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Exports from Devolved Nations to the EU

Volume 727: debated on Thursday 9 February 2023

We are supporting businesses in all parts of the United Kingdom through our export support service, including our innovative Export Academy, which helps build market export capability among small and medium-sized enterprises across the UK. We have also established trade and investment offices in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, increasing the visibility of the Department’s services in the nations, and channelling the benefits of our new export and investment strategies to the entire UK. I am sure the hon. Member is aware of those benefits in his own constituency, with businesses such as Lynkeos Technology winning a £100,000 contract last year in Germany with the assistance of the Department.

I like the hon. Member, but that answer was nonsense, quite frankly. The Institute of Directors found in a recent survey that almost half—47%—of businesses are still finding trade after Brexit a challenge, with just a third envisaging any opportunities at all from Brexit. That report also found that 45% of SMEs are exporting less to the European Union post Brexit, with Scottish exports having already slumped by £2.2 billion because of Brexit. Does the Minister agree that Brexit is an act of state-sanctioned economic vandalism?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is saying this is nonsense. I am sure that those businesses in his constituency and across Scotland who get support from the Department do not share that attitude. As well as focusing on the EU, which is and will continue to be an important trading partner of the UK, we are looking to the entire world, hence focusing on so many other countries. I hope he will be a little more “glass half full” in the future.

Is the Minister aware that the Scottish Government are planning to bring forward draconian restrictions on the advertising of whisky and other drinks in Scotland? Not only will that cost jobs in Scotland but it will make it much more difficult for the industry to export to the EU and elsewhere.

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. Such measures could have a considerable negative impact on so many Scottish businesses. That is precisely why we are seeking opportunities to support them, for example with trade deals, and trying to ensure that we reduce tariffs and are able to export more overseas. While we are backing our businesses right across the UK, I hope that in future we can get support from the Opposition, who might at some point come and join us and support one of the trade deals we are negotiating.

Unfortunately for the Minister, and unfortunately for Scotland, the latest data from His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs shows that between July and September last year, exports from Scotland to the European Union slumped by 5%. Will the Minister explain for an expectant nation exactly how that is in any way strengthening the case for the Union?

The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that, as we recover from a global pandemic, certain sectors and certain industries are suffering more than others. That is precisely why we have an export strategy and why the Secretary of State has articulated a five-point strategy for growth. We will continue to work positively with all sectors to grow our export opportunities. UK exports to the EU for the 12-month period to September 2022 were up by 25% in current prices.

It is not just the SNP who are saying what a disaster Brexit has been. With the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies saying that Brexit is clearly an “economic own goal”, and even a former Brexit Secretary saying that there have been no economic benefits from Brexit, is it not surely time for voters in Scotland to be given the choice between continued British economic decline or a prosperous, independent European future?

I know the hon. Member and some people are tempted to continue to fight the battles of the past, but this Government will be laser-focused on the future and future opportunities. We have the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership and so many other opportunities around the world, and I think it would be good for all of us in this place to talk the British economy up, rather than talk it down.