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Trade Envoys

Volume 701: debated on Thursday 21 October 2021

9. What progress her Department’s newly appointed trade envoys have made on promoting British exports and investment. (903689)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her appointment as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Iceland and Norway. Our new trade envoys are strengthening commercial ties in their designated markets and assisting UK businesses to take full advantage of opportunities arising from our global trade and investment agenda.

I was delighted to be appointed the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Norway and Iceland, following the signing of free trade agreements with those countries. Can my hon. Friend update the House as to how his Department is looking to deepen the relationship between the UK and Norway and Iceland?

I am pleased to say that on 8 July, the UK signed the new, improved trade deal with Norway and Iceland. It is the most advanced trade deal that both countries have ever signed, with gold-stamped provisions in digital trade, mobile roaming and business travel. It will cut tariffs and support jobs in every corner of our country, and I look forward to working with my hon. Friend to exploit those opportunities.

I also welcome the ministerial team to their place, and I echo the comments over the tragic loss of our parliamentary friend and colleague, Sir David Amess. It was a senseless act.

Far from promoting Scottish exports, new documents from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs show that for the period ending June 2021, Scottish exports had decreased by 14% from the previous year. That is not a covid blip, but a result of the UK Government’s decisions over Brexit. The report contains damning charts highlighting the cliff edge that Scottish trade is being pushed over. It is long-term economic vandalism. All the tiny free trade agreements that the Government are willing to sell out for cannot move the dial on the shortfall. Will the Government apologise to Scottish businesses and offer compensation?

I have to say this is week six in the role, so I will admit to being rather new to some of the challenges, but I did think—[Interruption.] At least be gentle with me today. I did think that the Scottish Government had their own exports Department—[Interruption.] Hang on a minute. My understanding of my brief is that one of my roles is to work closely with the Scottish Government on their exports policies. If the hon. Gentleman will let me work with the Administration and our new office that we have opened to boost co-operation and exports from Scotland, that should address the problem. I accept his criticism, but ask him to allow me some time to work with him and his colleagues so we can reverse that trend.

Mr Speaker, I think anybody listening to that would be a bit stunned. I will cut the Minister some slack for being new in the job, but not knowing the basics is something he will have to polish up on. That answer is simply unacceptable to businesses pushed into crisis by this Government.

Let us take food and drink as an example. Food and drink manufacture is twice as important to the Scottish economy as to that of the UK as a whole, and the food and drink export trade is four times as important to the Scottish economy. Once again, Scottish interests are being treated as expendable.

The UK Government have failed to look for solutions to the Brexit trading barriers that are inflicting serious and lasting harm on Scotland. I have an offer for the new Minister: will he hold immediate cross-party talks to find new measures and solutions, or will he once again simply prove that the only way to protect Scotland’s interest is through independence?

I reassure the hon. Gentleman that the food and drink sector across the whole of the UK, and in Scotland, is a priority for this team. I can honestly tell him that I am more than happy to sit down with him and his colleagues to work through some of the challenges that we both share, but I also want him to recognise the opportunities that our new trade deals will offer. When we deliver on those trade opportunities, I hope he will give credit to the UK Government.

As the recently appointed trade envoy to Brazil, it would be remiss of me not to point out just one of the huge opportunities we have in building a positive relationship with Brazil. At 212 million, its population is seven times the combined populations of New Zealand and Australia. Some 65 million people in Brazil do not have a bank account. To build on the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Gareth Davies), does the Minister agree that financial services represent a fantastic opportunity, not just for this country but to support Brazil in bringing in its own revenues, as it should be?

I am going to be generous—I think it was stretching the original question—but the Minister will pick it up.

Financial services are a huge part of the UK economy. We recognise that they are a huge opportunity for this country to work with our partners, especially Brazil, to ensure that we can share the benefits and expertise that we have with them.