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Trade Agreements: Non-EU Countries

Volume 672: debated on Thursday 5 March 2020

14. What recent progress she has made with her non-EU counterparts on negotiations for future trade agreements with those countries. (901133)

As we said earlier, only this week we have launched our negotiating platform for a free trade agreement with the United States. Those for Australia, New Zealand and Japan will follow in due course, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will set those out. My role within the Department is to support her in scoping out and assessing the potential for future free trade agreements around the rest of the world.

In reality, the roll-over deals struck to date amount to just 8% of our existing total trade, yet we were told that all this would be sorted by one minute past midnight on 31 March last year. Are the US negotiations being conducted in tandem with the EU ones, with fully trained teams aware of what each other is doing so that that can be factored into any future relationship? I am sure that other countries will be thinking the same, particularly as our objectives seem to be so divergent from the US’s “America first” aims.

I understand that the hon. Lady attended a briefing yesterday on the negotiations, led by our brilliant chief negotiator. She asks whether we are pursuing concurrent trade negotiations with the EU and the United States. The answer is yes we are, in exactly the same way that the EU is currently negotiating with the United States.

Further to that question and to the question asked by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney), I want to be absolutely clear about one thing: there is no such thing as an Australian free trade deal with the EU. An Australia-terms Brexit is actually a no-deal Brexit, and no amount of spin or repackaging can hide that fact. Does the Minister think that no deal is an acceptable outcome, given the near apocalyptic conclusions of his own Government’s Yellowhammer report, which talked about two and a half day waits at ports for lorries? Is that acceptable?

A free trade agreement with the European Union is our ambition, and we hope that it shares that ambition. Our ambition is also to engage in free trade negotiations, which the Secretary of State is leading on, with the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan in the first instance. I can tell the hon. Gentleman and sceptics on the Opposition Benches that the interest in the opportunities for the United Kingdom to engage bilaterally around the world, now that we control our own independent trade policy for the first time in almost 50 years, is almost unquenchable—I think of the conversations we have had in the last six months with the Gulf Co-operation Council, Vietnam, Brazil, Chile, Morocco, Algeria and Commonwealth Trade Ministers. I just hope that the hon. Gentleman’s constituents will welcome the opportunities that we are giving them to trade with the world and enjoy ever increasing prosperity.

Is the collective mind of Government concentrated on ensuring that these deals are shared across the entirety of the United Kingdom?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question. The answer is unequivocally yes. We are determined that the entire United Kingdom—all nations and every region of it—will benefit, and I had the pleasure of returning home to Northern Ireland only a couple of weeks ago to talk about those ambitions with the Executive and businesses in Northern Ireland.