Europe remains a vital export destination for British businesses, with exports of £401 billion in 2022, an increase of 26% on the previous year in current prices. Only this week, I attended the OECD small and medium-sized enterprise conference, which dealt largely with international barriers to trade. We are determined to remove market barriers to make it easier, particularly for SMEs, to trade across borders.
On the subject of barriers to trade, not only is our world-leading cultural sector valuable in itself for our soft power, but it is an important part of our export trade. But our musicians face unnecessary red tape when trying to tour Europe. We need an EU-wide visa waiver for touring artists. The Secretary of State said earlier that her Department “works closely with musicians”, so what is it actually doing to resolve this problem?
I know that my colleagues at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are working hard with our European counterparts to try to ease the difficulties in that area—we recognise it as a problem. Many positive things are happening in current trade with the EU. Indeed, in 2022, the north-west—the hon. Gentleman’s region—exported £33 billion-worth of goods and £24.5 billion-worth of services, which is the area he is referring to. The north-west is the third largest area in the country for services exported to the EU.