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Trading Relationships: Israel

Volume 616: debated on Thursday 3 November 2016

1. What plans he has to strengthen the UK’s trade relationship with Israel as a result of the decision to leave the EU. (907063)

The UK and Israel have a strong and important trading relationship, with nearly £6 billion in bilateral trade last year. The UK is the No. 1 destination for Israeli foreign direct investment in Europe, and there are now more than 300 Israeli companies established in the UK. I recently visited Israel to discuss investment and trade, and we will continue discussions on strengthening our important trade relationship.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. UK-Israel trade is at a record high, with strong ties in science and technology, cyber-security and medical science, but the terms are currently determined by the EU-Israel association agreement. Does he agree that our vote to leave the EU presents a great opportunity to strengthen co-operation between our countries, and will he update the House on progress on planning and securing a new post-Brexit deal with Israel?

We are taking advantage of all the opportunities presented to us to ensure that Britain becomes a truly global leader in free trade once we leave the EU, and that of course includes Israel, building on our strong relationship in areas such as research and development and cyber-security. For example, we have established the UK-Israel tech hub, which creates partnerships between British companies and world-class Israeli innovators.

A survey this year found that 89% of Israeli tech companies and 86% of Israeli investors are interested in business and tech co-operation with the UK. What steps will the Minister be taking to take advantage of that good will and ensure that Britain continues to be a leading destination for Israeli tech companies?

The right hon. Lady is quite right to mention our growing relationship. In cyber-security, in particular, we saw a 24% growth in exports last year. I was recently in Tel Aviv and had the opportunity to visit a tech accelerator hub that is sponsored by Barclays. It is very encouraging to see that private sector relationship, which is something we will continue to encourage.

11. One area in which the UK can strengthen its relationship with Israel is cyber, where Israel has 20% of the global market. Will the Minister welcome the UK-Israel cyber-physical initiative and say what is coming next? (907076)

My hon. Friend is quite right to raise the interest in cyber. In February we led a successful cyber-security collaboration mission of businesses and academics, and we will continue to promote further such delegations.

As part of these trade discussions, did the Minister raise the thorny issue of illegal settlements in Palestine and the demolitions that are ongoing? Demolitions of some buildings have actually been part-funded by the UK.

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Government do frown on the illegal settlements in the Palestine territories. These are not helping with the peace process—they are standing as an obstacle—and the Government continue to promote the two-state solution to ensure that Palestine becomes a viable and sovereign nation.