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UK-EU Trade Negotiations

Volume 678: debated on Wednesday 8 July 2020

What recent discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on the UK’s trade negotiations with the EU. (904306)

What recent discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on the UK’s trade negotiations with the EU. (904316)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I discussed our future relationship with the EU as part of multiple engagements with the Welsh Government. We will continue to work and listen closely to the Welsh Government throughout the trade deal negotiations. It is, of course, a reserved matter, but we always listen carefully to what the Welsh Government have to say.

“Listen”, but probably don’t do anything, Mr Speaker. Michel Barnier told our Select Committee that the EU will introduce full border checks for the UK from 1 January regardless of the UK’s position. Given that exports to the EU from Wales account for 60% of Welsh exports, this will cause huge disruption. Has the Minister secured any additional support for Welsh exporters, or is it Brexit at all costs and who cares about the Welsh exporters?

Ensuring that Welsh exports— and, indeed, those from Scotland and all other parts of the United Kingdom—are able to be traded freely across the world, including with our former partners in the European Union, is a top priority for the Government. Of course, the hon. Gentleman appears to be asking for some sort of extension to the current deal that we have. He had the opportunity to do that on three occasions last year. I voted on every occasion for a deal that would have given a permanent extension; his party voted against it.

A recent survey by the Office for National Statistics has found that 46% of Welsh businesses have less than six months in cash reserves—the highest percentage among the UK nations. Without additional support, the looming threat of no deal in less than six months could be the final blow for many businesses. How will the Secretary of State explain to businesses that his Government actively decided to build additional barriers by ruling out an extension when they were already struggling?

I have to remind the hon. Lady once again that SNP Members had the opportunity to vote for the whole of the United Kingdom to remain in a semi-permanent customs union until a deal had been struck. They decided to vote against it, taking a gamble that they could destroy Brexit completely. They lost the gamble, and it is far too late now for them to ask for their stake back. We are leaving the European Union at the end of this year, as we promised to do in our manifesto.

Over the years, the Erasmus scheme has benefited many young people in Newport West. The Welsh Labour Government have repeatedly requested that Wales should be able to participate in programmes such as Erasmus, even if the Conservatives in England stop England doing so. Can the Minister confirm whether this important request from a devolved Government has been relayed by the UK negotiators, and if not, why not?

I have to declare a slight personal interest, because my wife was on an Erasmus scheme when I met her as a student some 20 or so years ago. Of course, at that time she was a citizen of a country that was not then in the European Union. So I can absolutely assure the hon. Lady that, whatever the future of Erasmus, I and my colleagues are determined to enable young people to be able to travel and study not just in the European Union, but outside the European Union.