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Britain’s Place in the World

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:42 pm on 15th October 2019.

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Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Secretary of State for International Development 2:42 pm, 15th October 2019

First, may I just say that we are determined to respect the outcome of the referendum? Indeed, colleagues across the House, including some who now argue against it, at the time said this was a once-in-a-generation vote. Well, let’s get together; let’s respect the outcome of the referendum. And I have to say to the hon. Lady that I wish she was a bit more positive about our future as a country. I have outlined the fact that we lead the world in very many institutions; that will absolutely continue, and I hope that she will find that she is able to be a little bit more positive about our future.

The hon. Lady may recall that in the aftermath of the vote to leave many people said that the economy would turn down and we would lose jobs. That is not what has happened: the economy has stayed strong; employment is at record levels.

In DFID, our ultimate goal in tackling poverty is to support countries to help themselves and meet the sustainable development goals, to become economically self-sustaining and our trading partners of the future. I want developing countries to trade their way out of needing aid.

Of course the shadow Chancellor sees business as the enemy; that is his stated position. We do not; we see it as an enabler. The private sector has had the biggest impact in tackling poverty in the developing world in the last 100 years, and this Government, as my hon. Friend John Howell said, are relentlessly pursuing free trade agreements; these will benefit businesses and consumers in Britain and in the developing world.

Governments around the world collectively spend around $140 billion every year on aid. However, the United Nations estimates that an additional $2.5 trillion is required annually in developing countries to meet the sustainable development goals. That investment gap needs to be met largely by the private sector. That is why I have established an International Development Infrastructure Commission to advise on how we can mobilise additional private sector funds.

But global Britain is about more than Brexit or free trade; it is also about the role we have to play in tackling some of the biggest issues facing our world.