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EU Trade Negotiations

Volume 684: debated on Wednesday 18 November 2020

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues and representatives of the devolved Governments on trade negotiations with the EU. (908730)

The Secretary of State for Wales and I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues and Welsh Ministers on a range of issues, including EU trade negotiations. The Joint Ministerial Committee on EU negotiations meets regularly, and my ministerial colleagues frequently discuss the EU trade negotiations with Ministers from all the devolved Administrations.

The comments by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Sunday that sheep farmers should just switch over to beef in the face of higher tariffs have been widely ridiculed in Wales and, indeed, in Scotland—quite a “let them eat cake” moment. Lamb exports are vital not only to farmers but to wider rural communities. What confidence can hill farmers have that the British Government have their interests at heart when it comes to EU trade negotiations after such a ministerial blunder?

First of all, I assure the hon. Lady that this Government are working very hard indeed to ensure that we get a full trade deal with the European Union. The second point to remember is that her party has voted against or abstained on every single trade deal that has been put forward for the last 15 years. The third point that I put to her is that the UK Government have already shown over and again how much support they will give to any industry that gets into any kind of trouble as a result of covid, or indeed, as a result of anything else. She can rest assured that we are doing everything possible, and if she is worried, perhaps she would like to explain to her constituents why she and her party voted against a deal that would have kept us inside a customs union and a single market. I voted for it; she and her party rejected it.

I know that the Minister is a strong supporter of devolution and he will acknowledge that the UK Government’s conduct of reserved matters such as trade will have significant implications for devolved competences such as agriculture. With that in mind, what concrete steps are the Government taking to develop the capacity of the Joint Ministerial Committee so that it fosters greater trust and transparency among the four nations?

The hon. Gentleman is being quite kind to me, because I was on a slightly different side of the argument in 1999, but I have reformed. I am a changed man. I recognise that the people of Wales voted twice for devolution in referendums and I believe that when the people of Wales vote for something in a referendum, that choice needs to be respected. I respect and will support devolution and I welcome his suggestion of closer co-operation between the UK and Welsh Governments over important issues such as agriculture.