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UK Trade with the EU

Volume 701: debated on Thursday 21 October 2021

It is interesting that Ministers are talking about growing trade when it is actually going in the other direction. Trade with Germany is worth eight times our trade with Australia, so we must all be concerned to hear that UK exports to Germany are down by 11% so far this year. We have also fallen outside Germany’s top 10 trading partners for the first time in 71 years. The Minister must share these concerns, so what is she going to do about it?

UK trade in goods with the EU has been steadily increasing this year and is now above average levels for 2020, and exports are increasing faster than imports. However, we recognise that there are difficulties, which is why, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we have stood up the export support service, which launched on 1 October. That is primarily focused on trade with the EU, but will, over time, be expanded to rest of world. There will be a briefing for all parliamentary staff on the export support service, and I can tell the hon. Gentleman from my own constituents’ experience that it is already making a difference.

Last month, the previous Secretary of State said that it had been a mistake to focus

“too much on trade with the EU despite the richest opportunities being in the Asia-Pacific.”

Are the Government now making the reverse mistake by focusing too much on small gains in Asia despite the far bigger losses we are facing in Europe?

The issue is that as part of the EU we had to focus on trade with the EU and we were hampered in setting our own agreements and policies with the rest of the world. Now we can trade with the rest of the world as well as the EU. We have had difficulties with covid and with all sorts of things that global trade has had to cope with, but we will recover, as will the rest of the world. When the numbers start going the right way, as they already are, and exceed previous years, I hope that Opposition Members will start to talk this country up rather than down.

It is fantastic that the UK has already agreed trade deals with almost 70 countries, plus the EU, that accounted for £744 billion-worth of UK bilateral trade in 2020. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is firm evidence of our striking out into the world and seizing the new opportunities that we now have ahead of us outside of the EU that will benefit Teesside businesses in the long run?

I thank my hon. Friend for all the work he is doing to ensure that businesses can capitalise on these new opportunities. We need to give them the tools to do the job and help them to break into new markets, but the opportunities are immense, and I thank all colleagues who are helping us to achieve those ambitions and supporting businesses, particularly small businesses, in their constituencies.