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Trade Deals

Volume 688: debated on Wednesday 27 January 2021

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the opportunities for Scotland arising from the signing of trade deals with other countries. (911213)

We regularly discuss opportunities for Scotland arising from the signing of trade deals. This Government have already struck deals worth £217 billion a year with more than 63 countries around the world, including Canada, Japan and Singapore, and with many more to come. This will create new markets for Scotland’s exporters.

For the first time in my life, we will be in control of our trade policy, which will allow us to strike ambitious trade deals, allowing us to level up all of our United Kingdom. Does the Minister agree that this will help to benefit exporters, particularly in the Scottish food and drink industries, who will be able to take advantage of new markets?

I fully agree with my hon. Friend. The new free trade agreements we strike, such as those we are currently negotiating with the US, Australia and New Zealand, on top of the ones we have already done, will grow our GDP, increase our trade with the rest of the world and create new opportunities for our exporters. This is particularly true for the Scottish food and drink sector.

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, as we have heard, and we should use this day to remember the horrors of the holocaust by lighting a candle in our windows at 8 pm tonight, as the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has asked us to do. I am sure that the Secretary of State will join us in that. Also, I wonder if I may just wish my fellow shadow Scotland Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Chris Elmore), all the best, as his wife is due to have a baby in the next seven days.

One of the jewels in the crown of the Scottish economy is the Scotch whisky industry, and distillers are deeply angry that they continue to pay the price for a trade dispute with the United States that is not of their making. They are losing £30 million a month in trade with the imposition of tariffs, and that is on top of the collapse of their markets due to covid. No progress has been made, so can the Minister guarantee that the Government are fully singing from the same hymn sheet to end tariffs on Scotch whisky?

First, may I associate myself with the hon. Gentleman’s remarks on the holocaust?

On whisky, I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman that this is a vital industry for Scotland’s economy and the tariffs are hurting. Britain unilaterally made a bold and generous offer to the US to try to break its impasse with the EU. Unfortunately, we were not able to secure a deal with President Trump before he left office, but I spoke to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade yesterday, and she reassured me that it will be her top priority in engaging with the new Biden Administration.

The UK has taken all the tariffs off US products but there are still tariffs on Scottish products, so I hope they are able to resolve this soon. Of course, trade deals with other countries will not make up for what we have lost by leaving the EU. Day after day, we see chaos at our ports, exporters being overwhelmed by paperwork and, as a result, Scottish businesses being damaged. This Government’s lack of planning and no provision for services, matched with growing bureaucracy at our borders, is severely hampering our industries. The Prime Minister said on Christmas eve that the EU Brexit deal would mean

“no non-tariff barriers to trade”.

That is demonstrably false. Will the Minister take this opportunity to apologise to Scottish exporters, who are completely hampered by the very non-tariff barriers to trade that the Prime Minister said would not exist? What are the Government doing to resolve these issues today?

First, on the US point, there was an impasse with the EU, and we decided it was the right move to make a unilateral offer to try to break that impasse. I hope the new Biden Administration will engage positively with us on that.

Secondly, I do not think it is fair to paint a picture of chaos and tailbacks at the ports. The traffic is flowing freely at most ports. There have been some short-term issues with paperwork, and any new system has some short-term bumps, but we are engaging directly with the exporters affected. We are providing compensation, where necessary, and what we need is some confidence across all sectors.