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UK Trade Levels

Volume 707: debated on Thursday 20 January 2022

16. What recent assessment she has made of trends in the level of UK trade with the (a) EU and (b) rest of the world. (905122)

Official statistics up to end of November last year show that UK trade in goods with the EU has seen three consecutive monthly increases, with November showing an increase of nearly 3%. Goods trade with the EU is now above average levels for 2020, although still below 2019 levels. UK trade in goods with non-EU countries is at record monthly levels, with recent increases due to the high fuel prices we are seeing across the globe. UK trade in services with EU and non-EU countries continues to show small increases as covid restrictions on the movement of people ease, but trade remains below pre-covid levels.

Ireland has seen goods imports from Great Britain drop by more than a fifth since Brexit. Ireland has also, in that time, increased its goods exports to GB by more than 20%, and imports from Northern Ireland to the Republic jumped by more than 64%. Is it not the case that, by becoming independent, Scots will open the gate to 27 other markets and that Scotland can access that bridge to economic prosperity, as trade levels in the Republic and Northern Ireland are proving to us now?

On this side of the House, we continue to know that the Union is the strongest way that Scottish businesses can continue to export. Some 75% of exports are to the rest of the United Kingdom, and we want to make sure that, as well as trading with all of us, they have the opportunities our free trade agreements will make and find that selling their fantastic goods and services across the world becomes easier. However, we continue to say that the best way for Scottish businesses to do that is to stay within the UK.

Last week at Expo in Dubai, I was struck by the number of trade reps and investors from across the Gulf who told us just how much easier they have found doing business visits to London in recent months compared with other cities internationally. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that such remarks underline just how important it was for us as a Government, from a trade and investment perspective, to get right those big decisions about the vaccine roll-out and relaxing the covid restrictions to give us a head start as the international trading community recovers from covid?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Prime Minister has taken some incredibly tough decisions, and in doing so has made sure that our economy has stayed open and our population has remained safe. We have been world leading not only in vaccine production, but in distribution, so ensuring that the trade and enterprise so vital to our constituents and across the world supports healthy economies and, indeed, makes sure that everybody is in as good health as possible. It is lovely to hear those messages. What I hear as I travel around the world is that the UK is open for business, and we are seeing the benefits of that across the piece.

Purchasing managers index information shows that in December 2020 the United Kingdom was the only economy in the entire western world to see a fall in exports. Who is responsible for that?

To go back to my earlier point, as we see markets open up and opportunities for amazing UK businesses to discover not only the markets some are in already but new markets, the export support service and the team at the DIT stand ready to support all those who want to expand and share the UK’s amazing goods and services with the rest of the world. “Made in the UK, Sold to the World” is our campaign motto, and that is what we want to support everybody to share and get out there.