Below is the text of the speech made by Cherilyn Mackrory, the Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth, in the House of Commons on 20 May 2020.
It has been almost four years since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. For the majority of that time, my constituents have been wondering what this would mean for them, their families and their businesses. Much has been made of the negatives in the last few years. What might go wrong? What markets are being lost? What standards are being lowered, and so on?
Today, of course, we find ourselves in a state of flux. The year 2020 has taken an unexpected turn and has altered the world in such a way that we are currently not sure what our normal is. Our coastal and rural communities are understandably nervous about what their future will look like. I understand those concerns completely, but the Bill offers a glimpse of life in the future, and for this we must be optimistic. With this Bill, global markets are a step closer to being opened up to Truro and Falmouth, the whole of Cornwall and the entire United Kingdom.
Figures suggest that a free trade agreement with the US, for example, could potentially boost the economy in the south-west by £284 million in the long term. One business in my constituency that might benefit from this is a copywriting agency based in Penrhyn. It works for tech companies around the world, including the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle and Salesforce, and around 35% of its business is from overseas. Two of the biggest clients are now based in the US, and it received funding last year from the Department for International Trade to travel to Boston to develop stronger relationships with one of its clients, a global software firm. Another company, also based in Penrhyn, uses precision 3D laser scanners to offer a safe and highly efficient surveying service to a wide range of industries. Founded 10 years ago as a 3D mining surveying company, it has branched out and offers surveying for yachts, vessels and other architectural design, with work being explored in the Balkans and on the African continent. These are just two examples of businesses in my constituency where I hope future open markets will be of greater advantage. There are many such businesses in Cornwall that can springboard once tariffs and red tape are reduced.
To support the dairy industry, food and drink and small businesses, the FTA could allow changes to tariffs for key exports such as dairy, which are currently as high as 25%. It could also see protection and growth for the region’s famous local exports. The south-west already exports £3.7 million-worth of drinks to the US, and a deal could help to build those exports and maintain effective protection for food and drink names to reflect their geographical origins, such as Cornish cider and, of course, Cornish pasties.
Last week, we voted to ensure that the Agriculture Bill moved to the next stage of its progress through Parliament. The House will remember that there were two amendments regarding the protection of food standards. I voted with the Government because I felt that this was not a discussion that should disrupt an otherwise fantastic piece of legislation. However, it is an important issue and one that Cornish farmers and I feel very strongly about.
Many farmers in my constituency are concerned that opening up the markets to imports from the US, in particular, could unfairly disadvantage them. However, managed correctly, I strongly believe that the UK agricultural sector will greatly benefit from a UK-US trade deal. There are clear opportunities for agricultural exports, of course. Currently, the average tariff on Cornish cheese, for example, is around 17%, which means that US consumers must pay more, so our quality produce is often priced out of the market.
However, on the tricky subject of food imports, I believe that the Government need to consider open, clear and obvious labelling—I am a big labelling fan and I am becoming a labelling nerd. I really want to see the Government working with food and agricultural industries to ensure that consumers can really see what they are buying. In my heady days as a new MP, all the way back at the beginning of the year, the Secretary of State made encouraging noises about better labelling, and that, for me, is key. When purchasing fresh meat, we see that our labelling has got much better. I, for one, always look to see that a chicken is free range and British. I am reassured by that, as I know that our free range chickens are, on the whole, happy chickens. However, someone buying a chicken korma ready meal, for example, will see no indication of where that chicken started its life or of whether it was content with its lot.
In closing, we must trust the British people to do the right thing, and we must give them all the information they need to make the correct decisions. Most people want to support British farmers, and reward their hard work and high animal welfare standards. The Government have a responsibility to make that as easy as possible; it is not protectionism—it is trust. It is about trusting our farmers and farming industry to carry on being the best—
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
Order. The hon. Lady has exceeded her five minutes.