James Cleverly welcomes indications from both sides of the Atlantic that CETA will be the foundation stone for a future UK-Canada trade deal and he says a trade deal with Canada should be one of this country’s priorities post-Brexit.
James Cleverly (Braintree) (Con)
I apologise in advance if my speech is rather chopped up. Unfortunately, due to the huge discourtesy that the shadow Front Bench displayed to the House, I shall have to heavily curtail the points that I wished to make. In a paper that I co-wrote with Tim Hewish entitled “Reconnecting with the Commonwealth: the UK’s free trade opportunities”, I made the point that because of our shared history, our common language, our basis in common law, our shared recognition of professional standards and our shared attitude towards human rights and standards in general, a trade agreement with Canada should be one of this country’s priorities, post-Brexit. I am therefore pleased to hear from both sides of the Atlantic that CETA will be the foundation stone for a UK-Canada trade agreement, post-Brexit, and it is appropriate and welcome that this House should be debating this issue today.
The hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) suggested earlier from a sedentary position that the UK was a minnow. I think that that was the word he used. Well, I have news for him. In 2016, this particular minnow had exports combined to a value of £8.3 billion—up by £2.1 billion on the preceding decade. In 2016-17, there were 72 foreign direct investment projects from Canada to the UK, accounting for something in the region of 1,700 jobs.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, I am not giving way—
But he mentioned me—
I am not giving way. We have so little time.
CETA is the first major trade agreement signed by the EU since the one with South Korea in 2011. It is therefore entirely appropriate to welcome its arrival. This morning, I had breakfast with Stephen Harper, the former Prime Minister of Canada. He reinforced the point made by Canada’s current Prime Minister, who has said that a UK-Canada trade agreement would allow a larger and—this is a Canadianism rather than a British turn of phrase—“more impactful” trade relationship than the current EU agreement. Just this week, we have heard reports that Italy is now expressing concerns about the ratification of CETA.
This debate provides us with an opportunity to welcome CETA and the work that our own Department for International Trade, led by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, has done to forge relationships between the UK and Canada, and more widely. Most importantly, it gives us the opportunity to be vocal and passionate proponents of free trade and the good work that it does. We must not be tempted by the siren song of protectionism. We remember from Greek mythology what happened to those who were seduced by the song of the sirens: they sailed on to the rocks and their ships were dashed to pieces. They floundered and drowned. We must not let that happen to us. We must embrace free trade and we must welcome the CETA agreement.