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Business Community

Volume 653: debated on Thursday 24 January 2019

13. What recent discussions he has had with representatives of the business community on the UK leaving the EU. (908759)

The Department has conducted more than 500 meetings with stakeholders, including businesses of all sizes and descriptions. Currently, after two months in the job, I am making visits around the country, and I hope to meet representatives of firms and hear their views.

Concerns have been raised with me by the road haulage industry about the burden of the extra customs paperwork that will be required in the event of no deal. What estimate has the Department made of the additional time and cost that they will incur in that event?

The businesses in my constituency include many international companies that are headquartered there, such as BASF, which produces chemicals. It wants to ensure it can continue to access EU frameworks such as REACH—the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals regulations—and the European Chemicals Agency. It faces tens of millions of pounds in costs in the event of a no-deal Brexit, particularly through migrating its EU registration. Does my hon. Friend agree that associate membership of such agencies, for which the withdrawal agreement provides, is vital to the success of these key industries?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and at this very moment we are negotiating the precise arrangements. She is right to mention the withdrawal agreement, because extensive passages in that agreement relate to exactly the type of co-operation and participation that she describes. We are focused on this, and hope that we can reach a good conclusion.

Airbus employs 14,000 people in this country, and we have a valuable and important aerospace manufacturing cluster in Wolverhampton. The chief executive of Airbus said today:

“Brexit is threatening to destroy a century of development based on education, research and human capital.”

Is it not the case that the rich men who drove this project can move their money, their investments and their corporate headquarters abroad, but it now poses a clear and present danger to valuable and important UK manufacturing jobs?

When the right hon. Gentleman spoke about “the rich men”, I thought he was referring to his friends in Davos, such as the former Prime Minister, who seems to be very focused on trying to reverse the verdict of the 17.4 million people in this country who voted for Brexit.

It is very clear where the interests of Airbus and businesses lie. They have said repeatedly over the past six weeks that they want to back the deal—they want an end to this uncertainty, and they want clarity and the ability to plan for the future. Where does the right hon. Gentleman stand on that?