Leaving the EU: Effect on Wales

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th April 2017.

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Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Labour, Aberavon 12:00 am, 26th April 2017

What assessment he has made of the effect on Wales of the UK leaving the EU.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

At this last Welsh questions before the general election, I should like to pay tribute to two Welsh stars. Josh Griffiths of the Swansea Harriers was the first Briton to cross the finishing line at the London marathon at the weekend. In particular, I want to pay tribute to Matthew Rees, who helped a fellow runner during the closing stages of the marathon.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that, as we negotiate our exit from the European Union, we will work to secure a deal that benefits all parts of the United Kingdom. Wales is a vibrant, dynamic, innovative country and is well placed to make a success of the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Labour, Aberavon

Brexit could have a negative impact on jobs in Wales, so the proposal to build a category C prison in my constituency is welcome in principle. However, it is difficult to understand why the Baglan Energy Park has been selected as the site for the prison. It is even more difficult to understand why the Prisons Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, Mr Gyimah, has not had the courtesy to reply to my letter of 23 March. Will the Secretary of State please encourage his friend the Minister to check his in-tray? Will he also guarantee that our local community will be fully and properly consulted about the siting of this prison?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. There are record employment data in Wales, with unemployment at a record low, and the prison will provide a further boost to his constituency. The answer to his question is quite straightforward: the site was selected in consultation with, and with the support of, the Welsh Government.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

Wales has a number of technological hotspots, around Cardiff and elsewhere. Does my right hon. Friend not think that, after Brexit, they will benefit from the bilateral trade deals that we will be able to make with the United States and Canada, as well as with the European Union?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

My hon. Friend regularly shows a great interest in Wales and he obviously knows a lot about the Welsh economy. He mentions the high-tech sectors. We have seen the expansion of General Dynamics, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and I visited a couple of weeks ago. On that same day, we both handed over the Red Dragon super-hangar to Aston Martin. These are real jobs that are being created by real investors creating new opportunities.

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Intervention)

In leaving the European customs union, Welsh manufacturers and farmers will lose the solid protections offered by the bloc. Why does not the Secretary of State come clean today and admit that it is the Tories’ intention to sell Welsh producers down the river in order to open up markets for the bankers of London?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Gentleman will recognise that exports from Wales have grown significantly, by 6.2%, over the past year. That is something that we welcome. He will also recognise the data that I highlighted earlier about record levels of employment and record low levels of unemployment. On that basis, he will recognise that we want the freest possible open trading arrangements in support of Welsh farmers, because we maintain an active relationship with them—

Photo of Chris Davies Chris Davies Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the rural areas of Wales will be placed front and centre in a post-Brexit Britain?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

I pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend does on supporting the rural economy, particularly in his constituency. We maintain a close relationship with both the farming unions in Wales, and most of those meetings take place in his constituency. That demonstrates the active relationship that we have with key stakeholders as well as with the Welsh Government.

Photo of Mark Williams Mark Williams Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales)

If the Secretary of State has such a close relationship with the farming unions, how does he respond to their request for a full assessment of the impact on Welsh agriculture if we have to fall back on World Trade Organisation tariffs? Is it not obvious that 40% tariffs would destroy Welsh agriculture?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

I am disappointed with the hon. Gentleman’s approach. He is assuming the worst-case scenario. We are having this general election in order to have strong and stable leadership in the challenging negotiations ahead. There are 27 EU nations that will be challenging everything as we negotiate to leave the European Union. Strong and stable leadership is needed now more than ever before.

Photo of Susan Elan Jones Susan Elan Jones Labour, Clwyd South

If the right hon. Gentleman is so keen on listening to Welsh farmers, will he tell us why the Government are refusing to agree with the Farmers Union of Wales? Why will powers on agriculture not be devolved to the Welsh Government post-Brexit? Will he come clean on that?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

I am sure the hon. Lady will recognise that we engaged closely with the FUW and the National Farmers Union before drafting the great repeal Bill White Paper. They had active input directly to me and other Cabinet colleagues. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also met the farming unions to consider the matter, and they are absolutely supportive of the position we have taken in the White Paper.

Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Wales)

The Prime Minister has said that she is prepared to walk away from the negotiating table without a trade deal with the EU, and the Foreign Secretary has said that no deal would be no problem. Yet no deal, as we have heard, could see tariffs of 30% to 40% on Welsh dairy farmers and meat producers, and 10% tariffs on Welsh car manufacturers. Is it not the case that this Tory Government are prepared to play fast and loose with the Welsh economy, with an extreme Tory vision of Brexit that would put Welsh jobs and livelihoods at risk?

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns The Secretary of State for Wales

I do not recognise the basis of the hon. Gentleman’s question. We want the freest, most open trading agreement, and it seems to me that the real investors, who are creating real jobs, are taking us towards our ambition. We have seen major investment by Nissan in Sunderland, major investment by Toyota in Derbyshire and major investment in my constituency by Aston Martin. That demonstrates their confidence in our vision as we leave the European Union.