Post Brexit: Economic and Political Opportunities DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Lord FrostMain Page: Lord Frost (Conservative - Life peer)
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To ask the Minister of State at the Cabinet Office (Lord Frost) what evidence-based analysis Her Majesty’s Government are using to oversee the cross-government work on maximising the economic and political opportunities flowing from the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.
My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on his appointment to the Cabinet. I am surprised that there is no mention of the specific work of anybody. I cite the economic work of Crowley, Exton and Han from Cambridge University, and hope that he will look at it. I want to ask about political opportunities. Does he agree that for 2021, two large opportunities for the independent UK are the G7 and COP 26? Does he further agree that, to maximise these opportunities, it will be more effective to co-operate with the EU as an entity than via bilateral relations with member states?
My Lords, I, too, warmly welcome the Minister to his first outing at Minister of State’s Questions. There are 24 committees and groups set up under the trade and co-operation agreements. They are, in effect, the instruments and controls in its cockpit, but the Government have said that there will be no meetings of these bodies until the end of the ratification period, which is now considerably extended, so the flight deck is empty. Given that the TCA is fully operational, what plans do the Government have to at least get meetings in the diary?
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, should concentrate on outcomes, not process, and that he need look no further than the terrific work being done by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Trade, with 66 trade deals already done and more still to come as evidence of how the Government are delivering opportunities for the UK now that we are out of the EU?
My Lords, the importance of international access for service industries and the integration of UK and EU services is well evidenced. Some 40% of services trade in the UK’s £116 billion creative sector flows to the EU, and the integrated review reminds us that these services enhance the UK’s soft power and its balance of trade. Will the Minister ensure that this evidence is taken into account in identifying future opportunities for the UK? If the existing evidence is not enough, can he tell us what further evidence is required to convince the Government to prioritise our world-leading, revenue-generating creative industries in future trade negotiations?
My Lords, as a Minister and as First Minister of Scotland, I was regularly engaged in developing negotiating positions and in other debates on the UK’s position in discussions with the European Union. What arrangements has the Minister put in place to engage with the devolved Governments as part of these new arrangements with the European Union? Specifically, how will he engage with civic society and business in Scotland to ensure that their views are being heard?
My Lords, when I asked the Minister last week about the absence of the EU/UK agreement impact assessment, he told me:
“The economic situation last year, the impact of the pandemic and the huge uncertainties made it very difficult to conduct an analysis.”—[Official Report, 18/3/21; col. 447.]
However, that was not the case for the UK/Japan agreement he referred to, on which a 107-page assessment was published at the end of October. The Minister just told the House that the Government are drawing on economic and analytical support within government. Will the British Parliament be able to see any of it?
Can my noble friend enlighten the House on the progress he is making with the export of shellfish from the UK to the EU? Does he accept that the EU has acted in bad faith in its strict adherence to the rules? Is he contemplating that we might retaliate in kind?
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, I want to return to an issue we touched on last week when the Minister appeared to dismiss concerns about the January fall in exports, saying:
“A unique combination of facts has made it inevitable”.—[Official Report, 18/3/21; col. 445.]
The Food and Drink Federation does not share his complacency, having seen its members’ exports to the EU collapse by 75% in the past year but by only 11% to the rest of the world. It is clear that the Brexit negotiations, which the Minister was part of, had a hugely significant impact, particularly on small businesses, so I have two questions for him. First, if the fall really was inevitable, why did he not tell businesses beforehand? Secondly, will he urgently convene a meeting, not- withstanding his earlier comments, of the partnership council and the special trade committees to try to save British exports?
My Lords, I echo the approach of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, to this question. The first set of concrete numbers are now available and starting to speak for themselves. What is the reaction to Santander UK’s recent barometer survey published this week showing that 16% of the businesses surveyed—equating to 1,000 businesses—say that European supply chains are no longer viable and 23% say that the increase in the costs of bureaucracy currently prohibits them trading with existing UK markets? Then there is this morning’s news that Santander UK is closing 111 UK branches with the loss of 5,000 jobs. What plans do the Government have to fix these issues?