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Free Trade Agreements: Benefits for All Parts of the UK

Volume 677: debated on Thursday 18 June 2020

What steps her Department is taking to ensure that all parts of the UK benefit from future free trade agreements. (903436)

What steps her Department is taking to ensure that all parts of the UK benefit from future free trade agreements. (903443)

When the UK left the EU, we had successfully signed trade continuity agreements with 48 countries, accounting for £110 billion of UK trade in 2018. Now we are seeking new trade agreements so that UK trade is diversified and better aligned with global growth. Analysis shows that the US deal, for instance, will benefit all parts of the United Kingdom, although Scotland and the midlands will gain most. That US deal could reduce tariffs and non-tariff barriers for everything from Scottish cashmere to automotive manufacturing in the midlands, machinery manufacturing in the north-west and our world-class services sector in the south-east, the midlands, Northern Ireland and elsewhere.

Does the Minister agree that the ports of Grimsby, Immingham, Hull and Goole, as part of a pan-Humber free port, offer a huge opportunity to UK plc and are a key element of levelling up areas such as mine?

The Humber ports contribute so much to the UK economy, providing a critical trade route into Europe and beyond. Like my hon. Friend, I am proud that the Humber is one of the busiest and fastest growing trading areas in Europe, is responsible for a quarter of the UK’s seaborne trade and hosts 30,000 international shipping movements each year, yet it can do so much more; and, with the help and support of my hon. Friend, it will do so. I cannot comment on any individual free port bids, but I encourage anybody who wants their views taken into account to respond to the Government’s consultation before it closes on 13 July.

Does my hon. Friend agree that trade options such as free port status will add a major boost to our local economies, and that free port bids, such as the one involving Carlisle Lake District airport in my constituency of Penrith and The Border, warrant serious further consideration?

As I have said, I cannot comment on individual free port bids, but as I am someone who was born and brought up in Carlisle, my hon. Friend can certainly expect support and sympathy in this part of the Government.