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Free Trade Agreements: Opportunities for Scotland

Volume 700: debated on Wednesday 8 September 2021

7. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of new free trade agreements on trading opportunities for Scotland. (903226)

10. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of new free trade agreements on trading opportunities for Scotland. (903229)

This Government have already struck trade deals with more than 68 countries as well as the EU worth £744 billion a year. This will create new markets for Scotland’s exporters, including our world-leading food and drinks sector. The Department for International Trade team based in Edinburgh is also helping Scottish businesses thrive and grow internationally. Last week, I was delighted to meet the new DIT director for Scotland heading up this team, and I look forward to planning further engagement with her and her team.

Scotland’s businesses will be among the main beneficiaries of the trade deals we have already secured around the world, with our historic agreement with Japan boosting trading opportunities for over 500 Scottish businesses alone. Does my hon. Friend agree with me that we will now be able to use our new status as an independent trading nation to promote the very best that Scottish industries have to offer to the world?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend: he is absolutely right. This Government are working hard to strike new trade deals around the world that will benefit key business sectors and consumers across Scotland and across the whole of the UK. We are opening new opportunities for iconic Scottish and British industries to thrive overseas.

As the Government negotiate new free trade deals around the world as global Britain, and the new agreement with Australia removes the 5% tariff on the export of whisky to Australia hot on the heels of the tariff-free period of five years with the United States, does my hon. Friend agree that the advantage to Scotland of negotiating together with the United Kingdom for free trade deals makes the case for the United Kingdom to be together as one country?

On that final point, I could not agree more. It is hugely welcome to see the removal of the 5% tariff on Scotch whisky in the agreement in principle between the UK and Australia. That will help Scottish whisky distillers to continue to expand exports to Australia, which have almost doubled over the last decade, making Australia our eighth largest market by value.

With all these free trade deals, I wonder whether the Minister can detail what the losses are to the seafood industry through Brexit, and what compensation it has received through the UK Government. What are the current losses to the hospitality industry because it cannot access EU labour, and what are the total losses to the Scottish Food and Drink Federation because of shortages caused by the HGV lorry driver crisis?

I did not quite catch all of that, but I did catch the words “fishing” and “HGV drivers”. On fishing, I would not be surprised if I talk to many more people in the fishing industry than the hon. Gentleman does, and I will take my advice on the situation in the fishing industry from them, rather than from Opposition Members, or indeed Twitter and the rest of social media. On HGV drivers, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already said, we recognise this issue. This is not a Brexit issue, otherwise we would not be seeing the exact same problem right across Europe, and in fact right across the world. The UK Government have already put measures in place to help increase, improve and speed up the recruitment of HGV drivers in this country.

Order. Before we come to Prime Minister’s questions, I point out that the British Sign Language interpretation of proceedings is available to watch on Parliament Live TV.