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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend, who has just given the House a few home truths. I am firmly in the camp of getting on with it; I am a practical man. I can speak in any depth about only Northampton, but the vast majority of people who approach me there tell me, “Get on with it”. Industry and commerce in Northampton say, “Get on with it”. In particular, the exporters—we have some very good ones there—say, “Get on with it”. So I congratulate the Prime Minister. He has shown vision, statecraft and leadership. Above all, he has shown sheer willpower, because none of this can have been very easy. I say to my former friends in the other place: this is not a time to scupper this deal. This is a time to bite on the bullet and look to the future.
This is a better deal than Mrs May procured. The key is that it allows the UK, as of right, to enter into new trade deals and to negotiate them on our own terms. Once the transition is over, we can set out our own rules, taxes and regulations. We can have free trade agreements, regardless of what the EU wishes. I hope we will have a good trade deal with the EU as well, but I worked overseas for a number of years and there are huge opportunities out there. In a minute, I shall give one example. I do not want to parade this too much, but in 1967 I wrote a pamphlet with my noble friend Lord Vinson and another gentleman. At that time, we were all in exporting. I have one copy left and I shall present it to the Prime Minister when I next see him. It is called Helping the Exporter and had eight key recommendations. I shall not run through them all; there is certainly not time to do so. The headline recommendations were: a close look at the support that the diplomatic corps gives to exporters; a nominated board of trade; business education in exporting; a revamped Queen’s award; and—in my judgment—why not a new royal yacht and fiscal incentives?
The second example is perhaps much more current. I declare an interest as president of the All-Party Group on Sri Lanka. Five weeks ago, I was asked to address the equivalent of the CBI in Sri Lanka—the Organisation of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka—which covers 51 professions and has over 50,000 members. I talked about the future for our country and trade between the two countries. As far as I could see, there were over 250 people there and not a single person against the idea. I got hundreds of business cards and, as a result, a trade and investment conference was held last week, here in the City of London. I thank the government Minister who attended; that was good.
On top of that, the World Bank has just announced that it sees Sri Lanka as a potential emerging trading partner. It is a maritime hub on one of the world’s busiest trade routes, with three world-class ports: Colombo, Hambantota and Trincomalee. Port City Colombo gives the opportunity for investment, and we can be the trigger, as we were with the Victoria Dam in the early 1970s. Above all, when you look at where Sri Lanka is positioned on those trade routes, it is unique in how it can service the entire market of Asia. It already has free trade agreements with India, Pakistan and Singapore. There are no fewer than 3.5 billion people in that part of the world, and here is the hub. Which is the country that has the closest relationship with it? It is this country. There is a massive opportunity here, and I say to my noble friend on the Front Bench: for heaven’s sake, let us take it up.
I use that as one case history, but other colleagues here have similar relationships elsewhere in the world. Let us take them up and build for the future.