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UK Preparedness: End of Transition

Volume 686: debated on Thursday 17 December 2020

If he will negotiate a phased period of implementation for new trading rules after the end of the transition period. (910434)

What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of the UK’s preparedness for the end of the transition period. (910437)

What steps the Government are taking to (a) maintain jobs and (b) support businesses at the end of the transition period. (910470)

The Government have been clear that the transition period will end on 31 December. We have made extensive preparations for a wide range of outcomes, including through a package of support for border infrastructure and the customs intermediary sector, and, of course, the phased implementation of border controls. A trader support service is also in place to help businesses trading under the Northern Ireland protocol, and we are scaling up the provision of Government helplines.

A great deal of concern has been expressed to me by local businesses in Edinburgh West, and there are national concerns among industries such as the whisky sector, about the difficulties businesses are having with things like not knowing how they should label products given that there is, as yet, no clarity about our future relationship with the European Union. Anything that the Government can do to extend the period of adjustment would be appreciated by businesses and would help to offset the Scottish National party drive towards breaking up the United Kingdom, about which I know the Government share my concern.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right; we need to do everything we can to support businesses in Scotland and elsewhere. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade is doing everything she can to help the whisky sector, not least through discussions with the US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer. More broadly, we want to make sure, in the free trade agreement that we seek, that there can be a smooth glide path for businesses in Scotland and elsewhere. I look forward to continuing to work with the hon. Lady. She has been a consistent voice for Scotland’s businesses, both in the House and before she came to the Commons, and her advocacy, free of any partisan agenda, is something of which her constituents should be proud.

The Minister is forever the smooth talker, as we saw in his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), but how exactly will our police access those real-time Schengen most-wanted criminal databases in 14 days’ time? With 15,000 UK extradition requests in both directions last year alone under the European arrest warrant, how can he guarantee that, when we leave, Britain does not become a safe haven for murderers, rapists, terrorists and other cross-border criminals? People want precision on prosperity and security and, frankly, his one-liners are not good enough.

I try not to weary the House with over-long answers. On the hon. Lady’s substantive point, it is the case that we have extensive security and law enforcement and justice co-operation with our friends in the European Union and, indeed, beyond and we will make use of all the instruments necessary in order to keep people safe.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will know that, last week, my Ogmore constituents received a hammer blow with the news that INEOS has decided to pull out of building their 4x4s, which had been promised by the ardent Brexiteer, Jim Ratcliffe. The irony that INEOS’s owner was such a vocal supporter of Brexit and has now fled to France to build his 4x4s has not been lost on any of my hard-working and highly skilled constituents. What assurances can the Minister give me that he is working to try to bring about more support for job growth in highly skilled manufacturing that can work for the people of south Wales?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. It is the case that, in South Wales, there is a concentration of skilled workers in advanced manufacturing who are the pride of the world. It is also the case, of course, that General Dynamics in Merthyr Tydfil, which is new to his constituency, is receiving support and investment from the defence industrial strategy. I look forward to working with him and indeed with the Welsh Government to ensure that his constituents can prosper in the future. It is absolutely vital that we work together to ensure that the skilled workers of the valleys have the bright future that they deserve.