Mark Menzies – 2020 Speech on the Trade Bill

Below is the text of the speech made by Mark Menzies, the Conservative MP for Fylde, in the House of Commons on 20 May 2020.

It is my great privilege to follow my friend and Chair of the International Trade Committee in this incredibly important debate. The Leader of the House said earlier that these proceedings sometimes appear stilted and scripted when done remotely. It is my challenge over the next five minutes to prove him wrong.

In my part of Lancashire, international trade is critical for jobs and prosperity. I am host to fabulous, world-class companies, such as BAE Systems and Westinghouse, the nuclear fuels manufacturer, and smaller companies such as Tangerine Holdings. The Bill is very much about the whole nature of international trade—getting that right and building a framework that will stand the test of time—and that is one reason I support its Second Reading today.

It is also my privilege to serve as one of the Government’s trade envoys. Indeed, the Secretary of State, in her opening remarks, referred to Chile as an example of one of the 48 countries with which a continuity agreement has been put in place. I would say to her that some of my other countries, through the Andean trade continuity agreements, such as Peru and Colombia, also have arrangements to ensure a smooth transition when the UK eventually leaves the EU at the end of this year.

T hat has not happened by chance. Those agreements are in place because of the dedication and hard work of people in the Department, not just in London, but especially in post. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women, many of whom are nationals of the countries they represent, who work tirelessly and understand the nature of their countries in a way that is sometimes difficult to comprehend from London. Their dedication and hard work have got us to where we are today. That sometimes gets missed.

We also have to recognise that the Trade Bill is only part of the picture. Measures such as the many double taxation agreements—there is one in place with one of my countries, Colombia—are really important to ensuring a smooth transition and the financial flows that will come from trade. The Government have been working very hard on that in the last couple of years, but there is still more work to be done in other key markets across the globe.

There has been much fixation in recent years on trade deals, but they are only part of the picture; much of this is about a smooth transition from the EU arrangements to what comes next. If we are unable in this House to demonstrate to our key countries and partners across the globe that we can pass a piece of legislation, why on earth should we be asking our officials and trade envoys to make representations to senators and presidents to get agreements in place so that when we leave we can have that smooth transition? I therefore urge the House to get behind the Bill and to give it a Second Reading unamended.

I would like to take this opportunity, however, to challenge the Government on how we plan to use some of the data-collection powers in the Bill. For example, I would like to see some of the data sharing in HMRC to be used to reshape and rescope bodies such as UK Export Finance, because in all of my key markets we only ever reach a tiny percentage of the credit facilities that we say are available. Given that London is the global capital ​of fancy credit mechanisms, I urge the Minister—it is great to see him in his rightful place—to use some of the expertise in the City and to challenge whether UK Export Finance needs to be given the opportunity to evolve in order to take advantage of some of the real opportunities that are out there.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I have followed your example and set a timer, so in my closing seconds let me just say that free trade is important, not just as a sign of national prestige, but because it creates jobs and generates the wealth to pay for public services at home and, more importantly, abroad. At a time of rising unemployment, my goodness, we need free trade more than ever, so I will be supporting this Bill in its passage through Parliament.