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Growth for British Businesses

Volume 689: debated on Thursday 25 February 2021

What recent assessment she has made of the potential effect of her Department’s trade policies on growth for British businesses. (912434)

The Department’s trade policies aim to support growth, productivity and jobs for British businesses. The OECD estimates that 6.6 million UK workers were supported by exports in 2015. In addition, the Department’s recently published impact assessment shows that the UK-Japan free trade agreement could increase UK GDP by £1.5 billion in the long run compared with trading under WTO terms.

Given that the St David’s day debate is being held this afternoon, will the Minister comment on his Department’s activities in promoting exports by Welsh companies, such as Ifor Williams Trailers, AE Sewing Machines in Ruabon, and the Rhug Estate’s famous Welsh beef and lamb in my constituency of Clwyd South?

It is never too early to celebrate St David’s day and the doughty exporters of Clwyd South, as well as the rest of the Principality. We are lowering barriers to Welsh exporters through trade deals, supporting them through staff in 119 countries, organising trade missions, providing online resources and championing them at international events. We have a long-standing relationship with the Rhug Estate, and we continue to support Welsh produce in particular, as part of both the Food is GREAT campaign and the Open Doors campaign, announced with fanfare only this week by the Secretary of State.

As the Government continue to hide the overall effect of their trade policies, the first official estimate from the European Commission shows that this Government’s Brexit deal will cost the UK at least 2.25% of GDP by the end of next year. In addition, two out of three supply chain managers report experiencing import delays of two to three days. Is that why the Minister is going so far to remove questions and avoid scrutiny of this disastrous Brexit deal in the Chamber? If he denies that, will he now publish the impact assessments prepared for his Government, which have so far been hidden away from those who deserve to know the real costs to business and families?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are certainly not avoiding scrutiny; we are just directing it to where it rightly should go. He knows all about those who are seeking genuinely to avoid scrutiny. As I have been double-Drewed today, I pay tribute to the efforts he makes. All I will say as a final point—before I am cut short yet again by Mr Speaker, quite rightly, and even as I lose my attention because I am barracked so often by the right hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry)—is that he voted no deal, so it is odd for him to be complaining so much.

Northern Ireland opposed Brexit, but it has happened. The protocol is its outworking, and it has to be made to work. The SDLP is determined to maximise the opportunities available to this region from being the crossroads between the UK and EU markets. We have written to the Minister seeking support in promoting Northern Ireland and this unique access. Will he commit his Department to promoting Northern Ireland to investors who are seeking access to both the EU and UK markets?

I commend the hon. Lady’s positive attitude. She is absolutely right: whatever our views on Brexit, we have to get on, make the most of it and support our businesses, as she is doing, and I can give her that commitment. We will absolutely work with her and Invest Northern Ireland, which does a fantastic job in conjunction with DIT to promote both investment into Northern Ireland and exports from it.

I am no longer shadow Minister, but happy to be contributing to this debate, Mr Speaker.

Moon Climbing, a specialist rock climbing supplier in my constituency, tells me how, since January, new barriers have damaged its trade with Europe. In line with the advice of DIT officials, it set up a base in the Netherlands to avoid the barriers and it anticipates that that will

“be our main base from which we service both the EU and the rest of the world”.

I heard the Minister and the Secretary of State say earlier that it is nothing to do with them, but, frankly, companies expect the Department for International Trade to take some responsibility for trade, so what are they doing to prevent more UK businesses moving abroad as a result of the damaging Brexit deal—losing UK jobs, GDP and tax revenue?

The British people decided to leave the European Union. We are supporting businesses, in Europe and beyond, but it is not overly complicated to accept that it is the Cabinet Office and the unit led by Lord David Frost that are taking responsibility for those negotiations. However, we work actively, and we run webinars with thousands attending, and I and other Ministers participate in those to give people the tools to overcome the frictions that inevitably result from our departure. I am pleased to say they are declining over time, and I am confident that we will return to where we were in 2019, when we were the only top 10 exporting nation in the world to see our exports rise and, the hon. Member will be delighted to hear, we overtook France to become the fifth largest exporter in the world.