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Leaving the EU: Scottish Exports

Volume 639: debated on Wednesday 25 April 2018

From funding UK Export Finance support to re-establishing the Board of Trade, the UK Government are working to support all Scottish businesses that are looking to export or expand their operations abroad.

The Scottish borders have a number of industries with international reach, including the textiles industry, which is a global player in fashion. There is also an international market for food and drink from the borders, and indeed from across Scotland. Can my right hon. Friend reassure me that producers of textiles and of food and drink in the borders and across Scotland will be taken account of as part of the Brexit negotiations so that they can take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit presents?

My hon. Friend is always a champion for the businesses in the borders, and I can of course give him that reassurance. We are talking to producers in the borders, across Scotland and indeed across the UK to ensure that they can make the most of the opportunities around the world as we leave the EU.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his response. Will he encourage the Secretary of State for International Trade to meet seafood processors during his visit to Aberdeen next month?

Scottish seafood is rightly famous around the world. I was pleased that my hon. Friend could join me earlier this month when I met the Scottish Seafood Association to discuss the impact of the EU exit. As I said then, there are growing opportunities for the sector in Scotland, and I would of course be happy both to meet the fish processing industry myself and to encourage my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade to do so.

Consistently, reports have said that Aberdeen is set to be hit the worst by Brexit, not least because of the number of incredibly successful exporting businesses we have. What is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that we stay in the single market and the customs union to protect businesses in Aberdeen?

The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that the Secretary of State for International Trade is visiting Aberdeen. We recognise Aberdeen’s great exporting tradition, which is why we want to ensure that there are opportunities for Aberdeen’s businesses around the world. This Government will not sign up to a customs union so that we can negotiate free trade agreements that allow businesses to take advantage of those opportunities.

The Netherlands has overtaken the USA as Scotland’s biggest export market, which demonstrates the increasing importance of EU trade to the Scottish economy. The Secretary of State should be representing the voices and interests of Scotland in the Cabinet. With respect, he did not answer the question of the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) about the single market, because representing Scotland’s interests can only mean arguing for continued membership of the single market.

I respect the Liberal Democrats’ position that they want to stay in the EU and, indeed, to stop the UK and Scotland leaving the EU, but a decision has been made across the United Kingdom that it will leave the EU. It is now incumbent on this Government to negotiate the best possible terms for that departure. The Government have made it absolutely clear that we will not be part of a customs union and will look to negotiate our own bespoke free trade agreement with the EU.