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Economy and Jobs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:06 pm on 20th January 2020.

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Photo of Marcus Fysh Marcus Fysh Conservative, Yeovil 9:06 pm, 20th January 2020

My hon. Friend is right. It is important that we keep these sovereign capabilities in our aerospace sector, whether it is fixed-wing aircraft, such as in his constituency, or rotary-wing. There is an interesting opportunity at the moment to review whether the AW149, which is a Leonardo product, could replace the Puma fleet, which is ageing and a little unsafe. That is a perfect opportunity to militarise a civil product that is produced in Italy and allow the factory in Yeovil to become a military centre of excellence for Leonardo worldwide. I know that the company is keen to pursue that, but we need the Government to play their part.

I want to say a bit more about trade. The helicopter industry is one of our big exporters, and it is one of the reasons why Yeovil exports more than anywhere else in the south-west apart from Swindon and Bristol, so our trading conditions are of particular importance. We owe it to people to make good on our manifesto promises on trade. We need to ensure that we take a holistic approach to our trade negotiations. We need to ensure that we are negotiating with not only the EU but the US and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership countries. It is by being able to have flexibility in our intentions for regulation and tariffs that we can do different deals around the world and get the best out of all of them.

I am a firm believer that unless we put the potential deals on the table, the EU will prove a very hard negotiator, and it is only by doing these things simultaneously that we can get the best out of all our trade opportunities. Trade—free trade—is so important not just for the opportunities it can create for more exports, but for massively reducing costs for our domestic industries. Getting goods into our economy more cheaply is how we can improve our export growth, our domestic economic performance and our job creation.

Clearly there are some challenges when it comes to trade. We need to make sure that intermediate products we import do not have tariffs put on them. Interestingly, when the Government do the review of tariff schedules that we would have in the context of any deal, it is massively important that we do not automatically think we should keep our tariffs high and then have to cut them again. We could have an agreement that we might apply a lower tariff, even if our bound tariff rate is higher, for a period of time at a zero rate, and tell our trading partners and prospective ones that if they want that situation to continue, they need to finalise a trade deal with us.

There are many other things that we need to talk about on trade. We have heard a lot about level playing field provisions and what the Government might or might not do with them in the context of the EU negotiations, but we need to make sure that we do not just give that up. These are normal provisions that would come into pretty much any trade agreement, and most of them are modelled on the existing WTO agreements on the technical barriers to trade. We should not be afraid of signing up to them, but we must not have dynamic harmonisation of our regulations. We must co-operate and look for equivalence in what we do, but we must not be a rule-taker. It is only by being independent and able to do our own thing that the people of this country will maintain their confidence in us and in our ability to pursue our own destiny. They backed us; we now need to back ourselves to do the best for our people and improve opportunities throughout the country.