scrutiny and approval of trade agreements, and so, too, have a diverse range of groups, including the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, the TUC and five parliamentary Committees. However, the Government have sought to limit access to negotiating texts and make the process more secretive than the current approach of the European Union.
As will become more and more evident over the coming years, trade deals have the potential to reach into all manner of policy areas, from food safety to workers’ rights, and from national security to climate change. It is vital that this Parliament has the tools that it needs to properly scrutinise any and all future trade agreements.
Finally, given that this debate is about global Britain and given that I am a rugby league fan, I could not resist the opportunity to briefly mention the rugby league world cup taking place in Britain in 2021. This and other international sporting events give the UK a fantastic opportunity to welcome people from around the world and to show off all that we have to offer. Indeed, I was pleased—in fact, delighted—to find out that the rugby league world cup was even mentioned in the global Britain section of the Conservative manifesto. So, in this, the final debate before Brexit day, there is finally at least something on which we can all agree.
It is a pleasure to reply to what has been a lively, entertaining and very well-informed debate. It is both an honour and a privilege to stand at this Dispatch Box today as the last Minister of the Crown to respond to a full debate while Britain is a member of the European Union.
Three and a half years ago, the British people took part in the largest binary democratic exercise in our nation’s history. In that referendum, they voted decisively that they wanted Britain’s relationship with the EU and with the rest of the world to change. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) so brilliantly said, they wanted an open, outward-looking, internationalist, generous country to rejoin the international community. That is approach, as someone who campaigned to leave and who believed, frankly, from the moment the Maastricht treaty was published in 1992 and citizenship of the European Union was established, that Britain’s destiny lay outside that political institution. But I respect the fact that many of those whom I admire took a different view. I have always been guided, as I know has my hon. Friend, by the old saying that two reasonable people can perfectly reasonably reach opposite conclusions, based on the same set of facts, without each surrendering their right to be considered a reasonable person.
The people of Britain voted for a global Britain, and we are now in the process of realising that agenda. At 11 o’clock tomorrow night, or 12 o’clock for those in Gibraltar, we will leave the EU—I say this for the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald), who mentioned this in response to an intervention from his friend the hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry)—as one United Kingdom. This Government are determined to involve every nation and region of this great United Kingdom in that process, which is why only last week I chaired the first joint ministerial forum on trade.
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman talks to his counterpart in the Scottish Government.
My first visit as Minister of State at the Department for International Trade was to Scotland, the second was to Wales, and I was in Northern Ireland the following week, as a declaration of intent of our ambition to involve every nation of this country.
We will now be free to determine our own economic future, rekindling old friendships and reaching out to parts of the world that we may have ignored in recent decades. In our increasingly interconnected, globalised world, trade will play a central and vital role in supporting our shared security and prosperity. We face this future with confidence, built on firm foundations: we have the fifth-largest economy in the world; we are the second-largest service exporter; and we are home to the City of London, the world’s global financial gateway. Our commitment to law-governed liberty, our open liberal economy, our world-class talent and our business-friendly environment have made us a go-to destination for venture capital, and the European leader in attracting foreign direct investment, which last year, according to the Office for National Statistics, was a record level of £1.5 trillion.
We have an enormous amount to offer, whether it is our world-class education sector—a passion of mine since I made my maiden speech nine and a half years ago on the subject of student visitor visas—a system that has led to one in six global leaders having part of their education in the United Kingdom; our internationally renowned tech sector, now home to over 70 tech unicorns; or our green energy sector, which has seen us become a world leader in offshore wind and green finance. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood) not only on being elected to chair the Defence Committee, but on highlighting the opportunity we have to play a massive international role in combating climate change.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We lead the world in the creative industries. Only tomorrow I will travel to Pinewood Studios, and on Monday I will visit MediaCity in Manchester, where I will be outlining the contribution that the creative industries make to the United Kingdom’s economy. Given that my hon. Friend is a Bucks Member of Parliament, I think I am right in saying that the person who is hosting me tomorrow at Pinewood Studies chairs his local enterprise partnership.
However, there is a massive missed opportunity in the United Kingdom. It is a sad but true fact that less than 10% of British companies export anything at all overseas. That is why the Government’s export strategy will respond to that, to help increase exports as a percentage of GDP, complemented by a network of free ports, championed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Tom Hunt), who I think is bidding for two of them.
The Minister talked about a lack of British firms exporting.
I wonder if he would give a shout-out to the communications industry. The communications industry in the UK is pioneering, and the Public Relations and Communications Association—the trade association for the communications industry—is now setting up and exporting British communications expertise across the country. I declare an interest in that my spouse is the owner of a communications company.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I have no doubt that as well as being a vocal and articulate champion for Peterborough, he will promote the service sector in the UK economy, as he has just done so effectively.
I will endeavour to reply to the specific points raised in the debate. The shadow Minister criticised the Government for our interaction with Parliament in future agreements. We are going to publish an outline for each negotiation that includes objectives and scoping assessments, as well as an explanatory memorandum. The shadow Secretary of State constantly talks about us having an ineffective trade remedy system. The simple repetition of something does not make it true. We are going to have a tough regime, learning from international best practice.
