Business Community

Exiting the European Union – in the House of Commons on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)

What recent discussions he has had with representatives of the business community on the potential effect on the UK economy of leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement.

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman, my friend, knows his place. If only he could keep his wife’s pegs in the Members’ Cloakroom as tidy as he keeps his own, all would be well in the world. I thank him for his question.

Getting a deal is the best way to give the business community the certainty and clarity it needs and is asking for. This year alone, we have published over 250 pieces of advice to businesses of all sizes to provide the information they need to prepare for our exit from the European Union. This week alone, Ministers have met businesses from across the economy, including the financial services, energy and automotive sectors, to discuss this plan.

Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)

If we crash out, what will the Minister say to Welsh farmers when they cannot sell their lamb to European markets because they face tariff rates of 46%?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I gently remind the hon. Gentleman that his constituency is one of the few that voted in greater numbers to leave the European Union than mine did. People took in a whole bunch of factors when they made that decision, and they expect us to deliver on it. The best way to avoid the scenario he outlines is to vote for the deal that is coming before the House.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Scottish Government analysis published last week highlights the impacts of a supply shock caused by a no-deal Brexit, which include: the destruction of supply chains; restricted supplies; significant restrictions on imports and exports; a reduction in business turnover; companies delaying investment; and the depreciation of sterling. Why does the Minister think this is worth it?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

And at the same time, business investment in the UK stood at almost £47 billion in quarter 3 of 2018, which is an increase of 30% on quarter 1 of 2010. The World Bank considers the UK to be one of the best and easiest countries in the world in which to do business, with it ranking ninth out of 190. Last month, London retained its position as the top tech investment destination in Europe. I could go on and on and on.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I feel really sorry for the Secretary of State and his poor little team. It is going to be Shrove Tuesday next Tuesday and my resolution will be to be a little nicer to them every day for the whole of Lent, because they are the carrying the can that has been kicked down the road by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The truth that has not been articulated this morning is that the mess we are in is the Government’s mess—it is the Tory party’s mess. They called the referendum, they got it wrong and now the British people and the British businesses that I represent are paying the penalty. Why does the Minister not get up, speak up for Britain and sort out our businesses, which are terrified of investing in this country?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union

I should have what he had for breakfast more often, Mr Speaker. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, however, I am pretty aware of what my constituents voted for back in June 2016. I am pretty sure they wanted to leave the European Union. I am pretty sure they are pleased with the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund saying that it is going to invest billions of pounds in our country going forward. He should be positive about the future of the country and not such an Eeyore.