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Brexit: Economic Opportunities

Volume 715: debated on Thursday 9 June 2022

12. What progress his Department has made on identifying potential economic opportunities arising from the UK having left the EU. (900335)

The Government and I are very committed to ensuring we maximise the opportunities of leaving the EU to support economic growth. My hon. Friend, with his invariable parliamentary perspicacity, follows from one question to another seamlessly, because what we need is the removal of overburdensome and bureaucratic regulation such as solvency II and the clinical trials directive to create new pro-growth regulatory frameworks in data and AI. Her Majesty’s Government are already delivering an ambitious programme of work to unleash innovation, propel start-up growth across all sectors of the economy and help to level up parts of the United Kingdom. The Procurement Bill alone will cut 350 separate pieces of EU law to one UK law. I have also been receiving excellent ideas from readers of The Sun and the Sunday Express.

I apologise to the House, Mr Speaker: perhaps I should not have asked that question as it obviously required the giving of a long list of benefits.

In my constituency, Weatherbys, the global administrator for horse racing, has developed an e-passport to ease movements of thoroughbreds around the world and provide essential welfare data. If the Government were to link that e-passport to the Government system, that would be a massive Brexit dividend. May I ask the excellent Minister for administrative affairs whether he would put a rocket under the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, make it be courageous and cut the red tape, cut the delay and get this done?

I have good news for my hon. Friend: DEFRA’s equine identification team has been in contact with Weatherbys during the development and launch of its e-passport, and the merits of its e-passport will be considered along with responses from a recent consultation, which closes on 28 June. So it is a case of, my hon. Friend asks and it shall be given. Seek and he shall find.

In October 2019, the Brexit Opportunities Minister stood at the Dispatch Box and assured businesses that the “broad, sunlit uplands” of Brexit lay ahead. Yesterday, I spoke to Elizabeth, whose company, Gracefruit, has exported chemicals for cosmetics to the EU for almost two decades. She weathered the financial crash, but such was the impact of Brexit that she has told me she no longer has the

“mental or emotional energy to make a success of a once-thriving business.”

So would he like to tell Elizabeth, and all the others struggling with red tape, soaring costs and a loss of market, when they can expect those “broad, sunlit uplands” to arrive?

The sun is shining, metaphorically, regardless of the meteorological conditions outside. What I would say to the hon. Gentleman is that we are in charge of how this economy works, but what we cannot do is make the EU dance to our tune. If it wishes to disadvantage its own consumers—if it wishes to put up prices for its consumers—that is a matter for the EU, but we are producing a dynamic, open, free market UK economy.

The idea that the Minister for Brexit Opportunities believes that the sun is shining for small and medium-sized companies in this country is absolutely unbelievable because, in the first year following Brexit, Elizabeth’s business fell by 65%. Because of red tape and new regulations, her product line had to be reduced from 350 products to one, and the company has had to lay off 50% of its workforce. So it is Brexit that has been an unmitigated disaster for Gracefruit and so many other long-standing successful businesses. Is it not time that this Government stopped playing games with people’s lives and livelihoods and admitted that their Brexit experiment is a lose-lose for everybody, bar a few double-breasted suit-wearing hedge fund managers and City spivs?

The hon. Gentleman is fundamentally wrong and he actually explains why it was right to leave the EU. What he is talking about is not British red tape—it is EU red tape. We are freeing people in this country from red tape because we look at the United Kingdom playing a global role—trading with the globe, being as economically productive as anywhere in the world. He comes here and explains that the red tape of the EU strangles enterprise and innovation and destroys business. That is why the EU is a failing economic option and why we sing hallelujahs for having left it.