I promised to come back to the shadow Secretary of State on the situation in Western Sahara. The UK-Morocco agreement will apply in the same way as the EU-Morocco agreement, having been amended to comply with the European Court of Justice judgment on the issue; that is a critical point. He also raised the question of bribery and corruption in the provision of UK Export Finance. UK Export Finance always carries out anti-bribery due diligence before providing any support at all.
I promise that I did not put him up to it, but my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Andrew Griffith) said that we needed greater resource and more trade commissioners. He made that point very well indeed, and I hope it is heard. It would be inappropriate for me to endorse it, but—what is the old saying?—“He might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.”
My hon. Friend will doubtless have been heard as well.
I pay tribute to those who made maiden speeches. The hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn) gave an accomplished performance. I disagreed with almost every word of it, but he delivered it very effectively indeed. I thank him, from many of us on the Government Benches, for his kind words about his predecessor Ross Thomson.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich West (Shaun Bailey) spoke of his conversation with the noble Lady Boothroyd. We on the Treasury Bench understand the need to deliver, and having listened to him, I am certain that we will deliver for him and that he will not let Baroness Boothroyd down.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West (Stuart Anderson) gave the most moving and deeply personal speech of the day. I salute him for his courage in speaking in that way in the Chamber. It was a genuine privilege to be on the Front Bench to hear his contribution.
The hon. Member for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy) gave an amusing and engaging speech, and spoke of her predecessor, Chuka Umunna. We all have things to learn from our predecessors. I learned much from Sir John Butterfill. I continue to learn much from the right hon. the Lord Eden of Winton, who first came to this House in 1954 and still provides me with excellent advice. The one piece of advice that the hon. Lady perhaps should not take from her predecessor is to join the Lib Dems—however tempting a prospect and however desperate they are. It would not be a career-enhancing move.
My hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall) gave an absolute tour de force of a speech, in which he spoke a lot about fishing and ports, and then more about fish. I would say there is absolutely nothing fishy about my hon. Friend, which is not something that we could always say about his predecessor.
There are many who are worried about us leaving the European Union. They seem to think that we are going to cut all ties and walk away. The EU will remain our closest and largest market, and the Government are committed—as we committed with the EU in the political declaration—to signing a free trade agreement by the end of this year. But there are massive opportunities for the United Kingdom to exploit outside the European Union. According to the IMF, 90% of global GDP growth in the next five years will come from outside the EU. The trade deals we seek to negotiate, alongside those with the EU, represent a raft of exciting new trade agreements with other priority countries, our aim being to cover 80% of our trade with FTAs within three years. The United States, our largest single trading partner, is the obvious place to start—which is why we started there—but we also look to like-minded partners such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already made enormous strides in this regard, along with engaging positively on our potential accession to the CPTPP—heralded, again, by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Paul Bristow).
As I travel, I see enormous interest in what leaving the European Union means for other countries in their relationship with the United Kingdom. When I listened to the speech by the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury), I concluded that she must have been supping from the cup of pessimism. If what she was saying in the House today is what she is saying to people overseas, no wonder they think we are in a bad way. I find when I go to Chile, to Brazil, to Morocco, to Algeria—
The Minister talks about pessimism from overseas. When I visited businesses in Mumbai in 2018, they told me that it was incredibly difficult for them to do business in the UK because of the restrictive nature of getting business visas to come to the UK to meet their counterparts here. What conversations is he having with the Home Office to ensure that it is making it as easy for businesses overseas, in all these countries that the Government now want to trade with, to come here and do business as it is when they visit other countries—our competitor countries?
I am grateful, Mr Deputy Speaker. Of course, the point that the hon. Lady made in her speech, and the point she is making now, is that people think that there are no opportunities in Brexit—that it is a disaster for Britain. But that visa situation happened while we were inside the European Union; it is an entirely unrelated point. We have the opportunity of changing that when we leave tomorrow and at the end of the year.
In response to the shadow Minister, who is again talking to the shadow Secretary of State, we have plenty of negotiators to help and support us—as many as the US trade rep has—and we have managed to negotiate over £110 billion of trade continuity agreements. She asked if I knew about what plans the Prime Minister has to change the structure of government or reshuffle his team. I have to say—knowing him well, as I do—that I do not. If I did, I might be more popular with my colleagues than I am.
Our country, and its nations and regions, have, over the centuries, given so much to the world. I remember the story of Winston Churchill in the early years of the last century, when, leaving this Chamber through those doors late at night, he turned and pointed in, and said, looking towards your Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker:
“This little room is the shrine of the world’s liberties.”
I was born in September 1972. Her Majesty gave Royal Assent to the European Communities Act in October 1972. I have lived but one month of my life in a country that had an independent trade policy. In one of Lady Thatcher’s favourite quotes:
“That which thy fathers have bequeathed to thee, earn it anew if thou wouldst possess it.”
That is our task: to herald our talent, to boost our trade, to grow our exports. Let future generations say, when they look back at us today, that we have brought jobs, prosperity and investment to every person in, and every corner of, our great nation. When they look back, let them say of us: they heralded the dawn of a new golden age and built a truly global Britain.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered global Britain.