Honda in Swindon

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:23 pm on 19th February 2019.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Father of the House of Commons 1:23 pm, 19th February 2019

I accept, as the Secretary of State does, Honda’s statement that Brexit played no significant role in the decision. We must avoid a childish debate every time there is an industrial announcement, whereby one side or the other leaps on how far Brexit has been involved in complex decisions. However, the fact remains that when I served at the Department of Trade and Industry under Margaret Thatcher, and at the Treasury under John Major, I was involved in pursuing the policy of those Governments to draw foreign investment to this country to revive our manufacturing base by presenting Britain as the most attractive and business-friendly country in the European Union, through which companies could gain access to the single market. The Blair Government pursued that policy with equal vigour. As my right hon. Friend has just said, it is no good people ignoring the warnings of every leader of the car industry, most of our foreign investors and all our business leaders that we must seek to retain that reputation. Will he therefore confirm that, in line with the withdrawal agreement, we are pursuing a customs arrangement and a regulatory alignment that will not put new barriers in the way of trade with our biggest, most important market? If we fail to do that, there will be a succession of announcements of this kind, and Britain will cease to be of any particular attraction to international investors seeking a European market.