Skip to main content

High Growth Global Markets

Volume 689: debated on Thursday 25 February 2021

Driving access for UK exporters to high growth markets worldwide is at the heart of this Department’s work, securing new free trade agreements, removing trade barriers and informing, encouraging, connecting and financing exporters. Ninety per cent of global growth—90%—over the coming years is expected to be outside Europe, so that is why we are hitching UK business to the fastest growing markets and have recently applied to join the CPTPP.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. What action is the UK taking to increase our export footprint in future growth areas such as renewable energy, particularly in countries such as Mongolia?

The Department—not only in renewables, but in minerals as well—is running a mining export campaign for Mongolia, supporting UK-based investors and our mining supply chain, using the unique convening power of government to engage with the Mongolian Government and mining businesses. We are supporting UK investment in solar and waste energy plants, and are in discussions with the Mongolian Government on UK participation in infrastructure projects, including renewables, which my hon. Friend mentions, and hydropower. Atop all that is the cherry, in the form of my hon. Friend, who is the Prime Minister’s dynamic and effective trade envoy for the country.

I thank my hon. Friend for all the work he does to strengthen trading relationships between Britain and our international partners. Can he assure me that the Department for International Trade regularly engages with businesses of all sizes across the UK, including in north Wales, to ensure that the objectives of the Department are closely aligned with the needs of industry?

My hon. Friend is quite right to highlight this issue. DIT has a relationship with more than 200,000 UK businesses, ranging from large multinationals to small start-ups. Our UK-based sector teams, our highly experienced trade advisers across the regions and devolved Administrations, and our teams in our overseas embassies all work closely with UK businesses to support their export ambitions, while our export academy programme builds small and medium-sized enterprise know-how, enabling businesses to sell to customers around the world with confidence.

Steel manufacturers such as Liberty Speciality Steels in Stocksbridge produce high-quality components that are used across the world. Steel produced in Europe has half the carbon footprint of equivalent Chinese imports, and, as countries follow the UK’s lead in reducing emissions demands, demand for green steel will increase. How will my hon. Friend ensure that UK manufacturers such as Liberty Speciality Steels in Stocksbridge can capitalise on this growing market and make global Britain the world leader in green steel?

I thank my hon. Friend for that excellent question. There is a real opportunity here, is there not? That is why the Government have a range of schemes in place to help the steel sector to expand its green exports into those growing global markets. That includes establishing a £250 million clean steel fund and providing £66 million through the industrial strategy challenge fund to help steel manufacturers to develop radical new technologies and establish innovation centres of excellence. These funds will be accessible to all UK steel manufacturers, including those in my hon. Friend’s constituency, which I am sure value her long-standing commitment to the sector, and her permanent and regular efforts to raise them in the House.

Dream Climbing Walls is a Scottish business that was exporting to the high-growth market that is the European Union, which accounted for around 60% of its sales. After Brexit, its costs due to customs charges and delivery add-ons have skyrocketed. Goods that would normally take three to four days to arrive are currently a month in transit. Because of this Government, that business is now climbing the wall in a very different sense. What steps is the Minister taking to sort out this Government’s calamitous mess, and will he now urgently look at measures to compensate the thousands of companies just like Dream Climbing Walls that have lost out as a result of this Government’s actions?

May I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his personal commitment to rigorous scrutiny and ensuring that the Government are held to account? I am sure that he would agree that others could do likewise in being similarly robust. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already made clear, it is our noble friend Lord Frost and the Cabinet Office who lead on that particular work. There are teething problems and there will be on ongoing frictions every day, but I am pleased to say that we are reducing those and are now seeing a return to pre-covid levels at our border. We will continue to work with and support our exporters in order to learn how best to do this. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will ensure that his Administration support his colleagues in the SNP and beyond to help support exporters.

I appreciate that the Minister wants to promote exports to some countries more than to others, but many of our constituents trade with Europe and need to safeguard their existing relationships before going looking for new ones. That is just good business practice. His Department telling exporters to open an office in the EU is not good practice when it is its answer to delays at the border that it was warned about. When are Ministers going to sort out the problems at the border that mean businesses are drowning in red tape?

I would have hoped that the shadow Minister would be aware of where Government responsibilities lie in terms of the negotiations with the EU, but I can assure him that the work is ongoing to do that. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, who is, unusually for a Labour Member, a former businessman himself—[Interruption.] I am being endlessly heckled by the shadow Secretary of State, who probably knows where I am going with this, because she appears more interested in exports to Venezuela and Russia and only last month was chiding the Secretary of State for talking to the US—

Order. We don’t want to fall out again, do we? We have got Anne McLaughlin in Glasgow waiting.

One of the biggest global growth markets for local companies until Brexit was the EU. A1 Kilt Hire in my constituency was doing a roaring trade hiring out kilts to wedding parties across Europe, but nobody in the UK Government has been able to tell it if and how it can continue trading because its products are for hire and not for sale. HMRC could not even tell it if it would have to pay tax when the kilts were returned. Where on earth can hire companies that have survived this double whammy so far go to for advice on continuing to trade in Europe? Given the Minister’s two previous answers, I am guessing that it is not him.

I must congratulate the hon. Lady on the speed of her uptake, because yes indeed, as I have said in my previous answers, this is for a different Department of Government. I think she suggested that the EU was a growing share of the global market, but it is not. Twenty years ago it was the majority of our exports; now it is a minority. Its share of global GDP has been falling. We are, at the direction of the Secretary of State, pitching our business to the fastest-growing parts of the world, not the more sclerotic.

Mounting costs are killing one of our biggest exports—culture—with additional duties on physical product and performers. My constituent Andy Smart has regularly performed at two comedy/ski festivals, but now one of them no longer accepts Brits, preferring the Irish, and the other has been cancelled as unviable because of Brexit obstacles. Can we work cross-departmentally to abolish these levies, because, as one of those festivals is called, it is literally taking the piste?

There is no one better in this House than the hon. Lady at marrying sociological insight with popular culture, and of course as an experienced DJ she knows more about music than most of the rest of us. I entirely agree with her, though, that we have to work flat out, in a cross-governmental way, to ensure that we minimise any frictions at the border for those vital and important cultural exports of which music is an important part.