It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Graham.
I must say at the outset that I agree with the thrust of the points made by Richard Fuller when he said that the Bill was a move in the right direction. I think that in Northern Ireland we can actually agree on that point. This is definitely the right step for the House to take. The Bill is about the internal market of the United Kingdom, so it is important to set the context of what that market means for a place like Northern Ireland.
It is vital that people understand the significance of the United Kingdom internal market for businesses, people and the employed across our beloved Province. Great Britain accounts for 52.7% of Northern Ireland’s external sales, so the majority of things we sell go to the rest of Great Britain. Northern Ireland’s food and drink sales—remember that food production is the single largest employer in Northern Ireland—to Great Britain are valued at over £2.3 billion to our entire local economy. It is the largest market in six out of 10 agri-food sub-sectors. It is absolutely essential that people understand that. Given that the vast majority of our people are involved in food and drink production, the fact that our largest market is our home market means that this market here is vital to understanding how our economy works. It does not look south. It does not look to the north. It looks to our neighbour, the biggest island in this archipelago of islands: it looks to Great Britain. It is essential for people to understand how significant this economy is for Northern Ireland.