EU Customs Union

Part of Petition - Tenancy of ST Michael’S Gate, Parnwell – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 2nd November 2016.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 7:30 pm, 2nd November 2016

I congratulate Helen Goodman on securing this debate. My constituents, like hers, voted to leave the European Union, so I welcome her comments about listening to that vote. It is also important that we all work together to make this process a success, so I welcome her analysis.

Last week, she posed a question along similar lines to the Prime Minister about the EU customs union and Nissan. I am delighted that since that question was posed, Nissan has announced that it will produce the Qashqai and a new model at its plant in Sunderland. The hon. Lady welcomed that, and so will I. I want to join the chorus of approval that we heard in this place for that decision. It is a vote of confidence, which shows that Britain is open for business and that we remain an outward-looking, world-leading nation. The plant in Sunderland will be expanded through new investment to be a super-plant, manufacturing more than 600,000 cars a year. Some 80% of the plant’s output is exported to more than 130 international markets. The decision is a massive win for the 7,000 direct employees and 35,000 total British employees in the plant and the supply chain.

Turning to the core subject of this debate, the issue of the customs union is an important one. As with all facets of our exit negotiations, we recognise the need for a careful—what the hon. Lady called a “hard-headed”—analysis for a smooth transition that will minimise disruption to our trading relationships and seize the opportunities presented. This is an area in which there is excellent cross-Government co-operation, and I am pleased to be joined on the Treasury Bench this evening by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, my hon. Friend Jane Ellison. That shows how the Department for Exiting the European Union and the Treasury are working hand in hand on these issues.

I would like to be clear from the outset that—as, I think, we are all aware—no final decision has been taken on our broader future economic relationship with the EU, which includes our approach to the customs union. As with our decision not to trigger article 50 immediately, it is right that we take the time, as the hon. Lady said, to analyse our options carefully and seek to secure the best deal for the whole of the UK.