Skip to main content

Leaving the EU: Effect on Wales

Volume 624: debated on Wednesday 26 April 2017

At this last Welsh questions before the general election, I should like to pay tribute to two Welsh stars. Josh Griffiths of the Swansea Harriers was the first Briton to cross the finishing line at the London marathon at the weekend. In particular, I want to pay tribute to Matthew Rees, who helped a fellow runner during the closing stages of the marathon.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that, as we negotiate our exit from the European Union, we will work to secure a deal that benefits all parts of the United Kingdom. Wales is a vibrant, dynamic, innovative country and is well placed to make a success of the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Brexit could have a negative impact on jobs in Wales, so the proposal to build a category C prison in my constituency is welcome in principle. However, it is difficult to understand why the Baglan Energy Park has been selected as the site for the prison. It is even more difficult to understand why the Prisons Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah), has not had the courtesy to reply to my letter of 23 March. Will the Secretary of State please encourage his friend the Minister to check his in-tray? Will he also guarantee that our local community will be fully and properly consulted about the siting of this prison?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. There are record employment data in Wales, with unemployment at a record low, and the prison will provide a further boost to his constituency. The answer to his question is quite straightforward: the site was selected in consultation with, and with the support of, the Welsh Government.

15. Wales has a number of technological hotspots, around Cardiff and elsewhere. Does my right hon. Friend not think that, after Brexit, they will benefit from the bilateral trade deals that we will be able to make with the United States and Canada, as well as with the European Union? (909723)

My hon. Friend regularly shows a great interest in Wales and he obviously knows a lot about the Welsh economy. He mentions the high-tech sectors. We have seen the expansion of General Dynamics, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and I visited a couple of weeks ago. On that same day, we both handed over the Red Dragon super-hangar to Aston Martin. These are real jobs that are being created by real investors creating new opportunities.

13. In leaving the European customs union, Welsh manufacturers and farmers will lose the solid protections offered by the bloc. Why does the Secretary of State not come clean today and admit that it is the Tories’ intention to sell Welsh producers down the river in order to open up markets for the bankers of London? (909721)

The hon. Gentleman will recognise that exports from Wales have grown significantly, by 6.2%, over the past year. That is something that we welcome. He will also recognise the data that I highlighted earlier about record levels of employment and record low levels of unemployment. On that basis, he will recognise that we want the freest possible open trading arrangements in support of Welsh farmers, because we maintain an active relationship with them—

We are extremely grateful to the Secretary of State, but we have a lot of colleagues trying to get in today.

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the rural areas of Wales will be placed front and centre in a post-Brexit Britain?

I pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend does on supporting the rural economy, particularly in his constituency. We maintain a close relationship with both the farming unions in Wales, and most of those meetings take place in his constituency. That demonstrates the active relationship that we have with key stakeholders as well as with the Welsh Government.

If the Secretary of State has such a close relationship with the farming unions, how does he respond to their request for a full assessment of the impact on Welsh agriculture if we have to fall back on World Trade Organisation tariffs? Is it not obvious that 40% tariffs would destroy Welsh agriculture?

I am disappointed with the hon. Gentleman’s approach. He is assuming the worst-case scenario. We are having this general election in order to have strong and stable leadership in the challenging negotiations ahead. There are 27 EU nations that will be challenging everything as we negotiate to leave the European Union. Strong and stable leadership is needed now more than ever before.

If the right hon. Gentleman is so keen on listening to Welsh farmers, will he tell us why the Government are refusing to agree with the Farmers Union of Wales? Why will powers on agriculture not be devolved to the Welsh Government post-Brexit? Will he come clean on that?

I am sure the hon. Lady will recognise that we engaged closely with the FUW and the National Farmers Union before drafting the great repeal Bill White Paper. They had active input directly to me and other Cabinet colleagues. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also met the farming unions to consider the matter, and they are absolutely supportive of the position we have taken in the White Paper.

The Prime Minister has said that she is prepared to walk away from the negotiating table without a trade deal with the EU, and the Foreign Secretary has said that no deal would be no problem. Yet no deal, as we have heard, could see tariffs of 30% to 40% on Welsh dairy farmers and meat producers, and 10% tariffs on Welsh car manufacturers. Is it not the case that this Tory Government are prepared to play fast and loose with the Welsh economy, with an extreme Tory vision of Brexit that would put Welsh jobs and livelihoods at risk?

