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UK/EU Trade Agreement

Volume 672: debated on Thursday 5 March 2020

3. What assessment she has made of the potential merits of a trade agreement with the EU on similar terms to the EU-Australia trade negotiations. (901117)

The United Kingdom has published its approach to negotiations with the European Union, and the first round of talks is already under way. The United Kingdom is looking for a free trade agreement with the European Union based on EU precedent. Whatever the outcome of the talks led by David Frost and “Taskforce Europe,” this year we will recover our political and economic independence in full.

The question was about whether the Government are seeking to agree what they call an Australia-style deal between the EU and the UK. Given that there is no deal between Australia and the EU, can the Government confirm whether they are happy to accept a no deal between the UK and the EU?

We already have a deal with the EU that the Prime Minister secured last year. The question now is whether we can secure a free trade agreement with the EU. We seek a Canada-style deal, but Australia trades perfectly effectively through a number of side deals with the EU. Whatever happens, we are going to deliver on the referendum result, fully leave the European Union and provide British business and the British people with the opportunities of global free trade.

Can the Minister confirm that, under what the Government euphemistically call this Australia-style trade agreement, all the bilateral investment agreements we have with EU states, which were suspended while we were a member of the EU, will come back into force? What assessment has he made of the likely dispute proceedings that investors from those countries could launch and of the impact that would have on UK trade?

The shadow Secretary of State may be moderately confused about our purpose here today, as this is questions to the Department for International Trade. As he is well aware, the European Union negotiations are handled by the Cabinet Office, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and David Frost, reporting to the Prime Minister.

What progress has been made in laying the groundwork for a UK-Australia free trade agreement? Is a timetable in place for the commencement of those negotiations?

This week we have published the proposals for the United States deal, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade is ably leading on Australia, Canada, Japan and, potentially, the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership. She will come to the House in due course, hopefully soon, to lay out full proposals for the terms of those negotiations[Official Report, 9 March 2020, Vol. 673, c. 2MC.].

As the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Ghana and other parts of west Africa, I am delighted to be meeting a delegation this afternoon to talk about our expertise in science and technology and how we can help to support development in those countries. Does the Minister agree that, as we look out to the rest of the world post Brexit, it is trade with developing nations that will deliver the jobs, prosperity and mutual benefit we seek?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. He does an excellent job, for which I thank him, as trade envoy to Ghana. We see enormous potential for development and people’s life chances, particularly on the continent of Africa, in free trade between us and Africa, and around the world. Free trade is the route to prosperity, and it is the route to lift people out of poverty. This Government will always champion it for the most deprived people in the world.

The Minister has just mentioned the Department’s economic impact assessments on future trade deals with Australia, New Zealand, Japan and a CPTPP-type deal, but he will understand that a CETA-type deal—a Canada-style deal with Europe—will hit our economy by 6.2%. To what extent does he believe that the trade deals done with Japan, Australia, New Zealand and so on will compensate for that huge loss to our economy?

We do not see these things as mutually exclusive. We are now going to be an independent sovereign nation, seeking free trade agreements around the world, liberating British business, with the opportunity to tap in to some of the fastest-growing economies around the world. We want a good deal with the EU and with partners around the world, to the mutual benefit and prosperity of all our citizens.