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European Union: Trade

Volume 777: debated on Monday 28 November 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have given undertakings to different sectors of industry regarding trade with the European Union; and, if so, whether these will be incorporated in their industrial strategy.

My Lords, as the Prime Minister has said, the Government want British companies in different sectors to have the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the single market and to let European businesses do the same here. The industrial strategy will make clear that building a productive, open and competitive business environment is vital in delivering an economy that works for all.

My Lords, this Question was originally put down when assurances were given to Nissan regarding Brexit and the EU. It remains topical because everybody else is still waiting for a reply. Will the Government confront this uncertainty? Will they show some leadership and give the sense of direction that is needed to enable and encourage the investment and the organisation so that everybody else can get on with the job of raising the productivity that we so desperately need?

My Lords, the noble Lord received an answer from my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe when she responded to the Statement on 31 October. A response was also given by the Secretary of State in another place on the same occasion. As we made clear, we will publish an industrial strategy later this year. There are not many days to go before the year ends, and the noble Lord can wait for that occasion.

My Lords, do the Government agree that any special Brexit deal for Nissan, as intimated by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, or any other of our car makers, is not even necessary, because EU car makers sell us 2.4 cars for every car that we sell them, and they enjoy 64% of our domestic car market? And are there not 2.5 million more jobs in the EU selling things to us than we have selling things to them? Is it not in the EU’s interest to continue in free trade with us in the car sector and, indeed, in other sectors?

My Lords, as the noble Lord knows, no special deal was made for Nissan. A certain number of assurances were given, which were set out by my noble friend in repeating the Statement here on 31 October. We look forward to Nissan producing as many cars as it does. We are grateful for the fact that it has put such faith in the north-east and in this country. Seven thousand jobs, and a great many others in the supply stream, are dependent on that. We also look forward to continuing to trade freely with Europe.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that some 200 American companies and 50 companies from Japan have located in Wales in order to sell into the European market and that any system of financial aid to industry has to be open, equally accessible and transparent so that companies such as Ford, Toyota, Airbus and Siemens are not disadvantaged in regard to their competitors?

My Lords, as my right honourable friend made clear in another place, there has been no compensation package for Nissan. Nissan will continue to produce its vehicles in the north-east, and we hope that all those firms in Wales and other parts of the United Kingdom will continue to produce whatever they are good at in those countries and will continue to trade freely with the rest of the European Union.

My Lords, I refer to my interests as set out in the register. The Government are pinning an awful lot of hope on their industrial strategy. I think the Minister said that a Green Paper will be published at the end of the year, but when will we have the full-blown, finished, finalised industrial strategy that will help guide us through the Brexit negotiations and on the investments that the Government seem to be planning?

My Lords, the noble Lord is right to point out that the industrial strategy will be a Green Paper. As it is a Green Paper, it will involve a great deal of consultation and further discussion. In due course, further papers will follow from it. I am not going to give a timescale as to when that might be.

My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord back to the Front Bench and look forward to debating with him again in future. In October, the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, said that the forthcoming Green Paper—I am glad to hear it confirmed that there will be one—will continue to give support to the original proposal by the Prime Minister that employees and stakeholders will get a stronger voice in company boardrooms. Since then, business organisations have unanimously come out against this. Does it remain a commitment of the Government?

My Lords, I am not going to comment on what will be coming before the noble Lord and others sometime later this year. The noble Lord does not have to wait long—he does not even have to wait as long as Christmas before this wonderful Green Paper comes out. He can then peruse it and make his comments in due course.

My Lords, can the Minister not see the contradiction in his statement a few moments ago that “assurances”—I am quoting him—have been given to Nissan but that there is no “special deal”? Given that the need for assurances arises wholly and solely out of this country’s impending departure from the European Union and the single market, why do the Government feel so inhibited about publicising the assurances given so that they can be examined to see whether there is in fact a special deal which could be imparted to all the other companies that will be affected?

My Lords, I made clear that there was no compensation package to Nissan. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State made that clear and my noble friend made it clear when she repeated that Statement on 31 October and gave four assurances. There is not time for me to go through those four assurances, but I refer the noble Lord back to the debate that was held on 31 October, where he can read through them.