We are negotiating and implementing free trade agreements and removing barriers that British businesses face across the globe. Last financial year, we resolved more than 200 barriers across 74 countries, an increase of 20% on the previous year. We have so far secured FTAs with 70 countries plus the EU, covering nearly £800 billion-worth of bilateral trade in 2020, delivering benefits for communities across the country.
British produce and food and drink are some of the best in the world, especially when they are made in the north-west of England. What steps are the Government taking to reduce market access barriers for businesses in Warrington South and the north-west? What have they done in the past year to help British exporters?
The Department is working hard to reduce barriers to trade, including for my hon. Friend’s constituents in Warrington South. For example, I can tell him that we have successfully secured access for British wheat to Mexico, poultry to Japan and lamb to the USA, just to name a few of the barriers that have been removed, boosting food and agriculture among many other products across the globe.
Survey after survey of business owners report unnecessary hassle and difficulty in exporting to European markets, with extra red tape, checks and delays too often the norm. As no one in the Government is getting a grip on this, why does the Secretary of State not get herself down to Dover to understand directly what needs doing to ease the very real difficulties that British businesses face?
If we could export broken records, I think the hon. Gentleman would be a winner, but I have to say that his description is far from the truth. What are the Government and the Department doing? We have the export support service, the Export Academy, export champions, international trade advisers in the UK and overseas, agri-commissioners, hundreds of staff focusing on specific sectors, the tradeshow programme, UK Export Finance and trade envoys. The key issue is that in-country, where we find specific issues, we liaise country to country to resolve them. It is simply not true that the Government are doing nothing. In fact, we are seeing exports starting to recover and appetite for British goods and services going up ever more.
The Minister is reeling off figures, but he might want to consider this one: 4,300 fewer businesses in the UK are exporting goods and services than in 2018, according to the Government’s own annual stocktake. Why are this Government so anti-trade?
The information is that exports to the EU are now up. Also, the export support service is now proactively contacting those customers who have stopped exporting, because there can be a variety of reasons why people drop off the radar for exporting. Just seeing the glass half empty is not boosting trade in the United Kingdom. We are proactively contacting those companies to get them back on the pitch and back exporting, and talking up the United Kingdom.
They are great at talking the talk but not at walking the walk. The European Union will remain Scotland and the UK’s largest export market for some time to come, yet this Government have done nothing to remove or even ease non-tariff barriers, bureaucracy or Brexit red tape, and they have not done anything about the labour shortages that are hampering exporters. They have spent the past year decimating the fishing industry and its livelihoods. This year, why are they going after farmers, with the Australia and New Zealand trade deals, already roundly condemned by the farming industry, set to result in floods of cheap, lower-quality meat and dairy products being exported into the UK from around the globe?
All I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that it is a good job that I am leading on exports, not him, because all he ever sees is problems. We are doing stuff. We are doing exports. It is simply not true that the Government are doing nothing. I have been out in the markets. I am not sure whether the Scottish lead on exports has done many overseas visits. I am happy to work with the Scottish National party if it would actually come out and do something. We are removing trade barriers. We have already sent poultry to Japan and lamb to the USA. We are working with the Gulf states, increasing halal sales and sales of Welsh lamb. It is simply not true that this country will be flooded with cheap imports. That is pure scaremongering.