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Free Trade Agreements: Professional Business Services

Volume 692: debated on Thursday 15 April 2021

The UK is a world leader in professional business services and the second biggest exporter of PBS globally, with a trade surplus of £33 billion in 2018. To support this important and diverse sector, we are seeking ambitious FTA commitments in cross-cutting areas like mobility and digital, as well as tackling specific behind-the-border regulatory barriers such as recognition and professional qualifications.

The Minister will forgive me for being a bit concerned about ongoing red tape in post-Brexit trade with the European Union. This is affecting businesses in Bracknell and beyond. Will he please outline what his Department is doing to support the Cabinet Office in resolving this?

DIT has very active participation in the current helplines for businesses facing issues in exporting to the EU. We participate, of course, in the Brexit business taskforce, we provide a DIT internationalisation fund for those looking to export, and we have 300 international trade advisers across the country and at posts right across the European Union. This is a whole-of-Government effort, and, as I said earlier, the data are starting to show encouraging signs of a recovery in our trade.

Many of my Kensington constituents work in professional services, whether financial services, law, consulting or accountancy. These industries account for a huge amount of gross value added to our economy. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that the professional services sector will be at the forefront of our minds in negotiating future trade deals?

My hon. Friend and neighbour puts it extremely well. Professional business services are vital for her constituency, for mine and for the whole country. Around 79% of gross value added and 80% of employment in this country is in services. As she knows, we secured special provisions for legal services in the EU agreement. I meet regularly with bodies such as TheCityUK, the City of London Corporation, UK Finance, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, the Law Society, the Bar Council and others to ensure that professional business services are right at the heart of the UK’s trade agenda.