Leaving the EU: Inward Investment

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st November 2017.

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Photo of Chris Evans Chris Evans Labour/Co-operative, Islwyn 12:00 am, 1st November 2017

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

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

Wales remains a great place to invest. As we leave the EU, we will continue to support existing investment relationships and work to attract new projects. I am working closely with the Department for International Trade to deliver this.

Photo of Chris Evans Chris Evans Labour/Co-operative, Islwyn

The Secretary of State will know that the Welsh Labour Government have been very successful in attracting businesses such as TVR, Aston Martin and General Dynamics. All that foreign investment could be at risk if there is a no-deal Brexit. What is he specifically doing to reassure the business community that Wales is still open for business?

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

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that Wales is a great place to invest. Last year, 85 foreign direct investment projects came to Wales, 95% of which were supported and facilitated by the Department for International Trade. I have been to Qatar and Japan to talk to investors, and I am encouraged by their optimism and the flexibility that the Welsh economy can bring.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Ranil Jayawardena Ranil Jayawardena Conservative, North East Hampshire

Will the Secretary of State reassure us that the two important markets that he visited recently—Japan and Qatar—are committed to their current international business links with Wales? What plans do they have to expand that involvement?

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

As I mentioned to Chris Evans, I am encouraged by their interest and commitment. Japanese companies, by tradition, make long-term investments. The first was in Bridgend—Sony was one of the first—in 1973, and they have similarly committed that they want to remain with us for the long term to come. [Interruption.]

Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Diolch yn fawr. A report earlier this year found that foreign direct investment to Wales declined by 44% during the EU referendum year, with what are described as “geographically peripheral” regions lagging even further behind. What will it take for the Secretary of State to admit that the only way to protect jobs and wages is to maintain economic links with the EU by staying in the single market and customs union permanently?

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

As I mentioned, last year was another successful year: 85 projects came to Wales, creating 2,500 new jobs. I would also point to the latest export data: exports to the EU were increased by 15%, but exports outside the European Union increased by 20%. That demonstrates the great flexibility of businesses in Wales, keen to explore the new opportunities that exiting the European Union brings.

Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

For a meaningful vote on the final deal to be exactly that—meaningful—we must not allow Parliament to be threatened with the prospect of condemning the UK to a no-deal scenario, should that final deal prove unsatisfactory. Would it not be more prudently conservative and economically wise of the Government to explore any legal flexibilities surrounding article 50, to appease businesses across Wales and avoid a damaging cliff edge?

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

I hope the hon. Lady will take great reassurance from the fact that we are doing everything we can to get a good deal for the whole United Kingdom as we leave the European Union. Of course, it is also prudent—that is the word that she used—to prepare for all outcomes, and we have to prepare for every potential eventuality because we need to preserve the integrity of the UK market, a relationship with Europe and the new opportunities, as we leave the EU, with markets around the world.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

Will the Secretary of State encourage the Department for International Trade to give a high priority to Wales as part of the Government’s efforts to bring prosperity to every corner of the kingdom?

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

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for her question. I think the Department for International Trade is already doing that, but there is always more that we can do. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade and I met the First Minister on Friday to consider the trade White Paper, as well as the new opportunities, and the establishment of the UK Board of Trade, which includes strong representation from Wales, is an important part of that work.