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Trade Co-operation: UK and Israel

Volume 646: debated on Thursday 13 September 2018

1. What steps he is taking to encourage trade co-operation between the UK and Israel in the (a) information and (b) agricultural technology sectors. (906889)

The UK and Israel have an important trading relationship in information and agricultural technology, which we are strengthening through our dedicated trade promotion team at our embassy in Tel Aviv. We have established a UK-Israel tech hub, which helps to create partnerships between British companies and innovative Israeli technology businesses. This is part of our confident, outward-looking approach to Britain’s trading future.

From online banking security to prescription drugs to cherry tomatoes, Israel has become an international technological and trade powerhouse. Every day, millions of Britons are benefiting from Israeli inventions and produce, even if they do not realise it. What progress is being made in the UK-Israel trade working group to ensure that this vital trade relationship continues to prosper after Brexit?

My hon. Friend is right. Our trade with Israel currently stands at £3.9 billion in goods and services, with our exports up 7% in the past year. The Prime Minister met the Israeli Prime Minister in February 2017 to set up the joint trade working group, and I would like to thank the Israeli Government for their close liaison. We are dedicated to the continuity of trade and, once we leave the European Union, to having an ambitious new trade agreement that will provide even greater benefits than those we currently have.

I do not know whether the Secretary of State listens to my favourite programme in the morning, “Farming Today”, but is he aware that, following the publication yesterday of the Agriculture Bill, there is a great deal of concern in the farming community about the Bill and about the possibility of having a decent trading relationship, with high-technology components, after Brexit?

Thank you, Mr Speaker; I was wondering whether there was going to be even a tentative link to the question. The tech hub is there to help British businesses to get access to the innovations that come out of Israel across a range of sectors. It is worth pointing out that Israel is an extraordinarily innovative country and has more start-ups per capita than any other country on the planet. Where we can get UK businesses across a range of sectors to get access to such innovation, it is always a positive outcome.

The latest computers used in the House of Commons use Intel 7 and Intel 8 cores and above, and Shazam, Skype and FaceTime all use technology developed in Israel. What more are we doing to encourage that sort of co-operation, particularly in relation to computer technology?

As I have already said, the key to that is the UK-Israel tech hub. This relates not only to the area of computers, which my hon. Friend has mentioned, but to FinTech, cyber-security, biomed, retail technology and the creative industries. These are all prime areas for co-operation between the United Kingdom and Israel, and we should celebrate that relationship and the benefits that it brings to both our populations.

In the context of the agriculture sector, what representations have been made about trading with illegal Israeli settlements, which in the long run further jeopardises the two-state solution that the UK is supposed to aspire to?

Our trade relationship with Israel is clearly set out in the agreement that the European Union has with Israel, and that is the agreement that we will roll over as we leave the EU. We will want to have a further ambitious trading agreement. We believe that the extension of trade in Israel and in the wider region contributes to not only the prosperity but the political stability and security of the region.