Leaving the EU: Private Sector

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th April 2017.

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Photo of James Davies James Davies Conservative, Vale of Clwyd 12:00 am, 19th April 2017

What discussions he has had with Scottish businesses on opportunities for the private sector after the UK leaves the EU.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

What discussions he has had with Scottish businesses on opportunities for the private sector after the UK leaves the EU.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

The UK Government’s plan for Britain is intended to help businesses throughout the United Kingdom to trade beyond Europe, and to make Britain a leading advocate for free trade all over the world. Scotland Office Ministers have held more than 70 meetings with businesses across Scotland since last summer’s referendum, and only last month my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade was in Glasgow to meet innovative Scottish businesses that are trading with the world.

Photo of James Davies James Davies Conservative, Vale of Clwyd

What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to support international trade and investment in the devolved nations?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

We in the Department for International Trade are clear about the fact that ours is a Department for the whole United Kingdom. All our services are accessible to companies in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including the GREAT campaign and its portal GREAT.gov.uk, and the Tradeshow Access Programme. In recent months, there have been major announcements about more overseas investment in all parts of the UK.

Photo of Sheryll Murray Sheryll Murray Conservative, South East Cornwall

Will my right hon. Friend tell us his view of the damage that would be caused to Scottish business if Scotland left the United Kingdom?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

My hon. Friend has hit the nail on the head. If Scotland were to leave the UK, the potential damage to Scottish business and Scottish trade would be huge. The Scottish Government’s own figures show that 64% of goods and services leaving Scotland go to the UK, whereas only 15% go to the rest of the EU. That is £49.8 billion versus £12.3 billion.

Photo of Paul Monaghan Paul Monaghan Scottish National Party, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross

What assessment has the Minister made of Scotland’s contribution to the EU single market?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I think the hon. Gentleman is missing the point. The point, surely, is the centrality and importance of the UK single market as we go forward from here. I will give the House the figures again: £49.8 billion goes to the rest of the UK; only £12.3 billion goes to the EU. It is clear that the Union that matters most is the United Kingdom.

Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Public Services and Education)

The Secretary of State has said previously that he supports the European single market and that being part of the single market is clearly the best possible deal for Scotland. Will he tell his constituents whether he will now stand on a manifesto to take Scotland out of that single market?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

The Prime Minister and the whole Government are absolutely clear about the fact that our objective is to secure a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union as we leave the EU. That will be in the best interests of all parts of the UK, including Scotland.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the opportunities for increasing whisky exports across the world as part of a free trade agreement once we leave the European Union? [Interruption.]

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. Whisky is a vital part of our export mix: whisky exports reached £3.999 billion in 2016—a big increase—and whisky has been at the heart of quite a few of our trade missions. Notably, when the Secretary of State for International Trade, the Prime Minister and I visited India in November, we took with us the Scotch Whisky Association, and we have seen big increases in exports to India.

Photo of David Anderson David Anderson Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

Former Prime Minister David Cameron promised he would not resign if he lost the EU referendum; he reneged on that promise within hours. The current Prime Minister said on seven occasions that she would not call an early election; she reneged on that promise yesterday. Will the Minister, answering on behalf of the Secretary of State, give him the chance to break the mould and renew the commitment given to this House on at least three occasions that whatever support is put in place for businesses in the north-east like Nissan will be put in place for Scotland?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

We have been absolutely clear that our support for Nissan and the rest of the automotive sector will be enduring. That is the most important point, and I am sure it will be an important point in the general election campaign. I look forward to the Conservatives being competitive in the north-east in this coming general election, and we look forward to taking the fight to the official Opposition there.

Photo of David Anderson David Anderson Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

The question was whether the Secretary of State will renew the promise given to Scotland that it would have the same deal, and, if he will, will he tell the people in the oil and gas supply chain, given the report from Robert Gordon University which last week found that Brexit would cost them £200 million, that that money will be sorted and they will be looked after in the same way as Nissan—or will he ignore that and break another promise?

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands The Minister of State, Department for International Trade

I am certainly glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised the question of oil and gas in Scotland: I know that he and I will agree that what would be most disastrous for the Scottish economy, including the oil and gas sector, would be Scottish separation, leading to an overnight budget deficit of around 9% of GDP. That would be a disaster.