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Volume 681: debated on Thursday 8 October 2020

What discussions she has had with her Israeli counterpart on UK support for expanding Israel’s commercial ties with the Gulf states. (907231)

Britain’s trading relationships are already strong in the middle east. In the year ending March 2020, we had bilateral trade of £43.7 billion with the Gulf Co-operation Council countries and £5.1 billion with Israel. I know that my hon. Friend will join me in welcoming the Prime Minister’s appointment of Lord Austin—former Labour MP for Dudley North—as trade envoy to Israel. As Britain has now taken back control of her trade policy, I can confirm that we are now able to start scoping and probing for talks for a new higher-ambition trade agreement with Israel. We have already launched a joint trade and investment review with the GCC, taking us on the next leg of the journey to free trade with its members.

I join my hon. Friend in congratulating Lord Austin, who is a balanced and fair parliamentarian, on his great role, and we look forward to his work there. Given our strong and very positive relationships with both Israel and the Gulf states, the UK has a key role in striking deals. Will he update the House on what further plans we have for striking deals with these countries, as this will not only be good for UK exports but good for our international relations as well?

My hon. Friend is right. I am delighted that the United Kingdom-Israel trade and partnership agreement was one of the first agreements to be signed by the Department, and relations will be enhanced as we further deepen our work with Israel. As I mentioned, we have recently launched the United Kingdom GCC JTIR—joint trade and investment review—which will facilitate agreements with our friends there to broaden our trade relationships and realise new opportunities in areas such as education, healthcare, and food and drink. Recently my Department’s lobbying secured an improvement in the United Arab Emirates’ labelling rules, which has allowed businesses such as sports nutrition start-up Grenade in Solihull to continue to grow in the market. I look forward to securing many more opportunities for businesses across the country.

It is unsurprising that Israel is one of the first countries to sign a post-Brexit trade agreement with the UK because bilateral relations are, as the Minister says, very strong. What progress is being made in expanding those opportunities, and how do they go beyond the agreements that have already been signed by the UK?

My hon. Friend is right to be very ambitious for Britain’s future as we unleash the potential of every corner of our country. I was very pleased to see that last year this growth included new export wins totalling £1 million in his constituency. He is a great champion of exports and he is right that there is more that we can do. There are exciting opportunities in sectors such as financial services, infrastructure and technology. We are working with Israeli counterparts to realise those, including through reinstating plans to host an Anglo-Israeli trade and investment conference in London.