8 September – Questions to International Trade Secretary

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Last Thursday in the Chamber there were oral questions from MPs to the new Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox MP.

Exiting the EU will require Britain to renegotiate a huge volume of trade deals, and I am very concerned that we are not in the best position to initiate this process. I had the following exchange with Dr Fox about this issue (and there is a video below):

Thangam Debbonaire: What progress the Government have made on recruiting adequately skilled trade negotiators?

Dr Fox: …My Department already has a strong and capable trade policy team, which has doubled since 23 June. In the next two years, we will be developing that team to build the world-class negotiating strengths needed to deliver the best outcomes for the UK. In terms of negotiators, we have already had strong expressions of interest from individuals, organisations and Governments.

Thangam Debbonaire: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, but will he reassure my constituents that the trade negotiators will speak to strategically important sectors such as aerospace, which employs and trains hundreds of people in Bristol, before they begin detailed negotiations, so that we may guard against horse trading between sectors, which could damage our crucial role in aerospace and other such significant sectors?

Dr Fox: The hon. Lady is absolutely correct. It is a question not simply of having a single team, but of having the expertise to deal with specific sectors as well as in-country knowledge. We will certainly ensure that we build a core ability among those negotiators and bring in the sector experts who are so important in getting the sort of deals that she correctly outlines. That is especially important in areas such as the West Country.

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