I do not recognise the basis of the hon. Gentleman’s question. We want the freest, most open trading agreement, and it seems to me that the real investors, who are creating real jobs, are taking us towards our ambition. We have seen major investment by Nissan in Sunderland, major investment by Toyota in Derbyshire and major investment in my constituency by Aston Martin. That demonstrates their confidence in our vision as we leave the European Union.

2. What recent assessment he has made of the effect on Wales’s trade with EU countries of the UK leaving the EU. (909710)

7. What assessment he has made of the implications for Wales’s trading opportunities of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. (909715)

10. What assessment he has made of the implications for Wales’s trading opportunities of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. (909718)

The UK, including Wales, remains the same outward-looking, globally minded country we have always been. International businesses, such as Aston Martin, choose to invest in Wales as a result of the great work done by the Department for International Trade and the Wales Office, working hand in glove with the Welsh Government. That shows that Wales continues to be a great investment destination.

Welsh food and drink exports to the European Union will face eye-watering tariffs on leaving the single market. Will the Minister simply guarantee that, as part of a World Trade Organisation deal, the home market will not be flooded with cheap food imports such as Australian sheepmeat?

The hon. Gentleman is again guilty of peddling scare stories. The fact of the matter is that when it comes to lamb, for example, New Zealand currently does not even meet its quota to the European Union—only 70% of the New Zealand quota is currently maintained. He should have some confidence in Welsh agricultural produce, rather than talking down the prospects of the economy.

I would have a great deal more confidence if the Minister answered the question. On Monday I visited one of the largest and most successful high-tech businesses in Wales, which told me that, post-Brexit, it is hoping against hope to be able to export to its European partners, as at present, without all the red tape and expense of being outside the customs union. Why are this hard-Brexit Government so determined to make life more difficult for our key exporters?

The hon. Gentleman again highlights the negativity that surrounds the issue, but it is a negativity that I do not recognise, that is not recognised by businesses in Wales and that is certainly not highlighted by the investment decisions made by businesses in Wales. Businesses in Wales are investing and are looking to a global future. We will secure the greatest possible access to European markets, although we are also looking to global trade deals that will ensure Wales is part of global growth as well as maintaining European markets.

Wales has huge potential in terms of exporting and trading opportunities, and the Department for International Trade is an important tool for companies in Wales that are looking to expand overseas. How are the Minister and his Department ensuring that Wales is central to the work of the Department for International Trade?

The Department for International Trade is a crucial component of the way in which we support Welsh businesses, and the Wales Office is working closely with that Department. We had an export conference in Cardiff on 6 March, which was extremely well attended, and the opportunities available to Welsh businesses, both within the European Union and globally, were highlighted. That meeting was a huge success.

My hon. Friend will agree that there is much common ground between Cornwall and Wales with the opportunities that Brexit presents for the export of high-quality goods and services across the globe. What advice can he share with businesses across my constituency as we begin the negotiations to leave the European Union?

I thank my hon. Friend for the question. She correctly says that Wales and Cornwall have a lot in common, not least in terms of language. Businesses in Cornwall should do the same as those in Wales: engage with the Department for International Trade; look at the opportunities to go on trade missions; and identify new markets. Opportunities are there for businesses from Cornwall and Wales, and we need to exploit those.

What guarantees can the Minister give companies such as Airbus, which rely on British employees moving and working across Europe, when we leave Europe?

The guarantee we can offer to any company that wants to work across Europe is that this Government will listen to them and act on their behalf. We have absolutely no interest in doing anything other than fully supporting companies such as Airbus, which is such a key component of the economy of north-east Wales.

To enhance trade across the whole of Wales we need to have proper infrastructure in our ports. Will the Minister congratulate the Welsh Government on putting in additional funds? Will he work with them to ensure that places such as Ynys Môn remain at the heart of the British Isles, because of both their close proximity to Ireland and their trade with the rest of Europe?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right in what he says, and I am pleased that the Secretary of State visited the port of Holyhead with him. He is also right to highlight the fact that Wales is in a fortunate position: we have two Governments that can work for the benefit of our economy. Co-operation between the UK Government and the Welsh Government for the development of ports such as Holyhead is crucial to the way forward after Brexit.