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Leaving the EU: Benefit for Businesses

Volume 715: debated on Tuesday 7 June 2022

Leaving the European Union gives us a fantastic opportunity, over the long term, to chart a new course to bring further prosperity to the UK. The Government are committed to growing the UK’s economy by making the most of our Brexit freedoms, signing new trade deals, and, over time, lightening the regulatory burden.

I have previously compared the role of Government to that of a cricket groundsman preparing the best possible wicket on which our players—our businesses, including mine in Hertford and Stortford—can play to their strengths. Will my hon. Friend outline the steps that we are taking to drop unnecessary regulation following our departure from the EU, so that our brilliant businesses can compete and win?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her important point. Unlike her, I am not able to make any comparisons with cricket, but we know that unnecessary regulation, where it exists, is a real burden for businesses, and we are committed to reducing it. There is also work under way on data laws, alcohol duty and imperial markings. There is the forthcoming Brexit freedoms Bill, and cross-Government work to look at reducing burdens. All of that should mean positive movement in this important area of policy.

Our insurance and financial services sector is a great British success story, and it helps to fund our local public services. The majority of employment in the sector is outside London and spread across many of our constituencies. Does the Minister agree that it is vital that we continue to support the growth of this industry, and that there must be a strong competitiveness duty on the regulator, so that we can make the most of opportunities now that we have left the EU?

I know that my hon. Friend does a huge amount of work in this area as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on insurance and financial services, and he has a background in the sector. Although he is tempting me to make policy that is dealt with by another Department, I know that his point will have been heard by my colleagues in the Treasury.

Under the Northern Ireland protocol, Northern Ireland businesses pay mainland suppliers a fee to ship to them. Will the Minister consider refunding businesses this fee, which they must accept because the list of suppliers who will take on the hassle of the web of red-tape confusion is ever-dwindling, leaving very little choice when it comes to supplying goods to Northern Ireland?

The hon. Member is hugely committed to finding ways through the challenges around Northern Ireland, and I congratulate him on the work that he does. I will certainly pass back his comments, and I am happy to discuss them with him separately, if that is helpful.

Following on from the cricket analogy, one of the golden rules in that great game is that when your time is up, you walk; you do not wait until you are told.

The Minister is talking about the benefits to businesses of leaving the EU. When will businesses in my constituency start to feel those benefits? All they are seeing now is businesses closing because they cannot get the staff, because of interruption to their supply chain, or because their exports are getting held up on their way across the channel. When will things turn around after the disaster of Brexit, so that we are at least back to where we were before 2016?

That was a nice try from the SNP at linking those things. As the SNP and the hon. Gentleman know, there are substantial global issues at the moment that all Governments are grappling with, and the Government here in the United Kingdom have been very clear about their desire to support businesses and to help people through these difficult times.

British business depends on British science for long-term national growth, and the No. 1 issue facing British scientists right now is our participation in the world’s largest science funding programme—the European Union’s £95 billion Horizon programme. Since 2007, British scientists have won over £14 billion from Horizon—more than we put in—but this is about more than money; it concerns international prestige. Horizon is a collaborative network of over 30 countries. Let us face it: this Government will never be able to replicate that. The Prime Minister said that he had an oven-ready Brexit deal; why is British science being left on the shelf?

I am not going to refight Brexit and revisit the positions we all went through in the last Parliament. Horizon is important. The UK Government have been very clear about our desire to continue with Horizon. The Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman), who is the Minister for science, continues extensive work to ensure that that happens. The EU has a choice to make, and my hon. Friend will be in Brussels tomorrow to continue that conversation.